The Learning Parent keeps running deals on their Character Concept material. I just received an email announcing a free set of character flash cards with the purchase of the book, Crossroads of Character. We’ve been loving this curriculum. If you’re unsure about purchasing the entire curriculum, this book and the flash cards are a great place to start! You can think of your own accompanying Bible stories and activities. (To receive updates from The Learning Parent, sign up to receive their emails.)

Each week, I post the flash card on our white board and we read the stories from the Character Concepts curriculum. These are intended for pre-school children, but Vivienne has been loving them, too! (Oh, Oh! Check out my re-purposed graham cracker box. I snipped off the top, attached a magnetic clip, and wah-lah! Our cards are right where we need them.)

Posted in Character Training, Early Elementary Education, Homeschooling | 1 Comment

A Brush-up on Whining

We’ve, erm, had to watch this little video again this week. ‘Didn’t know if you are suddenly caught in the trenches of a whiny child, but if you are, try this solution on for size:

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P.S. The book I mention is the FABULOUS Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining, and Bad Attitudes in You and Your Kids by Turanksy and Miller.

Posted in All Posts, Character Training | 5 Comments

Yikes!

Vivienne told her teacher, “You have crazy hair!”

THEN, to make matters worse, she patted her lovely teacher on the head three times and said, “Puff! Puff! Puff!”

Her teacher knows children well enough to laugh, but I remembered the times both girls have innocently commented on someone’s appearance without any concern – or understanding – of the person’s feelings. They’ve happily told people that they are “so so chubby!” or have “black teeth” or “look like a hamburger”. I think it’s time to address the issue.

So, I decided to make a rule until they are old enough to reason through the treacherous waters of commenting on another person’s appearance. My rule? Don’t do it. Just don’t ever say anything about how someone looks.

Yes, yes, I thought about being a little less legalistic and enforcing the good old, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all,” but this just wouldn’t work, because what the girls think is “nice,” other people think is “not nice”. For example, when I tried to explain to Vivienne that no one wants to be told that they have “crazy hair,” she was shocked. I said, “We should only comment about someone ‘s appearance if we know they would really like what we said about them.” To which, she reflected, “My teacher would have liked it a lot more if I told her that her hair looked like a carnival!

Yup. A carnival.

So, the rule remains: Don’t say anything about someone else’s appearance… until further notice.

 

Posted in All Posts, Character Training | 7 Comments

Every night, we gather in the girls’ bedroom and pray together as a family. We want the girls to learn the important work of praying with one another; we want them to realize that we are all coming before God’s throne and presenting our gratitude and requests as one. If you think that the way we describe “prayer” would be helpful for your children, you could let them watch this video and talk about what this looks like in their own lives.

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Jesus said, “…where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them…” Matthew 18:20

Posted in Character Training, Motherhood | 3 Comments

In our home, we aim to use the utmost discretion with our online time and interests; Covenant Eyes helps us to make wise choices and honor our relationships. The following post is written by Luke Gilkerson, a representative of Covenant Eyes, an online accountability program that Ryan and I use and promote. After reading Luke’s post, please consider subscribing to Covenant Eyes to protect yourself and your family.

How many times have you heard a story about an Internet-related problem in the past few months? I’m not just talking about things like identity theft or cyber crime—I’m talking about all the poor uses of the Internet that seem to ruin lives and dissolve our most important relationships.

Headlines speak of the latest Internet predator caught in the act of grooming a teenager.New reports come out weekly about how slanderous words exchanged over e-mail or Facebook lead to broken hearts or shattered reputations. More and more studies show modern families are becoming engrossed in technology, so much so their face-to-face relationships are suffering. Literally millions of websites with graphic and degrading sexual content are available to see at the click of a mouse, and this doesn’t even include all the “grey areas” of temptation and titillation.

The common thread

What is the common thread for all of these problems? Some want to blame the technology itself. The Internet has given us a level of accessibility that, perhaps, many people are not ready to have. While this is one common thread, I don’t believe is it the most important one. I believe the problem is not mostly technological, but relational.

One of the more insidious common threads that runs through Internet-related dangers is that of anonymity. The Internet gives us the ability to experience, explore, and express ourselves in total secrecy. Knowing no one has to know what I do, what I see, or who I talk to often lowers our defenses and removes our inhibitions.

Many times, this cloak of secrecy brings out the worst in us and exposes us to the worst in others. We are like Gyges of Lydia (mentioned by Plato), who found a magic ring that could make him invisible. Intoxicated with his new power, this once-humble shepherd snuck into the palace, seduced the queen, plundered the palace, and assassinated the king. In a similar fashion, today we hide behind monitors and smartphones so we can be seduced by flickering pixels, squander our time in endless amusement, and slaughter one another with our words.

