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Teaching/mothering tips

Renee Ellison's tools for effective teaching, and inspirational thoughts about being a nurturing mother.

Why classical music is important

Thursday, 27. August 2015 by Melanie Ellison

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I (Renee’s 24 yr. old daughter) recently had two friends separately ask me why classical music is so important to me, so I decided to take the time to write a thorough response. I thought you might like to read what I wrote, so here it is with a lot of links to peruse if they catch your interest…

I was raised on classical music. It started in utero, and then as a baby, my folks moved my arms and legs in ballet positions in time to classical music. By age three, I was playing the piano (video at that link). In my high school years, I was blessed to be able to solo on cello with two youth orchestras (these moments were some of the highlights of my life), playing Kol Nidrei and Prayer. Then in my one year of college (before leaving and writing the book Chucking College: Achieving Success Without Corruption) I pursued a music major, practicing I pursued a music major, practicing 3–5 hours every day and studying under a teacher who had attended Julliard. My parents didn’t accidentally raise me to love classical music. It was a deliberate move.

As believers, we cannot in good conscience let our mere preferences be the only guide in choosing the music to which we listen. Lucifer was the music director in Heaven (this assumption is based on Ezekiel 28:13, where the words that are translated “settings and sockets” mean “timbrels and flutes” in the Hebrew). This tells us two things: 1) the field of the arts can be a slippery one morally, and 2) if Lucifer had his hand in music before the angels rebelled and fell, there’s substantive reason to think he still inspires some composers and wields some types of music for his purposes.

As an example, look at Rock ‘n’ Roll. The very term is a sexual one (no further explanation necessary, I hope). Some believers will claim that there can be a Christianized form of rock music, but regardless of the lyrics, the beat appeals to the flesh (how does your body want to move when you are “worshipping” to such music?). Conversely, classical music invigorates the brain. It is very mathematical and ordered. The strong beats on 1 and 3 align with the human heart beat: ONE two THREE four; whereas in rock music, the strong beats are emphasized on the off beats 2 and 4: one TWO three FOUR (causing chaos within the body’s natural rhythm).

Not only does classical music appeal more to the brain than the flesh, it also requires extensive mental effort to play. Researchers say that it is only after 10,000 hours that a musician reaches the level of expert fluency on a classical instrument. The mental rigor required to play or understand classical music is a large part of what appeals to me about it. It’s not so much just the music but the culture of discipline that permeates the whole life of one associated with such music. There is an understanding that it might take years to master a piece of music, and that disciplined application toward goals carries over into other areas of life as well.

Homeschool convention speaker Andrew Pudewa has an excellent talk on The Profound Effects of Music on Life (I highly recommend it). As one of his points, he talks about a music study that was done on mice. The study was conducted with three groups of mice. One group listened to rock music for 24 hours, another group listened to Mozart for 24 hours, and the control group had silence. At the end of the 24 hours, each group was sent through a maze and timed. The rock group stumbled into the walls and retraced their steps confusedly; the classical group made it to the end of the maze in record time; and the control group was mediocre. This proves that music actually has an effect on ordering or disordering the brain. And also, it is to be noted, listening to classical music is even better than not listening to anything at all.

Choice of music carries over into worship as well. Hymns are much deeper in content and musicality than much modern praise music. It has been said that the repetition of some modern praise songs is the equivalent of singing “Mary, the cows are in the corn. Mary, Mary, Mary, the brown cows, the brown dairy cows are in the corn. They are in the tall, tall corn. And I feel good about the cows. I just want to go lay my head on the cow…” (Otherwise described in the classic and hilarious Youtube video: How to Write a Worship Song in 5 Minutes or Less—946,000 views). Compare that to the theological progression of depth in a four-verse hymn. Also, in hymns, if the words are serious about our Messiah on the cross, for instance, the music will deliver the same message and not be flippant. Admittedly, there are a few wonderful modern praise songs (including this one that I recorded merged with a hymn), but in general, hymns are preferable.

In composer Ben Botkin’s talk The Power and Importance of Music, he asks the pointed question: “What kind of music do you want to be the sound track for your life?” It may take a choice of the will to start listening to a different type of music, but soon you will grow to love it. It is especially helpful to attend a concert in person where you can watch the choreographed dance of the orchestra and the intrigue of each person’s unique approach to the whole. One tip is to find out when the dress rehearsal is for your city’s symphony and attend that for free. It can be very engaging to watch the process of how a concert is put together. There is less pressure on families with small children to be absolutely still and quiet during a rehearsal (I have fond memories of growing up dancing down the aisles and writing letters to penpals during symphony rehearsals).

