Tag Archive | Raising Men

Homeschooling Boys Part 3….. Of a Puppy Dog and the Great Outdoors

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Around the time our oldest son turned six we got a puppy. An adorable golden retriever. We named him Willy. I had no idea the commitment we were making! In the back of my mind I thought if it didn’t work out we could just pass on our beautiful puppy. But, no, our boys took to that little dog like they had a new brother. I could see that short of tearing my son’s heart out of his body, this dog was here to stay. And it wasn’t just puppy love either. My oldest son has prayed for Willy every night,”God, help me to be a good boy and help Willy to be a good puppy. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”  Or quite on accident, without even noticing, he sometimes says, “God, help me to be a good puppy and Willy to be a good boy.” I’m sure God gets it all straightened out. They are constant companions. Roaming the hillside and the wood. Blond tail wagging, cameo, bows and hunting packs, disappearing into the tall grasses. They tell me that he is really good at hide and seek.  And they are pretty sure he is a Christian because he just seems …good.

My boys spend about an hour each morning at their “school work”. (The last part of this series will explain what that’s all about. Homeschooling Boys Part 4, Sit Down Little Son, which I will be posting soon) The rest of their day is mostly spent outdoors. Their backpacks hold field guides for identifying fora and fauna, water bottles and apples. First aid kits, journals and pencils, who knows what else. They are always ready for adventure!

They have picked me hundreds of wild flowers, discovered an old orchard with apple and plum trees, saved injured birds and baby bunnies (Bad, Willy!). They have found nests and watched deer from a short distance. They have watched rabbits scurry down holes and listened to countless bird’s songs.

They have found cool rocks and bones. Once they came back with armfuls of elk bones and tried to reassemble the skeleton. They have caught frogs and lizards. Found beautiful bird egg shells. They come home rosy cheeked and sparkly eyed, running down the hill with Willy loping along side of them. Rubber boots and rain coats, bare backed and sweaty, winter hats and mittens, but always happy.

They have made tree stands and forts and craftily hidden shelters. They have built dams on the creek. They have dug big holes with shovels, for what? Who knows! But it has kept them occupied for days. Building their muscles, teaching them the satisfaction of being a man, with rhythm and grit, getting the job done.

Lots of times their Dad or I have hiked around for the afternoon, sworn to secrecy, being shown their favorite spots, secret hideouts and cool discoveries.

They have built carts for Willy to pull, book cases for their sister’s birthdays, and whittled wooden spoons. They know how to take apart bicycles and put them back together again. My oldest son can put air in tires using the air compressor. His Dad taught him how to pump gas. He loves to open jars for me or carry heavy boxes. He is only nine and he actually has more grit than I do……but the other day I proved to him that I can still beat him at arm wrestling. He was surprised and disappointed. It won’t be long…….

Our back yard has been Jamestown reenacted for days at a time, Roanoke, Plymouth, Indian villages and Viking camps. Our swing-set has sailed the seven seas countless times over. Sometimes through storms so fierce that the poor pilgrims girls underneath have almost shed real tears. But, the brave sea captain and the sea monkey perched upon the up most mast have weathered the storm again and again.  Our deck has been a biplane dropping Bibles behind the iron curtain.  Our garage has been transformed into a well thought out and organized Nature Museum.

All of these things have been conceived and carried out on their own accord, without suggestion or prompting from us. We have never had a TV or any video games at our house. I don’t think my kids are different than anyone else’s but, sadly, I do think they are of a dwindling breed of children who’s minds and imaginations have been allowed to form completely naturally. We live in a “safety” obsessed society. Some parents would rather their kids sat in front of the TV or played computer games where they are safe and clean and in sight. Perhaps they are physically safe, but what about the far more important safety of their souls and spirits? I suppose since we no longer trust God with the timely creation of our children, we can’t fully trust that their number of days and breath of life is in his hands either.

I can see that my oldest son has matured here lately. He feels funny now if the neighbor lady catches him in a game of pretend. The complete abandon and freedom of early childhood is escaping him. That’s  the way it is and how I love this little man child that the Lord has given me! How thankful I am that the happy, carefree, golden hours of childhood were not kept from him! How quickly time goes! Never again except in those early years does the world feel so fresh and wonderful, so innocent and limitless.

