It will be quiet here for awhile   Leave a comment

 I am taking a bit of a break from this blog to focus on a new 30 day blog that I started today. I will post about the everyday beauty that I see in my surroundings.   I hope you will check back and in the meantime please visit me at http://toseethebeauty.wordpress.com/

Posted May 15, 2011 by The Nonconformist Mom in Uncategorized

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Time for Solitude   2 comments

 

I often enjoy walking after dark and being able to get a fleeting glimpse into the homes on the way.  This glimpse reveals a moment in the life of a stranger and tonight an elderly woman unknowingly shared a quiet slice of her evening with me and sparked thoughts for this post. 

She sat writing at a desk in a room lined with books on shelves from floor to ceiling. Her desk did not hold a computer, but instead, papers scattered the desktop and on the wall just above the desk was a bulletin board full of photos.  I thought about the solitude she was experiencing as she was writing.  A solitude that is without the temptations to check facebook or text as these things always keep us connected. 

We think that constant, on demand connection is a good thing – but maybe at times, it’s not.  Uninterrupted solitude helps us to have time for reflection in life, time for inspiration and time to think.  Our greatest creative geniuses wrote grand symphonies, timeless literature and sculpted or painted inspiring works of art.  These things were most likely done during long periods of solitude – would they have been as deeply inspired without it? 

Our children live in the greatest technical age ever seen by humanity and they will benefit from it.  It enables constant connection and instant communication. But will these coming generations ever sit alone in a room, writing – with a pen – at a desk without any connection to the outside world?  Will they ever be alone with their thoughts for long stretches of uninterrupted time?  Will they be inspired by a great idea – only to have it lost after being interrupted by a text? 

Only time will tell.

A Little Encouragement for What Sometimes Seems Like an Uphill Task   Leave a comment

 

Another May has come around – meaning the end of another homeschooling year with a long summer to which we look forward.  I know many homeschoolers may feel a bit of burn out and might even ask themselves, “Do I want to do this again next year?”  Maybe there’s even a bit of doubt that your kids are ‘keeping’ up, that you’re not doing enough – or that even it is an uphill task and you’re close to getting crushed under the weight of it all.

I would like to offer a bit of encouragement.  One thing that has kept me from serious burn out over the last 15 years is that I don’t worry about “finishing.”  I think about the end result of a child’s education and have found that leaving pages unfinished in workbooks or not getting to everything I thought we “should” has had no affect on the end result.  They have still learned, they are still curious and ready to move forward. 

When you look at what your family has accomplished on a daily basis, it may seem like you’re going nowhere and getting there fast.  Doctor and dentist appointments interrupt your day, sick kids, grumpy kids, grumpy moms, new babies, dad’s unexpected days off – all of these things throw a wrench in your daily homeschool plans. 

But when you look back over a year’s time, you will see that you really have accomplished more than you realize.  Even those things that you think are keeping you from getting ‘school’ done are a learning experience in themselves.  It’s called, life – and experiencing life together as a family is the best curriculum around.

Will Traditional Forms of Discipline Keep You From Connecting with Your Child? One mom thinks so… and is it a surprise that I don’t agree?   Leave a comment

 

This week a friend asked me to comment on the blog entry of the mother of a 3 year old that never punishes her child.  Here is the link to the short blog entry – http://moms.today.com/_news/2011/04/20/6501676-why-we-dont-punish-our-son-ever

First of all, I would like to say that I view punishment as something that takes place as the result of committing a crime, not the everyday attempt to discipline a child by using methods such as time outs or taking away a toy.    I view the attempt to correct a child’s actions as discipline or consequences and this would never include something that publicly humiliates or belittles a child as most of us have probably sadly witnessed. 

When I was about 7 years old in the mid 1970’s, I met a neighbor girl who called her parents by their first names.  When I asked her why, she said her parents did not want her to view them as authority figures and ‘labels’ like Mom and Dad gave their family a hierarchy of control.   I think this idea is similar to what this mom of the three year old has in mind – the idea that we, as parents, are our children’s equals, that they are like mini adults and that if we use discipline tactics that involve anything more than “getting down on the floor and connecting with your child” or “attempt to identify their feelings” we will damage their precious self-esteem by wielding our power over them.   I disagree and whenever I hear parents using this kind of “reflecting back their feelings” kind of talk – it just sounds fakey – (is that a word?).  