I highly recommend watching this presentation by master conductor Benjamin Zander: The Transformative Power of Classical Music.

As far as composers that I recommend listening to, Bach is at the top of the list. Since he was a believer, at the beginning of each composition he wrote at the top of the page J.J. (for “Jesu Juva”—Latin for “Jesus help me”), and when he had finished, he marked the music S.D.G. (“Soli Deo Gloria”—to God alone be the glory). Renowned musicians say they can practice his music all their lives and still discover something new (not true of more modern composers). Mozart and Beethoven are also excellent choices.  We have an engaging CD of the biography of Bach available.

in case you want a listening list to go through during meals or housecleaning, here are some of my all-time favorites (many of which I have personal connections to—either having played them or known someone who did),

Theme from Schlinder’s List by the great violinist Itzhak Perlman
Dvorak, Silent Woods, Yo-Yo Ma on cello
Bach Harpsichord Concerto in D Major
Bach Violin Partita in E Major
Chopin Nocturne transcribed for cello
Bach French Suite No 5 for piano
Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2
Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto
Mendelssohn Octet
CPE Bach Cello Concerto
Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy
Handel’s Messiah (all 2 hours)
Beethoven’s 5th Symphony

Fun videos for the children:
Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee (Beethoven) flashmob!
The William Tell Overture (with movements!!!)
Flight of the Bumblebee performed on piano by an amazing boy
3 year old Jonathan conducting
Victor Borge Classical comedian: Hungarian Rhapsody
              The Minute Waltz for two pianos
Blue Danube Waltz by the Vienna Philharmonic, with stunning ballet
Almost Angels — a 1962 movie about the Vienna Choir Boys

And this is just the start! Each of these videos will link you to many other good ones.

The grown daughter/aging mother dynamic

Friday, 21. August 2015 by Renee Ellison

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Having taken back spiritual territory from the culture, many Christian grown daughters, who haven’t married yet, are currently living in their birth home, under their parents.  In previous generations, this was not the case.  Generally, the grown daughter got married and was gone, or she moved out while still single, and was gone.  In both cases, she was gone.  But recently, as a result of our shift in thinking as believers, we now have a very different dynamic to deal with, as aging homeschooling mothers.  We solved the problem of how to protect our daughter from severe temptations during her tender years (scores of temptations that could have ruin the remainder of her life), but now we have a very different kind of challenge to deal with.  Now we have two matured women, capable of running households apart from each other—the mother AND the daughter, presently reigning over ONE domestic domain.  Because of the strong nesting instinct in both women and the territorial preferences of each one, there can be friction.

Because of our wide exposure to hundreds and hundreds of homeschooling families through state convention work, we have seen examples of this older mother/daughter duo that work out well and conversely, examples of this duo that are relational disasters—and everything in between.  Here is some clarity about why this dynamic may not work out well sometimes, and how to fix it.

In every case, where the grown daughter/aging mother relationship is under severe stress it is due to unspoken engulfing expectations, each of the other.  Because it is a living situation and not a job situation, there is no way to get away from the chronic pain 24/7 of unspoken, brooding expectations on both parts, taking place in one of the closest relationships on earth—with one’s own mother or one’s own daughter, who have hardly taken a breath apart from each other for 18 long years.  Because women are feelers and have social antenna out 100 yards from themselves, there can be deep anguish going on that is never spoken about, and a feeling on both parts of being trapped.

So let’s get up and out of the morass and clarify some issues that are true in every case of this duo.  There is blue sky up ahead, if we’ll understand these issues and talk about them. The sooner we do it, the better.

Re: the daughter:
If one plays this chapter right, not only the spiritual advantages, but the fiscal advantages of continuing to live at home can be real and can be very significant, particularly if one doesn’t go to college.  (For more on that, read Chucking College to see inside the college loan debt nightmare.)  Never again will a grown daughter have a chance to earn money to build a nest egg for her future, at this exponential speed.  By not having to pay rent and in some cases food and gas bills, as well, the daughter can contribute to building up her own future home, whether she remains single or marries.  Just because she may marry, doesn’t mean these short-lived, rare, fiscal opportunities are to be squandered.  Who doesn’t need more money, while building a young family or when one’s parents age and/or die?  The young man, if he is smart, will be using his early years to save up for these eventualities, as well.  Just because he will bear the lion’s share of this job, doesn’t mean the young woman can’t contribute to doubly bless their lives together.  Every stable future individual fiscal mini-empire is built with a nest egg as the starter rung on the ladder.  Without a nest egg, there is nothing to lay as a foundation that is strong enough to stabilize growing fiscal pressures.  Such a chance to build sure future fiscal growth for the future, by aggressive savings now, doesn’t come around again in one’s lifetime.