Accountability vs. anonymity

In our always-plugged-in culture, the battle must be waged on two fronts.
The first front is the gate of our own hearts. Try as we might, we cannot blame technology for corrupting us. Technology has only exposed how easily corruptible we really are.

The first front, therefore, is our accountability to God Himself. We must admit to ourselves and to God our weaknesses when it comes to living lives of faith in the Information Age. We must train ourselves and our children to recognize that, despite the apparent anonymity of the online world, nothing escapes God’s penetrating gaze. He is always present.

The second front of the battle is our connection to other people. Despite the fact that much of our time online is private time, we should not be seduced into believing what we do online does not impact others.

The second front, therefore, is our accountability to each other. We must live transparent and open lives before those we trust. Doing this shatters the strong illusion of anonymity, which stops temptations and traps before they start. For the sake of ourselves and our children, we must counter the culture of secrecy with a new culture of accountability.

A tool that makes the job easier

The reason I’m so passionate about this is because I’ve spoke to countless people who have experienced the dark side of the Internet. I’ve listened to wives cry over their husband’s raging porn addictions. I’ve seen fathers bury their heads in anxiety over the photos their son saw online late at night. I’ve spoken with young women who, in their teen years, were seduced by men three times their age online. I’ve spoken to people whose reputations are shattered because of the vicious words shared the Internet.

I’ve also spoken to many people whose lives have been changed by Internet accountability. This is why I love my job at Covenant Eyes.
For 11 years Covenant Eyes’ goal has been the same: provide people with practical tools that encourage accountability online. Over a decade ago we pioneered an Internet accountability service, providing people with easy-to-read reports of how the Internet is used in their home so they can be transparent with others. Over the years, and with the help of hundreds of thousands of comments from our members, these reports have gone through many evolutions.

The most recent evolution was a brand new web rating system. Many people benefit from rating systems for other forms of entertainment—like movies or video games—and yet the Internet is one of the primary sources for entertainment and information today. Why not rate the Web too?

This is exactly what Covenant Eyes does. When you use Covenant Eyes on your PC, Mac, or mobile device, every web address you visit is cataloged and rated according to six age-based ratings (like T for Teen or M for Mature). All of that information is put into a report and e-mailed regularly to a friend, mentor, spouse, parent, or anyone else you want to see it. The Web ratings make the report easy to scan for relevant information.

Plus, the reports are totally customizable. Perhaps you’re a parent who wants to see what your 10-year-old does online: you might want to see when Teen websites are accessed. Or perhaps you’re a guy who is holding your friend from church accountable: you might want to see only when Mature or Highly Mature sites are accessed. It’s entirely up to you.

The reason for all this detail is simple: Covenant Eyes knows the most important element of accountability is conversation. If a report is too cumbersome, includes too much or not enough information, or doesn’t highlight potential problems, then informed conversations don’t happen.

And in a world where sin thrives in the anonymity of the Web, can we afford not to expose these dark places to the light of accountability?

 

Luke Gilkerson is the general editor and primary author of  Breaking Free, the Covenant Eyes blog. Luke has a BA in Philosophy and Religious Studies and is working on an MA in Religion from Reformed Theological Seminary. Before working at Covenant Eyes he spent six years as a college campus minister. He is also the author of Porn in the Pews: Teaching Your Church about the Dangers of Pornography. He lives in Michigan with his wife Trisha and two sons, Bradley and Cameron.

 

Would you like to sign-up for Covenant Eyes?
1. Visit Covenant Eyes to sign up for the program.
2. The cost is $8.99/ month for the first Accountability Username on the account.  You may add Accountability Usernames for $2.00 each per month.
3. To receive your first month free, use the affiliate code: 10millionmiles to let them know you found out about the program here.

 

Posted in All Posts, Character Training, Healthy Living, Marriage, Motherhood | 1 Comment

(Photo found through google…)

The year was 1990.

I was in sixth grade.

P.E. class was an awkward mess of polyester gym shorts and high-top sneakers left over from the eighties. Our teacher, Mr. Zook, divided the year into units: the scooter unit, the basketball unit, the Presidential Fitness Award unit, and so on. My two favorites were the gymnastics and the parachute units.

