Tag Archives: parenting

What am I learning?

This morning we stayed home from church.  We needed a morning of going nowhere, wearing pajamas, sipping hot cocoa, making pancakes, snuggling together.  We needed a morning to just be together as a family.  And so we stayed home from church.

And we did something we haven’t done in a long time — my husband pulled out his guitar and the old notebook full of praise choruses and we sang together.  We were off-key and had trouble remembering the tunes to some of the songs, but it was a good time.  It was a total flashback to our college days and the early years of our marriage when we hung out with college Young Life leaders.  And it was cool to teach the kids “Sweet Adoration” and “Oh, Heavenly Father” and “My All in All.”

After we finished singing, I asked the children to share what they are learning in Bible class at school or at church.  Some of them thought I wanted a laundry list of facts, so they offered a list of detailed information they have learned.  You know, cerebral stuff — what they call, “head knowledge.”  I heard a chronology of King David’s life and a list of battles the Israelites fought before they entered The Promised Land.  But, of course, that’s not what I meant.

However, it made me think.  Do I do that?  Instead of learning the nuggets of truth about God’s character, instead of seeing myself in the story and thinking about how God might want to change me, I learn a list of facts, a bunch of names, a chronology of events.  I approach the Bible the way I approached history class.  I memorize details as if God’s going to give me a final exam, grading me on how well I can recite back the names and dates and events.

Pretty silly, huh?  But it’s easier sometimes to have all this knowledge of the Bible than it is to allow the Living Word to transform me.  It’s easy to think I’m super-spiritual, a Wonder-Christian-Woman because I am good at sword drills or Bible trivia.

But that’s not the point, is it?  There isn’t going to be a massive Old and New Testament Survey final exam at the end of life.  God’s not going to be hosting a giant Bible Quiz Bowl game at the Pearly Gates, and He won’t be giving out crowns with lots of bling-bling or mega-sized mansions to the winners, a` la some divine game show host.

No, the point is not the amount of information I’m storing up in my head.

Is my mind being renewed by the information I’m learning?  Am I being transformed?  Am I doing the Word instead of merely hearing it?  That’s the point.  Right?

Finally, this morning, one child said he has been learning about Noah and that when God asked Noah to start building the ark, it didn’t make sense.  And he said, “So I’m learning that we should obey God and do what He asks us to do, even if it doesn’t make any sense to us.”

Yes! That’s the sort of answer I was looking for.  And that’s the sort of thing my Heavenly Father is hoping for me — that I’m learning to apply His Word instead of merely memorizing facts.

I’m glad we stayed home this morning.  I loved staying in pajamas, snuggling, eating pancakes, singing old praise songs, and talking about God with my kids.  And I love when He uses them to teach me or remind me of what I need to learn — and He does that a lot.

How about you?  What are you learning?



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Baby Steps

My son has had a difficult time adjusting to third grade.  Maintaining focus and staying on-task are challenging for him.  When the work seems difficult, his tendency is to shut down.  He is intimidated by hard work.

Not long after school began, my son, his teacher, my husband, and I sat down to talk goals and strategies.  Guided by our questions, my son stated his goal — “I want to work hard and get my work done quickly at school so I won’t have homework.”

With that goal in mind, we worked together to develop some simple strategies to help him accomplish it.  As we left the meeting, my son felt that his goal was possible — quite the opposite of his feelings earlier that day.

Since then, he has had good days and bad days.  Some days, he meets his goal; others, he does not.  We celebrate his successes.  On the bad days, we either gently remind him or firmly remind him or hug him while he cries — whatever is needed most.

In addition to staying on-task and working hard, I would also like to see my son work more neatly, keep his desk clean, do his corrections quickly, etc., etc., etc.  But his teacher recently reminded me — Baby Steps.  One thing at a time.

What a good reminder!  One thing at a time.

