How to Make a Man Cry—Memorize

BibleI’ve always taught my children to memorize the Bible. I think it is good for their spirits, good for their souls, and even good for their bodies, if they heed it.

People seldom made me memorize anything until I was fourteen, but I remember much of it, today. I want my grown children to have lots and lots of the Word hiding in their hearts, and they do. It was worth all the work, just for that benefit.

Several times, though, we realized a different benefit.

I always had my children recite their memory work during our homeschool closing programs. It always was a large Scripture portion, such as The Book of James or The Letters to the Seven Churches. One night, when they recited Hebrews 11, “The Faith Chapter”, one preacher in attendance asked if we could recite it again, at his church, during the normal worship time.

After that presentation, a man remarked to me that it was such a great essay and wondered if I had written it, or where he could get a copy of it. Hmm.

I assured him I am not that great a writer, that it had been a selection from Scripture. He was astonished, said he’d never read anything that good in the Bible before. I gave him the reference. He marveled and promised he would go home and read it again, with the children’s voices still sounding in his ears, and seek for more meaning. Hmm.

But another time tops this. One night my children recited “The Sermon on the Mount”. Our youngest bravely wanted to help recite and assured me he could, although he was only seven at the time. I wondered at the wisdom of it, but knew the audience would forgive a flawed recitation from one so young. I knew this, especially since he desired to recite solo the entire parable of “The Wise and Foolish Builders”.

As the presentation progressed, I felt good about it. My children were totally prepared for this and giving, truly, one of their best recitals. However, as they neared the end, and my young son’s solo, he began to waver. After several bobbles, though, he collected himself and made it through to the end.

Bravo, Darling.

Later, I asked him what was wrong, what made him fearful. He replied, “When I saw that man in the audience crying, I thought I was doing a bad job.”

Further checking revealed this man in a rumpled suit, slumped down in his pew and openly mopping tears from a crumpled face, was the back-slidden relative of one of our group.

Oh, the power in the voice of a young child reciting Scripture! A grown man weeping to hear it, a churched man desiring to read it, what more could a mother want for reward?

Only this: that they would remember it, walk in it, and turn and teach it to their own.

Another story in this series here!

Nothing scarier than a fire set by an inventive child. Near your garage. On a windy day. How did we survive?

Did a Scary Angel Visit? Or a Savior Tramp?

Burning pine straw

One of our little boys was inventive and fearless.

And one day, a stranger came knocking at our back door.

It had been a mild-weather day and the main back door was open to let breezes in and to allow my supervision of our little boy’s outdoor play, while I tended to some laundry. The only separation between me and this huge visitor was the screen door of the back porch.

Over the expanse of his body he wore a grayed t-shirt, overalls with one strap fastened, and grubby boots untied.  Some of his teeth were missing. He badly needed a shave and his oily hair flattened in several directions. Something about the urgency of his loud knock startled me. That was before I turned and spied his unkempt estate.

I admit I was beyond distressed. Wild images of countryside kidnappings captured my mind, uninvited.

Timidly, I approached the main door, breaking all my rules about talking to strangers.

When you don't know if your are safe or not, when fire is the enemy, when friends are weird...“Yes?”

“Ma’am, it may be none o’ my business, but did you know y’ur little boy has got hisself a fire a-goin’ in the pine straw out here?”

“Oh, no! Oh, no! Please, PLEASE, stay and help me!”

Funny how outward appearances don’t matter much, sometimes.

I followed that kind and insightful messenger of mercy to the scene, and found that, sure enough, as he’d seen his daddy do countless times, our little son had raked up a pile of pine straw and set fire to it. He never guessed his tiny blaze was only feet away from oceans of pine straw, some of it drifted against our garage, downwind on a breezy day. The fire had already broken out of bounds.

We two adults raked and sprayed water until it was out.

I told the man he had probably saved our son’s life, and surely saved us great property loss. I thanked him until he was embarrassed and left.

I forgot to ask his name.

I guess he was an angel in disguise. Sometimes we need help, and God knows it. Yeh, maybe an angel. I can imagine my asking him his name, and him saying, “Folks jis calls me Gabe.”

On investigation, I learned my husband’s matches were stored high on a wall in the garage, good, but under them was the mower, rolled there by our son in less than five minutes, and topped with a milk crate, making him tall enough to reach. So young, but so brave and inventive.

And so perfectly protected.

Another story in this series here!

The Blessings of Habit –- Basic Beginnings

Stick to basics in the beginning.

Our children can reap what God intended from good habits, if, by the time our babies are crawling, we’ve had the pleasure of instilling good habits into them.

