Home business, home education and health challenges: what makes us tic?

Posts tagged ‘children’

Why I don’t limit my children’s exposure to electronics

It’s a digital age, and the debate for and against the use of electronics rages back and forth. We’re told that it isn’t safe for our children to spend so much time online, or behind electronic devices of every kind.

They need to play!

That’s the war cry from every camp.

Proponents of unlimited electronic access claim that this IS playing in the new millennium, while the opposition insists it is harmful for both the brain and the body – not what playing is supposed to be at all.

My approach to life is to take all the views and consider them, then do what I was going to do anyway. Sometimes what I’ve learned along the way influences what I end up doing … This means that, at times, I have seriously held to each of these views.

But now, like a real grown up, I have my own views. So here they are:

5 reasons why I don't limit my children's exposure to electronics

5 Reasons Why I Don’t Limit My Children’s Exposure to Electronics

  1. I don’t want to.
    I keep searching my gut for some kind of feeling that says, “No, this is wrong. They’ve fried their little growing minds with too many electronic inputs. Make them stop!” But it never happens. I can’t find it. And, seriously, my “STOP IT!” gut reflex is VERY strong. If I’m not hearing it, it ain’t there.

  2. Even if they spent all day plugged into some device or other, they’d be spending less time attached to electronics than either of their parents do.
    We do this for a living, and we love it. I don’t think it’s wrong or hypocritical for parents to say, “Do as I SAY, not as I do” … I do think that there are times when that response is precisely reasonable and valid. So it’s not that I think I’d be a hypocrite if I gave them less access to electronics than I have.

    It’s just one of the ways our family enjoys time alone together … like reading, watching a movie, going to an art gallery, or taking long walks. We don’t have to be doing the same thing at the same time, or even talking, to be having quality time. This is one of the benefits of being an introvert – or a family of introverts!
  3. I’m interested in them doing what interests them.
    And the things they do on these devices interest them a lot. People learn best when they get to follow their interests. My kids have improved their reading and research skills. They have a bigger vocabulary and a wider range of interests generally now.

    They have their own tastes – music, hobbies, people, clothes – than they ever could have gleaned from me alone. They have had safe exposure to all kinds of people – people I could never have found and introduced them to. They have career interests that didn’t even exist five years ago. And they have the confidence that comes from knowing they could learn ANYTHING. Between sites like Khan Academy, Wikipedia, and YouTube, there’s nothing you could want to know and not be able to learn. And they’re teaching themselves stuff all the time.

  4. I wouldn’t ban them from going to school as a punishment, so I won’t stop them from spending time on electronics. It’s how they learn. And it’s what they love. Besides, they don’t really do things that need punishing. #JustSaying.

  5. These are life skills they’re learning.
    No matter what they do for a living, it will involve something electronic, somewhere along the way. In Goldilocks’ case, she’s already using the web to earn a fair amount of pocket money, and she has big plans for a future career based entirely online. The sooner she acquires and masters those skills the better, in my opinion.

    I feel that I am empowering my children with the skills to keep up with the future. And if they can learn to do things like programming and design along the way, so much the better. So many doors open up when you have these skills. And no one online cares how old you are. If a thirteen-year-old could give you a great, mobile-responsive website, and you didn’t know the developer as just a teenager, you’d be delighted with the result. And that teenager would be empowered by having learned and used real world skills.

Here are some things my kids do a LOT of, that don’t involve electronics:

  • Climb trees
  • Climb jungle gyms
  • Swim
  • Ride bikes (depending on where we live at the time)
  • Make tree houses
  • Make wendy houses
  • Make fairy houses
  • Make doll houses
  • Make doll clothes
  • Weave complex narratives for their newly outfitted dolls
  • Write novels
  • Create puppet shows and plays
  • Jump on trampolines
  • Play in the ocean
  • Go for long walks
  • Play in the river
  • Play in the garden
  • Organise their rooms
  • Mess up their rooms
  • Play dress up
  • Try on makeup
  • Read stories to each other
  • Haggle at the market (and achieve samoosas or macaroons!)
  • Do their chores
  • Help with the cooking and laundry
  • Babysit
  • Study for school
  • Draw
  • Colour in
  • Paint
  • Sew
  • Make things out of clay
  • Create complex science projects
  • Run
  • Dance
  • Sing
  • Play the piano
  • Play guitar
  • Look stuff up in real books – with pages and everything!

