Saturday, December 31, 2011

We Will Work for the Glory of Our Lord

 "It is a season to reach out with kindness and love to those in distress and to those who are wandering in darkness and pain." 

"The time has come for us to stand a little taller, to lift our eyes and stretch our minds to a greater comprehension and understanding of the grand millennial mission of this the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  This is a season to be strong.  It is a time to move forward without hesitation, knowing well the meaning, the breadth, and the importance of our mission.  It is a time to do what is right regardless of the consequences that might follow.  It is a time to be found keeping the commandments. It is a season to reach out with kindness and love to those in distress and to those who are wandering in darkness and pain.  It is a time to be considerate and good, decent and courteous toward one another in all of our relationships.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Top Eleven Reasons that We Homeschool

[Ok, so I actually stole this off Jennifer Georgia's blog, but I agree completely! For many more great resources from Jen, visit her site at The Georgia Times.  Scroll down and look for her lists and articles in the right hand column. -K]

11 - It’s Fun!  We can do all the fun things that happen at public school (field trips, band, orchestra, drama, art, choir, sports, geography and spelling bees, science fairs) with homeschool support groups, community groups, or (many of them) with the public school.  We can also do things that they can’t, like doing school on the trampoline on beautiful days.

10 - Freedom from bullying classmates, screaming teachers, classroom apathy, moral relativism, the homosexual agenda and the wacked-out environmentalist agenda taught in schools, bad language and inappropriate behavior in the halls, pornography, drugs, prostitution rings, pedophiles and kids with guns.

9 - Freedom to study what we want, when we want, take a family vacation whenever we want, and be around nice people of all ages, both LDS and not.

8 - Home schools are “Drug-Free Zones” - children with ADHD can run or bike around the block whenever they get antsy, children with Inattentive ADD aren’t continually distracted by 25 other children.

7 - We can incorporate our LDS lifestyle into our school.   We learn our own family history and LDS history as we study  world history.  Scripture Study, Personal Progress, Faith in God, Duty to God and Scout requirements are all a part of things we do for “school”.  We earn Merit Badges in our science co-op.

6 - We ALL learn together.  My education is just as important as theirs.

5 - Our children don’t develop peer-dependency, and aren’t impacted so much by negative socialization. 

4 - We can have the “butter and honey” (see 2 Ne. 17:14-15) instead of the mediocre and the foul.  Instead of studying  mind-numbing textbooks and reading morally-degrading assigned books, we can read the classics and can learn from the great minds of the past and present.

3 - We can teach true principles that are not politically correct, such as the proper role of government, free-market economics, true environmental stewardship that isn’t anti-human, and the principles found in “The Proclamation on the Family”.

2 - We can customize to the needs, wants, interests and abilities of each child.
1 - Family, Isn’t It About ... Time???

Three Homeschool Requirements
1 - You must be able to read.  

2 - You have to like your children (in addition to loving them).

3 - You have to be able to relax, be patient, laugh, and trust your children.

Three Non-Requirements
1 - It doesn’t take any more time than sending them to public school.  Think of all the time spent in transportation, class-helper assignments, PTA and other meetings, fund raisers, accompanying field trips.  Think of supervising the three hours of homework that people tell me their third graders come home with.  I spend 1 to 3 hours a day actually sitting reading to them, or doing  math, science, history, Spanish, Latin, or whatever else the day brings.

2 - It doesn’t have to cost a lot.  Private schools run $5000 to $15,000 per year, but you can have your own private school at home for free if you use the extensive resources available in the library and on the internet.

3 - No formal training in education is necessary, in fact, it seems to make homeschooling more difficult. 


Earlier is not better, complicated is not better, more is not better.

Structure time, not content (early years).

Help children set and achieve academic goals (later years). 

Enrich the environment.

Enjoy the journey, go with the flow.

School is life, and life is school.  There is no artificial division.

Encourage the child to make observations and generalize them to new things.

Reserve for the child the moment of discovery.

Avoid pushing the child into the “frustration zone.”

Children will reflect the social, educational and spiritual development that their parents possess, so be a good example.

OUR HOMESCHOOL GOAL - That our children leave the Georgia Academy as happy people with strong testimonies and self-confidence, who are academically prepared for any university course of study.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Why I Love Family Life

[A friend asked me to write about what I love about "family life" and this is my response.]

