What would your mother do? Encourage.

What can one mom even do to make a difference?

We moms need to know this.

Here’s the next part of a short series about all the huge little things moms do. It’s not a contest, but let’s all tell about our memories of those little things that mean so much, that only moms know how to do best.

Mom gave us baked beans for lunchMy mom encouraged me. I remember one of the first encouragements she gave me, when I really might have needed correction on any other similar occasions: I’d been playing with my food on my plate.

The menu that day was hot dogs and plain old pork ‘n’ beans, so everything I needed was at the table already.

I began stirring relish, ketchup, mustard, salt, pepper, and a bit of sugar into the beans on my plate. After a sample, I told my mom how good it was. She questioned me, I explained, and that’s when it happened: A new gourmet cook was born at that very lunch table. My mom exclaimed that if I could determine exactly what should go into carefully-crafted old style “baked beans”, then I must be a natural-born cook.

I felt pretty pleased with myself and I never forgot it.

Encouragement can go the other way, too, dragging a person up from a low place, where I was during third grade.

It was election time in our country and in school, we had a mock election, dividing the class into three political parties.

It was rigged. All the popular kids were in on party, the brilliant-student-types in another, and we misfits (the sickly, overweight, or otherwise unacceptable ones) were in the third party. I leave you to guess who won, but will add: I perfected the art of sickly by having one of my semi-annual cases of step throat during the vote. Yeah, we came in last. Amazing, no? We’d had such hopes. We did our best. We mined our mom’s ideas for sure-fire campaign tactics, made posters, and delivered speeches, all for naught.

After a phone call to our sick-house regarding the results, my mom so tenderly relayed them to me. I cried. She held me and asked me to try to be a big girl, to think what the other children would think of my crying…

I remember the moment so clearly, like the movie re-run it has always been in my mind. I remember feeling rebellious and sort of amazed at myself for what I said at that point.

“I don’t even care what the CRY-BABIES think!”

She did not reprimand me. She did not scold my out-lashing little self. She just held me until it blew over.

And that quiet response told me far more than any words could. She understood. She cared. She had my back.

So when did your mom encourage you? Share.

What would your mother do? Fix things!

What can one mom even do to make a difference?

We moms need to know this.

Starting a short series here, today, about all the huge little things moms do. It’s not a contest, but let’s all tell about our memories of those little things that mean so much, that only moms know how to do best. ❤

[Unidentified girl in dress holding American f...

[Unidentified girl in dress holding American flag and ball] (LOC) (Photo credit: The Library of Congress)

So here’s mine, for today: I was tiny, but I remember the dress so vividly. My mom was shocked I ever remembered it because she said I was only two years at the time. I do remember it, though. It was my favorite dress. Why I loved it so, I am not sure. It was brown plaid, which I like a lot, to this day. It had ruffly lace and puffy sleeves. I don’t know, really, what it was.

But I loved it.

This was back in the days before perma-press, back when little girls always wore dresses, even at play. Always.

And froze our little bare legs off in winter, in case you wondered.

Anyway, I loved me a dress.

Then one day the horrible happened. I spilled my milk on my favorite dress. I was devastated. I could not begin to understand much of anything, yet, but I knew I did not like the way my favorite dress looked, now. So I did what any red-blooded American two-year-old would do.

I cried.

My mom couldn’t understand, and asked me what was wrong. When I told her about the spill, I remember what she did.

She got down, sort of sitting on her heels, at face-to-face level with me, and told me it was okay, that she could wash the dress and it would be fine again.

Those of you who’ve read here a long time, know what happened next. And you know what good it did. The rest of you can read the links. Have fun!

And share with us your story: What did you mess up, in your childhood, that your mom knew how to fix? Aren’t moms great!

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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!

Mountains in Ecuador

A Week of Answers – Space and Budget Squeeze

Mountains in Ecuador

Mountains in Ecuador

Dear Katharine,

My husband and I are becoming missionaries. Our current home is in Hawaii but he spends a lot of time in places like a mountaintop in Ecuador. We have three children and are fairly certain we want to continue home schooling them, although some of our friends say we will waste my missionary education. My question is how to provide effectively all they need in a way that will store in a maximum of six feet of shelf space. That truly is all we can spare for their materials, so I want to find some way to do without regular curriculum. Also, when we want to take our children into the field, how can we make school as portable as possible? Our life is rather flexible or relaxed and our funds are low. Is there a way that is really good, that you can truly recommend?  –Dina

Dear Dina,

Yes. And you are not alone.

