Revisiting “Little House” and dress-up

During this global pandemic and our current nation-wide Covid-19 lockdown, we have enjoyed having our son, his wife and our gorgeous two little granddaughters come live with us on the farm.

Emma (5) and Kara (3)  have enjoyed spending time playing with me and I have found myself reliving my early homeschool and parenting days as we played with my daughter’s old toys and dress-up clothes that we took out of storage.

Currently, we are also enjoying watching the “Little House on the Prairies”  DVD series.  These stories are beautifully portrayed and moms and dads are also encouraged by the wonderful values and skills taught by Charles and Caroline Wilder to their children.

My daughter Lara when she was 6 years old

My little grandies, Emma and Kara love wearing their bonnets and calico aprons that I sewed for my three daughters over 15 years ago.  These simple dress-up clothes have served my children for years and they were adapted to suit many themes and eras in the stories I read aloud.

All my girls needed to act out scenes from stories in our living books were a long skirt, an apron and a bonnet.  They have happily played and re-enacted scenes from the Little House books as well as Anne of Green Gables, Little Princess, What Katie Did,  The Secret GardenPollyannaand Jane Austen stories!  I even made my younger daughter boned corsets for their dressing up.

I have shared several posts on encouraging your children’s freedom to play ~

Here are some of my Little House blog posts ~

Give your children something innocent and inspiring to focus on and act out.  They need the freedom to play and be creative.  Read aloud to them and then give them the time to be free to play.

Here’s wishing you and your family safe and happy moments in this unprecedented time.

Blessings, Nadene

Tip ~ Bedtime Moments

I found bedtimes to be a good time to build relationships, deepen our understanding of each other and to even cover some of the reading we had on our homeschool schedule.  Here’s some of our bedtime activities ~

  1. Read alouds at bedtime – Often this was with just one child, but in the seasons where my daughters shared a room, they would both listen to the story before sleeping.  I usually read their fiction books in our curriculum at bedtime.  Night-time story time helped me keep our school time shorter in the mornings.   Bedtime stories also sometimes helped me catch up if there were interruptions during the day.  Read alouds are our homeschool glue and often saved our days! We read books when all else failed. We love reading any story.  It didn’t have to be a book from the school schedule.  Regularly reading good stories built a love for reading and a love for books in our family.
  2. Reviews and oral narrations – Narrations or telling-back is a very natural way for a child to relate what they understood and remembered from the read alouds.  At bedtime, lying cuddled together in bed, my daughters seemed so relaxed and thoughtful, and they could easily tell me what they learnt from the read aloud.  Charlotte Mason’s narrations are power-packed with skills and narrations are a fabulous way to assess your child’s learning.
  3. Best and Worst moments – Nighttime reflection is a wonderful way to connect with your child’s experiences through the day.  It is a good time to listen to their happy moments, their joys, their delights, as well as their fears, hurts and disappointments.  I reflected back what they just told me by saying what they said in my own words, without commenting, e.g. “You really loved playing at the pond today…”  Or I acknowledged their feelings without judgement, saying, “You must have felt really mad when …”  which helped them feel that I hear and understood them.  It is a very important way to validate and empathize with your children., building strong, trusting relationships.
  4. Pray together – Night time prayers flow so easily from #3 “Best and Worst Moments“, praising and thanking the Lord for all the best and praying over the worst.  Teach your child to be thankful.  Thankfulness and gratitude are powerful resources to motivation and health.  Teach your child how to forgive others, to ask for forgiveness and to receive forgiveness.  Dealing with challenging circumstances, difficulties, challenges, or repeated failures is very hard for a child.  Praying together over any of these issues helps your child roll the burden onto the Lord, to learn to trust Him and to know that your child is not working through these things alone.
  5. Affirm and encourage – Bedtime is one of the best times to affirm and encourage your child.  Focus on building up your child with positive affirmations and genuine, focused acknowledgements of your child’s character, personality and her importance to you and others.  Again, relationships are key, but this is also a good time to acknowledge where your child did something well, accomplished something challenging or coped with some difficulty.  Long after the lights are out, as your child lingers in the dark, falling asleep, these words penetrate deeply and are the final thoughts for the day.
  6. Ideas for the next day –  Talk about the upcoming events, or meetings with others,  or dentist appointments, etc. at night gave my child the time to prepare emotionally.  I found this very helpful, especially for my more anxious child. Sometimes we would talk about how a meeting with so-and-so would go, imagining and talking about how to handle the situation. Sometimes using humor made these discussions funny and gave a different perspective to something my child felt anxious about.  It was a good time to gently discuss my expectations about my child’s behaviour, being very positive and encouraging.
  7. Bedtime notebooks – Once your child can write, we enjoyed private and very special notebooks which we would slip under each other’s pillows at night.  I treasure their deeply personal letters.  They often shared things we could not speak about.  This is really valuable when children reach their tweens and teen years.