Now, here’s the rub.  In exchange for this chance to partake in rapid savings, mothers, often without verbalizing it, expect a return of shared domestic output to run the home.  The problem is that in many cases, the expectation becomes infinite.  This greatly frustrates the grown daughter.  She eventually, comes to desperately realize that no time is her own.  She is always “on duty”—always “on call”—because she knows that her parents are due an infinite debt of gratitude for this fiscal arrangement.

Re: the mother:
If the mother sees that the daughter is not using her hours for either domestic output or to earn a living, this gnaws on the mother and is taken out upon the daughter through disparaging looks, withholding affirmation, smoldering silences, etc.  This becomes torture for the daughter who is oblivious to the problem she is creating by her laziness.

To compound the problem, both mother and daughter define laziness/free-time differently—everyone does, even after young gals marry and run their own households.  Many a mother-in-law and/or mother look upon even their married daughters with what they think is bull’s eye accuracy, which manifests in condescension, and withholding affirmation for anything else that is going on that is good in the emerging daughter’s life.

Thus, in this mother/daughter duo there often exists this crisis of expectations that must be talked through.  At first, we may shrink back, thinking this is far too fragile a dynamic to openly talk about—that “mother-love”, or “daughter-love” wouldn’t do it.  But if the duo don’t talk about it, and it exists, it may ruin the relationship for the rest of their lives.  Any way you slice it, this is a long-term, life-time relationship that one must work upon to get it right.  One can’t take back the feelings and impressions this chapter of “tight” living situation produces, if it is deteriorating in the hearts of one or both women.  Either talk about it, or watch it crash and burn, to your own, far deeper sorrow, than merely that the dishes didn’t get washed today.

So, here is what you talk about:
Since the mother and the daughter both have both domestic burdens and fiscal burdens they need to talk about the boundaries of these individual challenges and pursuits

—have the daughter clearly estimate how much money she will make in a month and how she will make it—given the gift of this free living situation.

—have the mother clearly define what must be done domestically in the home, and who is ideally responsible for what

—thirdly, talk about space issues—what space belongs to the mother and what space may belong totally to the daughter (to either be fastidiously neat in, or looser than her mother organizationally—depending upon her individual wiring).  If this space separation is not achievable in the home, then consider an addition of an RV in the driveway or backyard.  This accommodation must be made for mature people; every adult has a large private life going on inside her head.  There is to be no uninvited reading of each other’s mail, email, diaries, etc.  Privacy is an adult right of passage.  The mother must treat the single daughter psychologically the same as she would regard her grown married daughter, as if she has already moved out and now has her own life to express and live.  Micro-managing must cease.

Because both women are mature, their work/domestic preferences will be pronounced and strong and will, in most cases, be different.  As the daughter becomes more and more developed and differentiated, she will express herself in both of these domains differently from the mother, so achieving mutuality in these spheres of work is a delusion.  Both the fiscal pursuits and the domestic pursuits must be given space to be individually pursued in one’s own way—i.e., give each other space to do jobs differently without the invasion of the opinions of the other.   The more work fusion, the more emotional confusion there will be.  This may even require that the other adult woman gives the kitchen over to the other one—does not interfere with suggestions, opinions, etc.—and is nowhere around as the other one is working.  Defer and be polite, here. 

—if there is tension over any of these issues, stop and reach agreement on paper about them.  Talk about it some more, until there is mutual consensus about expectations coming from both directions.

then talk about taking domestic “turns of duty”, and what that looks like—so that the mother is fully “on cooking duty” for one day and the daughter is fully “on cooking duty” for the next day—alternating back and forth (or if you prefer you can alternative weeks)—both a mother and a daughter need to be fully off duty to maintain sanity and longevity in the midst of this ongoing living arrangement.  Otherwise, chronic long-term grey areas will produce emotional fog and heaviness and stressful private mental gymnastics and escapisms.

—and mothers, be sure that you don’t view your grown daughters as “go-fers”—as personal appendages to yourself to get things done for you.  Live your life as if your daughter is not in your home; find your own solutions.  Your married children are free of you, and so it must be in your mind regarding your at-home grown child.  If your daughter volunteers to help you, or if you pay her, that is acceptable, but no adult can have a private butler/maid on call for any instance or time without compensation.  If such a dynamic exists it will boomerang on you.  The adult child will flee away from you— if not physically, she will run away mentally.  This is a stiff loss, reaping deep sorrow, for lack of a mother’s wisdom in this area.

