30 Dec

My Kids Weren’t Grateful for Christmas

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The theme of our Christmas break has been gratitude. Not because my kids are so perfect and appreciative… no, it’s because I can see greed and entitlement creeping into their little hearts. I want to remove that like the cancer that it is. It’s our own fault. We’ve given them everything they have ever wanted. We take them on special trips, camping, baseball games, amusement parks… all things we wanted to do as kids but didn’t. My husband comes from a family who didn’t have the means to do special things when he was young and I see him reliving his childhood through our boys. He’s an amazing dad. I am so blessed that he would rather be with myself and our kids than anywhere else in this world. That being said, special has become normal to our children.
I started to notice it right after Thanksgiving. Our oldest son started making Christmas list after Christmas list. It just kept getting longer. He would sit on the computer and look for things to get. He obsessed about it. Talking about nothing other than Disney infinity characters and toys. I pointed it out several times, gently at first. Just letting him know he was over doing it a bit. Then I got a tad nasty… “Have you asked me what I wanted for Christmas? Have you put any thought into what you’d like to give?” He always softened, “I’m sorry mom. I’m just so excited!” I get that. Being a kid on Christmas is a phrase we use anytime we’re over the moon excited about something. There’s a reason for that. Still, I want gratitude oozing from these little hearts.

We always over do Christmas. Every year we say we’re going to keep it simple. We never do. This year was no different. The boys got a ping pong table, new running shoes, jersies from their favorite players. Scooters, and countless other gifts. Top that off with my parents buying them a Wii U (which I totally agreed to) and you have a recipe for greed.

It all came to a head on Christmas night. I won’t go into specifics but something happened that made it crystal clear that our kids, at least one of them, wasn’t able to handle a big Christmas. I reacted. We both did… we told them that from now on they’d only get four presents for Christmas. Period. Their years of BIG Christmases were over. They cried. Our oldest felt guilt, our youngest was counting on Santa to right the wrong we were clearly imposing on them. He sat, calm and collected… and asked “This four present thing… we telling Santa about that?” He had to know… a resounding “YES!!” came back to him… “Good to know Dad, good to know”

After a few minutes of yelling and anger, we sent them to their rooms. Then we looked at each other. After a few seconds John says “You know we completely over reacted right?”

Yep. We canceled Christmas for the rest of their lives. We found ourselves laughing at our impulsive punishment. We acted out of emotion, not out of reason. We devised a plan and headed upstairs. We didn’t tell them that Christmas wasn’t cancelled. We want them to stew on that for a while. What we did do was implement Gratitude journals into our homeschool routine. For all of us, well, at least the ones who can read and write.

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Every day we will all sit down and write something we are thankful for. It can be something someone gave us or something someone did to serve us. Then once a week, we’ll read our journals to each other and talk about how the tiny acts of kindness made us feel. The hope is that they’ll see that the appreciation other people feel for the things they do is better than getting something for themselves. We want to foster an attitude of giving, serving and gratitude in our children. It’s not there naturally, for most kids at least. We’re selfish beings, we really are. We need Jesus on a daily basis to keep us thankful. It’s easy for an adult to be greedy, how much easier is it for a child?

Here’s to hoping a few spiral notebooks and a Friday pizza night family meeting will help develop a love of serving in our kids. So far they are enjoying writing in their books. They’re thankful for gifts they received, I’m hoping they’ll start to notice and be grateful for acts of kindness, not just gifts here soon enough.

So, that was the lesson we learned this Christmas, first for John and I, now our kiddos. There is such a fine line of wanting to give your children the childhood you want them to have and breeding entitlement in their young, impressionable hearts. We want the memories of big smiling faces on Christmas morning. Of camping and baseball games, special trips to special places, but when does it become too much. When they stop appreciating the things we do. When they stop thinking of ways to serve others and start thinking of ways for them to be served themselves. I think we caught it early. I’m sure their tender hearts can be softened and molded back into the servant leaders we’re trying to raise. Thank God there’s a learning curve for all of us and that we have the perfect example of Jesus Christ to follow. We don’t get it right 100% of the time but Jesus does. His grace covers our mistakes. These children are His, not mine. One day they have to live in our world and either be givers or takers. I am praying and striving to make them givers.

 

Thanks for listening and have a blessed day!