My children really valued these special night-time moments together with me and generally we would be done by 8:30pm, but  I must confess that I did not cope well as a mom after 9:00pm.  By then I was exhausted and I needed time to be alone with my hubby and to have some time by myself.

There were times where dad took over their  bedtime routine  and his bedtimes with the kids was very different from mine.  He often was louder, funnier and their bedtimes activities were often far more physical.  They often spent their time with dad doing tickles, wrestles, pillow fights and jokes. They loved him reading funny stories, usually with sound effects, and they would eventually go to sleep, happy and exhausted, which was a win for me!

What special moments do you have with your children?  Please share with us in the comments below.

Trusting your family has very blessed bedtimes.

In Grace, Nadene

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Navigating postgraduate years

Here’s another “Getting Real” post ~  My eldest daughter graduated high school at the end of 2013.  Motherhood and homeschooling shifted gears and I entered into a completely different phase with a postgraduate young adult.  Somehow, navigating these years are far more difficult than I imagined.

If you follow the system, this is how educating your children usually looks ~

Schooling +12 years = graduate = college/ university = a diploma or degree = good job = successful life. 

Right?  In fact, I hear more moms who are considering homeschooling their preschooler or really young primary-aged children ask about homeschool graduation qualification requirements than how to enjoy the first few years of homeschooling.  The system rules their thinking.

I seemed to really have my act together when I was homeschooling my three young daughters.  As a qualified school teacher, no one doubted my ability or our vision for our family, but things changed drastically once my eldest graduated and we did not insist on her going to university to study further.

In fact, we have repeatedly been criticized by family and close friends for not providing her with the opportunities to achieve her God-given purpose.  I have endured days of long ‘conversations’ where granny and oupa and aunties have laid into us.  I received a heavily disappointed email with 7 attachments on “Finding your God-given purpose” from my dad.

But here’s the thing, our eldest daughter didn’t want to study further.  And I have learnt that forcing any education on a child doesn’t stick!  It vanishes like mist before the sun.  Our daughter didn’t want a chosen “safe” career or long-term commitment to a job or internship.  She didn’t want to do short courses. We thought, “Why invest heaps of money on courses or take out study loans or go into debt when someone is not keen?  It doesn’t make any sense.”

So, we allowed our eldest daughter to have a gap year … or two …  She has acquired major life skills ~

She and her best friend began entrepreneurship ventures when they were just 15 years old. They have been creative, hard-working and their skills have been tried and tested over the past several years.  They have stocked and run two shops.  She and her sister created a unique clothing range which they collaborated, created and ran online and at markets.  She has been committed to several short-term jobs, one where she gained valuable experience doing administration for a company. She has served others faithfully.  She has grown enormously spiritually.

During these years she assisted two of her friends with their home births.  She has learnt to cook large family meals on a very tight budget, from scratch, without electricity.  She’s learnt to run a home.  She’s attended a month of life-coaching.  She has been serious in her involvement with people and she is committed to deep and meaningful relationships in the small town where she has made her home.

Most importantly, I realized that she is community-driven.  She hated the idea of moving to a large town and living and working on her own.  I have to think that because we live so far from town, on such a remote farm, that we don’t have the same circumstances that most folks have of gently easing a new school graduate into jobs and towards independent living.