View yourself as coming up under your daughter to enlarge and serve and strengthen her future life—which will all too soon, in the majority of cases, not be under your domain anymore.  The only thing that will live on are the memories of that grown time with you—so see to it that they are good ones.

If your at-home daughter is not earning money, or doing domestic work that amounts to the same (figured by tabulating her hours and duties on paper and valuing that work commensurate with sustaining her life as a single person, living alone); if she is, in fact, freeloading, then you must go back to the drawing board and point out that this existence is not possible in the real world and that if the income or domestic output doesn’t increase, she must leave.  By the way, this is an absolute must for any emerging son in your home; where there isn’t the domestic compensations complication in tabulating what exists.  Don’t allow your son to freeload for one day.  It could ruin his manhood.

Teaching our children how to wisely relate to peers

Wednesday, 12. August 2015 by Renee Ellison

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One of the great pressures of peer relationships often takes the form of “wowing” each other with trivia.  In the world we see it with body tattoos, hair dyed green, sharing some shocking DVD, movie, or byte from a CD, and wowing our friends with tricks and crude jokes.  It can further descend into DARING one’s peers…yes, all the way to gang activity and murder as an initiation rite.  Not only does the fear of men give rise to temptations to fit in with them, at any cost just to please them, but to have this edge of wowing them.  For Christians, of course, these peer temptations are far more subtle, but they still exist. 

Friends who seek to “serve” their friends, relatives, elders, guests instead of to “wow” them wind up endearing themselves to those people at a very deep level. Such a friend’s focus is upon meeting the other person’s needs, not satisfying his own need to be applauded or revered.  It is a choice between a temporary high (receiving the transient praise of men, quickly now) and gaining a friend who would die for them, the love runs so deep.

Carrying heavy luggage, serving a meal, washing a visitor’s car, mowing someone’s lawn unexpectedly, privately fixing something, etc.—these are the kinds of things that are the weightier jaw-droppers in feeding a friendship.

Wowing, on the other hand, rather than serving, has a deep downside.  I once knew a ballet/modern dancer who was addicted to having people praise her.  She said it was awful; the praise was never enough.  When some activity has the potential for invoking praise, it can be engulfing.  As another example, a young man in our town was quarterback on the football team in high school.  Every time he “breathed” he was written up as “something” in the local newspaper.  When he was suddenly finally taken off the field in an ambulance due to a football injury, never to play again, his purpose in life vanished and he sank into a deep depression for years; he just couldn’t get going in a normal world.

As parents (or grandparents, for that matter), we can be sensitively training children in this primary attribute of friendship: death to self. God’s will for us, as completed, mature believers is a totally flexible, supple will.  The Heavenly Father even required it of the Messiah.  “Not my will but Thine” was His Son’s evidence of a hard won personal maturity.  The ability to self-soothe, to subdue one’s own will, IS what maturity IS.  The ability to say “down boy” to our weaker, darker side at every turn is evidence of a refined personal self-management.  The possibility of such a state is assumed in the creation of a final judgement: men ARE ultimately accountable for their own wills.

So, the focus of our parenting/grandparenting needs to be upon training a totally flexible, supple will in our offspring.  That means crossing self-indulgence at every turn.  “Anything is fine with me for the good of others”... is the goal.  As it incrementally grows, via good parenting, it will beget the offspring’s ultimate happiest state.  Sin is spelled with an “i” in the middle.  Hell is endless “me”.

The main thing in home education

Wednesday, 01. July 2015 by Renee Ellison

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The key ingredient in all education is personal investment—i.e. one-on-one time—man-power—attentiveness.  A child can really be educated using any materials, even old encyclopedias, or just the Bible, if the attentiveness factor from another adult is maximized.

If your student is little, any book you buy, no matter how expensive or wonderful, will fall flat unless you (or some other adult) are personally sitting next to your child through the process.  Children learn internal discipline by many experiences of external discipline with someone.  If you can’t afford to hire additional help, then rotate through your children with undivided attention from you and/or your husband for each subject, for each session—and you will find that both you and your children will be far less frustrated and will accomplish more.  Give it all you’ve got.  Table other outside involvements for several years, until you have conquered the academic basics solidly.  Also, do any of your media/email/i-Phone stuff after you have superintended your children’s schooling for the day.  Otherwise, those other activities will eat up your day and you will observe, sadly, that you have given the prime time of your day to relationships that have far less depth for you.  Your children and your husband are it for depth smile.

Investing in your children is your most rewarding and glorious investment; all others pale in comparison.  One day you will hear the Lord will tell you: “Well done, good and faithful servant” when it is all done.

