Heart-to-Heart with Diane

Hello and Welcome! Isn't raising a family the greatest!? I know I've got the best job in the world, just being Mom! I love sharing things I've discovered that make being "Mom" better, easier or more fulfilling, and that is what this blog is all about. Welcome!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Funnest and Baddest

A "funnest" for Louisa at age 7. She has a St. Patrick's birthday.

Not just sure how I got into this bedtime routine when my kids were young, but ever since I can remember, I have laid next to my child briefly as they were going to sleep and asked them about the "funnest" and "baddest" thing that happened during the day. (I know that is bad grammar, but I guess it was well understood by a child!)

Tonight, as I talked with Louisa, I couldn't help thinking about what a powerful influence on my mothering decisions those 5 minutes talks have had. How they have given me a glimpse into my children's hearts!

Something about laying together in the dark makes a child quite talkative and open. And I always learn something—I'm always in for a surprise! I've marveled at how simple it is to make a child happy. Usually their "funnest" thing was nothing I would have guessed: finding a snake, going to the park. And it was often very easy to fulfill, like swinging them on the swing, playing a game with them, coloring, doing crafts, playing with their toys with them, taking them on a walk, making a treat with them, or jumping on the trampoline together. And as they got older, taking the time to focus and talk with them with privately seemed to be very important and "funnest" for them.

And, the "baddest" things were things I would have never imagined! And sometimes I doubt they would have confided to me in the daylight. Getting hurt was generally the "baddest" thing: a skinned knee, a bee sting, or falling off their bike. And as they got older, getting hurt took a different form: a cruel thing said by another child, getting in trouble for doing something that they really didn't understand was wrong. Being embarrassed. Hypocrisy becomes a common theme as they enter puberty. It is confusing and difficult for them to see people (especially adults) preach one thing and do another.

Just listening, and rejoicing or commiserating, builds a very strong bond of loving respect. So much transfer of values, of the way we view life, comes across in those short bedtime interchanges via our brief comments or words of empathy.

Taking liberty with a familiar poem . . .

You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be—
I had a mother who listened to me.”

Do you know what your child's "funnest" or "baddest" thing was today?

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Monday, May 25, 2009

Hurrah for Homeschooling!

My son Ammon just graduated from home school plus high school! It has been a joyous time for us, and a time for reflecting. He is my fourth and youngest son—I am all finished homeschooling my boys. That is a sobering feeling. As a mother, I hope with all my heart that I have done a good job, and given him the academic and social skills he needs to succeed in life!

Ammon took a couple of classes at the high school each semester, such as Pre-Calculus, Biology and Orchestra . The rest of the subjects he did in homeschool and earned high school credit for them. This was a joint project for him and I together, studying and discussing, working together for his high school diploma and college entrance. Ammon graduated with highest academic honors, plus was awarded the "Most Valuable Player" in his orchestra. He earned entrance into the university of his choice. It has been a happy culmination of 12 years of homeschooling!

As I sat in the graduation ceremony and scanned the program, I was amazed to notice that the "stars" of the show were all homeschoolers! The speakers, the Valedictorian, the recipients of the highest academic honors, the choir members, the band members—homeschoolers were shining in every area. These kids have been my children's friends in support groups growing up, have come to our house for teen parties, have been part of our homeschool experience. What fine people they have become!

I read in the news that a new study has proven that the mother* in a family has enormous power to socialize the children. It's not the school, it's not the parents' education or income level, it's not the opportunities that child has for extra classes or summer camps that matters. It is the way the mother interacts with the children that makes a difference—a difference that lasts a lifetime. The results of the study show that mothers who point out to their children, from as young as 2 years old, the way other people are feeling in any circumstance helps that child to think of others, become more compassionate, more sensitive, and more "socialized". A child who has been taught to say "you go first", who has been taught to think about how his actions affect others, grows into a caring and compassionate adult. By age 12, children who have been trained by their mother to perceive the needs of others are already exemplifying adult levels of socialization! This confirms that experience that I have had in my homeschool. It seems by about the age of 12 years, homeschooled children are socially capable, able to handle themselves confidently around adults, able to befriend the lonely and watch out for the needs of other people.