When we consider our eldest daughter, we realize that she is living out her life with her own, well-thought-out choices.  Our role is to help her in her startup ventures, assist her to begin businesses or start new jobs, and to encourage her when she faces disappointments and frustrations.  Our role is to champion her.  It is not what the system reflects, but what her heart longs for and how it leads her.  We seem to be navigating her post-school years without a map.

We are so proud of our daughter, and the amazing young woman that she has become!

The best way to parent a graduate is to be available, relational, supportive and encouraging so that we have a place of influence.    And to pray much …

In contrast, it is so easy to follow a homeschool schedule or curriculum.  You know exactly what is expected, what to use and how to get there.  The day is set out neatly.  You can tick the boxes and feel the accomplishments at the end of the day like a warm glow.  But this graduate phase … these open-ended days, filled with uncertain choices, unpredictable outcomes, and sometimes frightening opportunities scares us and it terrifies our newly graduate children.

Life after school is scary, folks.

So, enjoy your young children, your neat homeschool timetables and plans, your simple choices, your children’s innocent hopes and dreams.  And start praying now for those post-graduate years.

What advice do you have for other parents facing their children’s graduate years?  Please share your views in the comments below.

With much grace, Nadene

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Highschooler Needs

I’m sure many homeschool moms feel insecure about homeschooling their child through the high school years like I do?  Coping with important subject and career choices, teenagers’ growing need  for independence, as well as their raging and extreme emotions can quickly bring a mom to her knees!  But let me encourage you to keep homeschooling to the end ~

  •  Accept the confusion and guilt as part of this phase.  You will feel like you didn’t do enough, that you failed in so many ways, but try not to dwell on that, because you have time for relationships which is the cornerstone of your reason to homeschool.
  • Feast your eyes on the amazing person that is your high school son/ daughter. Consider the many good things about that person, and recognize that you influenced some of that wonderfulness. Enjoy the person, cherish the moments, treasure the memories you are making.
  • You still have an impact on this wants-to-be-autonomous-but-still-needs-mommy child. It’s not too late to help them in preparing for independence by encouraging more and more responsibility and self-reliance.
  • Give them the space they need to test their wings while they still have the safety of home. Show trust where you can, and try not to hold the reins too tight. Easier said than done, I know…
  • Be physically affectionate.  Hug them early and often; when they wake up  and hug them before they go into their room for the night. Hug them in the middle of an argument. Hug them “just because” throughout the day.  It is impossible to hug too often!
  • Talk with them as often as possible, and better yet, let them talk to you about anything and everything. Avoid criticism or correction about what they say — just let them vent, or exclaim, or explain — and then you may nod and say “mm-hmmm.”  Give an opinion only when asked. Be available, and willing, to listen.
  • Expect their frustrations because they all sigh, fuss or yell, “why should I have to do this stupid school work”.  Try not to nag; it may be time to let them experience some natural consequences of not getting things done on time. When in doubt of how to respond, see #3 and #4.
  • You need to help and support your senior highschooler through critical transitions like writing final exams,  completing applications for college or university, or writing up their CV or resume and preparing for and attending job interviews.
  • Plan on celebrating graduation. Make it a big deal and celebrate, even if it is only a special family meal, eating out at a nice restaurant, or holding a small gathering for cake and photographs.

Enjoy your high school senior while you have them with you, and then watch them take on the world. It’s a wonderful thing to be part of.  I wish I could say that things get easier now, but I know that you are already aware that parenting is a lifetime endeavor.

Blessings, Nadene

7 Things Not To Do For Your Teen

How do we raise competent adults if we’re always doing everything for our kids?  As devoted homeschool parents we often are very involved in our children’s lives, but as they mature, we should graciously back off and allow our teens to grow, learn and mature in every area of their lives.

“Parenting on Purpose” allows opportunity for our kids to develop the necessary life skills.  Some may view this as a lack of parenting, but research shows that “helicopter parenting” — over-involved, hyper-vigilant parenting —  is a one-way ticket to incompetent offspring,  While we don’t want our children to fail, we need to realize that adversity is a normal part of life and the only way to teach our children coping skills is to make them do and think for themselves.

