Thursday, May 28, 2009

It's all about me...

I was really intrigued when I saw psychologist Jean Twenge interviewed on one of the morning programs this past week. I felt like she had been in my kitchen when I was talking to one of my friends. I mean, what she said has been what I have been saying for years, but she has the research and the Dr. before her name to back it up. She said that Narcissism is on the upswing. I don't think I have ever used the word narcissism--it is not really in my speaking vocabulary--but the idea rings true to my way of thinking.

In the book she co-authored with W. Keith Campbell, The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement, they show that young people [and not so young people] today have a very positive and self inflated sense of self. She contends this is illustrated by the preoccupation with MySpace, Facebook and YouTube. In other words,

"It's all about me."

Narcissism is defined as [from various sources]:
  1. Excessive love or admiration of oneself. See synonyms at conceit.
  2. A psychological condition characterized by self-preoccupation, lack of empathy, and unconscious deficits in self-esteem.
  3. Concerned ONLY with oneself
  4. A personality disorder in which a person is so self-absorbed that the needs and feelings of others do not matter.
This isn't like a positive self image, which is healthy, it is excessive self-preoccupation and I think what really characterizes it is that the person is not really that interested in other people or what they think or do--they are preoccupied with themselves.

So, what's a parent to do? Some of the things Twenge mentioned are things I have said again and again. When a child loses a game, instead of saying "You always be a winner to me," we should say, "Let's work on that swing and maybe we will get them next time."

Instead of every kid on the losing ball team or swim team, etc. getting a trophy at the end of the season, just have a pep talk about improving, doing our best, etc. Talk about the fun you had, the improvements the team has made, give everyone a pat on the back and go home.

The "fake" trophy makes a child think he [or the team] is great when really he [or the team] needs to do better. The trophys and fake "always a winner" talk really set a kid up for failure.

I mean, they are not always going to be winners. They may as well learn it early--you are not going to win all the time, you are not going to be the best all the time, you are not the prettiest, smartest...and so forth. We can compliment kids on a job well done, but constant affirmation does not do anyone any good and it cheapens real affirmation.

I think Dr. Seuss says it best in The Places You'll Go.

You won't lag behind, because you'll have the speed.
You'll pass the whole gang and you'll soon take the lead.
Wherever you fly, you'll be best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.

Except when you don't.
Because sometimes, you won't
I'm sorry to say so
but, sadly it's, true
that Bang-ups
and Hang-ups
can happen to you...

And I think this is the message we need our kids to hear. That bang-ups and hang-ups happen.

That the destination is not as important as the journey. We need to stop letting our kids be the little masters of the house, stop letting them have so much control and teach them to be in service to their families and their communities. Chores are a good place to start--as well as showing kindness to others, especially younger family members.

If we can get our kids to think of others and to see that they are an important part of their family and community--instead of seeing themselves as someone who everyone's lives revolve around, the person that the parents put at the center of their universe, we will go a long way to having non-narcissistic kids-kids who have a positive self image, but are not selfish and uncaring of others.

Take care,

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Something [worthwhile] to think about...

I love books! And books are the key to giving your child something worthwhile to think about.

[Note: This is part four of a four part entry about Being Real Moms and Shepherding your flock.
To read the blog about Something to Love, please go here, for something [worthwhile] to do go here and for the beginning of this topic you can go to Real Moms, Shepherding your Flock .]

[Chad reading to Kari and Scotty]
Through great literature you child can have unending worthwhile things to think about. The secret is to read to your child. Read, read, read! Read when they are just born and read to them when they are teens.

A child's mind feeds on ideas--they need to be exposed to great books and then have unstructured time to think and imagine and to sort things out. Real, LIVING books enliven a child's mind. I am talking about good fiction, biographies and interesting factual books. NOT textbooks! Textbooks are pre-digested works, summarizing what the author(s) thinks is important. UGH! A textbook will tell you what the author thinks, such as "the three causes of the depression"--REAL books will let the child discern the causes, the results and they way people were affected.

Real or Living books make a child more curious, stir his imagination and encourage independent thoughts and ideas.

By reading books to your child you can bring him a world that otherwise would be out of his reach. You can read books to your child that he will enjoy and learn from that may be above his reading level. Also, as you read you can discuss your world view and pass on your core beliefs by discussing the characters, themes and plots with your child!

Kari and I loved [and still love] the Little House on the Prairie Books. We made doughnuts, churned butter, made biscuits, ground wheat and discussed things like family responsibility, hard work and honor. And actually, if the truth be told, Kari is named after Carrie Ingalls in the Little House books. I am sure many of you have a favorite book that somehow changed your life--they are that powerful.

