Showing posts with label Mrs. Mom. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mrs. Mom. Show all posts
The best thing about being a public school teacher when you send your kid to kindergarten is that you know what to expect.

The worst thing about being a public school teacher when you send your kid to kindergarten is that you know what to expect.

In light of recent public school tragedies, I'm terrified of public schools.

Based on peer pressure I know gets stronger every day, I'm terrified of public schools.

Based on the lack of play because of the pressure to perform on standardized tests, I'm terrified of public schools.

Most importantly, based on the lack of Jesus in public schools, I'm terrified of public schools.

But that lack of Jesus is one of the main reasons I'm sending my kid to public school kindergarten anyways.

We chose to keep Cooper at home for the first 5 years and 11 months of his life.  And that was intentional.  Research tells us that 80% of the brain is fully developed BEFORE entering kindergarten.  80%, ya'll.  As a teacher, I realized that meant that parents were truly the first teachers.

And as a parent, I realized that meant I had to decide how I was going to fill that 80%.  Was it academics? Play? Or something else?

In the end, the decision to keep our son home instead of sending him to formal preschool was a decision made out of conviction.

Because the fact is that I wanted to fill my son's 80% with what public school wouldn't fill the other 20% with (despite many Christian teachers who desperately wish they could do more).

I wanted to fill my son's 80% with what I felt mattered most:  Jesus.

So, from his earliest years, to the last 2 years I've been out of the classroom at home with him all day everyday, that's just what we've been doing.

We've helped Cooper form the habit of having his own personal Bible and prayer time in the mornings and family devotions at night.  And we've had the best conversations about God, eternity and the big--important--questions about life.  Questions that he'll be challenged with and asked in public schools.

We've listened to Bible songs, Christian radio, and worship songs in the car together.  We've sung hymns together at nap time.  Because we believe that "meaty" Christian songs--both old and new--are mobile theology for our child.  So, when he is playing legos in his room, and I hear him burst out in a worship song, my heart just melts.  Because, that's Biblical Truth that he can carry with him in his heart to public schools.

We've disciplined him using the Bible as our guidebook.  We've shared scriptures with him to help build a strong foundation with him as to why we discipline the way we do.  We've intentionally given him the why from God's Word because we believe it will not return void.  We believe that it's a light to his paths.  He's even asks to post some of the verses on his bathroom mirror like we do to read every day.

We've looked for hands on ways to serve others in our community.  We've trained him to use his eyes to look for needy people and then use his heart and his hands to love and serve those people.  And we've counseled him to do those things anonymously, without bragging, and with a humble spirit--so that only God gets the glory.

And while we would've done this regardless of our choice about preschool, having him home all the time has given us more time to instill Truth in him and strengthen his foundation.  It's allowed us to be 100% responsible for the 80% of brain development that is "on us" anyway.  Because my husband and I are the ones that will be held accountable for our son at the end of this life.  Not a preschool teacher.  Not a babysitter.  Not a grandparent.  But us--mom and dad.

So, why?  Why is it so important to us to build a strong foundation built on the Truth of Jesus before he starts kindergarten?

Because I'm terrified of public schools.

Yes, I realize my child could "get more Jesus" (or not...) if we sent him to private school or homeschooled.  But that's not our heart.   Because when Jesus was faced with where to go, he didn't choose people just like him to hang out with.  He didn't choose to just stay home.  He chose to go out and seek out the ones who needed him the most.

So, we've sent our baby boy into public schools terrified and excited all in one.

Terrified that he will be met with resistance for his beliefs and pressure to conform to others' morals.

But excited because we've spent the last 5 years and 11 months preparing him for this day and covering him in prayer.  We believe that his strong foundation in Jesus will continue to transform him to be the hands and feet of Jesus in public school.  To reach out and be a friend the lonely kid on the playground, to encourage the sad friend in the corner, and to pray with the hurting kids around him.

