Sunday, November 10, 2013

Etiquette Matters follow up

We have been working on ways to encourage the people in our family to stay focused rather than being bossy, which is coming from a position of superiority.  I had looked up encouraging phrases on the internet which we reviewed with very  little success.   Then, of course, I prayed about it and asked God to give us a good example to follow.  Last week, we finished reading 2 Timothy and the question of what book to study next was presented.  I like getting input from the kids and two of them had suggestions.  The next morning, as I was praying about which one to use, God told me to study Philemon for a day.  As soon as I read it, I knew why:

"Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, yet I prefer to appeal to you on the basis of love."  
Philemon 1:8-9

This is a beautiful picture of how to encourage people rather than be bossy.  Then I realized that I had some apologizing to do to my kids, because my example is NOT to appeal to them, but to use and abuse my God-given authority over them to get them to do what I want.  What a change I have seen since, both in myself and in my kids.

On a side note, I heard an interesting statistic this week regarding new habits that reminds me of how much grace is needed when trying to change:  It takes three YEARS before a new habit truly replaces the old habit and become an unconscious act.  So if we work diligently to treat others with respect, it will probably take three years before we stop having to think so much about it.

God bless!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Etiquette Matters

As I have seen my oldest become a bit uncertain in social situations, the thought occurred that some of what is lacking is training in social graces.  And as I considered and prayed, I realized that, as a family, we would all benefit from learning these skills. My parents taught me basic manners, but it has been a long time since getting that education, so I decided to get a book about it and come up with a plan for teaching it to my kids.  The book I decided to get is called Protocol Matters by Sandra Boswell.  If you want a pre-packaged etiquette curriculum, this isn't it, but it is a great background book and has brought a Christian perspective to the idea of etiquette.  It also has verses in the Bible that back up the rules.  My favorite line in the book so far is this:
"Christian protocol is one of God's lovely means of grace.  We all need much help in learning how to behave graciously towards one another, and protocol provides a simple means to that end--rules that demonstrate respect, kindness and brotherly love."
And honestly, I need a lot of help in this area.  In most things regarding homeschooling, I feel like the blind leading the blind, or, to put it another way, learning with my kids as we go.  Also, with most things, when we try to do something that involves discipline and character improvement, we have many instances of complete failure and sometimes, I am the one leading my kids to the failure point.  As DC Talk said so eloquently:  "It only serves to confirm my suspicion that I am still a (wo)man in need of a Savior."  It is also a good way to show the kids that when "we lose our way, we get back up again, never too late to get back up again." (TobyMac).

I decided to start on a topic that involves family's weak point in conversation--how to converse respectfully in all circumstances, especially to each other.   Since we are together so much, familiarity can breed contempt, as they say and what I am working VERY hard for myself and my kids is to talk respectfully even when the other person is driving us crazy or being unkind.  And I am trying to focus on the heart issues, not just on the behavior.  The heart issue I think in our family is to show respect to people even when they are not acting like they deserve respect or acting respectfully to others, because all humans are made in the image of God and because God not only shows us respect but LOVE to all humans, even though, by our actions, we don't deserve it.  And I illustrated the heart of etiquette as a house:

Grace is the foundation of etiquette, as this book discusses.  Love is the roof because " covers over a multitude of sins" (1 Peter 4:8).  One of the pillars of etiquette is respect, not just in speech, but in attitude, which is found in 1 Peter 2:17.   Our church is encouraging its members to fulfill God's mission of bringing the gospel to the world by God, family and neighbors, and I thought it would be another good pillar for etiquette because the purpose of etiquette is to bless others.  A long time ago, someone taught me the acronym T.H.I.N.K before you speak:  Before saying something ask yourself if what you are about to say is True, Helpful, Interesting, Necessary (this is the "gotcha") or Kind.  If it fails any of these things, reword it or be silent.  I still need to THINK more. I linked it to love and blessings because it is a verbal way to bless and show love to others.  And basic trust is, in some respects, necessary in all human interactions, though our ability to trust deepens as we get to know people better.  And of course, trust is developed when we show respect.  The verses written in house will be our memory verses for the year.  

To encourage respectful dialogue, we have implemented a money-based reward system which is linked to electronic media privileges.  They get money by making a respectful request the first time or by reporting a respectful request made to them by someone else.  They can lose money by  being disrespectful UNLESS, when their disrespectful behavior is highlighted, they apologize repentantly.  Money is used to get electronics privileges (TV, video games, etc.).  I am rewarding them when they bring to my attention something good that a sibling did because I want them to learn how to encourage others to do good works.  When I am consistent, this is a good reward system.  But take the idea and create your own reward system that works for your family.  I also take time out to ask the kids to re-word what sounds like a demand into a respectful request, whether they are speaking to me or to a sibling.  If they don't know how to say it (or are unwilling to think on their own), I "help" them by giving them a respectfully worded request and ask them to repeat it, which they do with gritted teeth.

It seems as I have been trying to deal with my heart and those of my kids, many things have come up which have made it difficult to live out this ideal.  And many of us are using muscles that have atrophied from disuse and are groaning and complaining at us for making them work so hard, so the grace I am trying to show my kids is to forgive them when they are having difficulty, encourage them to keep trying, and keep showing them how even making an effort has made the house a more pleasant place to live.  The key to making this work better is not only be a good example and to confess when you become a horrible warning, but also to be consistent and quick with the rewards and to keep your attention focused on catching them doing something right.