Let me start by emphasizing that missionaries are not the only ones with little space, low funds, and the need to travel. Several home schoolers that I have known had the same question.

Those who work in building construction are one very mobile group that includes many home schoolers. Those who work in the music ministry business are another.

How to fit it in, how to afford it, how to make it portable, are questions I hear frequently.

Wasted?

Missionaries are also not the only ones accused of wasting Mom’s skills on a mere lapful of children. We must be careful to realize that people base these accusations on the popular devaluation of children, the opposite of the ways of Jesus, Who took them up in His arms. Your friends would let you reach out to Ecuadorian children with impunity, right? Why not to your own?

Inexpensive.

There are some incredibly inexpensive ways to make learning happen, though, and they all take very little space. The first resource that comes to my mind is the Bible. Since you lead a flexible life, I suggest you try the idea of studying all the concepts presented in the Bible.I think you would never run out of “curriculum”.

For instance, in Genesis 1:1, you could study the earth for a month. Of course, you probably do not know everything you would like to share about it, so my second recommendation is to obtain a set of encyclopedias (for about $5.00 at garage sales, and the older, the better) or at least a world almanac (a few dollars at a discount store.)

One thing you would never have to do, in Hawaii, is make a fake papier-mâché volcano. You could just visit a real one and learn about it, probably all you want to know, without cost, in a tourist center, right? It would make a good study.

For spelling, you could work on “created”, “heavens”, and “earth”, and add words like them, to teach the different “ea” pronunciations.

For math, older children could calculate things like the circumference, diameter, and volume of the earth.

And then comes Genesis 1:2, in which you study oceans, spell words that compare to “form”, “void”, and “covered” for various sounds of “o”. Do you get the idea? You are probably thinking of many other ideas that I am not, just because you know what God wants you to teach and I do not.

Your mission.

  • If you are surrounded with people of many nationalities, obtain their input, please.
  • Introduce your children to many missionaries and let your children reap the richness that would never fit onto any shelf, but is inherent to your life.
  • If you speak any Ecuadorian languages, your children should too, so get busy creating a bilingual home. Really, social studies should be a breeze for you.

A little-known fact about most reading curriculum is that many of the accessories are optional. In fact, if you can find moral, age-appropriate material at your library, use that. As long as your children are reading, they are learning more about how to read. You could just read the Bible. For phonics, stick to very simple books that you read to them while pointing, and explain a lot. Or , buy a few workbooks for first grade, to get over the phonics hump at first.

Math.

For math, you may feel you need one text per grade, per year, which you sell or lend once you do not need them any longer. Alternatively, you can  teach the basics as you remember learning them when you were little, incorporating the lessons into your daily lives.

Are we still fitting onto your shelf? Good! We are almost finished shopping.

All I would suggest after the above is a book on scope and sequence (which will help you gauge the math lessons, if you do not obtain texts), a good collection of moral classic literature, a good Biblical world  history, and a good English handbook.

Actually, with those four and the Bible, you could probably skip the encyclopedia as long as you have a public library. Since most missionaries have outstanding computers and Internet service, you might even skip the library and obtain information from outer space.

Once you master this way of teaching your children, you’ll be able to visit Ecuador with them, teaching with nothing but the math book and your Bible. It will unfold itself to you in a way that only God could explain, but perhaps with which you already have much familiarity. When you are in the field, in other words, let God be your explanation and your scope and sequence. All of us could use more of that input in our home schools, anyway.

This method, as you requested, is really good, and I can truly recommend it. God did not leave out one particle of important information in His Word, and when you lean upon Him, He will guide you perfectly. You already know that.

Finally, I cannot over-emphasize the importance of forming or joining a support group. Even if only one other missionary mom is home schooling, but will store half the encyclopedias on her shelves, you both will gain. You could share all the above resources, cutting both your expenses in half. This says nothing of moral support, but you would certainly find that, too, not to mention prayer support.

Yes, you can continue home schooling your children, and you must. Nothing else will accomplish the very things you desire.

May God bless your efforts!