In short, we have purposefully wired 80% of his brain to be a light in the public schools mission field.  We are sending him out and have prepared him to GO.

So, GO, sweet boy.

Go and shine your light for Jesus in the darkness like we know you will!  We cannot wait to watch you shine bright for Him!

It's a lot of pressure sending your own kid to kindergarten.  Pressure that comes from a public school system that makes kindergarten harder every year.  As a first grade teacher for 10 years, I watched first grade look more like second grade by my 10th year in the classroom.   And 25 years before that first grade was essentially kindergarten and kindergarten didn't exist in many schools.

Yet today, there is pressure on moms to put our children in the best preschools where academic learning is a priority.  Although my son is 16 short months from starting kindergarten, we made the decision to keep him out of preschool.  Our decision wasn't made lightly, but based on a number of decisions that I'll save for another time....except to say this: I started homeschooling Cooper when he was 3 to help him, "get ready for kindergarten."  And while he loved every minute of it and soaked up the learning, I soon stopped giving him structured "school time" because I felt like I was taking away his childhood because of my academic expectations for him as a teacher mom.  I still find ways to work academics into our daily conversations, but it's no longer my focus.  We've replaced working explicitly on reading with non-academic activities.  And as a first grade teacher who prides myself on the importance of reading, this was a big step for me.

There are so many skills I see lacking in kids even in first grade...even if they were the highest performing students academically.  Maybe we've raised "smarter" 5 year olds over the last decade, but holistically speaking we are failing our preschool children.

Here's how I'm preparing my preschooler for kindergarten (and life!) while still letting him be little!

1. Free Playtime

The single most important thing we can do for our preschoolers to get them ready for kindergarten is to let them play.  Play and learning are not enemies.  They are friends.  They can and should be done together.  Especially for preschoolers.  When a child "free plays" he is inventing, creating, engineering, problem solving, learning to cooperate with peers or learning to work independently.  Research is clear on play: it is a necessary part of early childhood learning.  Children who engage in play have better social skills, language skills, empathy, and self-control.  They are less aggressive and have higher order thinking skills.

Whoah. Did you hear all of those skills in there?  No, not many of them will show up on those performance tests in 3rd grade that many are so worried about preparing our preschoolers for, but those are some serious life skills.  And some serious skills that will indirectly affect those test scores in a significant way.

So, play with your preschooler.  Play with her.  Let him play alone.  Schedule play dates with friends. And don't feel guilty about it.  Not one little bit. #steppingoffsoapbox

2. Doing the Dishes

This may seem silly, but yes it's important.  You would be shocked at the number of first graders that know nothing about what to do with their cafeteria food at lunch.  I could always pick out the kindergarteners across the cafeteria during the first week of school that were responsible for putting up dishes at home.  Yes, eating in the cafeteria is different than eating at home, but there are enough similarities.  I can not tell you how many forks and spoons get thrown away in school cafeterias on a daily basis!  Preschoolers are old enough to learn what is trash, what is liquid and needs to be poured down the sink, and where silverware needs to go.  And it will do them good to have something they can feel proud they know how to do on their own!

So, do your child a favor and make them take their dishes at home and when you go out to eat!

3. Cleaning Up

In a classroom of 20 kindergartners, every little mess is magnified times 20.  And if your child's kindergarten teacher is like me, messy just isn't going to cut it.  Not only does it drive me crazy, but it's hard to efficiently work and learn in a messy space.

So, resist the urge to clean up after your preschooler.  Before they move on to another task, make them clean up the mess.  If they spill something on the floor, make them get a rag and wipe it up.

My first year teaching I had a first grader that spilled her water bottle on the carpet.  She interrupted my teaching another group of students to tell me she had spilled her water.... "Well, what are you going to do about that?" was my reply then and every time after that.  I always had at least one student who was helpless when a mess was made around them.  So, every time my own preschooler makes a mess, we reply, "What are you going to do about that?"  Not only does it put the responsibility on him for his own messes, but it makes him problem solve.  And both of those are skills he needs!

