Monday, May 16, 2011

An Important Distinction about "Bribing" our Kids

All of us have probably heard a mother telling how she gets her kids to do chores around the house, or to exert a special effort in some direction, and she tells us that she had to "bribe" her kids to do it. She gives a little chuckle, and a guilty-feeling shrug, and her kids probably feel that they've been manipulated...well, I remember thinking that it just seemed a little odd. It happened to me recently, too, that I was at a lunch with a bunch of moms from our church, and one started talking about having to bribe her kids to do things. But now I was armed, and I told them what I had discovered, and it was one of those moments of illumination for them...and the women who heard it both ended up smiling. One said, "I'm not bribing my kids any more!" One day a good while back, it had struck me that what these moms seemed to be talking about might not be a bribe. So I looked up "bribe" and "incentive" in the dictionary. I think you'd also find it helpful if you haven't ever discovered the distinction. You'll also understand the little guilty-seeming mannerisms that people give when they talk about a bribe, even though they aren't even sure why they don't feel right about it. In my Webster's New Riverside Dictionary, these are the definitions I found:
bribe n. Something, as money, offered or given to influence a person to act dishonestly. Syns: BOODLE, PAYOFF, PAYOLA --v. bribed, bribing. To corrupt or gain influence over by means of a bribe. 
incentive n. Something inciting one to action or effort:stimulus.*
So give your children an incentive when you feel it's appropriate, and don't feel guilty doing so. But please, don't bribe them! (I didn't think you'd want to anyway.)
* Webster's New Riverside Dictionary, copyright 1984 by Houghton Mifflin Company, pp. 91, 353.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Sanity and The Accumulation of Stuff

All through my homeschooling years until just recently, I have been acquisitive. Not a big spender; not generally buying at regular price, but at every opportunity I added books and resources to my library. Our house is now stuffed and overstuffed with homeschooling supplies; if we had lots of kids, it would be justifiable, or even if I still had one who was passionate about reading. We have two kids, though, and one is 23 and not only graduated homeschooling, she's graduated college, and I'm down to one. Our son is 13 and is really just not crazy about reading. All these books are at our fingertips, but instead of saving us trips to the library they create the work of reevaluating, sorting, cleaning. Because it has dawned on me that most of them are now either under my one pupil's learning level, and much of the rest of it is either oriented toward our daughter or has the ongoing drawback of being the written word, I have gone through them and have a nightmarish quantity to get rid of. 
I know there are others who can use them; I bought educational and interesting materials, not fluff, not junk. I know I can get rid of them. No one ever told me just how much more difficult it is to drag things out of a house than to drag them in! A strange and overwhelming lethargy and confusion overwhelms me at the thought of it. I don't want to "dispose" of them so much as to make my money back out of them. It would be great if selling them provided funds to buy my son the French horn he wants to start playing next year.
So I've been exploring options. I asked friends if their homeschooling groups are having curriculum sales; none seemed to be planning any. It almost made me want to stomp; I never belonged to a group that didn't do that at the end of the year! Okay, so what next? I have to evaluate which will be best: Craig's List,, eBay, or a homeschooling garage sale. And then what to charge? I looked on Amazon at what each book would cost including shipping, and wondered if 75% of that would be a fair price in a garage sale. I'm still working on it (though I've refused to look at it for about a week); I'm still a bit overwhelmed. 
If there was anything I've been learning from this, it's that I shouldn't have bought books I could get at the library. I should have carefully evaluated what we could use in a year and not bought "just in case," and just because it had merit. I wish someone had been warning me! I should have gotten rid of some of this stuff a few years back, a little each year along the way, and I wouldn't have such a big job now. So now I say to you who are just starting out and easily charmed by everything homeschool: Be careful what you drag home, and how long you keep it. Someday it's not going to look so charming and so useful, your 50th time of dusting it off. 

