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Posts tagged ‘character’

Recently I discovered Raymond & Dorothy Moore’s books, Better Late Than Early and Home Grown Kids. These books have really revolutionized the way I think about education, school, child development… well, many things! Because they are so similar, I am going to review them together. One spends more time on the research and the other spends more time on the various years of child development and how you should deal with children at various ages, but other than that, they are nearly identical.

Both books start out reviewing research that has been done on childhood development, showing that delaying education has benefits for kids. The reason is that, while they may appear bright in certain areas, they need to reach a certain level of maturity in various areas, including emotional, physical (including especially eyesight and fine motor skills), and intellectual (reasoning ability), before they are ready for the classroom and formal academics. They call reaching an appropriate level of maturity in all these areas the “Integrated Maturity Level” (IML), and they say that most children usually reach this level around the ages of 8-10.

They say that starting a child before they are ready will cause them to burn out early. There is much evidence for this even in recent research (everything in their books is a few decades old—their books were published in the early 80’s). For instance, this article that discusses the benefits of delaying academic training in math, and studies have shown that delaying entrance into school by one year actually reduces inattention and hyperactivity even years later.

Though not specifically mentioned in the books, the Moore Formula, as it is called, is very possibly the ideal way to homeschool. I would encourage you to check out that link, but in a nutshell, the formula is that your child’s education should include 3 things: Work, Service, and Academics. We usually think of education in terms of academics, but learning how to work and serving others develop character, and character training is even more important than academics.

A Mennonite school teacher friend of ours said that he would rather graduate a student who was poor academically but had a strong moral character, than an academically bright child who had a weak moral character, and I heartily agree. One of my favorite authors said in a book on child rearing, “True education means more than taking a certain course of study. It is broad. It includes the harmonious development of all the physical powers and the mental faculties. It teaches the love and fear of God and is a preparation for the faithful discharge of life’s duties.” Child Guidance, page 293.

I did not understand the principles I am learning from these books when I started homeschooling my daughter. She was 5, and she learned to read before she turned 6. But she never really did well with reading until this past summer, when she was going on 8. She has decided that she doesn’t like school, and I have backed off on how much I expect her to do. I am going to spend the rest of the school year focusing on the 3 R’s, keeping her formal work to less than two hours a day, four days per week, even though she is 9 and would traditionally be expected to do more than that. We will also explore areas of interest. Currently that means learning about horses. And letting her draw lots of them, since she loves drawing. As you can see, she is quite talented for 9 years old!

Horse Drawing

by Gislaine Reynoso, December 2015

I attempted twice to teach my son, who had just turned 6, to read, but now I have backed off again. He knows almost all the letter sounds now, as well as many of their names (I taught him sounds first), but he hated when I called him for school, although he did okay once we got started. So after trying twice, I backed off again, and now he is starting to sound out words on his own, even learning to get to a few (safe) places online with a little coaching, writing letters of the alphabet on his pictures, and in general getting comfortable with letters and words on his own terms. He’s going to be 7 this month, but I’m not going to push him. He has plenty of time to learn before Oregon requires him to be tested (in 3rd grade; he’ll be 10 by then), and I expect he will excel by the time he is required to sit down for the test. He is definitely bright.

Anyhow, I wish I had had these books before I started homeschooling—indeed, before I had children! The principles are so simple, yet so practical. They go through each stage of a child’s development and show what you can expect and what you can teach and how to do it.

Another thing the Moores teach in their books is that once a child is ready for school, he should be started in the same grade as his peers, especially if you put him into regular school. So if he is 8, he could start second or third grade, instead of starting with first grade. If he is 10, he would start fourth or fifth. They say that kids who have delayed starting formal education will catch up to their peers by the end of the school year, but that putting them in a lower grade will cause problems, because the work will be too easy. It is easier for them to learn new concepts at an older age, so the things that younger children spend a couple of years leaning, they will learn in a couple of months. This is a great advantage, because they will spend fewer years in formal school, thus drastically reducing the risk of burnout (something I experienced around the age of 16—an age that I could have finished school, I think, if I had been allowed to accelerate; but that is a whole other topic!).

All in all, these books have revolutionized my perspective on education and how I conduct our homeschool. They are currently my favorite books to recommend!

What experiences have you had with early schooling or delaying schooling?