 

Nicki

15 Dec

We just do school at home

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The homeschool journey can be a lonely one. I found that when I decided to change the way our family did school some of my friendships changed. I have had a few friends “break up” with me for lack of a better term. No, no one has told me we can’t be friends because I homeschool, but that’s when the friendships ended. The change was gradual, but in the course of one year I lost a couple very special friends. I don’t know if it’s because of our lifestyle difference, or maybe just lack of time. It hurts none the less. I’ve reached out to them asking how they are and I’m always met with the same response… “I’m great! We need to get together! I’ll call you soon!” They don’t call. They don’t invite us to play anymore. My kids see their pictures on Facebook, pictures of their old friends doing fun things together and of course they ask why we didn’t go. I always tell them we were busy. I don’t want them to know they were excluded, I’d rather be the bad guy than have them feel that sting of rejection. People just look at homeschool families differently. Most of my very close friends these days are fellow homeschoolers. They understand the lifestyle, the mindset… they get it.

Homeschoolers aren’t all like the Duggars. We aren’t all making as many babies as we physically can. Yes, children are a gift from God. Yes, I love my kids. But no, I don’t want anymore. Three is a good number for our family. I have friends who have 4, 5, even 6. That’s great for them. I’m happy seeing their big families and I know they are truly blessed. However, I am a mother of 3. Period. My family is complete.

We don’t all sit home and teach nothing but the Bible.  Yes, I’m Christian. I’m proud to be a Christian, but my kids learn Math, English, Spelling, Science, and History. They read classic, secular literature. No, our spelling lists aren’t books of the Bible and our History goes beyond Biblical times. People sometimes assume that homeschool families are hyper religious. We are Christians, we have a deep relationship with God but we are normal, every day people, we just like the peace and freedom that homeschool brings. There’s something special about being able to drop everything and take a family adventure without having to send in excuse notes or make up work.

We don’t look down on traditional school families. In fact, my homeschool looks very much like traditional school. We just have fewer students and one crazy toddler mascot. Everyone has to make the right decision for themselves. We want our kids to be friends with your kids. We want them to be social, we want them to have friends from all walks of life, just like they will encounter as adults. We aren’t sitting around hoping your public school kids don’t talk to our children. Our kids need to feel included. It’s one thing to understand the change in a friendship as an adult, our kids don’t understand the change in theirs.

Our kids aren’t starved for socialization. Mine specifically are probably over socialized. Between baseball, co-op, church, our running club, and their friends from the neighborhood, our kids are super social. Our calendar is as full if not fuller than every other family we know.

We aren’t in the business of recruiting new members. We aren’t judging you for sending your kids to school. We aren’t a weird family now…

We just do school at home. 

That’s it, there’s no big difference between your kids and mine. So if you have a friend who’s starting out on a homeschool journey, please don’t abandon her. Please support her decision. Don’t exclude her kids from playdates and fun trips. They still want to come, they still want to be a part of your life. You wouldn’t stop being her friend because of a job change right? So why is homeschooling any different. I am just the lowest paid full time teacher and mother you know.

 

03 Dec

How I learned to how to homeschool my ADD child

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My oldest is son is my ADD boy. He’s perfect, beautiful, thoughtful, caring, sensitive, brilliant but he has the attention span of a gnat on amphetamines.  He’s that kid that if he has more than one pencil on his desk at a time, he’s going to use them as light sabers and create a little battle in his head… He struggles with focus every. single. day. He’s a bright kid, he’s made straight A’s his entire life… and no, not just because he’s homeschooled… He’s a quick learner and a deep thinker, however, long term focus is hard for him for almost anything. Math is our biggest struggle right now. He completely understands the concepts. He learns everything beautifully, but when it comes time to apply that knowledge things fall apart quickly. It’s a steps thing for him. If a math problem has more than 1 or 2 steps I lose him.

When we do the practice work together he gets everything right. I give him his independent work expecting it go as easily for him because I just watched him do 8 of the same kinds of problems with no issue, right? Wrong. The moment I walk away his focus leaves him. He may get through half a problem and then move on to another, or leave out a step entirely. As soon as I leave the room he’s calling me back in. He needs help, he doesn’t understand something, doesn’t remember where to write… when I’m not in the room with him it’s a constant battle between us to keep me there. It’s the darnedest thing. It was making the both of us crazy last year, our first year homeschooling, so this year I changed it up. I decided to start him on a DVD math program. BJU seemed to have a great program, an engaging teacher teaching him the lessons and having him do the work… then checking it with him on the video. It was almost completely hands-off for me. It looked so good on paper. I ordered it for way more money than I would have spent on the regular Math for 5th grade, and expected a great year.