For instance, we know we should keep them out of the cooking area, so we train them to stay out. Sometimes this is the first clash of wills between the darling babe and the soft mom. It can seem like war, if Mom doesn’t know how to:

Train in Good Habits

  1. Habit training

    Habit training

    In the beginning, for instance, we must teach a child what “hot” means, to fear when a thing is hot, and to trust our word on the matter. Use a hot light bulb and tell him “NO—HOT!” Act like you’re preventing him, but let him touch it briefly. Ask if he wants to repeat. If you see unwillingness, it’s a sign the child knows what you mean. If he cries, keep telling him it’s hot.

  2. Anger and yelling do not help; they hinder. Anger is for the devil, not for teaching; yelling is for long distance, loud environments, or extreme emergencies, not for teaching.
  3. Consistent firmness is the key. If you do not have time to be consistent, use a playpen or high chair to confine and thereby protect the child, or enlist a helper. “No” must mean “no”. If you are too lazy to be consistent, thinking about burn scars on your baby should help you feel stronger.
  4. You must not cave in to crying. Crying sometimes is a good way for a baby to communicate. Crying to get one’s way is bad. Do not teach the child that crying to get his way is good.
  5. Draw the line where you want, and make it stick. In our kitchen, one cabinet was permissible, but the rest of the kitchen was off-limits, during cooking. At crawling age, a child can grasp this.

Overcome Picky Eating Habits

We know we don’t want picky eaters and do want well-balanced diets, so we train them to eat. This can be another war, a bigger one, again avoidable, if Mom knows how to begin:

  1. Be sure you do not serve food your husband will not eat when he is present. Save it for when he is gone. Be sure he understands this is a time of training, both in obedience and in habit, and you need his backing.
  2. Make a new rule that every person will take at least a bite of every food on the table and eat that one bite all gone, no exceptions.
  3. Anyone who complains about one bite, gets two bites. This is all done very pleasantly, not in a way that causes mealtime to be a war.
  4. All food must be gone, not just pushed around, before getting any seconds or any dessert, again, all communication is friendly, matter-of-factly.
  5. The only consequence is no other food offered at that meal. Eat one bite (or two for the grumpy) of everything if you want seconds of anything. End of discussion.

You likely are seeking the next step, here, but that is all there is. This process, based upon natural hunger, applied consistently, teaches the child to like all foods and to clean the plate.

All their lives, my children were afraid around off-limits things and unafraid of green things on the plate. It was good.

What to Do with Toddlers: Try D.E.S.I.R.E!

baby while making his first stepsNote: You will find this article pirated on the Internet. However, it is mine.

OK, it has finally hit you:  Suddenly you understand why that other home school mom used to be so self-doubting … She had a toddler in her home.

Now, your turn has come and, whew, can it be a challenge! You prepared for receiving that new baby blessing during the school year, didn’t you?  No one told you what to do with the toddler that would result, did they?

My very first toddler to home school is now 30 years old.  She led the way for two brothers to follow in her footsteps.  Yes, I have survived having three toddlers in my school!  The youngest is now 24 and I am still mostly sane.  I hope I can share a few tricks here that will be helpful to you.

You probably can guess that the acronym D.E.S.I.R.E. stands for six choices of tactics you can take with your toddler. The word helps you to remember, while “on-the-run”, what ideas you have not tried yet.  Happily, I can say that with this plan, you can master the fine art of home schooling with a toddler.

D is for Discipline.  Discipline is another way of saying, “consistently train by habit and example.”  You must discipline your toddler.  Many people do not know about this idea, but it is crucial to your success with this child, for his whole life. If you do not discipline your toddler now, you probably never will be able to manage this child and he will suffer all his life for your wrong choice.  Actually, your whole family will suffer.

There are many ideas floating around about how to discipline, but I strongly urge using the Bible way, which is the rod.  How to use the rod would make an entire article in itself, but there are many good resources to help you obey God about this, already in print.

You can and you must discipline (train) them to maintain quiet during teaching, oral reading, testing, study, dictation, etc.  Consider “quiet” to be the home school subject the toddler must learn. (Of course, it will be easier to train the little ones to do right if you are acting that way yourself.)

E is for Entertain.  This is playing school. I always loved this part.  My toddlers did, too.  Sometimes my first graders even looked longingly at our inventions!  I loved giving my toddlers blunt scissors to cut the corners off 3×5 note cards. They learned how to cut and how to identify a triangle.  Then we pasted the triangles to another paper to make flowers, boats, and other “pretty pictures for Daddy.”  This supervised play, they thought was school; they were right.  They learned other manual dexterity tasks by working with homemade play dough, real cookie dough, extra large crayons, educational toys, chenille stems, and my favorite, the chalkboard. The reason I prefer chalk (white only) so much is that no matter if they taste it, step on it, put it through the laundry, or use it on the walls, it is no problem.