To quote Ann Landers,

“It is not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do for themselves that will make them successful human beings.”

Here are some issues to avoid when parenting teens ~

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My girls preparing for their market and growing their own business

  1. Do not speak for them.  Do not stand in for them in social situations, doctor’s consultations, interviews, bookings and introductions.  After blundering in this area and seeing my children cringe and roll their eyes when I butted in conversations, I made a decision to shut up and give my teens the space to speak for themselves.  They often amaze me with their eloquence.  My shy daughter still tries to avoid answering the telephone and greeting visitors, but she has become more confident.  Practice makes this life skill easier.
  2. Do not lie for them.  For over-protective parents, this may be a form of trying to soften the blows of life, but our teens need to connect with the consequences of their decisions, lack of diligence, mistakes or issues.  Our teens need to learn to be honest, admit their failings, and find ways to make right.  Often harsh consequences teach them far more than a weekend of lectures.
  3. Do not manage their time.  Every teen should set their own alarms, wake up,  prepare and be on time without mom or dad cajoling, persuading, nagging or reminding.  Don’t rush around buying last-minute items, find lost clothes or projects or”helping” them reach their deadlines.  Teach your teens to make schedules, activate their own alarms and add reminders to their cellphones, or simply keep a calendar or notebook.  Our aim is to raise well-functioning adults here.
  4. Do not manage their budget & money.  No matter how little or how much pocket-money your teen receives, they need to learn how to save, budget, spend or share their own money.  If you constantly dish out money to your teen, you act as their personal ATM.  Now is the time to open a personal bank account for your teen and teach them how to spend and save wisely.  Don’t rescue them when they spend all their money or suddenly need more money.  Give them ideas or opportunities from young to work to earn extra pocket-money.  My kids tender for projects that need doing around the house to earn extra money.
  5. Do not fight their teacher/ “friend” battles.  When your teen has issues with teachers or friends, it may be wise to listen and ask questions which may lead them to figure out what to do about their unpleasant situation, but at this point, parents should not be personally involved in bringing about resolutions.  Let your teen figure things out for themselves.  My eldest daughter once told her dad, “I can navigate this situation better on my own.”  And she was right.
  6. Do not take over uncompleted work/ chores.  Do not rescue your teen when they forget their work, leave it behind, delay or procrastinate and run out of time with work or chores.  Again, allow the consequences to be the life lesson here.
  7. Stop filling out their paperwork.  Teens should learn how to complete forms or fill their own applications.  With a little advice, most teens should be able to complete all their own paperwork.  Practice this skill while they are still young.  Every teen should practice their own signature and write neatly and clearly.

My parenting goal is to raise competent and capable adults.  And to accomplish this, I am backing off in areas where my teens can stand on their own two feet.  So, despite my love and my desire to hover and help, I want to see my teens succeed in the real world.  This means that I may have to stand by as they navigate failure and real life stuff on their own.

So please don’t judge me if my kids seem a little unsure, make mistakes, or sometimes suffer the consequences … it’s all part of growing teens in independence.

And may I add here, that this is an area that calls for grace

… to yourself … to your children … and to others.  Grace to other moms who are trying to figure out just how much help is required .. or who don’t know how to step back …  Grace to young adults who are growing and learning.

In Grace, Nadene

Tomato Staking

God often ministers to me while I am gardening..

It is late autumn in South Africa, and time to harvest late summer plants and plant the early winter crops.

Each year, about this time, I find that my tomato plants have overgrown their tomato stakes and there is still a lot of fruit on the plant.  Stabilizing the trailing branches at this stage is a very delicate business and I spend hours tenderly lifting and tying fruit-laden branches onto higher stakes.

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I have tried different methods every year and I am still caught out by 2 things – the size of the plant and the duration of their fruit-bearing season.  They simply outgrow their stakes and continue growing for longer than the rest of the summer plants.