I do believe I have the authority to use discipline to help my children attain a level of appropriate behavior.  Sometimes that discipline is a gentle reminder or are quiet words to help them see something from another person’s point of view.   But other times that discipline comes in the form of a tight grasp behind their neck as I get down to their level and quietly, through gritted teeth and a steel stare, say, “You will stop what you are doing immediately.”  Have I lost an opportunity to connect with my child as this mom suggests?  If you’re always looking to have warm, fuzzy interactions with your children – then yes, from her point of view this is a ‘lost connection’.   Honestly, there are times when I’m not interested in connecting with the kids – as when they are arguing or fussing and I just want quiet – not ‘connection’.

 I don’t believe I need to always be warm, fuzzy and gushingly understanding to connect with my children.  There’s a time for warm and fuzzy, but sometimes when things aren’t going well I will decide to take a toy away if I see the need, remove a child from my presence or at times – even issue a top of the head whack.  Ancient wisdom gives advice to parents such as the Chinese proverb that says, “Parents who are afraid to put their foot down usually have children who step on their toes,” and Proverbs 29:17 says, “Discipline your son, and he will give you peace; he will bring delight to your soul.” 

I have found this wisdom to be true.  Because I demand good behavior – and yes, that demand sometimes comes by way of the fact that I am the mom  and they do as I say ‘just because’ – but it leads to them realizing that when they behave pleasantly, we all enjoy being together as a family.  Sometimes we’ll see a family while we’re out and the children are whining, pestering or being disrespectful and the mom looks exasperated and might repeat the same request to behave three or four times in a tone that is too syrupy nice.  They certainly don’t look like they are enjoying each other’s company – but maybe they would if the mom would take her position of authority and quietly, but firmly demand proper behavior.   Would this undermine her relationship with them as this mom suggests?  Actually, I think it does the opposite.  It lets the kids know that the parent is in charge and there is security in that.

This mom claims that punishment and rewards– which I see as discipline – will not create long term good behavior.  I don’t believe she has the experience, since her child is only three, to claim that statement as true.  It might be interesting to check in with her in the future –especially if there are a few more children in the mix.  How will this child react in the future when someone in a position of authority – such as a boss – demands something of him and doesn’t give a crap about his delicate self-esteem but just needs the job done right? 

I can agree that the regular use of harsh, angry discipline along with the absence of warmth and love would not create long term good behavior.  But my experience has been that in order to build a family life that is generally peaceful, various discipline methods along with love, understanding and open communication are necessary.

The Safety Brigade Strikes Again! Many Outdoor Kid’s Games are Unsafe   2 comments

The Safety Brigade strikes again!  Remember childhood games such as Capture the Flag, Steal the Bacon, kickball and dodgeball?  Well here’s a story from New York where the health department has labeled these activities as unsafe and that they pose a “significant risk of injury.” Children’s recreational programs that offer these ‘dangerous’ activities will fall under certain regulations.

http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/2011/04/19/2011-04-19_classic_kids_games_like_kickball_deemed_unsafe_by_state_in_effort_to_increase_su.html

I’ll tell you what is dangerous.  26 million people in the United States have diabetes, according to the CDC.   Many of them are children diagnosed with type II which was once rarely seen in those under the age of 40.  25% of America’s children are obese or overweight. We need to wake up!  Our kids need to be active – they need to play hard and use their bodies.  They cannot do that if we allow our fears of all the ‘what ifs’ to cause us to hover over them and keep them from physical activity.  When our schools and communities jump on the safety bandwagon we create a culture of fear and this handicaps our children by making them feel inept and creating barriers to self-confidence.  If that confidence and physical fitness needs to be attained by getting a few bumps, bruises, lost teeth and stitches – then so be it.

The Safety Brigade: Protecting Kids Everywhere from Adventure!   2 comments

 

“How do you like to go up in a swing?  Up in the air so blue?  Oh I do think it is the most pleasantest thing ever a child can do!”  This little poem was written by Robert Louis Stevenson and captures the childhood joy of the simple act of swinging.  But – obviously Mr. Stevenson has not been on a swing recently.

Gone are the days when playgrounds had swings on super long chains (I’m not good at gauging actual lengths – so I’ll go with super long verses super short) that really did allow you to go “up in the air so blue.”  If you were pushing a child on one of those swings, you’d have time to lay out a picnic lunch before they would make it back to you for another push!

 But along came… the Safety Brigade!  They consisted of helicopter moms, armed with bubble wrap, who alerted their communities about the dangers lurking in local playgrounds.  They investigated and saw that the slides were too high and too fast.  They determined merry-go-rounds were a death trap and that the big, metal giraffe was, well… big and metal! (remember those?) 