I have had the blessing of being part of a good family since the day I was born.  How my heart aches and wishes for that same opportunity for every infant coming into this world: to have loving parents and siblings who are seeking to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ.  Where ever there is righteous living there is peace, love and joy.  Where ever there is self-centered living there is strife, anger and pain.  But I also know the atonement of Christ is real and through that power he will heal any and all who come to Him with full purpose of heart.

This being said, I don't believe there exists a "perfect family" anywhere out there.  We are on this earth to learn, grow and have experiences to teach us what our Heavenly Father knows we need to learn.  The Lord Jesus Christ was the only person to walk the earth who was completely perfect.  So we are either moving closer to that goal of becoming like our Savior or we are moving farther away.  Having a family that is striving with all its might to follow His example is an invaluable strength and gift to have in this journey of life!

I love family life because I can't think of any other way to refine my character faster and help me grow.  Is it an easy, painless process?  Of course not! Since when was anything truly worthwhile easy? But through working, living, struggling, laughing, praying, and studying daily as a family we can all progress closer to our Heavenly Father. And we learn the principle of MERCY is among the first to master in order to find joy in our family life: "For, if ye forgive men their trespasses your Heavenly Father will also forgive you; But if ye forgive not men their trespasses neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."   3 Nephi 13:14-15

Where else do you have more opportunities to "trespass" or "to be trespassed" than in family life? :) It is such an intimate and personal environment that there seem to be many chances for either giving or taking offense.  But there are also many more opportunities to love, to forgive, to bless, and to serve! It's simply not possible to live a truly satisfying, happy life by seeking our personal interests and wants all or even most of the time!  Self-centered life-styles simply go against eternal laws as our Lord taught:  "He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it." Matthew 10:39

Another one of sweetest blessings we gain, especially as parents, is through service in the home to little children.  I've noticed that many in the world prefer not to do the work it takes to care for babies and small children.  After all, where's the glory? Where's the monetary compensation?  Or perhaps even, where's my sleep?! :) And the "work" is quite constant and demanding!  But it is among the most precious work we can do for all of these very reasons.  Another powerful, unchanging principle from the Savior:  "As ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." Matthew 25:40 

If we truly love the Lord with are our might, mind and strength we will rejoice in the opportunity to serve him in this capacity.  We will gradually be able to forget ourselves more and more and thereby be able to have more joy if our life.  But, you might be asking: Who will then take care of ME?!  I testify that as we put our whole heart and mind into serving Christ, He will take care of us FAR BETTER than we can ever take care of ourselves!  I have seen this over and over again as my husband and I have brought each of our ten children into this world and as we are trying to do our best to raise them.  We are still far from perfect, of course, but as I mentioned earlier, we must live by the glorious principle of MERCY and GRACE daily. A favorite quote relating to this principle from The Book of Mormon:

 "For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do."  (2 Nephi 25:23)

A FAMILY, with each member seeking to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, is like a lovely symphony or beautiful piece of artwork to be enjoyed by all who seek after things that are virtuous, lovely, of good report or praiseworthy. Articles of Faith 1:13 

Monday, June 27, 2011

Agency Education: Success Stories!

Many years ago, I came upon the Ben Crowder article pasted below. In our "society driven" educational world, the straightforward concepts offered by this mother of nine are refreshing. 

Not only are the principles unique, but they happen to be true, simple and very effective! 

My experiences with my own children and study of the scriptures are my foundation for these judgements. I wish I had always followed the principles much more closely than I have, but fear and our own background of "traditions" seem to try and root their head, especially when working with a child who is more of a late bloomer as it pertains to "book learning". 

Nevertheless, whenever I have applied these principles I end up being completely amazed by the results, especially as time passes on.  

Another wonderful reference of support for these principles in Raymond and Dorothy Moore's book, "The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook". I was required to read this book when I first moved to our current area about 12 years ago upon joining a very large home schooling group called HINTS (Home Educators Need Team Support). They even have you sign a paper and mail it in within about 30 or days of joining, stating that you finished reading the book! Wow! They were very wise to do this as the book is full of tons of legitimate educational research, research that goes very much against how most of us were raised.

I must admit seeing the tremendous success of my oldest two children has recommitted me to reviewing these principles. I've already written in a former post (Peace Which Passeth All Understanding) about some of the successes of my oldest daughter, but most importantly she has a beautiful, strong testimony of the Savior, she is HAPPY and knows she is on track with her life.  She has a strong conviction that she is in the right place and at the right time.  She works on campus at Brigham Young University (Math Dept.) while staying with my wonderful parents and is preparing for her Jr. year there this Fall. She just loves life! What more could a parent want for their child?

