What use is it to pile task on task and prolong the days of labor, if at the close the chief object is left unattained? It is not the fault of the teachers–they work only too hard already. The combined folly of a civilization that has forgotten its own roots is forcing them to shore up the tottering weight of an educational structure that is built upon sand. They are doing for their pupils the work which the pupils themselves ought to do. For the sole true end of education is simply this: to teach men how to learn for themselves; and whatever instruction fails to do this is effort spent in vain.
(Dorothy Sayers “the Lost Tools of Learning”)
We believe in breastfeeding until the child weans his/herself, “wearing” our babies in a sling, cloth diapering etc. This is commonly referred to as “Attachment Parenting”. Over the years we have encountered (and tried) many different ideas about how to raise children. Some have worked for us, many have not. We have found that what works the very best is to listen to our hearts, and treat our children the way we would want to be treated. I do want to make brief mention here of one particular method that we are adamantly AGAINST: “Growing Kids God’s Way”, or the “Ezzo Method”. If you are curious as to why, please email me, and I will be glad to tell you. Suffice it to say that their methods are, in my opinion, and in the opinion of many states’ health departments, not only detrimental to a baby’s healthy development, but tyrannical and barbaric, as well.
So how do we discipline them? Well, usually we don’t have to! We have very close relationships with our children, and as a result, they generally do not want to disobey or disappoint us! But for the times when discipline does become necessary, the obvious approach is to take away privileges if they disobey or are disrespectful. And that certainly gets their attention. Sometimes they get “grounded”, but usually all we have to do is remove privileges. When something seems to be a problem area, we help them look up Bible verses that apply to the situation. We have found that it really helps our kids to see that we aren’t just making up rules as we go, but that our expectations are based on what God wants for all of us, not just for them. We also give our kids allowances each month, based on them keeping up with their daily chores and treating each other with respect. Overall, this is not much of a problem, although our oldest son seems to think that it shouldn’t matter to us if there are scary creatures breeding underneath the ‘stuff’ in his bedroom! He is very clear about not agreeing with us on this matter, but he is also very respectful about it, and does keep his room fairly clean! (Editor’s note: I originally wrote this in 2001, and since then, Kendall has moved out on his own, graduated from college, and gotten married! And, while he is still committed to God, and is a tremendous cook, he has yet to display any sort of commitment toward housekeeping, LOL!)
Gaylon and I are by no means perfect parents. In fact, I often joke that instead of saving for our kids’ College Education, we are putting money aside for their therapy! And, I have to be honest and say that our views on child-rearing have changed tremendously, several times, even, over the past twenty-two years. When we first started homeschooling, it was a fairly simple process. We focused on the “Three Rs”. I took the kids to the park once a week to play with other homeschooled kids (alright, the real reason was so I could get some social interaction with other homeschooled grown-ups!!), and we went on field trips to the zoo or nature center. But as our children got older, and their personalities became stronger, we had to make adjustments. For example, Kendall is social, and is a natural leader. So he was a member of our Parish Youth Board, as well as the Diocesan Youth Advisory Council. He was also active in our local Squires Group and the Youth Praise Band at our Parish, called ‘Glorified City’. And he always had a steady flow of friends coming over and hanging out at our house. Now he is off at college, and we are learning to make that transition! Alexander, on the other hand, is more artsy. He loves acting, plays piano and writes short stories. He also loves to cook and play video games. He also got a job this past August and a driver’s permit! Faith is also very social, and is into crafts. She can crochet, knit, sew and quilt. She loves singing and attending daily Mass. She is the one who most enjoys doing service projects, such as feeding the homeless downtown with ‘Mobile Loaves and Fishes’, or distributing Christmas gifts to families in need. So, we have had to adjust our schedule to accommodate all of our children’s different personalities.
I used to try to be very rigid with our “school schedule”, but have found that that just doesn’t work for us. We are all night owls, and usually stay up late, and sleep late. At first I felt guilty about this, but have now come to realize that that is one of the beauties of homeschooling. You can make your own schedule! Now I just sit down with the kids at the beginning of each school year and we figure out some loose goals for them to work toward. Kendall took classes at our local community college, courtesy of the “Dual-Enrollment” program. Alex took some classes at Dayspring Tutorials and studied Religion through our Parish and History here at home. I have used many approaches, such as Catholic Heritage Curricula, Teaching Textbooks, and Sonlight with Faith, along with Writing Strands and Spelling Power. We usually spend about 3 hours, at the most, ‘doing school’.
Another area that we have relaxed in is the area of media/entertainment. I am not much of a TV person, and Gaylon pretty much just sleeps in front of the TV. . . LOL! But we do rent a lot of movies and play a lot of video games. And all of us read a LOT. When our kids were a lot younger we were very strict about what they could watch on TV, what movies they could see, and what video games they could play. As they have gotten older, and had more interaction with other families, they have come home wanting to watch/play new things. For the most part, we let them make their own decisions in this area, but we spend time discussing the movie or game or whatever, and make sure that they know what we believe and how we feel about things. The really cool thing is that our kids have almost always made decisions that we are pleased with.
I try very hard to stay in touch with my kids, and be a part of their lives. One of the neatest compliments I have ever received was from Gaylon. He told me one night that our kids have the coolest mom in the world! I asked him what he meant by that, and he said “Well, not too many moms will go hang out in their son’s bedroom and listen to music and watch music videos on the internet with them. You actually know what they listen to, and even like some of it! And how many moms would take their kids to a concert? You are very cool.” Talk about feeling good! I really appreciated him sharing that with me. Our kids have so many friends who are afraid to talk to their parents, but my kids have come to me asking about everything from “What is marijuana?” to “What do I do about wet dreams?” No topic is off-limits in our home; we want our kids to know that we are here for them, no matter what.