Saturday, July 12, 2008

A Couple of Book Review Blogs I Recommend

Just briefly here, I want to recommend two other blogs that do a nice job of presenting their take on children's literature--I present them jealously, knowing that you will no doubt discover how far they outpace me in the beauty and discernment of their choices.
One I just discovered today is called The Children's Hour, by Ray Van Neste, a pastor and professor in Jackson, Tennessee. The other, though not entirely devoted to children's literature, is charming in its entirety anyway, and you won't mind poring through the rest to get to the book reviews: A Path Made Straight, by a woman named Elise, whose last name I don't know...but she writes very sweetly. I wish I had more time to read both of these blogs in great detail.
So there you are. A brief post, but potentially very profitable for you.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

A Book I Recommend

I recently expressed willingness to consider being a Sunday school teacher at the church we started attending recently...and at the teachers' meeting (which came within a couple of hours of said expression), I was lent a book I had never seen before. By the comments on it, I gather it's a classic: The Seven Laws of Teaching, by John Milton Gregory. It was first published in 1884, and though it is written in a fairly old-fashioned style, it is quite readable.
I have only read to partway through the 4th chapter, and though I haven't been hit by any amazing and earthshaking ideas, I do believe the book is solid and the thoughts expressed in it make sense--that's the reason there's nothing amazing and earthshaking. It's about as solid as going over the laws of chemistry to a chemist--a chemist would know that the laws exist--even if he for whatever reason doesn't know what they are by heart, he knows by experience that they're true and unshakeable. I think this is a book that every homeschooling mother and every classroom teacher ought to read, whether to affirm what she's already doing or to help her do it better.
On the back cover, the Christlife Magazine says, "For succinct, usable material on the art of teaching, this book in our judgment, cannot be surpassed." There are various other quotes in praise of it, too.
I could go on and describe the contents of the book but I think it ought just to be read. It wouldn't take long; I read the first few chapters in the segments I could find of an afternoon.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

A Fairly Inexpensive Start to a New School Year

I thought I'd need so little time for planning our homeschooling this year...and in a way, I do. But I thought having a head start would cause me to be done so much more quickly. I had a head start because I had way more material planned last year than we could have accomplished in three years. And I thought I didn't need to buy anything for this year, having been given much, having much leftover from Katie, and having bought a little workbook here and there when I'd seen them. In fact, I didn't really need to buy anything. So I didn't go to the homeschool curriculum fairs that happen every summer, and I thought I was safe. Then my friend Lanae wanted to go to the used curriculum store that's within a long day's outing from here. I have been there a few times, and she hadn't; it's her first year of homeschooling, so I was happy to take her there.
It went well. Her husband watched the boys, who were delighted to be together, and Lanae and I were free to peruse the way-overstuffed shelves at our leisure. I kind of like going to this place, if only because it makes our place look sparsely furnished in comparison. You almost have to tunnel through it to get to the stuff you want. They could triple the floor space and still have it plenty full. They always surprise me with the stuff aside from just books; there are video and audio tapes, computer games, maps, art just have to see it to believe it. Going in that place was about as dangerous as a sewing store used to be for me back when I could imagine finishing a project I'd started. I still have too much fabric that I never started sewing!
There was one thing I was truly hoping to find, and I did; Plants Grown Up, which is a Scripture-based character-building book for boys. Tim won't likely be doing Awana this year, and this will be helpful in taking up the slack. I also found a small, simple publication that will make Washington State history much easier to cover. I found three historical music tapes that I'd always wanted when Katie was little and could never afford; they were cheap there. Tim loves these types of songs, so this will enrich the year's music appreciation and add some dimension to our history studies. There was also Geography Wizardry for Kids which is so full of wonderful social studies ideas. In addition, I bought about 8 missions biographies by publishers and authors I have come to appreciate, and a few study guides to go with some of them. All in all, it wasn't very expensive to buy all that I found, considering I will use most of it more than one year and it's most of what I bought for the year. I spent a little over $100 for all my stack of things. It will make this year that much more fun and interesting, and for this year's schooling costs, I know and appreciate that I'm getting off easy.
So I'm incorporating these things into this year's schedule, and while I love the fact that it makes the year that much more interesting for both of us, I'm not getting off as easy in my planning as I was hoping. But I am awaiting the start of the year with greater anticipation!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