You see, like my son, I also tend to get overwhelmed.  Sometimes I think of all the many things I want to improve about myself.  And it seems like such a long list.  Too long.  Too much.  So I do nothing.

I’ve been trying to take a deep breath and remind myself — one thing at a time.  Just one thing.

I’ve also been reminding myself of that with my other children.  I can’t expect them to mature immediately.  They will grow in baby steps.  I can prayerfully choose one heart-issue at a time to focus on with my children.  That means, I will intentionally overlook other things that aren’t as important, trusting God will deal with those later (if they need to be dealt with at all).

This approach works with my third grade son, but I think God brought it to my attention especially for my 12-year-old daughter.  She’s a ball of pubertal hormones!  She is testing limits and does not always make wise decisions.  She is a sweet, responsible daughter and big sister one minute, and the next, — well, the opposite of that.

I can easily feel overwhelmed and frustrated when I think of what I’d like to change about her.  But that’s not the right focus.  And it’s not my job to change her anyway.  That’s the work of the Holy Spirit.  So I am trying to wisely choose what heart issues to focus on and correct or encourage.  Baby steps.

And for the rest, there is grace.

Isn’t that how the Lord works with us?  He doesn’t bombard us with conviction about every sin all at once.  Little by little, He grows us.  And He gives us lots of grace.

I’m learning to give that kind of grace to my children.  And to myself.

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Got Your Grammar Geek On?

Ever wonder if you’re a little bit too obsessed with good grammar?

As I was reviewing subjects and predicates with my third grader today and feeling especially giddy, the following thought meandered across my brain, “It’s probably not normal to be this ecstatic that your child is picking out the nouns and verbs so easily.”

With that in mind, I’ve created this helpful little checklist.

The Top Five Signs You Are A Little Too Geeky About Grammar

5.  You mentally correct the grammatical errors of everybody with whom you have a conversation.  Yes, I know it’s completely wrong to judge when a friend tells me her son did “real good” in his soccer game, but my brain cringes when I hear it.

4.  It takes a great effort of self-control to keep from pulling out a red pen and editing the mistakes in church bulletins, play programs, and, especially, letters from teachers.

3.  Approximately 596,438 times a day you say, “‘Brang’ is not a word.”  You actually say that sentence so often, you begin to fear that is the only thing your children will remember coming from your lips.  Well, they’ll also remember, “You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.”  This is why I have to write a blog, so my grandchildren and great-grandchildren will have proof that I really, truly had other thoughts besides the conjugation of the word “bring” and the concept of contentment.

2.  You actually post this as your Facebook status,

Conversation from my home— R: “We did good on our reports.” Me: “‘Good’ is an adjective; ‘Well’ is an adverb. So, you did well on your reports.” R: “Oh, yeah. We just had a test on that in English! And I even did good on that test!” Umm, I give up. 🙂

And the number 1 way you know you are a little too grammatically geeky,

Your 9-year-old is bopping his younger brother on the head with one of those foam swimming pool noodles, and the 4-year old screams, “You hurt me badly!”  If your immediate reaction is great joy that your preschooler used an adverb correctly, then you may need a grammar-geek-intervention.


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So That’s What Learning Differences Are!

Some people have strong opinions about the terms learning difference and learning disability. I can certainly understand why some parents and students prefer one term over the other.  I also understand that disabilities get IEPs and school funding and that this particular label can often bring the hope of finally getting some much-needed help.  But often those students who are learning disabled can learn and do learn all sorts of things when they operate under a learning system or style different than the ones commonly used in schools.

I spent a great deal of time last year trying to figure out my son Caleb’s brain.  He was not succeeding in school.  He was struggling to read, struggling to spell, struggling even in math -which he was naturally gifted in!  It was obvious, though, that Caleb was very smart.  Nobody doubted that.  So it seemed that he was not giving school his best effort.