Our second child and oldest son has been blessed beyond his wildest dreams as far as his "career" and "educational" goals.  And he is only seventeen years old! He was always an "early bloomer" pertaining to academics. I barely had to doing anything to get him reading and he seemed to surpass me in most general knowledge by the time he was twelve! He developed an intense passion and love for music and EVERYTHING about music as he grew.  When he was little we always played inspiring music in our home and we would often sing for fun. He took some cello lessons by a very easy going teacher when perhaps around eight years old and then piano at age eleven. On more than one occasion I would find his piano teacher (a professional performer and wonderful man) tearing up in my living room as he witnessed my son's amazing, rapid progress on the piano.  We did voice lessons a few years later with another wonderful instructor and he stunned us all by landing a lead in our Stake's production of "The Garden" at age fifteen.  He performed so beautifully and with such powerful emotion!  I still tear up as I remember that opening night when my husband and I heard him for the first time.  We had no idea he could sing like that! I obviously hadn't sat in on his voice lessons, though we had actually stopped lessons by then as we had moved out of the city and I felt the time and distance were too much.

 He somehow heard that our local community college had an excellent music program and determined to get his diploma as soon as possible in order to be a full-time student there.  He earned his diploma by age sixteen, completely on his own through independent study, and was able to audition and be accepted into the vocal program for last Fall semester. He was assigned a vocal coach who is an amazing world-class opera singer and performed in Europe for around ten years. He also took many classes in music theory, diction, and piano as well government, chemistry, college Algebra, etc. and earned a 4.0 GPA both semesters. The day after he finished finals for second semester we left for our annual LDS homeschool conference where a keynote speaker happened to be Michael Ballam, also a world-class opera singer who had performed in the past with my son's vocal coach of the past year.  When my son approached Dr. Ballam after hearing him speak and told him of the connection, he said he wanted to hear my son sing sometime. Later that day I happened to be in the room where the grand piano was and got to film this on my iphone (see below)! Michael Ballam met with me later and said that I had an incredibly gifted son. But as a result, my son was offered a summer apprenticeship in Dr. Ballam's Opera Company in northern Utah. He told me that only perhaps one other time in the past nineteen years had he invited someone so young to perform in this professional opera and musical festival. (We had about one week to prepare before sending him off!) That's where my son is now and will be performing in Oliver, South Pacific and Boris Gudunov (a Russian Opera) during the month of July and early August. He is singing side by side with post-graduate students from music schools like New York's Julliard and working with the best of the best directors, producers, etc. in our nation. Unbelievable!  Not only this, he will be attending Utah State University with a full-ride scholarship as a music major with Michael Ballam as a mentor in the Fall. What tremendous blessings, experiences and preparations for him before serving his church mission in the Fall of 2012! 

Gotta love those bare feet! :-)
I happened to be sitting in this large hall during a break between classes at the LDSEHE conference in Virginia Beach when I saw Brooks walking down the isle with Michael Ballam, our keynote speaker that morning. I said, “Oh good, I’m glad you two have met each other,” and Brooks said, “This is my mom.” Dr. Ballam took out his cell phone and took a quick picture of us together and then off they quickly continued to the front of the room. When I realized what was happening I remembered I have an iphone and went up to the front row to film.
Earlier in the school year Brooks’ vocal coach, Rebecca Cook-Carter, upon learning he was a Latter-Day Saint, asked if Michael Ballam taught at BYU. Brooks had no idea at that time who Michael Ballam was! Knowing of this connection Brooks approached Dr. Ballam after he spoke and told him who his vocal coach was and that he was a music major. He replied that he knew her, (Rebecca) and that he would like to hear him sing. Later in the day after Dr. Ballam spoke to just the youth, Brooks went up to him again and said, “So when do you want to hear me sing?” and was told, “Right now.” You can see part of that experience above in the video clips! Brooks says he wasn't warmed up so not his very best, but I love it. Michael Ballam later told him one of things that was so amazing was how Brooks hit the notes perfectly in spite of how he played the piano--no music and also distracted trying listening to Brooks, I would assume.  

What currently stands out to me about the Crowder's experience below is how they were obviously busy with their own lives while their son was gaining all this knowledge! She was having eight babies, raising toddlers and most certainly working to teach and train her children to work around the house, cooking, shopping, doing church callings, etc.