The reason I focus so much upon getting as much of it up and running with the A.C.E. curriculum is to eventually free the mother from having to carry, personally, so many academic details for each of her children for 12 long years.  The more she carries, the more potential for “mama-burnout.”  Feel free to use all of your current homeschooling materials, if you like, but as you may already realize, the sheer quantity and varying types of them will bog down your day.

The key idea is to eventually get schooling functioning without you—so that you can maintain the discipline, dinner, and desire for your hubby smile—and dive into a good book for yourself, now and then.  Eventually, when it is all running smoothly, you can still personally teach your offspring the academic topics that you are personally passionate about—but only when you want to—not have to.

Two academic principles

Tuesday, 23. June 2015 by Renee Ellison

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Two general academic principles:

One:
Always reduce emotional resistance by doing everything FOR the child, initially, and as long as he needs it—i.e. all he has to do it repeat orally or copy (writing).  Just going through the process IS education.  (In later years, that may even occasionally mean seeing the answer first, to provide the “aha” and then working backwards from it.)

The mere fact that the child is interfacing with materials produces education, at least on some level.  It always must begin with familiarity, as in,“I’ve done this before, step by step with an adult, and now I’m confident enough to do it myself.”  A child learns internal discipline by many experiences of external discipline provided by the tutor.

Two:
Always reduce the visual field—the amount that you are directly working with, by covering up the rest of the page.  This way, the child doesn’t subliminally carry the whole larger task, and is able to have many little mini-successes continually. Providing bite-sized-tasks is the name of the game throughout all of childhood, in every area.

The socialization dilemma

Saturday, 14. February 2015 by Renee Ellison

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The question:

A customer wrote:

“At present I have an 8 year old boy who loves to go out and play around with some neighbor 11 year old boys who are not the worst but they go to school and love fighting and robber games, which we have as a rule not encouraged in our home. He is then acting up inside the home, and starting to display the beginnings of a sour attitude. He has always been a very gentle and sensitive child who responded well to discipline. I’m wondering how I can display the sort of words and smiles you mention here when really I’m worried about him - what have I done wrong? What can I do about him? It doesn’t help that we are labeled “exclusive” at our church because we homeschool, and we don’t come from Christian homes and have no support from either friends or family. The pressure is beginning to tell on us and our kids look as though they were wishing they could just do the stuff everyone else is doing. We have fun with our kids working together, reading and listening to missionary stories, going on walks and kayaks together. But it seems the world is pushing in on is so hard and we might lose the battle already. We also have two daughters aged 5 and 2. How can we display all the love we long to when we are having these pressures and worries?”

Some answers:
My friend Eileen, who has a large family with a spread of ages, nailed it with the “communication key”.  That is the top concept.  She wrote:

“We drive two hours to and from shabbat almost every week and we still come against bad influences.  The only thing that I find that helps is intense time before… giving instruction on what is expected behavior, and after… going through all that they experienced and discussing what was pleasing to Abba and what wasn’t.  We also have to immediately deal with things they have seen or heard when they are around others.  For example, families who don’t believe in discipline, is this right or wrong, what does Abba say?  The more evil we come against, the more time we must put in to counteract. More Bible memory and more cuddle time to increase a loving attitude toward mommy and daddy.”

I would add three things more, as well…

Continually point out to them cases of where bad influences and poor personal choices turned out poorly for the unwise person. Appeal to their own self-interest and their own future protection, sparing them grief, for their own future betterment.  Let them know that you want them “to ride on the heights of the earth” for their sakes, because you and the Lord view them as so valuable in His kingdom.  This has a different “feel” than “thou shalt nots.”  This is a “let’s run with champions” feel.

Also, at some strategic moments one can almost appear cavalier, as a parent, about telling them that it is for their sake and not yours.  You could make these sorts of statements: “I’ve already made my choices; this is your life, and only you will live with the results.”  Or, “We don’t want you to have the emotional pain so and so lives with, or the practical fallout and negative effects, or to suffer backtracking in this area.”  This heightens their anxiety, when they see you “checking out.”  Don’t over-use this tactic, but it is good sometimes.  It is just one more tool in your parental belt to wield when the moment is right.

Two:
Minimize the amount of worldly input into your children’s lives. Certainly there should be none at all in your home—and there should be shortened exposures outside of the home.  Have other children into your home, and almost never have your children in other people’s homes unless you are there, as well.