During the gymnastics unit, Mr. Zook set up a “Wild Jungle” obstacle course that we would navigate, getting rope-burn from the “Enchanted Swinging Vines,” waddling across the parallel bar “Bridge of Danger,” and leaping clumsily over “Big Bertha,” a foreboding elephant made out of a mounting horse and several red tumbling mats. In broad daylight, we wise sixth graders would have seen this exercise as insultingly immature, but Mr. Zook was no fool and he dimmed the lights, transforming a make-shift obstacle course into a truly wild jungle.

However, the wild jungle wasn’t nearly as enchanting as the parachute unit! We glowed with anticipation the day the large silky parachute lay across the gymnasium floor. With Mr. Zook’s “okay,” we’d circle the parachute, grab two handfuls of silk and listen for his instructions.

“On the count of three, let’s raise our arms to the sky!” The parachute would rise above our heads and we’d look up at its silky underbelly, giggling at the secrecy we felt by standing under its shadow.

Then, “Shake your hands up and down!” The parachute would jiggle and ripple above our heads as we worked together to create sheer magic. Even the most sophisticated sixth graders fell into the enchantment of the jiggling parachute.

“Now, on the count of three, pull the edge of the parachute down to the ground. One, two, three!” As the silk slapped against the air, we’d pull our small section down, squatting on the gym floor, admiring the beautiful silky dome we’d just created together. This was unity.

This was beauty.

That year, the temptation was simply too much for me. I gently released my fists-full of fabric, stepped back, and took a running leap into the middle of the billowing dome.

Freeze Frame: Picture sweet little side-pony-tailed Laura in polyester blue gym shorts suspended in mid-air; feet kicked back, arms joyfully raised to the sky, head thrown back in anticipation.

Unfreeze, and hear my sweet little knees smash into the hardwood floor as the parachute implodes under my body. One look at my face would tell you that I had just learned a very valuable lesson: that everything that looks like a fluffy billowing pillow, isn’t a fluffy billowing pillow.

***

“…test everything; hold fast to that which is good.” 1 Thess. 5:21

Posted in All Posts, Character Training, Healthy Living | 1 Comment

(I wrote this post way back in 2007, but reading it again was refreshing to me.

I hope it helps a whimsical heart in your life… especially if she’s younger than 25.)

Like a butterfly flitting from flower to flower, floating up to the blue autumn sky, then fanning its wings beautifully on a blade of dewy grass only to be plucked from the land of the living by the chubby fingers of a curious child, the whimsical heart can be both beautiful and risky.

I know; I have one.

The whimsical heart might be admired from afar. Who doesn’t love a romantic comedy that encourages the whimsical blond-haired lead to “keep bein’ you!” and demands that everyone else stand back and let the little one fly free? And what’s not to love? The whimsical heart is romantic, creative, passionate, joyful, fun-loving, and unique. That’s the part they show in the movies, anyway. What they don’t show is that the whimsical heart is also uncontrolled, shifting, and easily tossed about. Without boundaries, a whimsical heart follows Sensationalism, Emotionalism, or Selfishness, which all end up in disaster (even though it was deliciously fun getting there).

Even whimsical hearts who love God can spin ’round and ’round because we naturally approach God and His Word as a refreshing frolic or a gorgeous piece of artwork. Although our hearts might break over the beauty of the King, it might never dawn on us that His kingdom is full of practical wisdom for our day-to-day actual behavior.

On our own, we can’t easily discern between God’s definition of “lovely” and the world’s definition of “lovely”…

Nor do we remember that it’s important to discern between the two in the first place…

Nor do we necessarily want to discern between the two.

But we are far happier when we finally do.

These meditations have developed over the years as I consider my regrets: things I’ve said, done, or thought in the past that give me shivers today. I can’t tell you how often my heart will seize in memory of something so ugly or ungodly that I’ve done, believing at the time that I was being funny or sensual or fabulous!

Over the past ten years, I’ve grown increasingly tired of learning about healthy boundaries through mistakes I’ve made rather than through wisdom and warning. It wasn’t until I turned 25 that I felt a defining moment in my ability to consciously discern between wisdom and foolishness. (I found out later that our brains are not fully developed until we are 25 years old. Let’s just say, I could tell.) So, I’ve been asking God to give me some insight about my heart and some guidance for the future. God revealed some boundaries that I will need to keep in place in order to be transformed from an uncontrolled whimsical heart to one that is controlled by the Holy Spirit and who stands firm in the Truth.

A Whimsical Heart Needs:

* Friends and relations who love our personhood, aren’t intimidated by a little passion, and aren’t as easily convinced that every whim is gorgeous and right.