He was not cooperating.  He was a bit lazy.  He needed more discipline.  He didn’t listen well.  He didn’t follow instructions.  He acted silly to get the other students to laugh.  He just hadn’t been taught phonics well enough when he was 5 and 6, so he needed more review of phonics and that would surely solve all the problems. –These are the things we were told about Caleb.

But I knew that it was not as simple as giving more strict discipline and punishment.  I knew we could review phonics the way we had done it before and it wouldn’t make any difference.  I knew he wanted to follow instructions, but there was just some sort of block there.  I knew that even when he listened, he didn’t always get what was being said.  And, even more, I knew that every bit of his self-confidence was peeling away and he was beginning to think he was stupid, a horrible student, unable to learn, and not made for school.  This smart, curious, imaginative boy actually asked if he could just drop out of school and never have to learn to read — because he thought he would never be able to learn to read.

I was calling and emailing friends, Googling facts about learning differences and learning disabilities, reading books and articles, and calling neurologists and educational psychologists and developmental specialists and the local public school department of student assessment.

After a couple visits with a behavioral and developmental specialist whose solution was to label him ADHD and OCD and medicate him, I finally found an educational psychologist who wanted to help us figure out how Caleb learns so we could help him succeed.  He spent several hours in her office on several different days talking to her and doing written assessments and oral assessments. At the end of the process, she mailed me a 12-page summary of Caleb’s assessment results, her observations, and her suggestions for ways to help.

Armed with that information, I spent more time researching and studying and learning ways to help my son succeed in school.  Woven throughout all of this was the information I was learning about strengths development.  And so with my arsenal of ideas and information, Caleb and I began homeschooling last August.

Caleb’s weakest learning style, or I should say the learning style least effective for Caleb, is auditory learning.  He struggles to process auditorily.  He cannot easily break words down into individual sounds.  He just doesn’t hear those individual sounds like I do (and probably like you do).  So all that time we spent instructing him to sound out the words meant absolutely nothing to him.  That’s why spelling is so difficult for him.  If I speak to him a list of three or four things to do, Caleb will have a horrible time remembering everything I said to do.  If you present information to him verbally without including some other senses, chances are he is not learning it.  He is also not a natural visual learner.  He does better with this than he does with verbal instruction, but it is still not a great strength for Caleb.

Most teachers naturally present information verbally and visually.  If a child, like Caleb, struggles to process information verbally and visually, he is at a disadvantage in the classroom.  You could even say he is disabled in a classroom where the standard teaching styles are auditory and visual.

But Caleb’s learning strength is kinesthetic learning.  He is also relatively strong in interpersonal and social learning.  So if Caleb can learn by doing or somehow involve bodily movements in his learning, he will learn far better than if he simply hears a lesson or reviews information aloud or in written form.  If he understands how the information he is learning applies to him and is meaningful to his life, he will learn better.  And if he can work with someone else, as part of a team, he will have a greater chance of success.

I have tried to keep this in mind as I’ve taught Caleb this year (or as we’ve learned together).  We have formed spelling words out of beans and clay.  We’ve done jumping jacks while reciting math facts.  We’ve used LEGOS to practice multiplication and division.  We’ve tossed a ball while answering questions and reviewing facts.  He’s built book reports and fashioned his own graphs and charts for social studies and science.  He’s making a bug book and a chart of the Olympic medal count.  And he has learned some basic spelling guidelines that he understands will help him type a word closely enough to the correct spelling so that SpellCheck can figure it out.

I stopped trying to break words down into individual sounds and started teaching him general principles.  This particular sound is made by these combinations of letters; and if you have to guess one, guess this one. I’ve chosen books that interest him, and he has learned to enjoy reading.  As you would imagine, his reading skills have skyrocketed.  I haven’t done an official grade-level assessment in a long time, but from what I hear when the other third and fourth graders read in his Sunday School (which I am teaching), he seems to be right on-track.