S is for Seclude. Face it, sometimes they need to stay in their own place.  That is when a playpen, screened porch, high chair or other restraining device can come in handy.  Never leave them unattended in these places; stock them with toys, too.  Do not make being restrained a punishment (if he needs the rod, do not substitute rejection!) but do make it a choice, such as, “You will stop crumbling sister’s papers, or you will play in the playpen for a while–which do you want to do?”  This is especially important during times that would be potentially dangerous for him, such as science experiments or baseball games.  If you can anticipate the need, you can emphasize the fun aspect of it:  “Here, let’s sit in the high chair so you can see brother’s ice cube melt and boil!”

I is for Include.  Every toddler can learn to mimic and enjoy many of your activities.  This goes for Bible memorization, singing, PE, reading, phonics drill, outdoor housework, educational videos, and foreign language.  Although my first home school toddler could not recite the entire book of James as her brothers were memorizing it, she could insert the next word, whenever we stopped.  She received this by osmosis.  One of my toddlers learned to read via the signed alphabet.  His siblings were learning it and he knew what the signs meant.  If we signed c-a-t to him, he could think momentarily and say “cat”–he actually sounded out signed letters into spoken words.  At age three.  While he was a verbal child, he also showed the benefits of being included.  You can include a toddler, too, by writing his name on your chore chart so he can receive stars like everyone else.

R is for Relish.  Leave well enough alone, let sleeping babes lie, and “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”!  Soak in those moments when this toddler is content just to exist. If he has helped himself to math manipulatives and lined them up all over the floor like a train track, unless it is forbidden behavior, do not scold, or even speak, or even breathe.  He is OK.  Let it be. If he is contentedly looking at the science book you needed to use right now, change gears and let him look.  If he has fallen asleep in Daddy’s chair, tiptoe around him; do not disturb him so you can use the chair for an oral reading lesson.  Also be sure not to miss the delightful memories of this little one’s life; keep your camera just as ready for him as ever, home school or not.

E is for Endure. There it is, the teeth-gritting-with-a-smile part. This darling is a part of your family, after all. He will not be tiny forever, either.  If you can find a place for him on your lap, sharing your chair, helping you sweep, or even carrying real school papers to siblings, he will be learning how to function as an older, usable person.  The busier you can entice him to stay, the longer you can endure helping him learn how to help, the better for him.  Even if he really is in the way, even if you could do it faster yourself, even if the paper gets droolies on it…you are making progress toward civilizing the little one and you should do so, and with a smile.

There you have it: the way I survived three toddlers in a row.  It was not easy, but I can say we usually completed all our work and we usually stayed peaceable.  Why not try DESIRE!


baby while making his first steps (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What a Rush!

Author: Anonymous Date: 1893 Source: http://fa...

Young Einstein

3/14/14 – Reposting this to honor the man.

This is not about speed.

It’s about that rush I get when I teach.

Sometimes I say my bones are aching and it helps if I teach. Ever feel that way?

I think it’s maybe being part of the Creation process. When I see the lightbulb coming on in someone else’s understanding, it moves me, thrills me to the bone.

I love teaching, helping understanding to exist where it never did before. It’s not exactly creating, but like a potter with clay, I can mold someone’s mind to fit around new material, new cognizance, or even completely new thoughts that no one has ever realized before.

Research also thrills me. Discovering small things about big events or important people makes me want to teach some more. For instance: Did you know that as a child, Albert Einstein absolutely loved Euclid’s geometry and called it “that holy little algebra book” or that at age 5, he wondered what frozen light would look like? Who ever thinks of THE genius as a small child with wonderment inside his soul? Or that some adult fed him books over most children’s heads, just for the joy of watching that light come on?

See, I just taught you something and opened your thinking more. What a rush!

Sometimes I tutor. One young girl is learning so much about writing, she has developed an enjoyment for the writing process. Seeing the difference in her output this  year gives me such excitement. I think of the joy she will bring to her family as her skills increase and she cements them through practice.

I tutor a couple of legal immigrants in their new language, English, and we have fun exchanging culture, too. I explained our local phrase regarding appetites for all foods, as we say, “eat everything that is not nailed to the table.” They laughed enormously at that and now use the saying (in their own language, which is fine with me.) Then they confessed their tiredness of pizza and their longing for cultural dishes they cannot yet prepare.  I taught them to say, “I am tired of pizza, but it is better than nothing,” and as they remember their old country and having nothing to eat, they sober and regain resolve to find a way to afford gas for their stove.

And though it is a small spark, I love seeing that light.

The most exciting teaching I do is from the Bible. So much light there. So many people don’t get it, cannot see it. Or don’t want to.

But when I see that light come on, what a rush!

Child Star

Screenshot from a public domain film The Littl...
Screenshot from a public domain film The Little Princess (1939) starring Shirley Temple and Richard Greene (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Shirley Temple died today. She was 85, which is hard to imagine.