 While she helped her children the best she could when they requested it and read to them daily, her life didn't revolve around them, but on Christ and service to Him. What a beautiful and inspiring example of a "Christ-centered" home, verses "child" or "parent" centered!  


Another great book to check out is "An Agency Approach to Education" by Neil Flinders, a BYU education professor. I read this when my oldest child was five years old.  

Homeschooler Ben Crowder
Achieves Perfect ACT Score (2001)
by Tina Crowder

Many have asked us over the past few weeks to discuss our homeschooling journey with regards to our eldest son, Ben, who recently had the distinction of being one of two students in the nation to achieve a perfect 36 on the ACT exam. Yes, it has been nice publicity for homeschoolers when one of their own does something like this. Many home educators have contacted us over the past few weeks asking what we did in our homeschool that helped Ben in this achievement. However, we hope that homeschoolers aren't measuring their "success" by outward achievements such as this. Personally, our only hope for our own children is that they will have the necessary skills to get through this life. Most importantly we hope that our children will know Christ and gauge everything they do by His standard and not the world's.

Ben's score was just a pleasant by-product of his love of learning that has been fostered all his life. He never set out to try to achieve a perfect score but was just doing his best in order to get a scholarship. In fact, he just studied 10 minutes the night before the exam. (For those who will be attending the June convention, Ben will offer some basic information on what your teens can do at home to be prepared for the ACT exam).
We'll discuss Ben's homeschool journey with regards to child- initiated learning. When we began having children we naturally learned with them. By the time Ben was 3 he was reading out of "real" (not readers) books such as Dr. Seuss. At 5 years old he was reading the encyclopedia at bedtime, for fun. We took him to the local school and had him tested. The principal said he was at a 4th grade level in everything and there was nothing they could do for him. She suggested we home school him, which we were already planning to do.

Homeschool was just a continuation of the learning adventure we had been having with the children from the time they were born. For a time, we tried to mimic the public schools, but Ben rebelled immediately. In fact, he did very little formal schoolwork until the time he went to high school. During all those years we made weekly trips to the library with a wagon (and then a double stroller) and let Ben and his siblings choose books on topics they were interested in. Ben read half of each school day, and at night. We read to them at least two hours per day and always out of a novel at night. They always had a rest time after lunch with a pile of books on their bed. They opted to read instead of nap!

At the age of eight Ben asked me if I could help him learn how to create the programs that were on the computer. I said "no" but I would take him to the library (right then) and he could get some books. He went to the adult section and got manuals on BASIC programming and the like. I had a baby that night and discovered two weeks later (after recuperating) that Ben had taught himself beginning programming and animation. He was almost obsessive- compulsive about programming which I now believe is part of the learning process and becoming passionate about our interests.

During the next few years he took apart the computer many times, added things to it, wrecked a few hard drives, taught himself different programs and began learning everything about computers. He spent very little time playing computer games, but was creating them. He even had his own game- programming website for a year. Bear in mind that my husband and I know nothing about computers. This experience alone gave us the confidence to allow our children to teach themselves things we didn't know.

At 13 Ben enrolled part-time at Orem High and took their AP Computer Science course. Although he knew the material, he liked being around computers and helping others. At this time he started his own computer business/service. In other words, he fixed computers, installed programs, trouble shooted, saved hard drives, etc. for neighbors, friends, ward members, and all their relatives. People paid him very well and a neighbor said they could use him at his corporation. He soon landed a summer job at as a software tester for $10/hour. When the company found out he was 13 (he looked 17) they laid him off and re-hired him a few months later on his 14th birthday. (In Utah the law states you have to be 14 to have a computer desk job.) He loved the work and was re-hired the next summer; this time he was doing programming and earning quite a bit more.

When Ben turned 15 he became interested in writing--or should I say passionate. He checked out hundreds (I'm not kidding) of books on the writing process and getting published. Ben never did a writing assignment in homeschool, but wrote in his journal through the years. One day he came up to me and my husband and said that he submitted some of his work and was now a published and paid author for the Linux Journal, an international computer magazine with a circulation of over 60,000. We were shocked because we had told him prior to this not to expect to have your first work accepted and published.