Three:
Go deeper with siblings. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s birth family did this to the max, as did Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s.  We can encourage our children to dote on younger siblings more and to adore older siblings more; this will prepare them to one day be able to extend additional kindnesses to one’s spouse.  There are inexhaustible possibilities for expressions of love within the family that most secular families know little about.  This extends the child’s patience with relating, and takes him into an understanding of “empathy.”  It moves children deeper into realizing the differences of others’ brains and wiring, and brings them into relational surprises of the good sort, as well as shaping in them the grace of loving endurance.  Because eventually there are hard patches of loving any human—a spouse, a child or a disintegrating elderly person under our care for months or years far past our patience—and for teaching them how to cope with a host of differing and difficult personality types in every direction in one’s larger life.

It is only an American concept that we can choose our friends infinitely and only waltz with those who delight us—and to dump them, on a whim, when they don’t.  Having 600 Facebook friends is the antithesis of loving in the “daily round of duty” with a few.  The hard work of love is exactly that—hard work—but what it wonderfully yields, what we ultimately come to understand, is that love is never about the object of our love, but about growing our own capacity to live out His infinite love in our own spheres.  It was not the beauty of us, or any other alluring attributes from us, that coaxed the Almighty into loving us; it was sheer divine grit.  That was infinite “God-ness.”

‘Tis NEVER too late to parent BETTER

Sunday, 08. February 2015 by Renee Ellison

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If you are only just now seeing the big picture of raising godly seed, and a higher standard of parenting, do not despair about the years before now, that were not so well spent.  It is only the Enemy that tells us we are too late to really parent well.  It is never too late to bond well with our children and make a huge impact upon their lives.  Never too late.  You can begin afresh this very minute.

If you feel that the past has been a complete wash, start by focusing on what is most important: your own personal repentance and biblical imprinting on your children.  In prayer, tell God that you are sorry for your own misplaced priorities, that you didn’t “get it” about what a high calling this was and that now you want to make better decisions with your time and need His help.  Cry out to God for a turnaround in your own habits.  Trying to replace destructive habits without divine help is almost impossible.  Repentance opens up the heart to the working of the Holy Spirit—it grants Him permission to help you. 

On a practical level, replace the inferior habit (be it long phone calls, romance novels, TV shows, the idolatry of spectator sports, excess shopping, personal projects, or perhaps over-indulging a friend or relative to the harm of your own children who look to you but can’t find you because you are always preoccupied with someone beyond your immediate family) with a better habit that entices you.  If you can think of nothing else, replace all time-eaters /-wasters with family exercise.  This will start to turn your huge “ship of state” around in the waters.  Do it for 28 days straight and it will become a new, better habit.  Even if it is just a long robust family walk around the neighborhood, do it every day.  (Work up to three miles.)  This gives you bonding time with your precious children—positive emotional time not spent around chores or academics—and clears out the mental cobwebs for academic work when you get home.  Plus, it gets all of you into better shape.

Also, start massively imprinting your young children with the Bible by reading to them from Arthur Maxwell’s 10-volume The Bible Story and his set of Bedtime Stories.  Never skip a night.  Make this a non-negotiable.  We heard of one family who repeated this over and over for eight years; their children turned out phenomenally godly and holy.  This will serve as a third parent in its divine imprinting of your child.  It’s a great use of that special hour before bedtime.

Start there.  Then make to-do charts for each child and make them highly visible on a wall or door near you.  Delegate lots and lots of household chores so that you can keep your eye on the big picture of what each member of your family is doing, instead of you being down scrubbing that floor.  Have as many children as possible help you cook.  Don’t you be working in the kitchen while your children are hanging from the chandeliers.  Make them work with you.  Keep the speech upbeat and happy.  Pump the atmosphere with joy.  You want to give them joyful memories.  Was the greater bulk of the family atmosphere joy or harshness?  They’ll carry this impression with them for the rest of their lives, just like you do from your own childhood.

If you’ve completely lost control of the organization of your home, send your children and hubby away to your relatives for three days (if at all possible) and you stay home to get command of the organization of your house.  Work until you drop—‘til every muscle twitches—getting your house exactly the way you want it.

To recover lagging ineffective discipline with your children, start by saying the appropriate phrases and making loving comments with your own happy, cheerful voice.  If Johnnie is mean to Mary, you say the words Johnnie should have said—and be done with it.  For example, “Mary, I wouldn’t want to frustrate you.  I’m sorry, you’re my precious sister with whom I will rule angels in the next life.”  Then leave the room.  Johnnie will, no doubt, be left standing there with his mouth open.

Yadidahdidah—your objective is for your children to begin to feel a different energy in the home.  You, the mom, can be the example.  If the children are rude to your husband, run to him and throw your arms around him and say, “You are the best hubby and father a woman could want.  OHHHHHHH how I love you.”  Thus you indirectly correct your children by your own amazing loving example.  Start there.