The Lord prompted me to prepare my next tomato stakes higher and stronger … and then He reminded me about my parenting role in “Tomato Staking“.

When my kids were very young I read about Tomato Staking ~ Raising Godly Tomatoes. To quote ~

” … be your child’s tomato stake from early on, keeping him close to you beyond infancy, training him constantly to be as you want him to be — a godly child and eventually a godly adult. If you do this, eventually, when he is grown, he will be strong in the ways you have trained him and will not easily be persuaded toward the viewpoint and ways others.

Tomato Staking is a powerful tool that enables preemptive parenting. When you Tomato Stake, you can anticipate wrong attitudes and misbehaviors and nip things in the bud before they become ingrained habits. You are right there to encourage right behavior as well. And, of course, it’s easy to get to know your child when you spend time with him. And the better you know him, the more likely it is that you will develop a close, loving relationship, and will remain close throughout life. Tomato Staking provides you with the avenue to be a teacher, mentor, friend and more to your child.”  

It is a wonderful parenting method and it works.

I am an “attached parent” and enjoy having my children with me and doing things with them.  Perhaps this seems a simple approach, but it is the most positive way to raise children.

When toddlers spend too much time unsupervised and not positively directed, they can easily become like overgrown tomatoes which trail on the ground and spoil. Immediately redirecting and reinforcing the right behavior in a toddler is much easier to do than to later correct or discipline a wayward child.

Tomato staking can help mothers with older children too.  Even a teen can be brought in close, kept within view and earshot and kept busy with whatever mom/ dad happens to be doing.  While their loss of freedom and liberty is viewed as a punishment, being with the parent and kept positively involved can provide many opportunities to rebuild damaged relationships and address some of the deeper issues in a caring and personal way.

Quoting Louise’s description of what “Tomato Staking” as an older child in her home looked like, she says ~

“Tomato Staking was primarily a positive mentoring method used to mold and shape the character of the child. Occasionally it was used as a tool for discipline, similar to being grounded, but a much longer-term arrangement, with the child being kept near the parents, not sent to his room.”

Again, I am reminded that raising Godly children is a long process and, while methods and approach may change as they mature, the principle of constant guidance and support is vital.

Are my parenting support structures high enough and strong enough?

Do I have a variety of methods of keeping my growing children supported so that they can continue to bear good fruit in their characters as they mature?

  • I pray that I parent positively, build and maintain an intimate relationship with each child, and encourage and support my children as they mature.
  • I pray that I see the fruits of their lives ripen and fulfilled in God’s purpose and calling.

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Can you share your Tomato Stalking experiences?   Feel free to write in the comments.

Blessings as you parent,

And here are some references for the actual tomato gardener:

A Sacred Task

Charlotte Mason’s principles challenges me. When I read her chapter on Sacredness of Personality, these words jumped out ~https://i0.wp.com/www.classroom-teacher-resources.com/image-files/classroom-discipline-holding-hands.jpg

“Parents look on with a smile and think that all is well; but Bob or Mary is losing that growing time which should make a self-dependent, self-ordered person, and is day by day becoming a parasite who can go only as he is carried, the easy prey of fanatic or demagogue. 

This sort of encroachment upon the love of children offers as a motive, ‘do this for my sake’; wrong is to be avoided lest it grieve the teacher, good is to be done to pleasure him; for this end a boy learns his lessons, behaves properly, shows good will, produces a whole catalogue of schoolboy virtues and yet his character is being undermined.

https://practicalpages.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/handholdingparentchild.jpgA due respect for the personality of children and a dread of making them incompetent to conduct their own lives will make us chary of employing a means so dangerous, no matter how good the immediate end.”

No parent sets out to create incompetent, parasitic and weak children who live their lives in shameful helplessness, inadequacy and co-dependency.

Intentional parenting motivates the child to grow into meaningful independence and responsibility.

As our eldest daughter completes her schooling this year, and our second eldest son plans for his marriage towards the end of the September, they want to be equipped and ready.  It is a joy to see them becoming self-determined and responsible.

Our parenting should provide the essential structures and routines, some basic rules and disciplines, and mixed in it all, grace, love and assistance.