Then he became passionate about languages and started studying their structures, which led him to Hebrew, Greek, and finally Latin. He started studying history and religion more in depth and began an intensive study of the scriptures that has been going on for the past three years. He reads the Book of Mormon several times a year and is deeply interested in ancient history. He asked for the Bible in Hebrew and Greek for Christmas, but we couldn't afford it. Ben learned how to play the piano at 5 and was given the freedom to play what he wanted. He went a year or two without touching it as a young boy and then went back and fell in love with it. He now composes music which has led to other things he find interesting. We could go on and on about this interest-led learning cycle... because it never ends.

Ben attends high school full time taking whatever he is interested in. This is called "non-diploma" status, and it is legal in Utah. This means he can attend high school, get a transcript, but he won't be able to walk across the stage at graduation (which means nothing to him). Ben wanted to skip all the classes that were either too easy, or meaningless to his goals. He opted out of P.E. and health. This alternative needs more publicity because there are many students who would stay in high school if they knew they could choose any class they wanted--as long as they are willing to give up the diploma. Don't worry, BYU and most colleges don't care about your diploma. (Has anyone ever asked to see yours?) They care about your transcript, the difficulty of the classes you took, what grade you received in those classes, and your college entrance exam scores.

We just want to say that homeschooling is about learning how to learn. It's about helping our children achieve their potential, not someone else's idea of what their potential should be. Once a child gains confidence in how to find out what he's interested in, then he will learn what he needs to know, when he needs to know it. I think we too often push children into learning experiences, co-ops, classes, that they wouldn't gravitate towards on their own in an effort to "teach" them something. It seems to us that the most meaningful learning comes from within the child himself. When we backed away and "let" Ben learn what he was serious about, no matter how disorganized the learning may have appeared to us, he learned. We have eight other children and all are very different from each other, with totally different interests. Each child has pursued his own path, in his own way. They are not all into academics, yet they all love learning and doing.

We welcome any questions at
Mark & Tina Crowder (this may not be a current email as it was written in 2001!)

newspaper article - Note:  "Perfect" means Ben scored 36-36-36-36; 12 students "averaged" 36 which would be 35-35/36-36-36.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Renaissance Men: A Father's Day Tribute

I heard the below commentary on "Music and the Spoken Word" today and it made me cry.  Of course, the pictures and music they play also help. :)

"From time to time we hear great artists or athletes described as 'Renaissance Men'. Society marvels at the variety of their accomplishments. A football player who also excels as a musician or a writer who can also paint. We admire people who can 'switch hats' and shine in more than one arena, but in our quest to find the next celebrity multi-tasker we often overlook countless renaissance men who are closer to home.

The real treasures of our society are the dad's who where multiple hats every day of their lives, even when they're are tired after a long day at work.

Our world is made better by these kinds of men, men who can work a jack-hammer one minute and caress a baby the next. Men who can split a log, yet mend a heart. Men who can be tenacious at the office in the morning yet be found teetering on a tiny chair and sipping from a tiny cup at their young daughter's teddy bear tea party that evening.

Great father's listen, guide, love and laugh, forging a sacred bond with their children that will last for generations.

Such men put family first and understand that their role extends far beyond providing. In the process they show their families what it means to be a real man.

 No one can fill this heroic role quite like a loving father. If you ask them how they do it they'll simply say they're 'average guys with average lives', but in the eyes of their children they are heroes. 

Men who can stand as strong as mighty oaks yet share a gentle breeze and the squeeze of a little hand. These are the real Renaissance men and they are all around us: Father's whose children matter most of all."

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Secret Weapons of Patience & Praise (mixed with Love!)

It's true.  

Patience and Praise are like secret weapons when it comes to working changes for good over the hearts of others. They are especially powerful when others seem to deserve them least! 

I believe most of us don't use them or forget to use them because it sounds just too simple. Here is an INSPIRING story that was presented by my dear friend, Melissa, at the recent LDSEHE Conference. My husband and I are long-time friends of Shawn and Melissa and can vouch for their wonderful characters!

"My good husband has a natural gift of seeing the good in others. He has an amazing heart, an eternal perspective and more patience than all of us in this room combined. When we were first married we were called to be the Sunday School teachers for the 14 and 15 year olds in a family ward near BYU. People literally gave us their condolences and wished us good luck and safety. I was a little worried." 

"One lady came up to us and told us we would not last long in that class because the kids were just terrible, and especially this one boy named Troy. Well, they were all right. This class was awful, especially Troy. He was belligerent, rude, disrespectful, and just plain terrible. I had never seen anyone like him in my life! Later he told us that his goal was to do whatever he could to make us hate him, and let me tell you, he was very skilled in his approach. Many times I wanted to snatch him right out of the class and let him have a good southern talking to!" 