In Loco Parentis

I have to get on my soapbox today on a topic I've been mulling over. Lately in our adult Sunday School class, one of our elders has been speaking on raising teens. He got into some trouble with the class one day when he started describing various ways to involve your teens with the elderly in the community, including taking them to visit retirement homes or having elderly friends over for dinner. Now I'm not criticizing the way he raises his family; he's a good and loving father and I expect most of our congregation would agree that his children are turning out well. The odd thing was, his family doesn't homeschool, and everyone in the church probably knows how busy his own kids are with school, sports, work, and social life, and the likelihood of seeing any of them visit a retirement home in their teen years or being home for a leisurely family dinner is rather small. In fact, the church runs an academy at which these kids attend, and the activities there and the social life among the students pretty much precludes significant time with parents. Immediately a lot of comments arose about how unworkable and unrealistic his advice was for most of the parents there, and he basically had to go on to the next subject.
I recently worked for a year in our youth ministry. At the beginning of that year, I had high hopes to see the spiritual effect of the ministry among the students who attended it. During the year, though, I saw various scenarios that underscored the lack of parental involvement in the students' lives, and also the resultant lack of accountability and teachability among the students. It was very depressing, but it taught me a lot about the vital role of parents and the questionable role of a youth ministry that is separate from parents.
There is a good reason why the clear biblical pattern is for parents to be primary as spiritual leaders in their children's lives. If the parents don't know what their children are being taught, the children don't feel the impetus to apply the teaching to themselves, and the parents don't even have a vague notion of what information to reinforce. I saw the youth pastor give a sermon on putting aside the noise such as music and other media from one's life, and meditating on God and praying and listening to His input...and then we broke away into small groups to discuss it. Out of the 12 girls in our group, 10 immediately gave their reasoning why the sermon didn't apply to them. "I can't go without music for two hours," one whined. The others chimed in similarly, not seeming to catch that it was a challenge that they ought to face rather than dismiss. Those who responded in a receptive vein seemed to have had more parental impact in their lives. Had the parents of all these students been listening to the sermon with them, I would hope that the results would have been different. It was an eye-opener for me regarding just how great the need is even among teens for strong parental impact in their spiritual upbringing. There is simply no substitute for parental involvement for most kids--I'd expect that the only exception is in a family where the parents are not Christians.
My daughter went through our church youth ministry and benefited from it--but we wouldn't consider it her primary spiritual training ground for that period of time. She has always been very communicative with us regarding what she experiences in our absence, and so the teachings came home with her to us. For that matter, the one year I was in it was her graduating year, so I knew that year what was being taught. Still, I don't think we'll have our son, who is currently 9 years old, go through any youth ministry without parental involvement. And if he did, I would be all the more on the alert with questions for him and for his youth leaders, not only to make sure that things are going right but so we can reinforce the teaching at home and keep him accountable for applying it. All in all, it was a good, vivid parenting lesson for me; I'm thankful for it, and I hope not to waste it.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Homeschooling is a Double Feature

There are so many good things about homeschooling, the most obvious being the learning that can happen so efficiently (in about a third of the time of public school, at least in the early grades)...but the double feature of this is that I get to learn while providing learning materials to my kids--teaching them things, but mostly about the love of learning. How can I not pass along this love when it grows the more it happens! The more interesting the materials, the more we all benefit. I learned the first round with Katie, and I'm learning more again this time with Tim.
So often mothers worry that they're leaving "gaps" in their children's education by homeschooling, yet I'm finding that I get to fill gaps left in my own education this way. I don't remember learning much about Alexander the Great, or ancient Greece, or polar explorers, or so many things, in any of my twelve years of school, but I'm learning about them now. So I don't worry about what I won't accomplish; I just do as I believe God has led me, and all I care to do is continue by trusting in His leading.If I have gaps from my public school education, my children would have if they were there too--and if I leave gaps in their education, well, I'm not necessarily doing any worse than what they would get anywhere else.
Besides. Who doesn't have gaps in their knowledge? Even the most brilliant minds have areas where they don't excel. I notice on a game show, 1 vs. 100, often the 100 will be made up of various types of geniuses; yet in the matter of a few questions, many of them will be eliminated--maybe because they asked about the price of a basic postage stamp.
As a result of homeschooling I have determined that my favorite subject must be history. Such a rich subject, so many ways to learn it! It's all about the people who have filled this earth from the 6th day of God's Creation. We have discovered multitudes of wonderful biographies, and I would never put those aside for long, but lately we have discovered a newer set of books that Tim and I have been devouring together. This new series is wonderful for immersing the reader in the difficulties and details of various periods of history. The titles are humorous and the same vein runs throughout the books. "You Wouldn't Want to be an Arctic Explorer," "You Wouldn't Want to be a Soldier in Alexander the Great's Army," "You Wouldn't Want to be a Slave in Ancient Greece," and a number of others. They contain many ghastly but not objectionable facts--and to a boy, a fascinating way of presenting history! I have to say I love them too.