Friday, September 18, 2009

To remember when teaching a child

"It's not showing, but sharing and feeling. What do we care if the [child] fails to remember the name of a wild flower? Does he remember its fragrance; the texture of its leaves? Does he know where to find it? And does he know, not because someone told him he should know, but because for him it is a thing of enjoyment and beauty?" -Steve Van Matre

I am homeschooling my daughter this year. I should say, I am homeschooling all three children, because even my 3 and 1.5 year old participate. But my primary focus is on the 5 year old. Some days are better than others, some are filled with insight and learning, and others seem to be a waste of time. I remind myself that public school is no different. Every day we make prayer and scripture study part of our lives, and the kids get to watch me, and participate with me, in repenting and seeking the Savior's guidance as I search the scriptures. Every now and then I'll come across a scripture I think would serve them well, and we set out to memorize it. It's good exercise for all our memories!

I try to remind myself as we read, that what is most important is that they learn to whom to turn (some proper grammar there for my mother,) for comfort and peace, and a remission for their sins. I do not care, at this point, if they know the Lord's prayer by heart, as long as they learn to plead with the Lord from the heart. I help them pray that the Lord will help them learn to read, write, count; help them learn to skip and tie their shoes, and help me to be calm and in control of myself so I can teach without fear. By making prayer a part of learning, they are not threatened by my authority. It is not just MOM trying to force knowledge on them, but a loving Heavenly Father who is helping them. They are much more open when we approach it from that angle. Especially my head-strong daughter!

Kaylee takes to homeschooling naturally. She despises someone teaching her. She prefers to teach herself, based on the examples she sees. The other day she copied down letters from a printed text she found lying around. I was impressed at how studiously she worked--for over an hour she practiced her writing skills and making her letters smaller and more clear. She would ask me the name of the letter, and repeat it with me several times, then get to work on another. I didn't force her to stop, she stopped when she was ready. I didn't make her do it at all. She took pleasure in learning, and set about teaching herself for the joy of it!

She would definitely have problems in school, because she chaffs so much against authority, and she refuses to be led or controlled. It was when this aspect of her personality came out that she and I started to battle on a daily basis. She was 18 months old when it began. I remember it like it was yesterday. It grew stronger and stronger, and I countered it with stronger and stronger negative reactions as she grew older. I was trying to control her, and she was insistent that never, no matter what, even in the face of hurt and pain, emotional or physical, would she ever surrender her precious agency. It wasn't until Kirk Martin's philosophies came along that I considered that perhaps she was made this way for a purpose, and I, through my efforts against this side of her, was frustrating that purpose.

I realize now that some children, including her, are made to be independent, and I have grown to love that about her. I do send her to preschool so that she can learn to work in a group, and learn leadership skills, as well as respect for other authority besides just parents. I want to teach her the necessary things of society, but I also don't want to kill her love for self-teaching. So I am seeking to nurture that natural love, and develop it. I hope it lasts a lifetime!

Do you control yourself, or does your 'self' control you?'

"This is just the way I am."
"It's the way I was raised, so..."
"This is my personality."
"I've been this way ever since I can remember. There's nothing I can do about it."
"I can't help it. I was born this way."

Have you ever uttered these phrases? I know I have. All of the above statements are excuses for complacency in unhappiness, and for us mothers, that unhappiness spreads to our children. Not sometimes, all the time. If we are simply a victim of our personalities, then we don't have to try to change, because change would be impossible.

Why don't we want to change? Why is it easier to do the same things we've always done? Is it laziness? No. There is no such thing as laziness. I am a firm believer of that, and so is Kirk Martin, my most quoted philosopher. "Lazy" is a put-down, as hurtful as "stupid" and we should never use the word to describe ourselves or anyone else. But what is the cause for lack of progress, growth, and hard work, if it's not laziness?

There can be many causes for this hiding from progression. It can be lack of vision, direction, motivation, but today I want to address the one that is often the most elusive. Safety. There is always fear, no matter how old you are, of the unknown. If none of my family or friends do things my way, I'm alone in my thinking, and it is scary. I firmly believe humans are herd animals, and it takes overcoming the herd instincts to discover our higher nature. There is a false perception of safety in a herd. We think that if we do what everyone else is doing we will be fine.