4. Using a Mouse

A computer mouse.  You know, the thing that is used with real computers, but not laptops?  Or iPads, or iPhones or anything else we have around our house?

If your house is like ours, it's full of plenty of screens, but none of them include a mouse.  Yet when our kiddos go to kindergarten they will be in a computer lab at least once a week and need to know how to use a mouse.  Even 10 years later, I still laugh every time I watch kindergartners tap on computer screens hoping it's a touchscreen.  #itnevergetsold

Learning how to use a mouse isn't difficult, but it is a skill that can be time consuming to teach 20 kindergartners at the same time.  Let your preschooler experiment for a few minutes with a "real" mouse and a laptop mouse (many schools have chromebook carts for kids to use laptops in their classroom as well!)  It won't take much of your time and my own kiddo giggles like crazy when he gets to try out Mommy's mouse!

5. Finding Letters on a Keyboard

This one may not be as big of a deal as the mouse...depending on how your child's school handles kindergarten logins.  The schools I taught in required kindergartners to log in to their computer by typing in their name and a number the school assigned them.  It wasn't difficult, but it was time consuming.  There is no way you will be able to find out your child's login before hand, but you can help out by letting your kid practice typing on a computer.

Another great way to practice this would be to write out your child's name or a word and let her type it into the computer.  She doesn't have to know letter names to do this and it's fantastic hand-eye coordination which is an early writing skill!

6. Following Multi-Step Directions

Multi-step directions are a super important language skill.  A typical preschooler should be able to follow 2 or 3 directions given at the same time.  But it is a skill that takes practice.  If I only ever give my preschooler one direction at a time, then he will not develop the skill to follow multi-step directions.

So, give him the opportunity to develop this skill.  This is something that doesn't take any extra time for you and it's an invaluable skill.  Instead of saying, "Go brush your teeth," before bed time, I tell my preschooler, "Go brush your teeth, go to the bathroom, and put on your pajamas."  This requires him to remember all 3 steps and concentrate to follow through with them.

If your child is not able to follow multi-step directions, then start with two directions.  And when you give the directions, get eye level with her and say them slowly a few times and keep it simple:

"Brush your teeth.  Then, use the bathroom.  (wait a few seconds) Brush your teeth. Then, use the bathroom.  (wait a few seconds)   Teeth.  Bathroom.  What do I want you to do?"

Make her repeat the two steps back to you and then send her off.  Giving her wait time will help her process each step and keeping it simple will help her stay focused and not get distracted by extra words.

7. Using Scissors

If your kindergarten experience is like it is here in Arkansas, there will be lots of opportunities for arts and crafts.  And cutting.  Your preschooler doesn't need to perfect cutting before kindergarten by any means, but it will help him to know how to hold scissors and how to hold the paper and cut at the same time.   My little guy LOVES cutting.  He actually begs to cut "big boy lines" at least once a week.  I don't force it on him at all, but I'm happy to oblige when he asks! :)

This is all we do to practice.  It's simple.  It's easy.  And results in tons of giggles every single time.

I get construction paper and draw 4 lines in a thick marker (I use an expo marker).  I always draw 4 different types of lines: straight, curved, zigzag and a loop or circle.

Then, I let him go to town!  The thick lines make it easy for him to see how well he followed the lines.

And I try to encourage him to cut the line in one piece instead of lots of little pieces (which turns into a messy nightmare in kindergarten! ha!)

8. Holding a Crayon or Pencil

Again, this isn't something to master, but most preschoolers can begin to hold crayons and pencils correctly.  It's not necessary that you make your preschooler write with a pencil or even hold one.  But whatever she is holding (crayon, marker, pencil, pen, paintbrush) should be held with a "pinch grip" as I call it.

