First, let me allay your fears, I don't know all your deep, dark secrets. The things you tell my husband in confidence remain in confidence. I have people assume that I know all about their situation and that simply isn't the case. I will smile and nod, but I probably am being enlightened by you! Truthfully, my husband's profession is too heavy for my heart, and he knows that. He is the counselor, not me. If you would like me to know something, so I can pray, please share with me. I will pray and cry or cheer alongside, but my empathy will not give you helpful counsel.
Second, am I proud of my husband? Yes. I get this question A LOT! Yes, I love his heart for helping people on their journey. The Spirit gives him the wisdom to cut through to the heart of situations. He is highly relational and I love the way God works through him. The kids and I pray for his protection and discernment to help the people God brings to his office. We are also thankful that his career keeps him attentive to the needs of his family as well. He has to practice what he advises!
Third, Yes, I also get resentful! Hurting people are rarely respectful of boundaries. When clients fail to show, it is hard not to be resentful. I see that as a time we could have spent together as a family. Weighing other's needs, which are always an emergency to them, and determining what your response to them should be, is exhausting. I face a similar battle when fielding my children's constant questions, shrieks, and requests during the day. Sometimes, it is hard to have energy left over for each other at the end of the day or week. No one likes to struggle with guilt about giving leftovers to your loved ones no matter what your profession may be. -mom or counselor
Fourthly, we need prayer and I ask you for it. We are constantly needing God's help to define our borders and safeguard our family time. Some of the topics of discussion in the office, as you may imagine, are heavy. It is hard to watch Josh care more about someone's struggle than they do. I do my best to bolster, but a covering of prayer is always welcome.
Avoiding devices completely is impossible and impractical despite how much we wish we might. The world is not suddenly going to spin backward, so it would be a disservice not to adapt to the times. I know a lot has changed and it is natural to wish for it all to just slow down. Good luck with that!
Our children are going to learn their boundaries from someone, let it be from us and not their peers who are creating multiple social media accounts to lead duplicitous lives. This age of social media is already bringing some scary things to the surface. The temptation of comparison just took hold in a whole new way. Privacy is nearly nonexistent. Cyber-stalking is real and knowing how to protect yourselves and those you love can seem a bit overwhelming!
How are we to keep our children safe as the new technology intrudes into our lives bringing unknown consequences? I can attest to only the short-term side effects because scarily, my own children are the guinea pigs for the long-term ones. I encourage you to pace your kids. Heck, pace yourself! A device without safeguards and boundaries isn't safe for anyone.
So, here are a few steps I have taken to keep my us safe. I will be writing primarily from the Apple perspective, sorry Android users.
#1 Go slow; give out devices when you are ready.
Missing out, and knowing what you are actually are missing out on, are completely different things. Just because all their friends have them doesn't mean they are ready to have one. Be sure you, as the parent, are ready for setting parameters. Boundaries only work if you stick by them and it is harder to set them after the fact. The moment you cave to your own limits you have lost ground which will only be regained painfully. Devices have an addictive quality and if you don't believe that, see how long you can go without subconsciously reaching to check your own phone!
We have a sharing policy in our house. All the devices are mommy and daddy's because we pay for them. Period. End of story! Using them is a privilege, not a right. The kids are allowed to use them as long as whatever requirements we have set are met. Requirements can be anything and everything - you are the parent - chores, attitudes, respect, and consideration. Sky's the limit!
Each house will be different depending on the age of the child and the parents' views. In our house, chores need to be done, schoolwork completed, and some time of physical activity performed before devices can be utilized. Road-trips and summer vacation we allow more leniency, but I try not to let boredom dictate usage.
We have already established the rule that social media platforms will not be happening until double digits, a history of trust and maturity in peer choices is established. This leads me to the next safeguard...
#2 Be the keeper of the passwords.
Start strong! All passwords should be known by mom and dad or the device is lost or restricted...more on how to restrict later. When I upgraded, my old cellphone programmed with my iTunes account was loaded with educational games for our kids. Anything that is downloaded to that device is also automatically downloaded to my own new one. I love this and see it as a great safeguard. I can easily delete the app without affecting the other. My kids have to come to me to input my iTunes password first. If a child learns the password (they are smart!) and wishes to bypass the asking step, I will be alerted and obviously, consequences will occur. I set up emails for my children and have full access to their accounts because mine is the emergency backup. That means any notifications of activity or password changes are sent to me.