I watched her darling performances when I was a child, and loved her, wanted to be her.

She was about 35 years old, then, older than my mom.

I never knew it.

When my own children were small, I searched out these amazing movies, for their viewing pleasure.

They also fell completely in love with the little cute-pie.

As an adult, I read her autobiography, Child Star. That broke my heart.

All the time she was smiling for us, it was because she feared being locked into a black box.

And all the money she made went to her mom, who used it to build luxury houses for self.

And her hair was naturally straight. Every kink came at quite a cost, for a tiny one.

Cover of "Captain January"
Cover of Captain January

But she really was that sweet and when she attended school she got in trouble for smiling all the time.She couldn’t not smile.

She just missed Valentine’s Day. Ironic, for everyone’s sweetheart, eh?

Probably my favorite of her movies are The Little Princess, because of the graciousness of the queen, the great scenes in the attic, and that thing with the ash bucket. Especially that thing with the ash bucket.

But I also love Captain January for the fairly true picture it gives of home school, and for the site of her tap dancing a hornpipe with a young Jed Clampett.

I shall miss her.


All photos: Wikipedia

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What to do…what to do…

…And how to decide…

Once, long ago, my adorable grandchildren spent a week with me while their mother steam cleaned carpets throughout their house.

I had many plans for fun activities and the first day went marvelously.

Until bedtime.

At bedtime, one of my sweeties began noticing the unfamiliarity of everything, and how Mom and Dad were at home, where she was beginning to long to be, also.

In other words, at the most contemplative time for most children, my granddaughter grew homesick.

She was serious about it, too, complete with tears.

After a short conference with Granddad, I offered her to call home. She was eager, and visited with Mom and Dad for a bit. We assured them we would try to make staying with us work but would call before we came if it didn’t.

At that time, the ball was back in my court.

I thought about times I’d had a tough decision to make. This was a tough decision for a little one: Do I want fun with Grandmother or do I want my mommy?

My tough decision days are mostly over, but I remember them. I know we second-guess ourselves into a state of shock sometimes, because I’ve been there. I also know it’s not too hard to hurdle indecision and arrive at a good choice.

Here’s what I told my granddaughter that night, that made her decide immediately and happily for the right thing:

Sweetheart, whenever Grandmother has to choose what to do, I think about what will happen if I do each choice. I think about how I will feel about it after the choice.

For you, the choice is to stay here with brother and sister and have fun with us, lots of rides, special treats, places to go, making cookies, and many other fun things. OR you can go home right now; I will take you and you can be with Mom and Dad in your own home and in your own bed.

English: Mohov Mihail. Grandmother and grandda...

Mohov Mihail. Grandmother and granddaughter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

She listened intently and I could tell she was liking what I said, as if it was lining up her tortuous thoughts for her, in itself a great help. I continued:

If I take you home, though, you will stay home the whole week. I will not come back and get you again, if you change your mind again. You’ll just be at home.

Nothing fun is happening at home. Daddy is going to work every day and Mom is spending all the time you are gone, with house cleaning. It’s hard work and she will not have time to play with you. In fact, she probably will ask you to help with all that work.

If you decide to stay tonight and play with us tomorrow, and if you still don’t like it then, I will take you home, to spend the rest of the time working with Mom.

But if you decide to stay until tomorrow, we will make beanbags, sample the apple juice popsicles we made today, bake cookies, and barbecue for supper.

I saw her tense up again, which told me I was describing the entire dilemma accurately. Lastly, I talked about her feelings as they would be on the other side of her decision:

So tell me how you will feel tomorrow, if you go home tonight. You will wake up and find no one to play with and only mom working all day long. You’ll have nothing to do but help her or play by yourself. And you will know brother and sister are here, playing, doing lots of fun things, but you will not be able to come back here because I cannot keep driving two hours every day because you changed your mind. So you’ll go to bed that night in your room without Sister there and you’ll know she’s here having fun.

And think how you will feel if you stay the night here, tonight, and you wake up tomorrow ready to play and make cookies and help granddad start the barbecue fire and all the new sand toys we got you will be waiting for you. And then the next day we do the camping , remember? And something special for the day after that, that you don’t even know about, yet.

Which do you want?

Well, I can tell you, she had a smile and a hug and she was all relieved of all those horrible second guesses. She knew what to do, at least that one night, for sure.

Would this method help you make a few decisions?

If so, the main things are:

  1.  List all the pros and cons. Do this on paper unless you just do not have time.
  2. Ask yourself how you will feel after each possible choice. Ask yourself about a month later or even a year later: How will you feel about the choice?

That’s all there is to it. Some decisions are too tough to fit into this simple exercise, but those that are a good fit will become SO much easier! You’ll have brain cells left over!

This post was my first, ever, attempt at the weekly writing challenge.