"I remember one time right in the middle of the lesson Troy started building a tower out of the chairs. I wanted to tell him to stop, but my husband just stood there quietly and watched him. Then when Troy was finished, Shawn proceeded to tell him what a wonderful tower he had built, and how it was structurally sound, and that he was really smart to know how to do it that well. And he threw in a few engineering terms and made Troy look like this amazingly talented kid and had the other students admire his work. That definitely would not have been my approach to this situation, but this is how every single class was on Sundays. Shawn never let me reprimand him or pull him out of the class. He just kept loving him and finding anything good he could about Troy."

"After a while, Troy stopped doing those awful things, and he changed, and he loved Shawn. We moved away within that year, but we got a call one day from Troy asking us if we would come to his mission farewell, which was a miracle in itself. And he told us that when we were his teachers he had tried so hard to make us hate him, but no matter what he did, we just showered on more love. And no one had ever treated him that way before and it had changed his life."

We have seen patience and praise work in our family countless times when we gather for family prayer.  If we can find one person even half-way kneeling and then point it out by saying, "I see 'so in so' is kneeling and being very reverent," within seconds everyone will be ready for the prayer.  It seems to even work with teens, which is really quite amazing.

So don't forget to use "the Secret Weapons" daily in your family!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Bless & Love with Your Thoughts

I've been listening to "The Love Revolution" by Joyce Meyer on audio book over the past few weeks here and there while working around my home or driving in the car.  It's one of those books I feel I need to listen to several times as it's message is profound! (I've also been having other members of my family listen.)

This is a short excerpt I heard a couple of days ago:

"A woman shared this story to show the power of thoughts:

'During Christmas I moved a fig tree upstairs to the bedroom to make room for the Christmas tree. It had a small branch with about a dozen leaves on it down below the rest of the branches. It didn't look right, ruining the shape of the tree.

When I would wake up in the morning I'd see that tree in the window and think, I'm going to cut that branch off. Every time I passed that tree I'd think, That branch doesn't look right, I'm going to get rid of it.

Time went by. The tree was moved back to the living room. I continued to think a negative thought each time I noticed it. All total this lasted about a month and a half.

One morning I walked by the tree and every leaf on that little branch was yellow. There was not one other yellow leaf on the whole tree.  I got kind of goose bumpy and told my husband. He looked at me and said, "I'm sure glad you think nice things about me."

I cut that branch off that day!

I have always had a difficult relationship with my mother-in-law. Of course I never thought I had any blame, being so sweet and all. I decided this was worth an experiment. Every time I thought about my mother-in-law I determined to bless her, to go out of my way to think about her and bless her!

She seldom calls me or has interest in chatting with me. But within five days she had called me three times--just for a moment, but they were friendly calls! She hadn't called me more than six times the whole last year."

This woman ordered my teaching series on the power of thoughts and said, "I watch what I think about other people now.'

We think countless thoughts about other people, but we should do it more responsibly. I believe thoughts work in the spiritual realm, and although they cannot be seen with the naked eye, I do believe our thoughts are felt by other people. Just as the fig tree was negatively affected by the woman's negative thoughts, I believe people are affected by our thoughts.

What we think about people not only affects them, it also affects the way we treat them when we are around them. If I think secretly about how much I don't like someone and mentally go over all the faults I believe they have, when I see them I treat them according to the image I have formed in my mind."

Think about how all our relationships would improve if we would seek to bless people with our thoughts, especially those we have been the most critical of in our minds.  A powerful lesson here!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Joyful Mother of Many Children (LDSEHE basic talk outline + Distance Ed. Thoughts)

Happy & Relaxed 
My daughter put together this puzzle and gave it to me for my birthday last year and it hangs on the wall in my bedroom.  The content and relaxed mother in this picture is the goal, my ideal.  But we mother's of many or even a few young children know it really can "be a puzzle" to figure out how to get there!  (This end goal is also the purpose of my six strategies post.)