And a whole lot more. They choose to do these things – sometimes more often than they choose to use electronics.

We need to guide them to make smart choices – choices that support their goals and their health. But we don’t achieve this by taking away their choices. They understand the consequences of their choices, and by and large they DO make good choices. Their choices are never rooted in rebellion or deceit. They are honest with us, and if we have been firm, they accept that with respect and good grace.

But that wouldn’t have happened if we had kept them away from the things they love to do simply because it seemed like they’d spent too much time on those things. The things they love to do are precisely where I want them to spend their time. These are the things that lead us to the truly joyous discoveries we make in life.


Managing time, or being managed by its lack?

I choose happinessYesterday I started my journey to happiness with the five things in my life I wish were different right now. Two of the things I wish for involve my girls: I wish I had more time with them, and I wish I could give them more input.

Belatedly, last night, it occurred to me that I can achieve both: I can give them the training they need (to the best of my limited ability), and in that way have more time with them AND help them start to achieve some of their goals.

I think that pursuing art and dance with Goldilocks and Red Riding Hood will also make me happy. We’ve also found that playing board games is highly educational, interactive, time-smart and happiness-inducing. Not to mention being even easier than dance or art lessons.

So that’s THREE wishes with one metaphorical stone (it’s so shiny :))

PS: Yesterday I made my To Do list and actually ticked off SEVEN items on it! Way to go, productivity.

Action steps:

  • Look up art and ballet tutorial on YouTube
  • Carve out half an hour STARTING TODAY to do at least one of these things with the girls.
  • Tick off another three things on today’s To Do list.


Opening the windows: getting intentional about quality time

five thoughtful minutesIf you’ve ever studied or assessed Love Languages (as we have), you’ll know that one of the five ways people show and feel love is quality time: intentional moments spent focused on the people we love and care about. Long before the girls were born, I remember listening to a Focus on the Family talk on parenting. The speaker (whose name I can’t remember, sadly), explained that moments of connection with a child’s soul are precious and rare gifts to parents. These moments need to be anticipated and watched for. They become more rare the less frequently they’re actualised, and more prolific the more they’re engaged.

He described how a parent might be doing something completely arbitrary, such as making supper or washing the dishes. Your child wombles in, seemingly aimlessly, and strikes up a light conversation. All of a sudden, like a chink of sunlight through stormy, brooding clouds, the child reveals a sliver of his treasured soul – if you’re watching for it. Before you know it, the clouds have closed again. The dusk is back, the moment has passed. You’ve missed it.

But if you’re watching, always attentive to these windows into the innocence and depth within your darling, you have the most incredible opportunity presented to you. You have the inestimable privilege of connecting with another human being, of moulding a life. Of having an impact.


That talk really spoke to me, and I determined that, if I ever had children, I would always be on the look-out for these moments.

Since then, I have gotten this wrong so very many times, and parents reading this can no doubt attest to the same in their lives. For one thing, until three years ago I worked outside the home, and hardly saw them at all. Now, I know that a lot of working parents, with kids in school, see their kids as much as possible and have a rich and interactive relationship with them. I am a workaholic and missed many opportunities this way. Even now, I work full time and am not as available to them as I’d like.

But I am available. That’s what counts.

I know that more time with my darling daughters would be wonderful for all of us. But I also know that the time we have together counts. I watch keenly for those brief glimpses they allow me into the deeper recesses of themselves. I sometimes miss valuable treasure, but I have the privilege of being able to drop everything when I see an opportunity, and focus those few minutes on the child who needs me.

It’s a blessing!

So if you need to work full time, and you’re contemplating home education, and you can’t work out how to give everyone the time they need, perhaps this is the solution for you as well. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Don’t get hung up on watching the clock, measuring the physical minutes you allocate each role you play.

Rather, focus on the task at hand, but keep your radar tuned in to pick up those brief and startling rays of light from the magical  places inside your child. When you see the shimmer, don’t miss it. Figure out the best way to approach your child (and give yourself time to get this right), then patiently and kindly peek in through the window. Take a look at the precious gift of a growing person so generously, trustingly displayed to you. Admire it. Adore it. And gently, carefully, prayerfully, mould it just a little towards the wondrous potential you see lying within.