Love, Katharine

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The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

A Week of Answers – Counting Blessings

Dear Katharine,

I have such a problem with my goals wandering, and with thinking that others have it easier than I do. When I look around me, I see all sorts of boosters–IN OTHER PEOPLE’S LIVES! Mine, though, looks jumbled and behind schedule and difficult, to me. How can I be sure or even know if I need to make some changes?  –Alissa

Dear Alissa,

It is easy.

First, make a list of everything that is going well, going okay, going not too bad, not as bad as it used to be, or not as bad as it could be, for you, lately.

I mean, look at your house: are the floors easy to clean? List that. Then look at your car: are the brakes decent for a change? List that, too. How about clothing: do all your boys have jeans that are long enough? List it. Try curriculum: is yours making school easier? List it. Go on to list one good thing about your schedule, your meals, your field trips, your P.E., your quiet time, and your day.

Then imagine that these things were actually happening to others, around you.

Imagine that Sue has easy clean floors, Sally has a car in good repair, Sylvia has decent jeans for all her kids, Sarah has a great curriculum, Sandy has begun having quiet time, and so forth. Wouldn’t that make you feel like they had some sort of better home school?

The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.What you will see is plenty of reasons to think that the grass in greener on YOUR side of the fence, too., and that others could easily fall down the same slippery slope that you have, if they were looking at you and doubting themselves.

Whatever is going right, look to the Lord, not others, and count your blessings! Do this exercise every time you feel inadequate and it should help.

Then remember this little true story: A mom used to feel guilty about seeming to get the ironing done just at the last moment for someone to wear it, barely squeaking it in at the nick of time. However, one day her son had to write, in one sentence, a definition of happiness and he answered: “Happiness is a warm shirt in the morning.”

You see, children naturally love their own home, whatever that means, so smile and RELAX!

The important thing is fulfilling the command to teach your children, right? God will bless that. And if something is truly missing from your life, the above exercise will probably bring it to light.

Katharine

woman, sleeping, tired, lazy, depressed

A Week of Answers – Why Am I So Tired?

This week we are studying from the questions of others, what to do, how to do it, and why. Hope you enjoy this series and learn lots from it. This second letter is from a mother of three, ages five to ten, and asks a very good question. Enjoy!

Taking a break on Bond

Taking a break on Bond (Photo credit: pamhule)

Dear Katharine,

I’m so tired and cannot even say why. I can remember when I used to do so much more and now I hardly can get out of bed. It’s odd because I’m not so tired in the middle of the night. Anyway, I just wonder if there’s some trick to being all the things a home school mom needs to be, and keeping at it. I mean, am I forgetting something?  –Shelly

Dear Shelly,

Maybe you are overlooking something. It is easy for us to become caught up in the bustle and not realize we are adopting different habits. Let’s honestly look at your life a moment and ask a few questions, okay?

  1. Do you read your Bible, daily, and pray? I always slip away from good attitudes when I slip away from the Author of all goodness. We cannot expect to succeed if we break the rules about keeping in contact with the Lord. Are you forgetting to rejoice in the Lord? It is the joy of the Lord that is our strength.
  2. Do you ever get a break? Nearly everyone else gets breaks, you know. People take vacations from their jobs all the time and return very refreshed.
    Of course, you cannot just abandon your children and husband for a week, but you can abandon the thoughts and cares for a few minutes and take little imaginary mini-vacations while you read or bathe.
    By the way, are you doing too many things? Do we really need to provide dance, music, art, sports, and oratory lessons for each child, for each semester and attend each meeting and field trip? Is that why we do this? Are you ever at home, as in home school? Maybe you are running yourself ragged.
  3. Do you take care of your body? When moms forget to take vitamins, take a walk, take a nap, or take time off from caffeine, they usually are tired, whether they homeschool or not. The body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and we should be good stewards of it.

There you have it–questions that cover all three aspects of the whole of a person: spirit, soul, and body. You should now realize a few changes you need to make. 🙂

If all the above does not apply, I would like to ask you if you might be either ill or depressed.

Sometimes illness can masquerade as tiredness and sometimes depression can hit us from the side very unexplainably. If your tiredness does not fall into any of the three categories above, you may need help from a professional.

I am a professional mom, but I may not be the professional that you need. You may need a doctor or a good, Christian, pastoral counselor. If you think that may be the case, I pray you not delay–you owe it to your children.

Love, Katharine