Nearly every day of this guy’s life his Dad has read the scriptures to him and prayed for him. Every night he has been thoroughly kissed and hugged and put to bed under the blessing of the God of heaven and earth. Every day he has roamed happy and free the earth that God has created. Without grown ups always there to tell him what he should think and observe and look at. And he is “growing strong and vigorous like a plant”.

I am glad that this will lay the foundation of his life and education. Who knows what God might have in store for his life but I know this, if he knows Jesus Christ and understands that the word of God is a light unto his path and a lamp unto his way, if he learns how to love the people around him well, he will know happiness. I ask God to bless him with this richness.

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 Every Child

Edna Casler Joll

Every child should know a hill,

And the clean joy of running down it’s long slope

With the wind in his hair.

He should know a tree-

The comfort of it’s cool lap of shade,

And the supple strength of it’s arms

Balancing him between earth and sky

So he is the creature of both.

He should know bits of singing water-

The strange mysteries of it’s depths,

And the sweet grasses that border it.

Every child should know some scrap

Of uninterrupted sky, to shout against;

And have one star, dependable

 and bright

For wishing on.

……Homeschooling Boys Part 2 For the Love of a Story

When my little son turned 5 or 6 I could see that he would not enjoy sitting down to seat work and hand writing like his older sisters had. I had read enough about the development of little boys to agree with others who had observed that the traditional way of teaching the early elementary years of school is stacked against boys. Their fine motor skills are often more immature than those of their female peers. It is more difficult for them to sit still. This can lead to over diagnosis of ADD/ADHD and other learning troubles.

I did not in anyway want to make education distasteful to him.  Around this time I started to really think about my philosophy of education. What are my goals in providing my kids with an education? With babies and preschoolers, as well as school aged children to care for I need to use all of my resources wisely. Every amount of energy, time and attention I invest must be with the best of my ability in shaping their soul and character.

The end result of this searching and wondering was a total reshaping of our homeschool. “As a stream can rise no higher than it’s source, so it is probable that no educational effort can rise higher than the whole scheme of thought which gives it birth….” (Charlotte Mason) And what are the thoughts and lofty aspirations that are giving birth to the education of my precious children?

Upon the wall of our home I have written a quote by James Stephen which reads, “I have learned, that the head does not hear anything until the heart has listened, and what the heart understands today the head will know tomorrow.” I believe this is true. And what better way to reach the heart of my boy than through books?

Wonderful, beautiful books, full of adventure and good, noble characters! Books who’s authors can help to teach and shape the souls of my kids. Whole and living books, written with passion, about every subject imaginable! In this way I can put my kids under the teaching of great minds of men and women from the past and present. What a shame when the early formative years of children’s lives are allowed to be wasted with foolish and violent media! Parents, carefully guard the hearts and minds of your young children! What we feed into our hearts and minds is what will come out! What a charge God has given us in protecting these precious ones!

I had read of a school of thought that says that given the ideal atmosphere and proper foundation children will learn to read just like they learn to talk and walk. Without much stress or effort on their part, it will naturally happen. Prayerfully and purposefully I set out to try to create that atmosphere in my home.

From the time my kids are very young I will put my finger under the words as I read them a story. I teach them that letters make sounds and that the sounds blended together make words. (And I let them watch The Letter Factory, a lot!) I tell them how wonderful and important it is to be able to read. I tell them how God chose to communicate himself to us through the written word. It is through reading that we can be sure not to be fooled by the erroneous teachings of men, by “studying the scriptures daily to see whether these things are so”, like they did in the early church.

We have read so many books! Most importantly, the Book of Books, the Bible. The source of all goodness and truth. We like the Arthur Maxwell Bible Story series. They are not “dumbed down” like some we have tried. He is an excellent story teller. We use the King James Version Bible. I think it is good for the minds of kids to read the Old English writing. Ours have had no problem reading through short verses even with their earliest reading skills.

After a lot of study and prayer I felt that the best way to engage my son in “the gentle art of learning” would be to set some things on the back burner for a few years. Things like grammar, spelling, and hand writing. Instead I wanted to capture his heart and mind.

Our family has sat spell bound and breathless, we have had tears in our eyes and on our cheeks, we have laughed until our tummies hurt reading stories, real and fictional, about people in far away times and places. People in all sorts of situations, who were strong and brave and good. People who had such faith that many beautiful stories have come out of horrible darkness. They will never forget these historical things because they have felt them in their hearts.