Too many littles start kindergarten holding a crayon or pencil with a "fist grip."  It's not good for handwriting and it's a hard habit to break once it's formed.  Do your preschooler a favor and break that habit as soon as you see them holding a crayon with the "fist grip."

9. Speaking in Complete Sentences

What's so important about complete sentences?  A lot!! This is a skill we STILL work on in first grade.  Kids who speak in complete sentences are better writers.  Hands down.  In primary grades, we teach kids to write by telling them, "If I can say it, I can write it."  So, if you speak in fragments, you will write in fragments.  If you speak in complete sentences, you will write in complete sentences.

Here's what it looks like:  Let's say we are learning about writing our opinions and I ask kids to write what their favorite food is and give me a reason why they like that food.

A kid who isn't in the habit of speaking in complete sentences will write:
"Pizza because it's cheesy."

A kid who is in the habit of speaking in complete sentences will write:
"I love pizza because it's cheesy."

It is possible to teach the first kiddo to write in complete sentences, but it sure does take a lot of extra practice for him!  Modeling complete sentences and making your preschooler use complete sentence is a way to help her be a better writer without ever having her pick up a pencil!  I have a silly sentences packet in my store that is perfect for practice this in a silly and engaging way.  Even though I used it as a writing activity with my first graders, I just use it orally with my preschooler when we play it together.

10. Read, Read, Read

This may be the closest thing on this list to academics, but it's so important.  I'm not asking you to teach your child to read.  That is not necessary.  I'm begging you to spend at least 20 minutes a day reading to your child.  Don't play a book on tape for him (although there's nothing wrong with that during other times).  Don't replace story time with a video story.  Instead, open up a real book and put it in between you and your child and read out loud to him.

Talk about the story.  Point out interesting things you see in the pictures.  Ask what her favorite part of the story was.  Tell him what the story reminds you of.  Read fantasies.  Read mysteries.  Read non-fiction books with photographs.  Read stories that teach lessons.  Read stories that make you both laugh.  Whatever you do...just read.  Research tells us that reading aloud increases a child's vocabulary, concepts of print, comprehension and interest in reading.  All of these things are crucial to helping our children be successful readers in school!

So, don't stress out about preparing your child for kindergarten.  He will be okay.  She will make it and will learn at the developmentally appropriate time for her.  Take a deep breath and know that your child is worth more than a future test score.  Invest in your whole child.  Read, play, talk and repeat and you will have a successful kindergarten year!
If you follow my blog, you probably have figured out by now that I'm a math junkie {If you haven't, read about that here}.  So, helping Cooper build a strong foundation in math is something I really love to do!

He already knew how to rote count to at least 10 before we started working on math this summer, and he could already identify most of his numbers 0-10 and he could count a small set of things.  So, I knew he was ready for a little bit more number sense...and my iTeach Tots Math packet was born! Here is our counting routine at home!

Ordering Numbers

We order our numbers 0-10 to make a number line.
{Now that he's really good at ordering his numbers, we match the number word cards to the numeral--I read the word and he reads it and matches it!}

Count On and Back

We count on and count back using our number line we made.  We started by counting from 0 to 10 and counting back from 10 to 0.  Then, I started asking him in my most excited voice, "Do you think you can count on starting at the number 3??" Cooper just giggles and uses his number line to count on.  When he mastered that, we started the same thing counting back from random numbers 0-10. I know it seems silly, but this is one of his favorite parts.  Anything that is approached like it's a game is a winner in our house!

Building Sets

We use the bears to build sets.  We start with the number 1 and work as high as he can go.  At first, we could barely make it to building a set of 3.  But now, he can build sets over 10 and we don't have to start at 1...I just choose a few numbers for him to build for me!  We always try building the set on his own first, and when he struggled, I would pull out the dot cards as extra support.

I had him build the set of bears on the dots and then took the dots away to see if he could build it independently.  This worked really really well for him and as a math junkie, I know seeing those dot patterns and making him visualize the dot patterns to build the set independently is the perfect foundation for subitizing!