Until they turn 18 or pay for their own phones, there will be set and discussed ground rules.
#3 Set device and app restrictions.
Under General, there is an awesome Restrictions menu. Thank you, Apple! There is even a separate restrictions pass-code (not the same as the unlock code!) on Apple devices which I highly recommend for safety. Do not give this to your child. If they are older and you trust them with their own iTunes account, great! BUT please turn off the explicit content at the very least. (sidebar: If you battle pornography, have someone you trust restrict your own device!) You don't want to deal with therapy issues when you can avoid that. Set your kids up for success! Children will test their limits and peers will be sure to enlighten them to all the wonderful and not so wonderful capabilities of their new device.
Location tracking is another beautiful thing to turn off under privacy. Switching apps to location tracking only to While In Use or Never will safeguard against cyber-stalking. Turning off all unnecessary app notification is a must for adults as well as kids. The device is a time suck, so limits its pull!
Ratings on movies, books, apps, and podcasts are adjustable under restrictions as well just to name a few. Take the time to learn the device and set the proper maturity settings. They are always adding new features which a quick internet search can help you utilize. Restriction of in-app purchases is a good place to start.
My kids are under ten, so I have restricted Safari, Siri, YouTube and all location tracking from applications on the iPads and iPhones. I downloaded OurPact which allows me to disable all apps on a certain time schedule. Facetime is linked to my device as well, so I am alerted to any incoming video calls for the present time. For a small fee you can add multiple devices and get access to more specific restricting capabilities, but I have only the free version. I find it very helpful - go to bed kid! There are many devices and apps to help do this too. The Google search engine has a safe-search mode and so does YouTube which I have enabled on all our computers in the home.
#4 Set personal restrictions.
Start off slow and let them earn more opportunity rather than having to take it away. Trust is earned and kids test their limits. Be aware of back doors (getting to things via another app - example - YouTube via Pinterest) and other addictive behaviors. Be sensitive to their posture and habits. You want to be aware if a child is changing apps when you walk into the room. A quick confiscation and double tape of the home button can reveal all open apps. I also ask that charging stations be in the main section of the house. Closed door and devices are a no go. Dinner tables should be sacred and bedtime reasonable. Bedtime means devices are dark.
#5 Ask for help.
In this day and age, we parents have a much wider village. Cousin Cody, across the country, can keep tabs on what your kids are up to and into. When social media has finally been earned, have friends and family accept your child's friend request. Hyper-vigilance can raise anxiety, so we need to have some established trust before our kids enter the world of social media. In this case, use your village to your advantage. Family and friends can help safeguard your child by commenting on their accounts or alerting you to dangerous posts. Sometimes this is a good thing and sometimes a bad. Have honest talks about the dangers of social media with your kids and encourage them to look out for their friends too. It isn't tattling when someone is getting hurt or could get hurt; it is called being a good friend. Have honest talks with your village about their sensitivity. You don't need to know every emoji your child has used, but have them monitor for signs depression or danger.
We can only protect our kids from so much. Hopefully this helps reduce a little anxiety. I am always searching for better apps and safeguards for this constantly growing and changing industry. Leave some tips for me!
Here we are again at the beginning of another school year. I am excited; I love starting things! Fresh notebooks, colorful pens, and the routine of structured learning are needed. Summer was wonderful, but we need some focus back into our days. This year will have a new challenge. We will be covering pre-k through 5th-grade topics - so ABC's through Algebraic thinking. Easy-peasy(also the curriculum base we use) - No pressure!
I am a hot-beverage drinker. There are seasons where it is creamy coffee (yum), black coffee (to prove I am not addicted to unhealthy creamers) or tea (to prove I'm not addicted to caffeine). Then the cycle repeats itself. It is mostly ritualistic, something warm to drink during my process of waking up.
In this wonderful season, while I pry my eyelids open around 7:30, my kids fend for themselves. The older two assist the younger one with his breakfast needs if I'm not up tending to my French press yet. Our go-to breakfasts consist of toast, waffles, bagels, cereal, a piece of fruit or frozen pancakes thawed in the toaster. In the summer they were allowed cartoons or games for a bit, but during the school year, there must be Bible before any devices and devices must be earned as well as utilized for educational purposes first.