My oldest son is nine and a half. I have wondered sometimes if I have been doing the right thing. Even earlier this winter he was still sounding out a lot of words and not really reading silently very often for his own pleasure. But, lo, and behold! Along comes The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood (in an abridged version, 200 pages). He has seen the Christian Youth Theater performance and loved it. He can’t convince me to read the book right then, and literally, over night my son turns into a book worm!

He finishes Robin Hood in a couple of days and is on to Ivanhoe (abridged as well). But this book actually has him teary eyed and then jubilant, when he finds out his hero craftily escaped the fire! I now know the story line of Ivanhoe. He has been coming to me for one book after another. Right now he is reading Justin Morgan Had a Horse by Marguerite Henry.

I am so happy that everything has come full circle and he is laughing and crying over his books. It was a little long in coming but it has been completely stress free on his part as well as mine. His little brother told me the other day,”He is kind of boring now, all he wants to do is read!”

A couple of weeks ago our oldest son also told his Dad that all the other kids in his Sunday School class know how to write in cursive and he would like to learn too. Sure, Son! Out come the cursive hand writing books and he is diligently practicing his hand writing on his own accord.

I don’t regret for a minute the relaxed approach that we have taken. Read more about this in Homeschooling Boys Part 3, Of a Puppy Dog and the Great Outdoors, which I will be posting sometime soon.

There are too many good books to list but here are some that our family, and specifically our boys,  have found to be the cream of the crop!

Beautiful Feet Books Early American History, this is a fabulous literature, notebooking based curriculum, I just cannot even say enough good about it! All of the books that they have chosen are wonderful.

Treasures of the Snow and The Star of Light by Patricia St.John

The Little Pilgrim’s Progress adapted from John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress

The Laura Ingalls Wilder books

Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A.Milne

Sarah Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachian

The Sign of the Beaver, The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare

Adam of the Road by Elizabeth Janet Gray

The Butterfly, Pink and Say, January’s Sparrow by Patricia Polacco

Number the Stars by Lois Lowery

“……..Sons Vigorous and Tall as Growing Plants” Part 1

The other night it rained all night long. The sun shone bright the next morning and I sat on my front porch with a cup of coffee.  My boys were up, dressed in their cameo, BB guns slung over their shoulders. Up to greet the day…..I watch them go, up the hill, through the fresh green springtime that sparkles like jewels around them. The dog’s tail wags. They are happy. Half way up they stop suddenly, they spin around, guns drawn. Imaginary lassos  twirl wildly, a few minutes later the trouble is over and they calmly continue on their way. They are too far away for me to make out their words. It’s like I am watching a silent film, one which captures the wholesome goodness of little boys.

But, alas, I am a writer. This moment has captured my heart and my mind. Everything else is forgotten and with teary eyes and a full heart I watch my boys meander their way up the hill to the woods beyond and out of sight. And I love them.

I have folders and notebooks and journals full of writings. Moments of time, when my heart is so full that it hurts, and lest I cease living I must write it down. From the tender new love of a wife, until now, scattered around, my heart is written on paper.

And so I sit with the sun on my face and I think about my sons. They are mysterious to me, I don’t try to understand them completely because they are little men in the makings. I leave that to Blue eyes. I hope they will grow up to be good men like their Father. I hope they will love the Lord and walk according to His word.

I don’t try to make them be “safe” and clean because I want them to be strong and vigorous like a tree. I hope they grow up and learn how to pray for and love a woman. I hope they love babies. I hope they will find purpose and pleasure in working hard and providing for those they love.

My oldest son turned nine last fall. He is finishing up his early elementary education. His father and I have taught him at home and we are so very happy with the fruit we are seeing!  Before he started school, his two older sisters were educated with a curriculum in a box, very much “school at home” type of thing. When it came time for us to begin his formal education, though, my heart was led in a different direction.

In celebration of his completion of third grade I thought it would be fun to do a series of blogs on my thoughts on educating my sons. I hope you will be inspired over the next couple of weeks as I share some of my heart and wisdom I have gleaned as I have endeavored to raise these guys in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

“For the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” Proverbs 9:10Image

Raising self disciplined Children

A Walk in the Forest 015Last week Blue -eyes was out in the mid-west all week. We have over the years let our children take turns traveling with us when it is at all possible. Our little seven year old son proudly packed up his stuff and set off with Dad. A whole week of talking and thinking together, meeting new people, seeing new places. Attending a funeral of a young man, playing with a boy his own age who’s father’s body lies silent in the grave. Seeing a young widow mourn and his own Daddy crying because life is really tough sometimes. But he knows it’s ok because his little hand is tucked safely in Dad’s when things are sad and at night and sometimes in the day they pray. My son comes home a little older and thoroughly bonded with his Dad.