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Today Gislaine officially started “preschool.” Okay, so it’s not traditional preshool, but since her friends across the cul-de-sac are both going to school, I wanted to do something.

So every day we work on a memory verse. This week it’s John 10:27. We also focus on a character trait–this week is Attentiveness. We also have a letter and number of the week–that would be A and zero. She traces a few letters or numbers, or does some other simple preschool activity in a preschool book (most of those I bought at the dollar store). Then we have a story or a craft that goes along with either the character trait or the letter or number.

It took us less than half an hour to get today’s work done, and she enjoyed herself thoroughly. I made her erase some of her tracing for being rather sloppy and redo it, and that helped her to learn to do better. I also plan on having her learn to color realistically and to stay in the lines better (though she does tolerably well already).

So I suppose we can consider the first day of school a success. Now she’s over at the neighbor’s house, playing with her friends. That’s where I think 4-year-olds should spend most of their time–a few chores, a little school, and a lot of play.

If you were raised as a Christian, like I was, you may have never really seen God. Oh, you knew He existed, and knew a lot about Him, but you may have not really known Him–never really looked deep into His heart.

It is also easy to get so used to the picture of Jesus as our Saviour that we fail to realize the deep significance of His death. Jesus suffered and died. So have many martyrs. What makes His death better or more efficacious than theirs? What is God really like? Is He really that different from us?

These are some of the questions that Ty Gibson tackles in what may be his most powerful book, Seeing With New Eyes. This book has had a powerful impact on my life, especially in the way I see God. It has given me a new perspective of God and His character. Let me quote one of my favorite passages:

We have tended to make God so distant, so nearly sterile that we have forgotten that He is a person. A person who made us in His image. A person, therefore, who has a heart that feels joy and pain like ours. All the passion of the universe has its origin in Him; and therefore all passion, both the pleasurable and painful, finds resonance in Him as well. Every pain that is felt, every sigh that is breathed, every sorrow that pierces the soul, like a rushing current of sympathetic vibrations, throbs in the Father’s heart.

This book is easy to read in the sense that it is not written in high, theological terms. It is written creatively, descriptively, colorfully. Yet the words have a way of awakening your deepest emotions, while at the same time imparting knowledge. Each thought is grounded in Scripture, expanded and simplified so that even a child could understand much of it.

Growing up as a Christian, I learned many facts about God. So I can’t say that there was anything exactly new for me in this book. However, the way it was put together was fresh, and it forced me to step back and apply the knowledge I already had. It opened my heart when I had been hiding from God–trying to live without Him, because I was afraid of the pain of letting go of my sin–and helped me to see Him not as a stern judge condemning me, but rather as a loving Father with aching heart, waiting to welcome me back. This view of God was not new, but by taking time to actually look, my heart was softened, and I was led to repentance.

And for someone who is struggling with understanding the character of God, this book could be a powerful tool to help them to really know who He is–instead of seeing him through the lens of how their father was, or the way they may have been taught He is. Jesus, in His prayer in John 17, said that knowing God is the same as having eternal life. Listen to how Ty Gibson explores this thought:

Understanding who God really is, seeing His true character distinct from all false pictures, is the psychological and emotional substance of which eternal life is composed. Knowing God heals the soul of all internal maladies and imparts a quality of life that is eternal. There is earth-transcending peace to be derived from knowing that the One who made us, and to whom we are ultimately accountable, is infinitely and intrinsically good. On the other hand, all false pictures of God are destructive to the soul, eating away the beauty and meaning of life.

So next time you want to take a fresh look at God, consider picking up a copy of Seeing With New Eyes, and look again for the first time.

By SamHastings on Flickr

Yesterday, I shared in part 1 how my life has been a series of spiritual ups and downs, characterized by trying to build walls to make others think I was good, while inside I was a mess.

Well, a few weeks ago I just sort of hit bottom. I had been trying to escape reality with compulsive kinds of actions, like reading for hours on end, playing computer games, etc., while my family deteriorated around me. I didn’t know what to do, and I hated myself for the way I was and the way I had allowed things to become. The bad habits of my youth were now maturing into very nasty character flaws that I could see being mirrored in my children, and I began to realize that I had to make a choice.