But all too often, herds are in danger and don't know it. They follow eachother off of cliffs and into high water, and wander into dangerous places where they are attacked by preditors. If we truly want to be safe, we have to rear up on our hind legs, and look out ahead to where the herd is going, and search those few sheep who've been to the edges of the clearings, and ask what they have seen. Safety is not garunteed, even then, but we will not make the same mistakes as we would have if we weren't paying attention. Think of how scary it would be for a sheep who's only looked at the ground and followed the sheep next to him, to stop and raise his head above the crowd, to see where they are going.

Can you remember being a child, lying in bed, certain there was a monster under the bed. Simply looking under the bed would have calmed your fears, but it seemed safer to simply stay put, and not move.

That is the instinct we have to overcome if we want to grow. How do we overcome those fears?

Thought patterns that portray ourselves as victims are evidence of lack of Hope. If we want joy, we must have hope. Naturally, my next question is: How do we find hope?

That is when my answer is give up.

Want to grow. Then give up trying to force growth on yourself. Seriously. Surrender. No matter how hard you try, you will never be able to change yourself. Certainly that has been my experience. Sure, I could change myself for a few months, even years, but eventually, I just couldn't keep up the effort any more, and slipped back to who I used to be. The phrase "Lift yourself up by your own bootstraps" was first coined to show how impossible that is! So where does that leave us?

The only way to change is through a higher power who possesses the strength and growth we need as well as the ability to endow that upon us, and then instead of trying to change ourselves, we are acting in faith in that higher power. We do not need to believe in ourselves, only believe that something bigger than ourselves, who cares deeply, and knows all will do that which we cannot do.

So if my goal is to stop smoking, or to stop yelling, and I have tried for years and years to kick the habit, but always find myself retreating back to a percieved, false safety, the answer is to first surrender--not to the habit, but to a loving God, and admit my powerlessness.
Then, I will receive a gift that will enlarge my soul, and change my very desires down to the core. Falling off the wagon, turning back to old habits, and other retreating actions, often stem from a desire for safety. Whether it be to follow friends and family like a herd animal, or to retreat toward a habit--to do what we have always done when we felt threatened--in other words, safety in sameness, it all stems from the same basic fear.

Fear of what? I have already stated that fear of the unknown is a factor, but searching deeper still, I ask, unknown what? Often the real triggers seem hazy. Perhaps nothing happened, or our reaction to something that happened was unbalanced. So the answer is then to dig deeper. I believe the deepest core of the issue is found in the truth in this quote attributed to Nelson Mandella:

"Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous. Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the World. There is nothing enlightening about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own Light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.  As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others." -

My goal this week is to rely in the arm of God when I feel threatened or scared, instead of my own base coping mechanisms. My goal is to believe in Christ when I cannot, and have proven that I cannot, believe in myself. My goal is to surrender every day to a loving God through prayer. My goal is to release my crutches, and walk in faith, not in my imperfect self, but in a Jesus Christ, my savior. I love that this works every time. HE can do what I cannot do--again and again and again, He's proven this to me, and I am learning slowly, to let all the Glory be his forever and ever, Amen.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Movie Review

The kids and I went to see The Tale of Despereaux in the theater. Now it is out on video. This movie goes where no kids movie has gone before, and teaches lessons that I've never seen taught in a big-screen movie like that. A lesson that I've been trying to impress on my kids, that I was so excited to be validated, was that you don't have to have super-powers, or be faster, stronger, or bigger than others in order to be heroic. Being true to yourself, your beliefs and values, even when ridiculed and looked down upon, makes you a hero, and changes the world. Honor, loyalty, valour, all those things can be ours, with only a decision, and most of all, courage. My son has been going around the house saying, "I am, a gentleman!" With a true idea of what the soul of that means, and it's so much more than simply having good manners.

A powerful lesson that summed up the movie, and was stressed by the storyline itself was something I have never seen in a kids' movie. The power of forgiveness. "One single act of forgiveness can change everything." It was a lesson that resonated with me, and brought tears to my eyes. It had me thinking, 'have a forgiven anyone today? Is there anyone in my life that I could forgive, and thus change my life and theirs?' It had me almost wishing for that opportunity. Go ahead world, I dare you!

This movie does show hurt, pain, and even evil, and good people doing terrible things. But it also shows how to overcome all of those things, for those on both ends of the hurt. I think that is a priceless lesson our kids these days need, and we parents need too. I hope my kids take all of the lessons in this movie, and make them a part of who they are.