As I have been working on this for a few weeks my evaluation in terms of my blog title is as follows:

The good:  Our house is generally more peaceful, even during times of extreme stress and even with hormonal women.  Progress is slowly being made.  Philippians 4:3-8 has been memorized and some kids are even applying it.  
The bad:  I am not consistent with giving money.  To help this problem, I just tell the kids when to get money and how much to take.  Sometimes, when I try to teach kids a more respectful way to make a request, they sulk, refuse to think for themselves and even try to refuse to say it "my way."  Or they will say it my way with gritted teeth and glaring at the person or at me or at both of us.  This has created discussions about how showing respect involves words, tone and body language.  I have had very few kids tell me of a sibling's respectful request, even though I am sure that respectful requests are being made.
The ugly:  The strong willed ones would rather lose money than apologize/admit that they were wrong.  The kids have gone through a period of time erroneously thinking that they can ignore my requests at times, prompting a family meeting to review how requests should be handled so that momma no longer turns into Mt. Vesuvius when she has had to make a request for the third time.  Mt. Vesuvius is not very respectful.

If you have any suggestions for improvement, leave a comment.

Friday, October 18, 2013

A Brief Introduction

I know that there are so many homeschool-based blogs out there with encouragement.  But my philosophy is that sometimes you can be an encouragement from sharing spectacular failures as well as successes.  I will make weekly submissions as the schedule allows and I will try to make them short and to the point, both for my sake and yours.  But before I start, I thought I would submit the introduction I gave to a homeschool group earlier with names changed to represent their personalities:

I have been married 15 years to my intelligent, perfectly wonderful, goofy husband, who works as a software architect.  I have four children, a 14-year old daughter, "Bananas", who started high school this year (be still my heart), a twelve-year old daughter,  "Peaches" who is two years away from high school (can you tell where my thoughts lie?), a ten-year old son, "Coconut", and an eight-year old son, "Raspberries".  My kids love reading, watching movies and LEGOs as a group.  Bananas is my artistic one and loves all things Tolkien, and is even learning Elf and Dwarf printing as well as calligraphy.  She volunteers in the church nursery twice a month and is really enjoying her "full time" volunteer job at the Mesa Public Library.  Peaches is my musical talent (guitar and piano), pet and kids lover and lover of languages, learning Spanish and French.  She also volunteers at the church nursery twice a month.  Coconut is my baseball and history lover and a "just the facts" kind of guy.  Raspberries is my comedian, storymaker extrordinaire and involved in tae kwon do.  Both girls take aeriels through a church-based arts program as part of their PE.  Both boys are involved in cub scouts, with my older one about to venture into boy scouts this spring.

As far as my hobbies, my husband and I have taken up running together,though he has been sidelined with knee injuries.  I just committed an act of insanity and signed up for the Phoenix Marathon in March and have started my training.  I also try to knit, though I have taken on bigger projects lately that seem to take forever.  Of course, they would take less time if I didn't lay them down in frustration when realizing that YET AGAIN, I have to rip out some of my knitting because of mistakes.  These, of course, are done in our spare time, which is created by using one of those time travel clocks that Hermione Granger used to double up on classes in Harry Potter.

My kids have never been in a public day care setting ever, though they have taken classes through park districts and co-ops and private art lessons.  I put them in a paid sports program when we first moved and even though it was great, the expense became too much, especially when my kids started getting involved in other sports.

I laugh when talking to non-homeschooling moms about homeschooling if  they tell me , "I couldn't do homeschooling because I don't have the patience" or "my kids would drive me crazy" .  The truth is, I haven't had the patience to homeschool either and I am more than halfway there to "crazy."  Patience is a muscle that God has been and is continuing to sculpt in me over the past  fourteen years of totally, spectacularly losing my patience with my kids, asking forgiveness from them and from God, receiving God's wisdom for future conflicts and having to let go of the dream of becoming Ma Ingalls.  Through homeschooling, God is also developing my self-discipline muscle and my organization muscle, too.  He has sculpted these muscles through two wonderful kids who are "very strong willed" and extremely strong willed" and two more wonderful kids who are more easygoing but have difficulty with focusing on tasks.  

I have always desired to have homeschooling prepare my kids for life tests, not for paper tests and to that end, I usually have some sort of character trait that I want to develop in my kids and/or some life skill (cleaning house, handling money, etc).  This year's life skill is showing respect and grace even if the other person is not being respectful or kind, because there are THOSE type of people in the world.  Heck, in my house, on any given day, any one of us can be one of THOSE kind of people, which is why we are focusing on this trait.  It started with a desire to help my kids learn basic etiquette and realize that we (notice that I include myself in this?) have a heart issue behind etiquette that needs to be the focus as we learn basic etiquette.  And I know it is a heart issue because the past two weeks have been tempestuous as we work on it and as we learn new patterns.  Two of my kids (guess which ones?) are resisting the lesson.  But through it, God is developing my apparently weak and flabby "grace" muscle, too.  I will be SO spiritually buff by the time my homeschool journey is over, even if my body shape looks more like an overripe peach.  

And this is why I homeschool, so that my kids can see that living and loving involves spectacular triumphs and failures, that God's grace and love cover a multitude of sins and that we work together to get things done, whether the job is spiritual, emotional or physical.  I have a wonderful work-out partner/principal in my husband, who keeps encouraging me when I am discouraged at how tough it seems to accomplish these things and who reminds the kids to be kind and helpful to their poor, worn out mom.

My curriculum is:
  • Tapestry of Grace for history, literature, geography, and writing.  I also use their vocabulary lists.
  • Math-U-See for everything except Geometry (which is as far as we have gone so far)
  • Teaching Textbooks for Geometry (which might persuade me to use it for advanced math, too)
  • Duolingo for languages (this is something new), along with help from our native Spanish speakers for practical tips.  We attend a Spanish-English language church, in which every part of the adult church--worship, prayer, and sermon are spoken in both English and Spanish.
  • For grammar, I use the schoolhouse rock for the younger kids along with online worksheets.  I have a high school grammar book for my high schooler.