Guess what… things that look great on paper don’t always work out in real life. We found that while the videos would have been great for our non ADD child, they weren’t working for Kaden. The teacher was fine, she kept his interest, however, there were random graphics that would float around the screen. That distracted him from what was being taught. He started to get frustrated because he was constantly having to rewind and play back portions of the video to catch what he had missed. He tried to follow along but it just wasn’t connecting with him. My sweet boy will try to work anything out so that he doesn’t disappoint me but I could see he was getting lost. I started sitting with him during his lessons to try and help him focus(If you’ve ever ordered a DVD course for your child you know this is defeating the purpose.) That just lead to both of us being frustrated.

After 2 months of frustration and tears (on both our parts) I broke down and ordered the teacher book and switched him back to parent led learning. The change was instant as far as the instruction time went. He was able to follow me and ask questions when he needed to, this helped him grasp the concepts so much better.

Still, there was the independent work that we needed to address. When your child can do a math problem perfectly start to finish with you just sitting beside them, but can’t do the same problem when you’re in the other room, it’s almost always a focus issue. He understands that he has ADD, he knows that there is a medication for it, and he began asking his to please get it for him. I’m not writing this to start a debate, what you chose to give to your children in regards to medication is a personal decision in an instance like this one. We choose not to medicate his ADD. We don’t feel comfortable with many of the side effects and we don’t feel that Kaden’s particular case is severe enough to require medical intervention. That being said, we have tried a few natural and dietary supplements to help him.

The first thing we tried was caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant and it generally has the opposite effect on an ADD child. It mellows them out and allows them to focus. I noticed a little improvement but not what we were looking for.

Next we tried a fish oil supplement, the idea is that omega 3 oils help the brain to focus when taken regularly. This did help his focus, but the oil was so heavy that he completely lost his appetite. He literally wouldn’t eat. That isn’t healthy for a 10-year-old star baseball player 🙂 so back to the drawing board it was.

One day, while we were at Co-Op, one of the other moms mentioned using oils on her ADD child and having some excellent results. I did a bit of research and found that there had been a study conducted on ADD and Autistic children using vetiver oil. In this study 100% of the kids had improvement. Now, it didn’t say how much improvement they had, but the fact that they saw improvement in all of them was enough for me to try it. I placed an order that day and waited, quite impatiently, for the oil to arrive.

When it finally did, John was very skeptical. Truth be told, I was too but I was desperate. John wasn’t at that desperate “We have to do something to help this child” stage that I was at. When the oil came I mixed it coconut oil and got it ready to use the next morning. When Kaden got up I oiled him his feet and his back, it smelled a little manly and he wasn’t sure he liked it but he was willing to try. He wanted help as much as I did.

We started with math that morning like normal. Kaden did great on the instruction time, did all the problems correctly that we worked together. Everything was just like normal. Then came the time to give him his independent work… this would be the test. I gave him his assignment and walked away and waited to be beckoned back. Guess what…

He didn’t call me back in. He got through the entire assignment without calling me. When I came in to check on his work I was amazed. Not only did he have them all completed and correct, but even his handwriting was different. It was neater, more legible. I was shocked. I immediately called John, he was skeptical of course but he was glad we’d had a good day.

So fast forward to where we are now. We’ve been using the oil for a little more than a month and the change is remarkable. He asks for it, notices it right away if I get busy and forget to put it on him. His confidence has changed and it’s made him a happier student.

He’s still an ADD kid, he still gets distracted throughout the day. However, it gives him the power to reign his focus in during school and that’s worth it’s weight in gold.

Today he and I were talking. I was telling him how proud I am of him and how I wouldn’t change a single thing about his beautiful little self. He quickly piped up, “Except my ADD, right mom? You’d change that.” I grabbed his chin in my hands and looked him in his perfect blue eyes and I told him “absolutely not” and I meant it. I’ll tell you why, just like I told him.

Yes, ADD causes Kaden to struggle to focus on some things. Things that he may not be terribly interested in. However, ADD gives him hyper-focus in other things. Things that grab his attention, things he’s passionate about. Those things get his undivided attention. When he’s pitching in a baseball game he doesn’t hear the other kids heckling him. He doesn’t hear cheers or taunts. He just sees his brother (the catcher) holding his mitt, ready for a pitch. He tunes the rest out and he has a hyper focus in that moment. It makes him an excellent ball player. I reminded him of that today, and then I told him that one day, God would give him his calling. It would come as a passion in his little heart and that ADD that plagues our math lessons is going to be what makes him an amazing man of God. It’s going to be what keeps him going when others would be ready to give up. It’s going to give him the drive that he needs to complete the race before him. I’m proud that I get to mold that now. I’m so thankful we’ve found something that works for him with school time without the side effects of traditional medicine. I’m honored to get to be his mom.

Herrell (48 of 82)