Well – the safety brigade won their battle and playgrounds all across American were stripped of fun, unique, stuff.  Now, playgrounds everywhere look the same – colorful, plastic slides that are slow as sludge, swings that are so short you’d better not blink when pushing a kid because they’ll be on the return from that push in a nano second and knock you in the face.  I remember when I was a kid every park in our town had different equipment.  One park had circus themed equipment – an elephant slide and an old circus wagon.  Another park had a slide shaped like a rocket that you climbed up inside to reach the top.  Our elementary school had giant, cement cylinders in its playground.  Cool stuff. 

The argument is that kids were hurt on that old equipment – the swings were too high and someone could fall and break their neck.  True.  The slides were too high and someone could fall and break their neck.  True.  But if you want adventure in life – it comes with risk. Even everyday mundane activities can be dangerous.  People choke to death eating.  Someone may slip in their bathtub and be seriously hurt.  Thousands of people every year die from taking medications.  Yet, we continue to eat, bathe and take medications because it is part of life.  Childhood fun and adventure was once a normal part of life taken for granted.  But now that adventure has been made ultra safe, sanitized and occurs under the ever watchful eye of an adult – who often times is literally hovering over the child.   

There is one park left in our town that still has those giant swings and I will get on one and enjoy the feeling of literally sailing through the air.  The height gained on those gems is such that you can feel the strong pull of gravity on your body after that split second of weightlessness.  That feeling just isn’t there at the end of a six foot chain.  So when we head to this park I always glance behind me to make sure a member of the Safety Brigade isn’t following – ready to snatch up one of the last remaining treasures from American playgrounds and robbing kids everywhere of the chance to experience the simple joy expressed in Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem.

What are the messages we send to our children about their future?   2 comments

“You’ll never make it in college.” Those words were spoken to me as I sat in the guidance counselor’s office of my high school, in 1985, to meet with him about the recent SAT test I had taken.  I was an okay student in high school, probably around a 3.0 gpa, but I never really studied or applied myself.  I liked music and focused my energy on band, not academics.  I don’t even remember taking the SAT, but I vividly remember having that counselor, who didn’t even know me, tell me I’d never make it in college, and brush me aside.  This person based my potential for success on a test and what I heard was, “You are stupid.”  That was a very profound moment for me and it affected how I viewed myself for quite awhile.  He was right in the fact that I wasn’t ready for college at that time, but I wasn’t confident enough yet in myself and that lack of confidence allowed his words to have power over me.

I think about kids everywhere who are given messages like these at some point in their schooling, either subtly or outright.  Instead of encouragement to grow and do better, often kids are made to feel inept and not good enough.  Even private schools aren’t immune to having this affect on kids.  My oldest son, after being homeschooled, decided he wanted to go to high school and graduated from a small Christian school. He did very well academically, but struggled with messages he received there that he was not good enough morally.

What are the messages we send to our homeschooled kids about their future potential?  Do they over hear us talking with grandma about the fact that they can’t seem to grasp math or just aren’t ‘getting’ reading?  Do they hear us say that we can’t imagine them as college material?  As parents, we know our children well, and can often guess the type of career path that they may choose in life.  But sometimes I see a tendency in homeschoolers to keep such a focused eye on that one path that they do not prepare their children for other choices.  I’ve heard parents claim that they don’t envision their daughter going to college, so they aren’t going to worry about higher level high school – and their daughter is only 12.  Or that they envision their son going to go to a tech school so they are just going to have him take the GED.   

True – this may be the path these kids choose, or is it the other way around – that they get the message that’s what they should do?   Life has a way of changing us and where will this boy and girl find themselves in life in seven, eight or ten years?  The son whose parents told him his best bet was the GED may want to enter the military, only to find out that they take a very limited number of GED applicants.  He also has to live with the stigma that when he hands in a job application people assume he was a high school drop out.  Or the girl may decide, at age 20, that she wants to go to college, and finds that she needs to take many remedial courses for which she can’t receive credit.  Why put limitations on our children’s future, by sending them the message that ‘this’ way is the way for them or purposefully limiting their education?   

Teens look to the adults in their life to help build them up – whether they admit it or not – and to help them gain confidence that they can tackle whatever steps necessary to achieve their goals.  Instead of saying, “You’ll never make it in college,” that counselor could have said, “Okay – you have some work to do and these are the steps you can take to better your score.”  Instead of closing doors for our children by limiting their high school education or sending them the message that they’re not college material, or that they don’t measure up to some high moral standard, or will never join the military – we, as homeschooling parents, or the schools we send them to, should be equipping them with all they will need – academically, emotionally and spiritually to go through any door they choose.

Posted April 16, 2011 by The Nonconformist Mom in Uncategorized

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