And while Cooper adores his counting cards from the iTeach Tots Math Packet, we've had a blast changing these up to some seasonal counting and set building cards!

Grab the Christmas tree set building FREEBIE by clicking the image! :)
We are creeping in on February and little guy still loves building sets with his Christmas trees and pumpkins! :)

Labeling Sets

Now that Cooper is really really solid with building sets, we match the dot sets to the numeral.  This makes it a tad harder because it's taking away the manipulative and just using a picture representation.  Now his routine is to order the numbers, match the word cards and then match the dot cards to the numerals.  I can usually get him started working on this and then while he is matching, I can get ready for the rest of our lesson time.

This entire counting routine takes about 10 minutes.  After our counting routine, we move into a few math stories....I'll be blogging about that soon!  In the meantime, check out all of my iTeach Tots packets!
This summer, I've made a special effort to do a little pre-schooling with Cooper.  I want him to get used to what "school" was like.  And I want him to learn early that learning can be and is fun.  Plus, it adds some more structure to our day instead of just free play all day long!

My favorite quote ever about teaching is one I found forever ago....
Another reason why I love Mr. Rogers!  I always try to keep this in mind with my firsties and my own toddler.  So, here's a look at how we play and learn together....

We do 30 minutes of literacy in the morning and 30 minutes of math in the afternoon.  And he **LOVES** school time.  Seriously...he begs to do more school time.  We take the weekends off, of course, and he still begs to have school time on Saturdays too.  Let's hope this attitude continues for the next 15 years....:)

Cooper already knew most, if not all, of his letters.  So during our reading time, we work on letter-sound associations.  I used the letter cards from my Word Wall Packet.  We added one letter at a time and talked about the sound and corresponding picture.  I would read, "A, /a/, apple" and he would repeat again.  It took us 3 or 4 school sessions, but we finally got all of the letters up!  Now, every school session, we start off reading our ABC chart.  He loves finding a fun fishing pole or toy flag pointer to use to "read."  And after almost a month of school time, he can read almost the whole ABC chart by himself without any corrections!  I just love this sponge age.  He soaks everything up!

My favorite moment by far was two weeks ago when I told him it was time to read our ABCs...

"But I tan't weed, Momma!"

"Yes, you can...start with A..."

"A, /a/, appuwl..." and he finished through the whole alphabet and said, "I tan weed, Mommy, I tan!"

Talk about melting my mommy and teacher heart all in one!  Now he proudly tells us almost every day, "I'm a weally good weeduh, Mommy!"

After we read our ABC's we play a little fastest finger (an all time favorite for my preschoolers and firsties!) with some letter ID. {Point to the letter ___. See who can point the fastest.  Yes, it's that simple.  Yes, they think it's the best thing ever.}

Then, we do "writing."  For the last month, we've been writing Cooper's name.  We spell out each letter, and then practice sliding our finger across the word to read it.  And we have written his name in all kinds of fun stuff...since those little fingers aren't quite ready to trace!

We wrote with playdoh... (we repeated this one for a whole week.  It was really hard for him to curve the playdoh snakes to follow the path of the letters!)
He's just so, so proud!

Black beans and glue!

Pinto buying new supplies here.  Just using what we have!

Cheerios... (just make sure you write the letters far enough apart.  I learned that the hard way!)
He has LOVED thinking of new things to write with!  This morning he told me, "Oh, I have a idea, Mommy.  I can write with tornbread (cornbread) today! Is that a dreat (great) idea, Mommy?"....silly boy!  And after he finishes each one, I have him go back over it with his finger to feel the bumpy (or smooth) path of the letters!  Lots of giggles for this! :)

I love using things to glue down because it gives me a chance to repeat the verbal paths for handwriting our letters over and over.  The more this gets ingrained in his head, the easier I think handwriting will be for him when his little fingers are ready to write.  He even tries his bardest to repeat the scripts back to me... #bestillmyheart  You can grab this Resource from my TPT store.  It includes the scripts for capital and lowercase that I use in my first grade classroom!