Our schooling doesn't usually start until 10 am unless we have some activity planned. From wake up until 10 it is prep time aka chores and self-grooming. After chores, we may go for a walk/bike ride around the neighborhood first.
We use the online curriculum of Easy Peasy or allinonehomeschool.com. This will be my fourth year using her outline (kindergarten and first grade we did scholastic books and more games). I love how I can add or drop things easily. If we have already read a book, we substitute a different one. I can't imagine trying to homeschool without Google. There are so many resources, that it is more about restricting resources to prevent overwhelm.
My youngest is an active little boy, so learning to recognize letters includes beanbags and Nerf guns. A lot of movement is needed. It will be a LeapFrog kind of year for him. We use random printables and crafts to cement learning the alphabet as his interest holds. Naiah might also run off and play super-hero in full costume in between activities while I answer questions about his sisters' assignments.
My hands-on-learner is always asking for crafts. Joining her sister for History and Science will give her plenty of hands-on lapbook assignments. She joins in on some of brother's crafts because she loves them that much! Having siblings work together for various subjects will also free mommy to work with the other unless my input isn't needed. Kei's favorite subject is math, so we also love xtramath.org for tracking her progress. (xtramath is also free!)
I am a huge proponent of independent learning. I try and wait to interject my suggestions until they seem needed. Its okay to let your child puzzle things out; it makes their brains stretch. I love the idea of strewing resources around so they learn without even realizing it. Seeing my kids work through their checklist on their own gives me confidence that they will be self-disciplined to meet accomplishments out in the real world.
My oldest, Dassa, is a grade ahead because of her problem-solving mind. She is an overachiever and makes me look good. Temperamentally, she is very much like me, however, so we are working hard on our communication. Mommy is still learning too! ;) I am learning where my boundaries should be in this new season of three students.
The two girls are signed up for an acrobatics dance class; we are all excited about this new element being added to the routine of our week. Baby boy will get some one-on-one dates with mommy and daddy during their hour of activity, so win-win for everyone!
Last year our schooling went 2+ hours a day, but with the addition of a third student it sometimes pushes to 3ish. We get the essentials done and then break at noon to eat some lunch.
At lunch, we go over our verse of the week (a lot of these are to song!), do calendar time (for the little guy mostly), and practice our languages (Russian, German, Spanish and Sign Language). We are learning a smattering of things just to round us out.
After lunch we finish what we didn't, read a book, play a game or call some friends.
Because our curriculum is primarily based online, we invested in chrome books this year with the touchable screens. We have a bit that is offline as well, including printouts, experiments, lapbooks, board games and reading. The little guy utilizes starfall.com, abcya.com and RosiMosi learning games. He also hops on shapes, letters and numbers, shoots them or tosses them into baskets.
My husband made us a long desk for our living room. This desk allows us all to work in the main area together, holds our printer and provides separate spaces for student projects. It is important to me that I model lifelong learning to my children. I am an author in the midst of several projects, so I am constantly reading, writing or researching too. Homeschooling just means I am keeping my own skills fresh as I assist in their learning process. It is a lot of hands-on in the beginning but it quickly flourishes into self-motivation and owning their responsibility.
Each student is unique. I have three lefties, but that is where the comparison stops. I seem to have an auditory learner, a kinetic learner, and a visual learner. The youngest is still hard to pin down completely; mostly he is just a bundle of indecisive energy.
We focus on attitude and progress over perfectionism. We stress problem-solving and independent thinking. Each year we pray for God's guidance and tweak things to fit the new dynamics. Knowing that we aren't restricted by a set schedule or expensive curriculum allows us all the freedom to adapt and grow. This was key mostly for mommy's personality. I crave change! We do have lists of responsibilities to keep us on task, but if life interrupts, great!
Our mornings are for learning and our afternoons offer opportunities for boredom which leads to creativity and invention. Sometimes we flip-flop this, depending on the time of the year, to enjoy the park with our friends because afternoons in Florida can get too hot! We bring down the Legos (I keep them up for my sanity) or bring out the board games. We also allow some device times when it has been earned; a house doesn't run itself.