Some people might doubt the wisdom of bringing your kids into a situation like that but we don’t. Dying is a fact of life. When we raise our children with an eternal perspective and a heart for the Lord these realities of life must be addressed. And sometimes I think my boys who are nine and seven years old are wiser in some ways than many of the full grown men of our time. When ever my husband is out of town we’ve made it a tradition that all the kids are allowed to sleep in our bedroom. Now that I have a strong little son around he happily hauls everyone’s mattresses in and they set up camp. It helps us feel cozier when Dad’s not here to tuck us in.

This time I thought I’d read The Little House in the Big Woods, as we settled down for the night, especially for the little girls, who I thought probably didn’t remember the last time I read it aloud. They loved it, of course.

It got me thinking about modern day children and our expectations of them. One chapter, you may remember, tells the story of how long Sundays felt to Laura and how on Monday Pa had to spank her once for being naughty on the Sabbath. Then Pa tells her and Mary a story about when his dad was a boy. What really amazed me was the level of self control these children were taught to possess.

Now I am not advocating that we should make our children sit quietly and not smile of laugh on the Sabbath but I am thinking that teaching our children a great measure of self control would probably be a very good thing. Again, the children then had much more self control than the adults of our time. More than I have!

I am glad that my husband was wise enough to make the keeping of our Lord’s Day a discipline in our family life. We have always had our children with us during the church service and they sit quietly (we hope!) without books or toys and listen to the sermon. My husband never works on Sunday and we do not normally do our shopping on this day. We also have a few other rules that we have set, we do not turn on the computer, and we read only the Bible or theological books, kids included. We also stick together, visiting friends as a family, rather than doing our own things. Now this is not to be legalistic but rather so that we can enjoy our day of rest, being fully present with one another.  We have found that by setting and keeping these general rules of thumb we are able to more freely enjoy the gift of a Sabbath (which is a Hebrew word meaning rest, therefore we feel free to keep Sunday as our Sabbath, rather than the actual seventh day. Read Col. 2:16). I am pretty sure that Sunday is the favorite day in this house hands down!

I think sometimes that we are too quick to frown upon rules and discipline, fearing legalism, but the Bible exhorts us to “mortify the deeds of the body” (Romans 8:13) and that “everyone aught to know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor” (1 Th 4:4). Recently I had a conversation with a little 5 year old girl around here about why I sadly needed to spank her. I explained to her that neither God nor I wanted to cause her pain or make her sad but that I trusted God in that he says this small momentary discomfort will save her from serious hurt later on by teaching her self discipline. If she doesn’t like the spank then next time she can practice self discipline and mom won’t need to discipline her. I explained to her that when she is a grown up she will need to, through the Spirit, do the things that are right with out anyone making her. We prayed together and asked God to help her not to react in her anger next time. And true to the word (Hebrews 12:11)  this chastisement  “yielded the peaceable fruits of righteousness” for the remainder of that day.

I know as a Mom it is so easy to become lazy and let things slide with my kids. But in the long run it is them who will suffer for it. What a gift to help our children learn self discipline when they are very young so that when they are husbands and fathers, wives and mothers they will be well practiced in choosing the path of righteousness. In this way they will prosper and be happy. It breaks my heart to hear of men, who profess to be Christians,  who use pornography and have affairs, or even on a smaller scale, lack the self discipline to read the word to their families on a regular basis or pray with their children. Perhaps these men were not properly taught to practice self control as children.  We can see over all in our time a horrendous lack of self control, resulting in many selfish and hurtful decisions and actions. Do not become faint, fellow moms! Let’s ask the Lord to help us raise up men and women who will not obey the lusts of the flesh but rather the will of God!

“Lord, please help us mothers to not become weary in well doing. Help us to be “wise as serpents and as gentle as doves” in regards to our precious charges. Help us not to lazily or timidly overlook wrong but to gently and lovingly “raise up our children in the way that they should go”. In Jesus’s name Amen.