When I was a girl on a family vacation, while driving through the forest I saw a billboard that had been put up by a Christian camp. The word "J-O-Y" appeared most visible, but as we drove closer, the message became clear: J for Jesus, O for others, Y for yourself. In that order. It made an impression on me. I realized that was the formula for joy! That stuck with me through the years and right into mothering. I had never been taught that directly, and it was like a revelation to me!

"Socialization" is usually the main concern others express when we tell them we are homeschooling. I know my mother still worries about it. I think as homeschooling moms, we innately understand that the socialization of our children really lies within us, and how we approach life, and how much the "J-O-Y" formula is a part of our daily living.

On Sunday at church, my 19 yr. old daughter and I were walking alongside an elderly lady with a cane when a teenage girl rushed hurriedly past. My daughter quietly remarked to me that if she herself had done that, even at age 3, she knows I would have pulled her out of the way and told her to think how frightening it must feel to the elderly lady to have someone rush by, threatening her stability. I am sure that teenage girl didn't even have a clue. If your children are at school all day around children their own age, you have less time and opportunitity to teach them to think of how others feel. If you don't talk to them about caring for others, the result is that they are less socialized.

Academics are one part of homeschooling, and we rejoice when that goes well. But socializing our children to be caring, sensitive and wonderful people is far more important. Thank goodness homeschooling gives us the time, and the mindset to do so.

Hurrah for homeschooling!

*Note: unfortunately the study could not research the effect of a father on the socialization of his children, because they could not find a sufficient number of fathers who spent enough time with their children to make a significant difference.

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Monday, May 18, 2009

School-Free Learners

Having fun, learning high school health!
My son Ammon and his friends Sam and Ben

Does that term give you the same thrill it does me? I am happy to be raising "school-free learners". That's what we do: learn without school. And what a more successful, love-to-learn environment we have because of that choice!

What does school have going for it? I think most homeschooling moms have given that topic pondering time. Over the years of raising my children, we've tried a lot of learning environments: charter schools, public schools, K-12, and more. Those experiences have convinced me that for at least the first 12 years of a child's life, schools can provide little that we cannot joyfully discover and learn in our own homeschool. Joyful learning is important. When learning is fun, it sticks.

When children express a desire to go to school outside the home, what are they wanting? Pretty much, kids all want the very same thing: friends. Adults think school is about education. Kids think school is about friends.

As I see it, the formula for happy homeschooling is part education and part social—and education is the easy part! In this day of internet access, color photography, distance learning, online lessons, state-of-the-art books, educational videos and unlimited information; learning is accessible everywhere and all you need is some dedicated time to learn anything you want. A teacher, textbooks and a classroom is not so vital anymore. A parent who models how to find information, how to evaluate what is found, how to seek out mentors, and how to enjoy learning is a very important person!

More than ever, the second part of the formula—the social part—is increasingly important. If you want your children to grow up as decent people, good citizens, and faithful Christians in an ever-darkening world, the social aspect is crucial. Children need to have friends that they can share their lives, values, joys and sorrows with. Those friends needs to eventually include the opposite sex, so that they have possibilities and opportunities that create hope that they can marry someone wonderful and have a family someday too.

As the world seems to be sliding into moral oblivion, our parental responsibility is not only to teach our children to upright, but it is to help keep them from feeling alone. It is to dispel the mistaken notion that they are the only ones—geeks, oddballs, nerds—intelligent but socially unable to find others like themselves. It may get harder to relate to others in their world—as Christian values lose popularity—so the need is even greater that they find camaraderie and the comfort of friends beyond the family circle. I put a lot of my homeschool effort into my support group, providing that friendship connection for my kids. I think it is imperative.

"School-free learners". Unlimited joyful learning. Fine friendships. Can it get any better for children than this?