The great surprise of homeschooling is that it not only conforms our children to His image, but conforms us (the parents) to His image, as well. Yup, homeschooling, done in the fear of the Almighty and by His grace, purifies two generations at once.

Instant simple one-minute speeches

Wednesday, 14. January 2015 by Renee Ellison

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Teach your children how to give quick-and-simple one-minute speeches.  Get ready for some super family fun with this idea.  Your little ones can do this, too.  Have a child stand on a stool and say a speech on any topic for one minute, out of his head.  These are even what are known as extemporaneous speeches—as are included in some speech tournaments.

The child draws a topic (which you have put in there) out of a hat and talks on it.  The stool is everything.  Via the stool the child is all of a sudden on stage and everyone is looking up at him.  He instantly feels super important.  The stool makes it—gets the child up out of the crowd.  The stool becomes the smallest most effective instant stage in the world.

‘Tis hilarious!  You may find yourselves rolling on the floor with laughter in the beginning.  Later (much later) you begin to refine their speech-making ability, teaching them how not to roll on the sides of their feet, fiddle with their hair, yank on their shirt, fidget, or say “um” too much, etc.  Order Learn to Speak with Ease for help conquering all that.

As a result of doing this over and over, children grow in their ability to think on their feet and to talk rapidly on whatever topic is handed to them in all kinds of social settings.

Start with easy topics like:
“brothers”
“red”
“chickens”
“water”
“love”
“angels”
“worms”
“how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich”

...and proceed to more difficult topics like:
“Compare and contrast David and Goliath.  How are they alike?  How are they different?”
“Why should a person read the Bible?”

Have everyone in the family take a whirl at it, even the four -year-old and even Mom and Dad.  ‘Tis great after-dinner entertainment.  A sibling keeps track of the time with a stopwatch, sand timer, clock or cell phone, and rings a dinger to stop the speaker when the time is up.  Have the timekeeper hold up five fingers for a five-second-warning when the time has almost run out.

Get ready for some splendid unusually creative fun.  You may be amazed at what your child expresses.

Map attack!

Sunday, 11. January 2015 by Renee Ellison

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Here’s a two-year old who knows the world map!  She’s got it DOWN, baby!  (Suggestion: press mute ‘til you get past the foul ad at the beginnin.)

After watching the adorable little video clip of “Lilly: The World Map Master”—the two-year old who knows the locations of even the remotest and smallest of countries “whiz-bang”—and your children are now thoroughly inspired to gain such a grasp of the world themselves, proceed like this:

They all stand in front of the map—have them clasp their hands above their heads, arms outstretched—and say this little poem to learn directions while they swing their arms in those directions, like an elephant’s trunk.  Everyone says it together:

When facing a map
Directions are a snap—
North is way up high [trunk points to ceiling]
South is cold and low [drop trunk low]
East is to my right [trunk swings to right]
and west is opposite, you know [trunk swings to left]

Then go around once more, hands still clasped, arms outstretched, making a clockwise circle:
No
Eating
Soggy
Waffles!

Now onto teaching the equator:
Draw a strong permanent wide red line all the way across the center of the map at the equator.  The children step up to the map and tap it twice (like it is a hot potato) and say: “Equator—hot! hot!”

Then progress over the next few days with learning the seven continents; they all begin with “A” but one!
Africa
America (North)
America (South)
Antarctica
Asia
Australia [together with Oceania]
Europe

Have them point to and saw them until they can do it rapidly with no help.

Next, draw a line on the floor—or masking tape a line there, far away from the map—and line the children up by twos and have them run in teams of two to the map and slam into the wall, pointing to the country you name.  See who can get there first.  Children absolutely love this game.

Then proceed to the four major oceans:
Pacific
Atlantic
Indian
Southern (the waters surrounding Antarctica)

Then proceed to the major rivers:
Nile
Amazon
Mississippi
Tigris
Euphrates
Thames (London)
Yangtze (China)
Seine (France)
Danube

Then proceed to more and more countries until the entire map is eventually known.  Tis a great after-dinner lively fun/learning family game.

Why bother educating your child?

Sunday, 21. December 2014 by Renee Ellison

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If you’re homeschooling, but some of the aspects of your children’s general education have been falling though the cracks, here are some reasons for powering-up the academics a notch or two.

Why hone in on general education:
You want to be committed to the academic endeavor in increased measure, because gaining a large general knowledge in all subjects is what I call growing a conceptual alphabet with which to understand life.  This augments children’s total view of life—gives them an intellectual confidence in navigating all social conversations and in hearing all world news—because they can pin new information into the context of something they already know.