You’ll find that five thoughtful minutes can be worth a dayful of thoughtless hours. Enjoy them!

Why the “core values approach” to home education really works for us

Yesterday I discussed our philosophy and some of our methods when it comes to home education. It occurred to me after I’d posted it that I utterly neglected to mention the weekly baking we do, how much the girls help with shopping (especially at the Farmers’ market), and all the fun, crafty things we do. Ah well, now you know. We bake, we shop, we craft. 🙂

There are so many reasons that this approach is effective, that I would suggest that every person who is home schooling their children, or who is considering doing so, should first make a list of everything they hope to give their children from home education. That list will probably be a long one, and it should be refined and distilled until it’s a simple and clear (and achievable!) as possible. Once that’s out of the way, make a decision about curricula and methodologies is so much easier. You’ll be able to spot what you want – and what you don’t – at a glance!

For us, this really works for three reasons:

  1. I am sure that my children are learning what I believe is essential to becoming well-rounded adults.
    Because I have identified what I believe is most important, I can focus on those things. This process was done in consultation with many others, mentors, parents, pastors, home schoolers and (of course) Papa Bear. It was also the result of deep personal reflection and hours of research. I believe that our approach will deliver capable, resilient, well-rounded adults, ready and able to take on the world, and equipped with all the tools they need to face an ever-changing future.
  2. I know that I am not missing anything, since the net is fairly wide and covers the most essential bases.
    Most of what we learn in formal schooling is a series of facts. Why? When everything is available to us at the click of a mouse, why does it matter whether or not you know when the battle of Hastings was fought, or the scientific name for the Cape Swallow? I propose that it doesn’t matter. Of far more worth is a sense of the sequence of events (in History) and the ability to find things out for yourself. Spoon-feeding and regurgitating facts is a recipe for the learnt helplessness we see so prevalent in young people today, who seem unable to think for themselves, or take care of themselves, or make a valuable contribution to society. I am training young adults who will be able to make a positive impact.
  3. This approach supports my children’s learning styles (and my teaching style and need to work).
    My kids are unique. No one who has spent more than five minutes with them has ever doubted this. In fact, many of them have announced it to me within moments of meeting the girls, just in case I myself hadn’t noticed! Thanks, but we already knew. Between ADD and Tourette’s and what looks a whole lot like Asperger’s Syndrome, not to mention high IQs and sparkling wit, these two do not fit into any conventional boxes. Now, they don’t have to. And as a result, they have become so much more confident and self-assured. They’re ready and willing to interact with a wide range of people of all ages and races, and they no longer worry that, without their preassigned pigeonholes, they don’t have a place in their community. We also no longer have to battle feelings of failure and worthlessness because they don’t happen to be part of the eight percent of children who think and learn in the way that schools teach. We learn their way.

And of course, a key factor for us is the simple fact that we can afford it! Cost was one of the motivators for switching to home school, and since most of the material we use is either online (for free), at the library (for free), or in the head of a loving, engaged and doting grown up (for free!), we spend very little on education.

We may pay for outings, books or DVDs, or we might buy equipment for inventions and experiments, but I feel that these things are a much better investment than sending the girls to a school where the main thing they learn is to hate and fear learning. Now, let’s be really clear: I do not mean that all schools squash the love of learning in young minds. I do not mean that all teachers ignore the uniqueness of their learners. I know many, many children who love going to school, and who thrive there. And every teacher I know personally is a dedicated, passionate, involved individual who gives everything she has to elicit the best from her pupils. All I mean is that school doesn’t work for us. 


Of lies and truths and fairy tales

Honesty is the key to successI recently discussed the value and importance of integrity in dealing with our children. Well, this week we were addressing how to take the moral high road when dealing with other children in situations that seem to us to be unfair. Myu poor darlings, terrified of some fiery, dragonish retort at what an adult might perceive to be childish pettiness, were reluctant to volunteer their ideas on ways to turn the situation around and treat everyone fairly. I encouraged them to be honest and promised to listen to their concerns impartially.

It worked extremely well. They opened up and shared their fears and concerns, as well as some really good ideas for working together in harmony. We laughed and joked and connected. I was delighted.