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Meet My Married Kids

Louisa (13), Me and Emily (19)—the girls still at home

Mother's Day was wonderful for me—the best Mother's Day I have ever had! Some of that stems from the fact that I have 3 daughters old enough to scheme and plan a fun surprise, as I've said before. But the a lot of it was because I had all my kids (and grandkids) around me for Mother's Day and it was heavenly for me!

So, let me share a little of why I am so happy: I've got great kids. And my married kids are good parents who are trying hard to teach their children to be good Christians, good citizens, mannerly and respectful. I am so pleased. I think all those years of work in raising my children and homeschooling them is paying huge dividends!

We took pictures in my backyard on Mother's Day, which turned out to be the perfect spring day, lilacs blooming and all!

Here's my oldest, Daniel, and his family:

Rebekah (5), Daniel, Abigail (almost 4), Melissa
and Isaac (just 1, and happier than h
e looks in this photo!)

Daniel was my guinea pig, poor boy. Had to learn to mother on him. Had to learn to be a teaching mother on him. Amazingly, he survived and flourished. He went to public school until 6th grade, then homeschooled through high school and finally off to college to become a pretty fab Computer Techy who makes a good income and has a happy homelife with his cute wife and kids. He loves teaching classes at church. They live 10 minutes away, so I am the lucky one!

Melissa is a very devoted mom and I am proud of her! She was a Chemistry major in college, is a good businesswoman, and could easily excel in a career. Instead, she is teaching Rebekah to read, and takes her girls to dance and violin lessons and more. She is following her family tradition and growing an enormous garden full of vegetables this summer! She is an amazing cook. I always feel happy to get invited to dinner.

Isaac tries to eat the lilacs. I don't blame him. They smell good enough to eat!

Here's my second child, Nathan, and his family:

Rachel Lily (had her #2 birthday the day before Mother's Day), Nathan, Melanie,
and Chubby (oops, I mean Christian, who is 8 months old)

Nathan is a caring daddy and husband! My second son, Nathan, was the reason I started homeschooling. He is creative and inventive and so he didn't fit very well into the public school slot of sitting in a desk and learning. Give him a workshop and some tools and he can excel amazingly. Which is what I let him do a lot of when he came out of public school into homeschool at age 9. There is a burnt spot on his old bedroom carpet to prove it (. . . inventing something with an old toaster. . .). Nathan is a Mechanical Engineer for a company in Thousand Oaks, California. He endured college so he could get paid for what he loves doing: designing and flying remote controlled planes that are used in search and rescue, and in the military. Who would have thought you could get paid for all that tinkering and inventing fun?

Melanie is the most adoring wife, which endears her greatly to me—she loves my son and only speaks lovingly and positively of him! She is an attentive, good little mother who is very busy with 2 babies. She teaches them songs about Jesus, and she even sews Rachel's little dresses. Melanie was a first grade school teacher before she married my son, and is the oldest of 13 children.

They live far away, and I miss them so much. Rachel loved going out with Grandaddy to see the chickens and gather the eggs every morning while they were staying here. Christian has such a pleasant personality—alot like his easy-going Daddy. It is so fun to have grandkids!

Rachel helps make her #2 birthday cake!

So, that's my married kids. And when you add their spouses and their children to the family photo, it is getting to be pretty big. When I was a young mother with just one baby boy, I used to look at photos like these of other people and think I'd never make it. The years roll by and it is amazing how the Lord has blessed me!

So, here's the whole family!

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Thursday, May 7, 2009

Kind at Home

My granddaughter Rebekah

Kind at Home

I'd like for folks to say of me,
No matter where I roam,
"That child is nice and gentle—but
She's sweeter far at home.

"Her temper never does she lose,
She's patient as can be
She always strives to spread content,
Among the family.

"She always tidies up her room;
And like a gentle maid,
She strives in countless little ways
To be of some real aid.

"She welcomes, with a friendly smile,
The neighbors as they come;
She's quite a nice girl anywhere—
But sweeter far at home."


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