Further, a large general education increases children’s worship of God incrementally as they grow in their awareness of the intricacy and complexity of what God hath actually wrought.  It is the uneducated who think life is simple or that they totally understand it all.  Gaining increased wholesome knowledge grows real humility: “The more I know, the more I realize that I don’t know.”  Becoming aware of how God shows forth His complexities—not only with physical matter but with designing systems in which it all works together—creates further respect for God.  And then, of course, being vaguely aware (as it happens to us) of how God makes and disciples the human being on top of all of that is mind-blowing.

All wholesome knowledge complements (as in: completes, rounds out, gives insight to) all other knowledge.  There is no downside to having our children know too much of God’s world in all of its glorious detail.  Knowledge gives a person a leadership edge, a kind of natural authority; you can’t lead other people if you know less than they do.  We want our children to be the head, and not the tail, as it says in Deuteronomy 28:13, and achieving this requires building mental muscle.

Why we don’t get to the academics routinely:
When we examine why academic education doesn’t happen, it is in invariably because the logistics, structures and routines of education aren’t settled, and the type of education we have chosen is too mother-dependent; she just can’t get to it all.  No woman is super-woman 24/7.

But, happily, there is a way to make this happen easily and largely, without a heavy demand upon mama and papa, by using the A.C.E. curriculum.  When your children read the English, Social Studies and Science ACE paces they will begin to teach you (the parents) at dinner time every night!  You’ll be amazed at how much they learn and retain. They will grow to be happily conversant in all sorts of topics, wowing the socks off of you.

Second, academics falter if there is no habit of studying.  We want to give our children a lifetime habit of continued study—of continued curiosity and of continually being well read and articulate both in speech and writing.  It has been said that “reading makes a large man, speaking a ready man, and writing an exact man.”  There is no downside to that smile !!!

A third reason is that the years of childhood and child-rearing pass all too quickly.  This is the season of life to do the lion’s share of laying the academic background for all future mental superstructures one wants to build upon that.  The remainder of life never again affords this opportunity to do it this fully.  Therefore we want to make hay while we have this chapter opened up, via a childhood that was God-given for that purpose.

A common mis-assumption about basic learning:
Here’s a final point about why educate: it is so easy as a parent, myself included, to assume that our children know everything we know.  But, sigh, they don’t; it has to be re-taught to every generation.  Children are devoid of all sorts of knowledge that we take for granted.

Implications of focusing (or not) on conquering the 3Rs:
Soooo, what are the implications?  Having this high vision of the benefits of a strong general education might reduce the temptation to have a capable young adult focus on work to the exclusion of his basic education.  Even your most hardworking child would do well to always allow for an hour or two of daily study (in addition to Bible study), even during the summers.  Just think “Abraham Lincoln” to help keep it all in balance.  Young Lincoln worked during the day and flung himself down by the fireplace light to study aggressively every evening.  He never quit the learning for the physical labor, or for developing his financial base.  He grew them both together.  William Holmes McGuffey, godly author of the McGuffey readers of the 19th century, was passionate about preaching the Good News (he memorized entire books of the Bible) and educating young children.  He declared that we must “teach our children to become lifetime lovers of learning.”

The value of establishing good educational habits:
If your home’s daily routine is often shattered or your family travels a lot, you have little hope of maintaining this academic habit unless you get organized with portable thin academically assigned storage boxes—one for each child with their name written in large print on both the top of the box and on the ends.  That way if they are grabbed and stacked in the van on the way out the door, each child can quickly open his own box and make good use of ten minutes while he is out and about with his parents.  This box is an extension of his head.  It is the very first purchase I would make.  It will be used not only for travel, but in the home, as well.  The children will tote these boxes to a more quiet room to study, or take them outside under a tree.  (Train them to always tuck the lids directly under the box each time the box is open, so no one trips on lids flung all over the floor smile .  I recommend the $4 Sterlite™ 6.2 qt. boxes with the green handles.  Having these school boxes is a must in order to successfully tote around and keep track of the A.C.E. paces and other academic materials, to not lose momentum, to keep each child organized without you, and to keep a grip on what comes next!

At home, the boxes are then to be put back in exactly the same place every time—on your learning wall set of shelves (read about that in the next blog post).  If such a system does not get put in place, much time is wasted hunting for academic materials that could be spent actually doing the academics.  Making optimal use of momentum time is the organizational principle here.

Grab the time; make the time!
We were often on the road while we were raising our daughter.  She studied year ‘round, grabbing snippets of focused time wherever life halted enough to squeeze them in, and progressing while the wheels pounded the pavement.  She accomplished volumes of study in this manner.  We constantly used the adage: “Use small minutes wisely to grow your brain; this is your life that you are building!