As Caleb began to experience little successes in schoolwork, his confidence began to grow.  As his confidence grew, he experienced more success.  He does not cry at the thought of a book report any more.  I don’t remember the last time I heard him say he was not cut out for school or that he wants to quit.  And the first time he typed an English assignment on the computer and was able to print it with no spelling errors, I thought the boy would burst with pride.

This child wants to learn.  It was my responsibility to figure out how he learns.  Now that we’ve found the key, the world of education is unlocked for Caleb.  It’s not always easy.  He still has to work very hard at some things.  But where he was disabled, he has now become enabled.  All we had to do was figure out his strengths and focus on those rather than spending all our time trying to fix his weaknesses.

I’ll leave you with another quote from Jenifer Fox’s book Your Child’s Strengths

The label disability has as much to do with the setting and the requirements of the setting as it does with the person.  The setting most responsible for the proliferation of the term learning disability is the traditional school. . . . Therefore, schools most willing to depart from the traditional methods used to teach and assess performance will do the greatest service in addressing the issue of learning disabilities.

How do you learn best?  Was your learning style in sync with your teacher’s teaching styles?  What about your children?  Do you have children who do not best learn visually or verbally?  How are they doing in school?  What do you think about this quote from Jenifer Fox?  How much time should be spent on “fixing weaknesses” and how much time should be spent on “nurturing strengths”?  And how does all of this play out at home or in a classroom?

It’s your turn.  I’ve typed enough.


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Many months ago, my sister-in-law suggested I buy a book called Strengthsfinder 2.0.  So I did.  I bought the book; I took the online strengths assessment; and thus began my fascination with identifying and nurturing strengths in myself and in my children.

A few weeks ago, I bought a book by Jenifer Fox called Your Child’s Strengths.  I’m reading it slowly, highlighting and stopping to think along the way.  I also find myself talking about strengths to anybody who will listen.

I was reading this book in the back of the theater at my daughter’s play rehearsal last week.  A man, the musical director with wild gray hair, was walking around chatting with different parents.  He approached me and asked what I was reading, so I showed him the cover of the book.  “Oh!” he said, “That sounds like a thinking book.  Why are you reading it?  What’s it about?”

After a couple of minutes, I’m sure he regretted asking.  I told him the general idea of the book, and I was enthusiastically explaining the idea of identifying and developing strengths in our children when I saw him begin to rock from one foot to the other and look around the auditorium with a “How can I get away from this lady?” look on his face.  So I finished off with a quick, “It’s a really good book.”  And I let him escape to a person who can make normal small-talk with strangers.

So rather than holding complete strangers captive to discuss this book, I’d love to talk with y’all about it over the next few days.  I can sip my coffee and type some thoughts here, and you can grab a cup of coffee or hot cocoa and read and comment.  And if you want to buy the book and read along and discuss, that’d be even better!

Ok, for today, I’ll just leave you with a quote from the book —

In some respects, what we label as weakness in children is not a weakness at all — it is simply that the child doesn’t come into the classroom sharing the talent, passion, and learning style of the teacher.  The teacher’s job is certainly made easier if the student comes in already loving the subject and is able to learn it as easily as the teacher did.  This, however, does not make a great teacher.  . . . True teaching talent reveals itself when the teacher struggles to engage students in the process, not giving up until he finds a way to bring about understanding and competence in the student.  I think everyone should read that last sentence a few times.  It says every child can and wants to learn and that it is the teacher’s and the parents’ responsibility to discover how to make that happen.”

What do you think about that?  Do you have a child who has been labeled with a weakness?  How can we discover the key to helping our children learn?

I have some ideas, but I’d love to hear what y’all think.  And I’ll devote another post to the story of my experience with my boys.

Ok, now it’s your turn — comment. 🙂


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Not Raising Successful Children

Today, you need to read this encouragement from Lysa Terkeurst.  It’s good stuff.

You see, I can get caught up in a very prideful way of parenting.  I want my children to do well — to make good grades, to score points on the basketball court, to shine in the school musical programs.  Often, though, my desire for them to do well is more about my pride and my ego than about wanting what is best for my children.  And I have to purposefully fight against this.  If I am not intentional about NOT parenting this way, those selfish, prideful motivators creep in.