After a few weeks of writing his name, we moved on to writing other words.  I've decided to work on our family rules {read about those HERE} and their key words next.  Just to have some extra conversation time about those rules too! *wink*

Yesterday, we did "Kind" and wrote it in rice.

This will look so cute hanging in his play room as an extra reminder!  And I love that he made it himself!

Of course, we always save plenty of time before nap for story time to practice all of our reading and CAP skills!  He loves finding the cover, the title, reading the title with his reading finger...and he even has a few books that he can "read" on his own!  Love watching his brain grow!

The possibilities are endless for fun, engaging literacy activities for our littles.  How else do you teach those early literacy skills?
As I type this...I am playing "stay at home mom" with my little boy.  So thankful for a job that let's me have so much mommy time with my baby!

Our elf, Choo-Choo, finally arrived at our house {he may have been busy elf-ing for my first graders...and he may even just be a back up elf since the "real" elf is packed away deep in storage!}....#sELFie
So in honor of Choo-Choo the elf, I thought I'd blog about Mommy's own little elf helper during our break!

Cooper has been busy helping Mommy during our break.  It may take twice as long to get things done around our apartment, but he WANTS to help.  And he LOVES to help.

And he NEEDS to help...because it's good for him.  I've never been one to wait until nap time to do chores.  I believe Cooper needs to see Mommy and Daddy doing chores.  And he needs to learn to be a cheerful servant!  And honestly, that's more fun for all of us anyways!

Cooper absolutely loves laundry days.  On days when our laundry is caught up {okay...pretty much just that *one* time...}, he goes in to our laundry room to check the dryer for more "yahnwee."  He's even cried over not having any laundry to do.

...glad somebody in this house enjoys laundry!

We've done laundry and wrapped gifts...He's loved taping on the tags and holding the ribbon down while Mommy ties...and he has felt so proud to put each gift under the tree! And our wrappings have just been a hodge podge of left over wrapping paper from Christmases past, extra washi tape, ribbons and burlaps left over from projects, and tags cut out of white notepad paper.  But I think our little eclectic mix turned out just perfect!  And more importantly, it didn't cost me a thing!

He's even managed to find a few of his own presents...and he hasn't even tried to open them!  #ChristmasMiracle

Since I pretty much couldn't even think straight during the last week or two before school was out, I hadn't even managed to think about gifts for Cooper's church nursery teachers until Saturday after break.  So, we made my mom's recipe for Christmas Scent {with a few additions} to gift for teachers.  I decided on that because pretty much one of my favorite memories from my childhood is smelling the Christmas potpourri on the stove...and because I had almost everything I needed already at the house, which is a blessing when you have to rush to put together gifts.

Mommy's little elf helped with this too...and he LOVED it!  He giggled the whole time calling out the names of his nursery teachers..."SeeSee" {Cindy}, "Beeyee" {Billy}, "KeeKee" {Kristi}, "Susan" {this one is quite clear, for whatever reason!}, and "Mehyin" {Meghan}.

There's that cheesy smile from Mommy's little elf! Such an easy thing for littles to help with too!

Turn on the heat and enjoy!  Isn't it so pretty?

You can find the recipe and gift tags for it HERE!
A little craft paper circle to add some ruffles under the lid, a string of raffia and a Christmas tag I made (grab it here) and printed on regular paper.  Simple, fun to make and Cooper was so proud to hand out his gifts Sunday.   And Mommy loves that he is learning at such an early age that, "God loves a person who gives cheerfully."

I was going to just post this on Facebook, but I decided I wanted to blog this too so that I won't forget these sweet memories!

Excuse all of the personal posts lately... 8 days later, here are...