But I was loath to do it. Make the choice, I mean. Because I basically had two alternatives. Either surrender to God and let Him change me, or reject God and give up on everything I believed. I just couldn’t stand staying the way I was. The problem was, the latter option was just too horrendous to contemplate. And besides, being a Christian was so ingrained into my identity that I would find myself turning to God automatically when in difficult situations–like when I turned into my driveway too early and almost went over edge of the road into a tree!

But surrender scared me.

Why did it scare me? It wasn’t because I was afraid of surrender itself. I had experienced full surrender in the past–at least, as full as I knew at the time. I remember almost having an accident, and actually not getting an adrenalin rush because I had such peace with God. I longed to have that kind of relationship again. But I was afraid of failure. I had tried so many times, and just as many times I had failed. Turned my back on God. Let go of His hand and basically said, “I’m going to do it my way.”

Then I would read verses like Hebrews 6:4-6 and wonder if maybe I was a hopeless case.  But then I knew that any yearnings in my soul for God meant that I had definitely not committed the unpardonable sin, and that meant there definitely was hope for me. (I have stored up a lot of head knowledge over the years, and in times like this it was both a comfort and a torment.)

But I still feared failure. I didn’t want to turn my life over to God and then take it back once again. I wanted to break the cycle of up and down. After talking to my friend from church that I mentioned yesterday, I got in touch with one of my old friends from several years ago and began to pour out my heart to her. In an email, I wrote this:

I realize that to surrender to the extent that I did as a youth isn’t enough anymore. In proportion to the light that I have I must yield, and I have more light now than I did then. So my surrender now must be deeper than it has ever been.

As you can see, I knew what I needed to do. I needed to surrender. But I was afraid. What if I failed again? I didn’t think I could bear it. All my head knowledge told me that God would accept me just as I was, that He would forgive me and take me back with rejoicing. All the promises of His keeping power that I had memorized kept surfacing into my consciousness; evidence of His love was everywhere I looked if I just chose to see it. I began to sense things coming to a climax. I realized that it was only a matter of time before I did make a surrender. But still I hesitated.

Looking back honestly, I think that it was deeper than just my fear of failure, even though that was a very big issue. I was also unwilling to surrender certain things. It’s a lie of the devil, the idea that if you surrender to God, He will take away the things that make you happy. I know by experience that He only takes away the things that make us miserable. But I didn’t want to let go of some of those things. And some things I wondered if He would make me give them up, when in reality He wasn’t so much interested in my things as just in having me. And as I began to take that reality to heart, I began to soften.

I realize that I may not be communicating my thoughts very well. There were so many levels to my situation that I don’t know how to explain it with words. Maybe if you try to feel with your heart what I am trying to  convey, you will understand. I’m sure if you’ve ever been where I am, you can understand. I hope by the time I finish this series, those of my readers who are in the same situation I was will have some answers. That’s my goal, my reason for opening my heart to you. Not that I have all the answers yet. But I have a few. And maybe one or two of them will help.

Tomorrow I will share some of the steps that helped get me out of this dark hole I was in. So stay tuned.

The other day I was spending a few quiet moments (a rarity lately!) reading one of my favorite devotional books, and this paragraph jumped out at me:

The loveliness of the character of Christ will be seen in His followers. It was His delight to do the will of God. Love to God, zeal for His glory, was the controlling power in our Saviour’s life. Love beautified and ennobled all His actions. Love is of God. The unconsecrated heart cannot originate or produce it. It is found only in the heart where Jesus reigns. “We love, because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19, R.V. In the heart renewed by divine grace, love is the principle of action. It modifies the character, governs the impulses, controls the passions, subdues enmity, and ennobles the affections. This love, cherished in the soul, sweetens the life and sheds a refining influence on all around.

Steps to Christ, 59

The thought is beautiful all by itself, but as I contemplated it, something struck me. Love is the ultimate motivator. I mean, who would willingly wipe someone else’s bottom for free if they didn’t love them? Sure, some would do it for pay, but all mothers do it for free. Why? Because we love our little helpless babies!

But then something else struck me. When our children love us, they are motivated to obey us. When we have their heart, we don’t have to twist their arm to get them to do something. Have we shown them love like Christ has shown for us?

When our children are motivated by love, look what can happen: “It [love] modifies the character, governs the impulses, controls the passions, subdues enmity, and ennobles the affections.”

In the goal of the development of character in our children, let’s make sure that we put in a lot of love!