I remember reading Carry on Mr. Bowditch aloud to various kids through the years. I love that book. It is a biography about Nathaniel Bowditch , beginning when he was a child. He was a brilliant man. As I read this to my kids, the one thing that stuck out in my son Chad's mind was how Nathaniel taught himself languages. He would get a grammar and a New Testament in the language he wanted to learn and would start translating the book of John "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God..."

This idea so impressed Chad that he began to learn Spanish just this way. About 5 years after I read this book to him he came home with a Spanish New Testament and said if Nathaniel Bowditch could do it, so could he. What an awesome way to give our children heroes and something worthwhile to think about.

Another book that made a huge impression on a couple of my children was The Endless Steppe
by Esther Hautzig. This book is an autobiography of Esther as a youth when she was exiled from Poland to Siberia during World War 2. This book taught us about unfairness, prejudice and about making the best of a terrible situation. We also learned a lot about the war, geography and so much more.

I think, through good literature you can teach your children to love what is good and noble and also to discern what is not good and not noble. You can explore places, people and situation you would never be able to do in several lifetimes--all through books.

Books give your child something worthwhile to think about.

In summary, we can lead our flock by being an example. We need to treat our spouses, our in-laws and our neighbors with respect and dignity.We are to be an example to our flock but in order to do this we must spend time [quality and quantity] with our flock-- being an example, because we are willing and because Christ calls us to a life of service and humility.
[I had been reading, just set down the book. I don't have any pictures of me actually reading to the kids--I guess we were to engrossed in the stories to take pictures!]

Something [worthwhile] to do...

Continuing with the theme of raising kids and encouraging them and making the most of your time with them, today I will talk about Something [worthwhile] to Do. To read the blog about Something to Love, please go here and for the beginning of this topic you can go here; Real Moms, Shepherding your Flock .

You can best serve your children by teaching them service. They can be taught to do chores that help the family. I truly believe doing chores helps build self esteem.

Children should be taught Magnanimity- Generosity or nobility of mind or greatness of spirit. Brought about by high thinking and lowly living. The child learns to think great thoughts, but is also generous to overlook insult or injury. He is not too good to do lowly chores.

Practically, this can be taught by:
  • Learning to share when it is hard
  • Teaching about Jesus--serving and humility
In addition to teaching magnanimity, children are born with a natural curiosity. They need to be fed with ideas so they have worthwhile things to think about. Some ideas along this line:
  • acting out historical events
  • pretending to be historical characters
  • draw and collect things having to do with nature: rocks, leaves, bugs, etc.
  • learn to identify birds, flowers, weeds and so forth [a bird feeder and a field guide can be a lot of help]--I like the Peterson series.
  • listen to great music and learn to identify composers and/or instruments
  • learn to identify great art works
  • do some gardening
  • making doll clothes
  • woodworking
  • make and perform a play or puppet show
  • helping younger sibling to get dressed, put away toys
  • have picnics
  • teach child to make a simple lunch
  • sweep floors
  • raise children to appreciate God's creation
  • have child plan and carry out a tea party
  • have child making something for the family such as a wooden door stop, or pot holder
  • keep the porch swept and clean
  • Playing marbles or hop scotch--games that require thinking and coordination and cooperation
  • and so on and so on...
I think you get the idea. Get away from the TV and the video games--give the child real things to do-real things to imitate. Have them learn great things like art and music and nature study-yet be willing to do humble things like helping a younger

[Kari weaving on a popcycle loom]sibling, cleaning the toilet, etc. Keep the idea of magnanimity in mind and you can't go wrong. Something important to do-isn't that what we all want? To do something important?

Some books I recommend for young children for art and music appreciation...
Child Nature Book I Like
Animals in Art
Enjoying Art with Children
Bernstein Favorites [music appreciation]
Childs Book of Art

Something to Love...

I talked last time about Real Moms and how to shepherd the flock God has entrusted to you.
  • So, we need to shepherd and lead our children
  • Not lording it over them
  • Be eager to serve and an example to our flock
Where do we start in our desire to raise our children to be thoughtful men and women of God? I mentioned that I love the book A Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen
[our new puppy Lucky-1992]
Andreola. This is a very readable book that boils down much of the educational philosophy of Charlotte Mason. And I think a lot of her philosophy can help us in shepherding our children.

I love Charlotte Mason's ideas. You can find out more of her philosophy by going to Simply Charlotte. com According to the website, "Charlotte Mason was a British educator who lived in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Her method, the Charlotte Mason method, is centered around the idea that education is three-pronged: Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life."
She believed that each day children needed:

Our children are not our pets. They are individuals created in the image of God and on loan to us. They are not our possessions. As such, they need to have their own responsibilities, jobs and duties to do while they are children in order to prepare them to be adults.