13 Lessons Learned From Potty Training:
1. It is super exhausting the first three never-been-so-happy-for nap-time-to-come exhausting!

2.  Just. Stay. Home.  For 3 days.  Nothing is important enough to leave the house for during the first 3 days.

3. And when you do venture out, count on getting asked to go potty as soon as everyone is buckled up in the car.  Even if you just tried before you left.  Every. Time.

4.  Toilets are not the only acceptable places for a little boy to potty.  Bushes are okay too.  And showers. All 3 will get a resounding, "Yay!" from said little boy...

5.  Always, ALWAYS wipe after an "attempt." Even if it's not successful.  I repeat.  ALWAYS wipe!

6. Which, of course, means that baby wipes and carpet cleaner are the best inventions ever.

7.  Nothing will make you jump higher or faster than hearing the words, "Uh-Oh," during training time.

8.  Stickers motivate first graders and stickers motivate toddlers.  And the process of choosing the "perfect" sticker can be a very intense process!

9. 3 full days of complete success does not mean you are out of the woods yet...

10.  21 month old boys like to dance.  Naked.  A lot.

11.  A naked toddler bottom running around the house {or apartment} is the cutest thing in the world...

12. ...except that a toddling bottom in underwear is actually the cutest thing in the world...And that little bottom will get patted and squeezed all day long.  Trust me.

13. For whatever reason, my toddler in underwear means he wants to snuggle a lot more than normal...and I am SO okay with that!
There are many reasons why I love my job.  But my favorite is summer.  And it's not because I'm off work...I love my job!  And it's not because I get to lay around in a pool a lot--but I love that too! :)

It's because I get to be a mom...and I get to be Mommy 24/7.  Not just after school hours.  Don't get me wrong...I love teaching.  It's a wonderful, WONDERFUL job.  But my favorite job is Mommy.  Hands down.

I've been soaking up all of my time with Cooper this summer and cherishing every single minute of Mommy and Cooper time!

Cooper is right in the middle of that "Let's see what I can get a way with" phase of toddlerhood.  Which is challenging Mr. and me as parents in a whole new way.  No, he's not a bad kid.  Not at all.  In fact, while I'm partial, I'd say he's an extremely well-behaved boy.  He's mild-tempered.  He can say, "thank you" on his own now without reminders (although not all of the time!)  He is extremely friendly toward other people.  And he's just an overall happy boy 99.9% of the time.

But he's pushing limits.  He's doing what every kid does: trying to figure out what it is he can get away with.  How far he can go before mom or dad step in... He's trying to figure out the rules.

As a teacher, I see this every year in my classroom.  A good portion of my kids test boundaries for the first 6 weeks of school.  And it's mostly not because they want to misbehave.  It's because they want to see what my response is going to be.  Am I going to get angry and yell?  Will there be consequences? Am I going to just ignore it?

And Cooper is doing the same thing at home.  And he probably will for the foreseeable future.

I'm a firm believer that {for the most part} kids just want to know the rules so they know how to play by them. They not only need rules, but they crave them...they actually want rules.

But I'm also a firm believer that we are all born with an innate desire to sin. {"For all have sinned...Romans 6:23}

Somewhere in between a desire to follow rules and a desire to "see what's on the other side" is where parenting lives.

"Train up a child..." 
There are so many areas we are "training" Cooper for right now.  But we are trying our best to keep our focus on our biggest goals for Cooper.  I could nit pick all day long, but I want what I say to have meaning. And purpose. And to be long-lasting.  So we have tried to limit our "parenting" lingo with Cooper to a few, thought out goals for what we want for Cooper as he grows into an adult.

1. We want Cooper to grow to love God because of a personal relationship with his God.
2. We want Cooper to be respectful to others.
3. We want Cooper to have a "just do it" work ethic and attitude.  A servant's heart.
4. We want Cooper to be a "me second" caring and empathetic adult that sees the needs of others and tries to meet them.

And the list continues, but those are the important goals for now...