It’s easy to get sucked into the world’s definition of success.  A successful student makes A’s and creates beautiful school projects.  A successful kid plays sports or stars in a play or plays first-chair in the band or performs beautifully in a dance recital.  And if we have a child who makes the honor roll or who is the star of the soccer team or who catches on quickly to playing the piano, we can quickly get caught up in chasing those things, rather than chasing God and allowing Him to use those talents to glorify Himself.

I have a son who will probably not graduate with honors.  He will always have to work three or four times as hard in school as others.  And sometimes, he’ll still only do half as well.  Reading is hard work for him; spelling is even harder work.  And though he has the most unbelievable imagination, he struggles to get his ideas onto paper because choosing the words and spelling them are huge hurdles.  He has an engineering brain, but he often gets tripped up on math because reading and following directions are a challenge to him.  Though I’ve seen huge improvements in the past few months, I know that he will probably always be an average student.

This same son played basketball last year, and he was not the star player on the team.  He had fun; he played hard; he did his best; but he was often just a kid on the court.  He wasn’t the player everyone noticed.  He scored a few baskets, but he certainly didn’t win the game for his team.  He is an average basketball player.

When he has participated in school musical programs, he struggles to remember the words to the songs.  He’s often the kid fidgeting with his arms, rocking on his feet, mumbling sounds during the verses and then belting out the chorus.  Let’s just put it this way — nobody ever asked him to sing a solo.

My son’s strengths are not the sort of strengths that get an 8-year-old noticed at school or on the sports’ field or on the stage.  In the world’s eyes, he’s just an average kid.

But I know that God has given him all sorts of strengths and gifts and talents, and I know God has big plans for this little boy.  My son has helped teach me that, like Lysa Terkeurst, my job isn’t to raise a successful child.  My job is to raise a man of God.

And so I look for his talents and point them out.  I notice the strength of his character and nurture that and build it.  I encourage him to chase God, to pursue God’s purpose and plan for his life.

Well, I don’t always do a perfect job.  I mess up plenty.  I get discouraged when other people don’t see how great my son is, when they think he’s just an average kid.  I sometimes forget that recognition from people isn’t really important.  I struggle to remember that it really isn’t about me or how I look.

But at the core of my being I know that my goal is raise a man who pursues God.  My goal is to raise a man who seeks to discover and use His strengths to serve God.  My goal is to raise a man who has a heart that loves God and hands that serve Him all the days of his life — whether that includes school honors or basketball trophies or not is completely irrelevant.


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Talking With or Talking To

This morning my 8-year-old son did his Bible Study Fellowship homework.  One question asked what he could do today that would honor God.  When I first read his answer, I thought he had mis-written it.  In large print, he had scrawled, “pray with him.”

I briefly considered telling him he had written the wrong preposition.  Shouldn’t that “with” be a “to”?

But before I could correct him, the Holy Spirit corrected me.  Prayer is supposed to be a conversation, a combination of talking and listening.  Prayer is supposed to be talking with God, not talking at Him with my laundry list of requests.

Too often, though, I do pray to God, talk at Him, hurriedly reciting my lists of what I want or need or even hurriedly running down the list of things I’m thankful for, just so I can check that off my Things Good Christians Include In A Prayer index.

And I do this even though I know better.  I know that our God desires relationship.  A huge overarching theme in the Bible is that God wants to DWELL with us, live with us, fellowship with us.  I paid attention in college Bible courses; I know this.  Yet after all these years, I rush through prayers talking at God rather than with Him.

I don’t know what the other 8-year-olds will write on their BSF homework papers, but I’m thankful for my son’s large manuscript, “pray with him.”  Yes, I think sitting and talking with God would honor Him today.

Deuteronomy 4:7 — What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray?

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