Of course, my children will never cease to catch me off guard. Once we’d addressed the issues at hand, Goldilocks looked at me very seriously and said, “Mom, please can the same apply to you.”

I was confused. By this stage, we’d moved far from the topic of open sharing, and I didn’t know what the “same” thing was that was supposed to apply to me.

“Honesty,” she answered simply.

“I’m always honest with you! I make an effort to be as open and clear on every subject – as far as is appropriate.”

She looked at me with scathing cynicism, and uttered a single word: “Fairies?”


So I came clean. I explained my views (which took some time) and encouraged them to develop a rich imagination while still understanding the line between fantasy and reality. And I admonished them sternly NOT to tell DeeDee and Dexter – or anyone else their age!

Much later I realised the value of having cleared all that up. “Girls,” I called. “Now that you know the truth, do I still have to give you money when you lose your teeth?”

“Of course not,” they sang out sweetly in chorus.

Then Red Riding Hood, with her piercing (and domestic-focused) mind, asked, “Mom, what do you do with the teeth when you take them out from under the pillow?” (There was a horror-laden pause as she weighed the options). “Do you – *gasp* – throw them away?”

“Well …” I began.

“Yes, you do,” she said pragmatically. “‘Cos otherwise that’d just be GRIM.”

Don't lie to your kids.

Don’t lie to your kids.

The Language(s) of Love.

The 5 Love Languages is the theme and title of a popular and useful book by Dr Gary Chapman.

The 5 Love Languages is the theme and title of a popular and useful book by Dr Gary Chapman.

A lot has been written and said over the years about the so-called “Love Languages” as identified and recorded by Dr Gary Chapman in various of his books. The essential premise is that there are five distinct Love Languages, namely:

  • Words of encouragement;
  • Acts of services;
  • Physical touch and closeness;
  • Quality time; and
  • Gifts.

Each person has a unique way of expressing love, and of receiving love. If, for instance, you’re the type of person who expresses love with words of encouragement, and you couldn’t care less about touch because you happen to be tactile defensive, and you marry a spouse who expresses love through physical touch and closeness and can hardly articulate a coherent phrase, you both have a problem. He (or she) will keep trying to cuddle you, which makes you want to run screaming and makes him (or her) feel under-appreciated. You, on the other hand, will keep saying nice, kind things to encourage him (or her), but the words have no meaning and your spouse begins to feel completely unloved, as you feel less and less valued. Over time, you both seem to “fall out of love” (in extreme cases), when a simple check list could have solved your problems.

The solution is to find out the other person’s love language, express love to them in their language, and learn to recognise their expressions of love as exactly that. Over time, as you both put effort into this, your love languages grow and mature, and you are each able to give and receive love in a variety of ways.

However, the fundamentals are virtually hard-wired from birth, and clearly identifiable by around age 6. A recent discussion with a friend of mine highlighted the fact that I’d barely given any thought to my children’s love languages, so I decided to take action.

Gary Chapman’s website has great assessments to give you an idea of your own love language, and the languages of those closest to you. The kids’ assessment is particularly good as it turns the process into a fun mystery game. I started out by guessing their love languages: Physical Touch & Quality Time for DD#1, and Acts of Service or Gifts for DD#2. Then we played. The results were fascinating, and enlightening.

For DD#1 (who is 9 and thus both more mature and more able to articulate), I was spot on (well, almost). Her score was:

7 Quality Time
5 Physical Touch
4 Receiving Gifts
2 Words of Affirmation
2 Acts of Service

So she love spending time together, and hugs and cuddles. Neglecting her the way my work has forced me to recently is not ideal, and sending her to school wreaks havoc with her emotions.

For DD#2 (who, it must be said, is remarkably articulate for a 6 year old), I was a little off the mark. Her results were:

6 Receiving Gifts
5 Physical Touch
5 Quality Time
4 Acts of Service
0 Words of Affirmation

So while acts of service mean a lot more to her than words of encouragement, or than they do to DD#1, they’re certainly not the most important thing.

Interestingly, DH loves physical touch and quality time, and I love gifts and quality time. At least we all agree on our 2nd most important one!

Get all the assessments online by clicking here.

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