* The permission to acknowledge that we actually do need boundaries (lots of people want to “rescue” the whimsical heart from boundaries by encouraging it to be more free, when in fact they are pushing it towards chaos); the faith to believe that those boundaries will only cause our creativity and passion to flourish.

* Deep instruction in the Word of God that demands a practical, consistent, behavioral response.

* The courage to sloooooow down and respect warnings, consequences, and practical wisdom.

* The divine ability to love the unchanging direction of the Holy Spirit over our own shifting passions.

Thy word is a lamp until my feet and a light unto my path. Psalm 119: 105

Posted in Character Training, Healthy Living, Marriage, Motherhood | 6 Comments

Is It Here Yet?!

Mouth wide-open, she juts her lower jaw in my direction.

A row of tiny baby teeth stare up at me. Her eyes are eager for my evaluation. With jaw jutted out, she manages to ask “Is it yoose yet?” she asks excitedly.

I press the tip of my pointer finger to the tip of her tooth and move it back and forth over a firmly rooted pearl. “MaybeI say, hoping it *might* have moved the tiniest bit of a smidgeon today!

Every day, she asks. Once in the morning, and once at night. Without fail, the jaw juts out, “What do you think? Is it any looser??”

I notice that lately, she is mesmerized by the possibility of losing a tooth. When we took our seats at the theater, she took her coat off and promptly commenced in wiggling that tooth. When she washes her hands at the bathroom sink, I peek in and notice that she is smiling oddly at herself, staring intently at her bottom teeth. She grips that tooth and tugs and wiggles, believing the time has truly come to say good-bye. It’s just the waiting that takes so very long.

Whenever she pleads, “Is it loose yet? Is it loose yet?”, I review my entire life, full of seasons in which I’d wonder and wonder…

When will I be pregnant? When will I be pregnant?

And before that, When will I meet my husband? When will I meet my husband?

And before that, When will I graduate? When will I graduate?

And before that, When will I get my license? When will I get my license?

And before that, and before that, until I was a little girl, hoping that I felt the slightest possibility of a tooth wiggling.

As I gently push her tooth back and forth, and gaze into her bright eyes, I realize, “Ah, so this is when it all begins! All the days of hoping, waiting, and expecting the next big thing on the calendar!”

At first, I want to advise her not to obsess. I think to tell her, “Just let nature do its thing. Of course your teeth will fall out soon, it’s just a matter of time. Besides, this is cold season, so don’t put your fingers in your mouth!” But then I reflect on all of the hoping that has consumed my own life, and I’m thankful that I rarely had the courage to defer hope. I’m glad I prayed and prayed and prayed for a baby, and then another one, and then another one, and then another one. I wouldn’t change a thing about the prayer lists that went around the Bible study group, on which I’d jot the same request week after week, “We would love for God to give us another child…” Because, at each stage of life, when the hoping was fulfilled – when a tooth finally letting loose, or a child was born – I received a full dose of life.

(After all, wasn’t it Noah who sent forth one bird, after another, after another, hoping for the dry land – hoping for the fulfillment of the covenant?)

And so, I will check in on that little tooth every day for her, if she asks. And I will let live the hope that is just beginning to exercise itself. For what begins in a 5 1/2 year old will grow, deepen, mature, trust, and wait over a lifetime…

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick; but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” Proverbs 13:12

Posted in All Posts, Character Training, Healthy Living, Motherhood | 3 Comments

Apology Accepted!

Every day, Vivienne takes a quiet time during Lia’s nap time. Lia sleeps for 2 – 3 hours; Vivienne reads or plays quietly in the guest room for 1 hour.

The other day, Lia happened to wake up 13 minutes before Vivienne’s quiet time ended. Vivienne came downstairs and reasoned with me, “Well, Lia’s up now, so my quiet time should be over.”

Knowing that my one-time decision would affect day, after day, of quiet times, I tried to be nice and firm when I said, “If you want to be treated like Lia, you can take a 3-hour nap tomorrow. OR, you can finish your 13 minutes of quiet time today.”

Needless to say, she quickly returned upstairs.

When her hour was complete, she came downstairs with this adorable apology. (The artist explained that I was the middle curly-headed woman who received the Blue Ribbon… #1 Mommy!”) Now this is the kind of apology I need to offer more often…

“Sorry for what happened 13 minutes ago.”

Posted in Character Training, Motherhood | 8 Comments

One of our most successful training tips is tucked in at Raising Homemakers today!

Click on over to read more.

Posted in Character Training, Motherhood | 1 Comment