Going in Circles
Home-schooling with young children and babies can sometimes make us feel like all we are doing is “going in circles”. I called up my husband who was home in North Carolina caring for my four younger children while I was at the LDSHE conference with my baby and older children. When I asked him what he was up to he replied: “I’m going in circles.” I said, “Hmmm…sooo you’re getting a truly great Mr. Mom experience already?” He calmly responded: “No, I really am going in circles…I’m on a merry-go round at the park with the kids!” :)

Truth Sets Us Free
In spite of the obvious challenges of raising a family, I will be eternally indebted to a couple of religion professors at Brigham Young University who plainly taught the teachings of the prophets regarding having children and the importance of family.  We took their words purely by faith early on in our childbearing years, but that faith has turned into a knowledge that children are truly the greatest gift Heavenly Father can bestow upon us next to Eternal Life.  And through this amazing process we are being molded, shaped and hopefully becoming more holy by the grace of our Heavenly Father by our families! A more refined character can be the fruit of humbly raising children.

"If only I had known,,,"
Most people in our “sophisticated” society don’t understand the blessing and power of righteous family life.  And way too many people have suffered great pain and sorrow because of extreme selfishness of other family members. But some people, especially good women in the world, are gradually beginning to wake-up and realize what they have missed.

I met one of these women while attending a business conference with my husband on a rare get-a-way trip to San Diego a number of years ago. We had my nursing baby along with us, of course, and a very kind business woman would dote at my baby at breakfast or in the hallways of the hotel and likely thought this was our only child. I learned that she had a two year old son and was in her early forties, now divorced. One morning at breakfast she confessed that, “If only I knew, when I was younger, what I know now, I would have started early having children and just kept on having them until I could no longer have them anymore!"  In amazement I told her that this baby was my seventh and that’s pretty much what I’ve done!  She just looked at me in amazement and was completely speechless. :)  I mention this for those of you down in the trenches, so to speak, with lots of little ones.  Know that you are the envy of some, perhaps many if the truth be told, professional women out there in the world!

But how do you do this?!
We don’t do this without God, at least not successfully! The Lord is responsible for any and all successes our family will have.  All good things come from God! The more we can step back and put Christ at the helm of our lives and let go of our own pre-conceived notions, the more success we will experience. I testify to that.

Below are additional notes of comments I made while going over the “Six Strategies for Sanity" (see full post!) at the LDSEHE Conference.

1. Spiritual Oxygen
Mental challenges often seem greater than the physical, especially potential feelings of isolation and loneliness at times.

Giving up lots of reading and study time has also been a very challenging thing for me as I add new babies to our home, (as well as for most other home-educating mom's that I know), but I’ve learned that we are taught valuable lessons by doing too!  A real revelation...:)  Raising a large family has tons of opportunities for DOING! We learn by study AND by FAITH! That means doing things that take faith in our life!

(And thank goodness for ipods, iphones and easy downloads of scriptures, conference talks and great audio books!)

I've discovered that reading the scriptures (esp. The Book of Mormon) with my children nourishes my spirit tremendously.  What a blessing to accomplish several important things at the same time: teaching reading, teaching gospel principles to children, and learning new things, through the Spirit, myself!

2. Cleanliness is Next to Godliness (Ok, so at least we try!)/Work for Order and Guard your Family: We do like the "Food Nanny Rescues Dinner" book and have used a lot of her recipes (esp. my 11 yr. old daughter) but many of her recipes are more complex than I prefer.  I love the theme night idea because sometimes I just don't want to use any more creative brain energy to think about what to make. If I know a theme for that day it takes much less creative effort. For example: If it's "stir-fry" night I steam some rice in my rice cooker, chop a few different vegetables and add some chicken from my freezer, or whatever I find in my freezer. Of course we usually season this with a little garlic and onions in a small amount of oil before adding the veggies, as well as sometimes add other healthy seasonings. If it's "Italian night" we can make spaghetti, lasagna, or noodles with a garlic/parmesan white sauce, etc.  "Mexican Night" could be bean burritos, taco salad, tacos, enchiladas, etc.  
(See the Six Strategies post for more info on this point #2.)

3. Use Self-Educating Curriculums or methods
It's important to have consistent goal setting sessions and just "checking in" on a consistent basis with each individual child.  The frequency will depend on the age and individual needs.  I just created a "Mom's Meeting Book" with a tab for each child.  When I meet with my children I am looking for ways I can best help them reach personal goals or perhaps help them with setting goals if they don't know quite what they are yet.  Just use common sense and treat your children the way you would have liked to be treated at their age.  Each personality is so unique and we have the great opportunity to guide them in a way that best fits them. Use the spirit and you will know what to do in helping inspire them and guide them down a great educational path!  Not even an expensive private school can do this as well as a loving, patient parent. How often you meet with them depends also on the age of the children. Interestingly, my older children feel the need to have these meeting more frequently than my younger children.