The thing to love could be family members. Part of the point of making sure a child has a thing to love is that the child will learn to take responsibility for another living being. This will help them to not be selfish.

The thing to love and care for could be a pet. It could be a neighbor that they visit and take some responsibility for--perhaps bringing in the neighbor's mail or taking over treats or just spending time with them. Providing acts of service for those who they love should be a goal your strive for as soon as a child is old enough, perhaps by 3 or 4.

By doing for others a child learns to do things for himself, to be aware of the needs of others, to not be self centered--- but other centered.
[Dusty reading to Kari and Scott-and act of service]

Who among us has not seen a child who wants to protect his baby sister, or who teaches his dog to sit and shake? These things are vital to forming their personalities and priorities in a positive way.

Next time we will look at Something Worthwhile to Do, and in the mean time, I would encourage you to think about how you can encourage your child to do acts of service and to have something to love every day.

Shepherd your flock...

I love the passage from first Peter that talks about shepherding God's flock which is under your care.

In this passage, Peter is writing to dispersed Jewish believers who were scattered throughout the Eastern World. These were probably those who heard Peter speak at Pentecost and were heading small ecclesias [gatherings of believers].

Because of persecution throughout the Roman Empire, these believers were scattered many were in hiding. Peter is encouraging them to remain faithful, to continue to live in hope, to encourage other believers. This letter was not written to us, but I believe we can glean some principles from it that we can apply to our own lives.

I Peter 5:1-4

To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve, not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.

As moms [and dads] we can put ourselves in the role of "elder". Our flock is our family. We are elders or overseers of our children--God has given us this flock.

We, like the shepherds in this verse, lead because we must. We do not do it for money or recognition. We must do this willingly, eager to serve, not lording over our families. We must be an example to our flock.

Quite a tall order.




Not lording

Being an Example

How can we possibly do all this? Is it possible? How can real moms in this day and age do this? Well, I am a retired homeschool mom so I come from the viewpoint that children need quality time--and LOTS of it! Even if you don’t homeschool, you will have to admit that preschoolers (and really, children of all ages) require LOTS of time.

Our challenge, is how to make it into quality time and truly be shepherds of our flock. I think most of us are willing to shepherd and lead our children, but we don't know how. We need to be reminded not to lord it over those entrusted to us and I think the hardest things are to be eager to serve and to be an example to our flock.

I think we all want to pass along our beliefs, our love, our encouragement to our children in a meaningful way. We want them to grow up to be thoughtful men and women of God.

So, where to we start?

Where do I start?

Many of these suggestions I am taking from personal experience and from a book called: The Charlotte Mason Companion, by Karen Andreola. I have learned much from this book and it is one that I re-read every couple of years when my children were younger.

To serve and be an example we must make the most of teachable moments, to show our children what we believe in, to talk to them about why we believe what we do, to show them what it looks like to have a servant’s heart.

Part of this includes the way we handle even routine household chores. We don’t want to serve by “doing things for the child that he can do for himself” because then the child will not learn the lessons he needs to learn while under our watchful care and guidance. Ultimately we want to raise capable, caring, responsible adults-and training toward that end should begin in early childhood.

According to Charlotte Mason, she says, and I totally agree, that each day children need:

Something to Love
Something to do (worthwhile)
Something to think about

Tomorrow I will begin to look at these three things and discuss how to practically give these things to you children and why they are important.

Before then, I urge you to consider the verse above, I Peter 5:1-4, and think about how you can apply it in your life.

Take care,

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

May not be fun, but it has to be done...

My daughter Kari and I were having lunch at a great Mexican Restaurant in Lexington the other day. We were catching up with each other because we hadn't seen each other in over a week. Kari just started a MIT [Masters in Teaching] degree last week. It is an on-line degree and her first class was over and she was preparing for the next.

She said they were going to be discussing making learning fun. They were discussing how to make learning games, keep kids engaged and interested--how to make learning more entertaining. We could both see the sense in keeping students engaged, but she said that people want the teachers to do all the work and the kids to be entertained. Students are not really expected to work hard at dull things to learn and improve themselves [remember memorizing geometry terms and figuring out proofs]--they want quick paced lessons, with multi-media and engaging activities.

If you don't believe it, go into any mega-church and try to find a sit down and listen service. There are lights and projectors and skits and productions. I am not saying it is all bad, but most people today don't want to think and focus--they want the basic gist of what they need to know in bullet points.