Let me go back to when they were young and innocent. I remember giving my toddler choices.  My options, but she could chose in them, and the outcome was the one I wanted e.g.: ~ “We are going to bath, brush teeth (…insert your activities…) and then read a story.  Which story do you want to hear tonight?  This one or this one?  Great!  Quickly now, let’s …”

This approach works well with young homeschoolers too.  Our read aloud time is our “together” time and we usually do all the disciplined studies before morning tea so that we can enjoy our reading and hands-on activities.  When the child is given some choices in these activities, they do not resist and mope when lessons are short and sweet. (Thank you Charlotte Mason, for this lovely principle.)

Homeschooling a high schooler is slightly different.  They want to work independently.  The best tools for them is the year plan/ overview, a calendar and a weekly schedule or timetable.  We work out how many lessons per week, how many hours that requires, and they can tick the plan off as they go.  Both my highschoolers work to try finish and write off a subject by completing the work and the tests/ exams.  They ask me to tutor them. We book our time together and I enjoy the moments working side-by-side.

All too soon, it will pass and my role with them will change.

My parenting will be worthy if my children grow up to ~

  • love the Lord, His Word and His Ways
  • make good choices; in serving others, in excellence,
  • have an ethic that values hard work and diligence
  • form and maintain sincere and sound relationships with others
  • respect themselves and those in authority,  and be worthy of respect
  • persevere and endure even when it gets tough
  • be themselves, unique, creative, sincere
  • be faithful to the Lord’s gifting and purpose for their lives

So this is a “sacred” task.

How do you find your homeschooling and parenting sacred?

Blessings,

Beautiful Mama Blog Award

This blessing came my way …

Beautiful Mama Blog AwardMarie at My Mom Thoughts  shared this encouragement,

thank you so much!

She wrote ~

“To accept the award, please do the following things:

Click the above award image, save it and use it in your acceptance post.
List 3 things you love about motherhood.
Nominate other deserving mamas; you may choose as many as you like. (And let them know of the nomination)”

Normally I tend to keep family issues private on my blog, but please let me share a little more about my being a mom …

Right from the start of my marriage, I was a step-mom to 2 boys. It was not always “beautiful”.  When the boys lived with us for seasons, we were a blended family and I felt secure, but their coming & going has been the most challenging aspect of parenting.  Currently one son, 22-years old, lives and works with us on our farm.  The eldest, 25-years old, is planning to join us here too.  … coming and going …  and learning to love with my hands and heart wide open. 

I always wanted to be a mom and when I fell pregnant with our first child, I prayed for mentors, attended La Leche League meetings, read books.  I wanted to do motherhood well. I was a breastfeeding-baby-wearing-attached-parenting-co-sleeping kind of mom and it was natural to continue nurturing her and start homeschooling.

Four years later I had my second child.  We had an amazing home birth and I thought that I would parent her as I had before,  but everything seemed different.  She was different.  She loved to sleep on her own, in her cot, and thrived on structured routine. My parenting style with her changed dramatically.

And just two and half years later my youngest arrived, also with an intimate home birth.  She fitted into our lives so smoothly.  I could pop her in my sling and continue with the family.

I love seeing each child open up like a flower and discover themselves and life around them.  It is a privilege to homeschool them and spend our lives together.

I am so grateful to be a mom.

Here are 3 things I love about motherhood ~

  • Every age and every stage of the child is utterly unique and special.  It is sometimes so beautiful that I tell myself to soak it all in.  Sometimes it seems so hard, even ugly.  Grace to a child in transition and grace to a mom who doesn’t know how …
  • Every child is unique and one style does not fit all.  All my ideals and standards have been challenged.  Grace.  Grace to others, and self-grace to the ‘different’.
  • All truly great parenting is done on bended knee in prayer. Keep praying, looking to Him,the author and perfecter of our faith, the One who K.N.O.W.S. all.

Other amazing moms who inspire me are ~

Pop over to their blogs and websites and be encouraged and inspired.

Blessings and grace to all you beautiful mamas!