We also create charts where we can see our book list and the names of the children (we've added a TJed booklist recently).  They put either a mark or small sticker next to each book that they finish reading so we can see "at a glance" where everyone is. They track their math "error rate" on graph paper so we can see how their doing quickly, but mainly to motivate them to work carefully.  

A new book discovery that I highly recommend: "100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum: Choosing the Right Curriculum and Approach for Your Child's Learning Style" by Cathy Duffy
I love the principles of this author! She comes from a Christian perspective but is not overbearing and really gives great guidance in understanding yourself and your children as it pertains to home education. Excellent!!!

The only drawback we have seen with distance classes is the extra time it takes to watch and then do the homework. (We're spoiled as we are used to doing things very efficiently and quickly.) Another challenge could be if you're on a very tight budget, but that said, it can be worth real sacrifice if this is how your child will respond best. (K-12)

My oldest two children watched History, Science and English for many years through Liahona Academy.  They loved the History teacher, Brent DeGraff, the English teacher, Sister Wilburn is very good, and we were SO disappointed when the Science teacher, Richard Rush, retired.  Liahona doesn't officially start with students till around the fifth or sixth grade.  My oldest son started watching in the third grade when I started his fifth grade sister, Kristine.  He has told me more than once that the Liahona teacher's have positively affected his "thinking".  These two oldest children did not do Liahona on an accredited track so it was very low stress.  Quite a few years later, after starting the Liahona program, I enrolled my son in a couple classes outside the home, mainly because I was having difficulty motivating him to do his math.  I figured as long as I'm putting him in a couple classes I might as well add some other children, and after that we really struggled with making time to watch Liahona.  I realize now a much better solution would have been to have a tutor come in and work with my son either once or twice a week with math.  It would have been much less expensive and less stressful than what I ended up doing! Not only that, better educations for all would have resulted! (I don't recall prayerfully considering all those choices that year as I think I just felt desperate--never a good place to be when making decisions of any sort!)

I tried again several years later with my third and fourth children, but I must have been feeling quite over-confident while planning as I not only over-scheduled, I failed to go to my Heavenly Father in humble prayer again before making each commitment (hence point 4 below!)  We signed up for the Liahona full accredited track  (3 classes) and a new Science teacher went crazy with homework assignments.  These daughters were also doing French, piano and regular church activities outside the home and it was way too much added all together. We all burned out after one semester! (Liahona let that teacher go after that one semester, so I don't think we were the only people to drop!)

Please seriously consider Liahona, however, as it is the best teaching you will find (and its even LDS) which will give you greater chances for success.  But also consider not doing the accredited track and just enjoying the classes! :-)

4. Outside Activities: Less is More

I'm still looking for the scripture that states we need to sign up our children in multiple various outside activities.  Yes, I believe in developing talents, but we must KNOW or at least feel strongly that it is Heavenly Father's will before making regular commitments of our time and resources. (Will write later about oldest son's recent music experience.  Amazing!)

5. Know Your Personality Strengths and Weaknesses & Work to Improve.
Having the spirit is the most important thing to bring out the best in each of us, but we can still study and work to improve certain personality traits.  Much of our life is determined by the the decisions other people make about us.  It helps a great deal to simply be "likable".  Joseph in Egypt (from the Old Testament) is a great example of this as well as many others in the scriptures/Latter-day prophets.  

6. You’ve only got one body. Take care of it.
I love to go walking outside with my children and push my youngest two in the jogger stroller. 

 My experience has been that pregnancy can make your body even stronger IF you will give your body the nutrients it needs. That's a big "if" and we focus a lot of energy on striving to eat as healthy as we can (most of the time) and good supplements make a very big difference for me personally.


It’s impossible, truly impossible, for us to look at our families and not think, with the help of my Heavenly Father, we have done/are doing something great with our life. Each child is such a miracle! 

Attitude is everything. We’re not any different or more amazing than any other woman out there.  But we happen to know true joy comes in "losing our life" by building up and nurturing others, not in building up ourselves or "finding our life". That is what the Lord Jesus Christ did. We serve “the least of these” because we love and in turn we are directly serving the Lord.  We become refined and purified as we turn our whole heart and mind to the Lord. Our better character is the fruit of this entire, often stretching, process called motherhood!

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