For that matter, go into any sports bar and notice the TV screens. Oh my! We went to one last week with about 10 giant screens and each one had a different sports channel and every screen had people talking, clips of sporting event and the printed latest news going across the bottom. I felt like I had some kind of disorder because I couldn't keep up.

Kids need to learn that everything is not fun. I don't want to be a downer, but if the teachers have to make learning so upbeat and fun and interesting or else the kids will be bored, how in the world are they going to be able to stand an 8-10 hour job? How will they be able to focus on menial tasks and boring jobs? When will they have to face up to the fact that somethings are not fun-they just aren't.

I have a good friend who would tell her kids when they complained about having to do something hard, like math or writing a term paper, "It might not be fun, but it has to be done." It is called discipline. It is called character building. It is called education--and I believe nothing can benefit our kids more than learning that not everything is fun and that the student should have to exert more energy --or at least as much energy--as the teacher.

Take care,

With Certain Dispostions...

Bob and I were driving to Michigan last week to attend the INCH homeschool convention in Lansing and he really wanted a good milkshake--you know made with real ice cream. So, I took the handy-dandy GPS that he received for Christmas and started searching for a place that sells real ice cream. I finally found a Hersheys ice cream parlor and we went in.

The milkshakes were fabulous--but what I found very interesting was the conversation we had with the owner. She told us that it is not a franchise, but they own the building and just get all their ice cream from Hershey's in Pennsylvania. She asked what brought us to her store, and so we got talking about homeschooling.

She had a ten year old son and she asked how long we had homeschooled and so forth. I was expecting her to say the classic line, "Well, I know I could never homeschool, I just don't have the patience." But, she didn't. Instead she said, "Well, I think you could only homeschool certain kinds of kids--with certain dispositions."

I have never had anyone say that before. I said, "Oh, no. You can homeschool kids with all kinds of dispositions and personalities."

She looked searchingly in my eyes, and said, "I think some kids just couldn't be homeschooled." I realized she was talking about her son.

I said, "Any kid can do well in homeschooling. Really! I have five kids, all very different, and they all were homeschooled for at least a few years. Any kid can learn at home." I could tell she didn't believe me, but we said some parting words, took our double chocolate milkshakes and continued on our trip.

I have thought about her words a lot and tried to think what kind of kid couldn't be homeschooled. I have talked to moms and dads who are homeschooling...
  • young kids
  • teens
  • children with dyslexia
  • brilliant children [reading at 2 and 3]
  • average children
  • compliant children
  • strong willed children
  • anxious/nervous children
  • children with ADD
  • children with ADHD
  • chronically ill children
  • children who are visually impared
  • one child
  • many, many children
  • etc.
About the only kids who really might be unteachable are kids who don't respect and mind their parents. I mean, it is pretty hard to teach someone who won't listen to you or do what you say. But, fortunately, some time spent in character building and discipline can make even this type of child teachable.

It makes me feel bad that some parents think their child is un-teachable by them. Even if you don't homeschool, I am sure this mom must have taught her son set the table, to ride a bike, to feed the dog..something. I wish she could feel good about that, could see that she has taught her son a lot, and can teach him so much more. I wish she could see that every child has a capacity to learn what their parents have to teach. I wish she could feel that joy.

Take care,

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


I just got back from the Lansing, Michigan INCH [Information Network of Christian Homeschools] convention. It was a great convention--and I might add "fast and furious." You can see our set up here--this was before the convention hall filled up-while everything was still calm and waiting in expectation.

With my faithful husband Bob and my most excellent assistant Maureen, we were able to talk to well over 300 people during the 12.5 hours the convention was open--that is about one person every 2.5 minutes. If you didn't get a chance to talk to us as much as you would have liked, please call me. I have lots more time to chat at home.

[Maureen, my cousin Pam--a Sonlight mom--and me. Bob is taking the photo.]

Sue D. of Lapeer won the "Tote of fun" and Debbie P. from Levering won the $10 "Bring a Friend" Gift Certificate. Congratulations Ladies!

The big hit of the booth was the peek into the Science Instructor's Guides. They are MUCH improved and the new books are fabulous. They are more colorful, have more photographs and are so inviting I wish I could start homeschooling over again--just so I could use all the new elementary science.

But my favorite part of every convention is talking to the homeschool moms and dads. It is so encouraging to see so many bright, caring parents that truly want to give their kids an excellent education and knit a close family in the process. I have to think that this generation of kids will change their world for the better.

If you can't get to a convention, hopefully this gave you a bit of a taste for what goes on. Send me an email and I will be glad to help you with your homeschooling questions, or we can set up a phone meeting.[Science Instructor's Guides and samplers so folks can see how Sonlight does science.]

Take care,