Everyone pitches in around here, so pet care, laundry, dishes, cleaning and even some cooking is shared. Our library and park visits are regular. Dad is self-employed so this allows us a lot of flexibility for him to be included in field trips or family days. This also means, we occasionally work nontraditional school hours on Saturday if need be. We work with a flexible routine rather than a strict schedule.
So our typical home-school day, in a nutshell, is learning for a 3ish hour chunk around our other life activities. If Dad gets off early, we play with him and double up the next day. If daily rain showers hinder our play, you might find us in our bathing suits in the backyard anyway.
I love to hear how other's shape their learning environment. Leave a comment on what works in your season at your house!
Be careful what you pray for! I expressed my desire to do more ministry together with my husband and he said to put it in our prayer circles. (See Mark Batterson's Prayer Circle Book) Not too long after writing this desire down I got what I thought was the answer to my prayer. Now I know it was only part of the answer...
The Celebrate Recovery program we started 6 years ago was finally big enough to afford childcare. I am now able to bring our kids and be a part of the program once again. The women loving on my and other's children are beautiful inside and out. They do crafts and my kids love going every Friday! The vulnerability and transparency of Celebrate Recovery is beautiful and addicting (a healthy addiction). I love that our whole family goes together.
A few months later, our church pastor asked my husband if we might be interested in co-sharing on a Sunday. Our pastor was putting together a series on the Song of Solomon and he wanted several couples to each take a section. Our young adult group was studying the Song of Solomon teaching when Josh and I met. Any other topic and I probably would have said no, but the Spirit nudged me. I agreed before I could chicken out.
I am an introvert. My husband speaks all the time, but it's not really my cup of tea. Over the next few weeks I struggled to capture every fearful thought and replace it with faith or worship. Then I found out our Sunday commitment also included a follow up talk during the week where we could go into more depth in a small group. So, not one opportunity to share together, but two!
God is so cool, because He knows what we can handle better than we do. He also knows exactly how to present things - baby steps. He also places people strategically in our life to encourage us. A sweet friend gave me a mug with these verses.
I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13
They became my mantra the week before we were to speak!
As I tried to sleep God kept speaking to my heart - downloading tidbits. I have to keep a pen and paper near my bed because my mind always gets active late at night. My body is trying to sleep but my spirit is raring to contemplate truth.
As the day grew closer, my mother encouraged me to pray specifically for a big boost of confidence. I didn't want to be overconfident; I just didn't want to puke on stage. Flashbacks from speech class about picturing the audience naked didn't seem right for a church setting. I also thought about walking out without my glasses so everyone was a big blur, but a show and tell lighted candle prop made me decide against that. I did my part by reading through what my husband and I felt God wanted us to say. I told God the rest was up to Him. Help us convey your heart God!
I have been called a crier. I've cried when I am happy, sad, frustrated or angry. Empathy and emotion often overwhelm my throat and I feel frustrated and embarrassed. God has been taking me on a journey of EMBRACE this year. It was the word he gave me in January and I am still learning all that it entails. I felt God saying that I needed to embrace how He has wired me and stop feeling embarrassed about it. Feeling emotion isn't a weakness; it is my super power! If God wants to overwhelm me with His goodness, faithfulness, forgiveness, and love - so be it! And thank you!
The day before we spoke - I prayed that God would speak through me as only he could. I felt very much like Moses -no eloquent tongue here- but I promised to speak through any tears and keep going anyway. I asked everyone for prayer and I knew my husband would rescue me if I got too emotional to speak. He did promise not to rescue me too quickly.
On Sunday morning I felt excited - Like you're strapped into a roller coaster going up to the very first drop kind of excited. What the heck was I thinking! Despite a bug creeping across my foot, I spoke! Probably a little too fast, but I didn't puke AND I DIDN'T CRY!!! This was a first for me. I see now that God was preparing me for this opportunity by speaking in open share each week and facilitating a step study group.
One baby step led to another. I am grateful for the opportunity to stretch my faith. I don't really feel called to a public speaking career, but it is wonderful to know that WITH HIM ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE.
Thank you to everyone who prayed for me <3
My Current Mantra
Walk humbly with God and do the work at your hands....