There are 2 main pieces of advice that we have used to develop these goals over a short time of parenting.  One is from a lady whom I respect more and more the longer I am a mommy: Michelle Duggar.  I know, people.  You think she's crazy for giving birth to 20 children.  I do too sometimes.  I think she and her husband have crazy conservative beliefs about dressing and dating.  I do too.  But you know what?  Her kids are good kids.  The Duggars live in the same town as we do and I grew up playing in piano recitals with her oldest kids.  I've seen them out and about in stores around town.  And I have not one bad word to say about them as people.  Not one.  In fact, I would say their kids are some of the nicest, most well-mannered and well-behaved kids I've ever met.  And I've never, not once heard Michelle raise her voice.  Not on camera.  Not in person.  And as a mother of 20 children, that's quite a statement.  So when she talks about parenting, I listen.   Michelle Duggar has a lot of valid things to say about parenting and mommyhood, but one of the main things I remember her saying is that one of the first things she teaches her children as early as she can is to look her in the eyes when she is talking to them.  I will never forget how she explained it at one point,

"If I have your eyes, I have your heart."  

Man, that's powerful.  From the moment Cooper was able we have used this with him.  When I'm telling him something important, or disciplining him, I always make sure I have his eyes first.  Now...he's a toddler and I may not have them long, but he is learning.

Having his eyes does two things: It helps him focus on what I am saying.  But it also helps me keep my cool and my focus.  It's hard to get overly excited and loose my cool when I'm staring at his sweet baby blues.  In fact, I've noticed that my "worst" moments when I've raised my voice as a teacher or a mommy are when I'm not looking a first grader, or my child directly in the eyes.  Seeing his eyes helps me "see" him and see my purpose for discipline.

The other piece of advice we've used is from my childhood.  One thing I explicitly remember my parents doing with me is quoting the Bible.  When my brother and I fought, I would hear one of my parents in the background quoting verses.  When I complained about my life, I heard a Bible verse quoted to me.  And one thing I learned from that is....You can't argue with the Bible.

I mean, really.  If you believe that the Bible is truth and that,

"The Word of God is alive and active.  Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart."
{Hebrews 4:12}

then you have to accept that the Word of God is the end all be all.

Mr. and I have used this principle in our marriage.  If we feel like one of us isn't doing something right, we just quote a Bible verse and that's the end of it.  Not in a "I'm better than you" way, but in a "Matter of fact" way.  It's the quickest way to get silence in a conversation or argument.  Because we know...can't argue with that.

And we are using this same principle in parenting. Because,

"Thy Word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee." {Psalm 119:11}

For each of our major goals we have for training Cooper, we have a Bible verse that backs us up.  And it gets quoted.  Daily.  One thing I told Mr. that is great about quoting the Bible is it gives me something meaningful to say to Cooper.  That's positive. And not in a yelling voice... {I mean, can you really yell a Bible verse??}  There are times {we all have them, right??}, where I'd really like to growl and yell, "STOOOOOPPPP!" So I'm thankful for something else to say in place of that!

Obedience...If we want Cooper to be respectful to others, than that starts in toddlerhood as obedience.  And we are still working on it.  And 15 years from now we will still be working on it!
 But he is learning...and he is obeying!  And can I just tell you how much my heart melts when Cooper tries to say, "Obey!" after I ask, "What does the Bible say?"  He may just be 21 months, but he already can say two of the words in that verse: obey and right {as he bobs his head up and down!} It is the cutest thing!

Kindness...If we want Cooper to have a servant's heart, then that starts in toddlerhood with kindness to others.  When the whining and fits started {yes, grandparents, there are occasional fits...}, the need for this verse came about quickly!  For the most part, our philosophy is to ignore the fit until it's over {since fits are really just attention getters anyway} and then we ask him, "Was that kind?" And he knows it wasn't.  And the occasional, "The world does not revolve around Cooper" speech!  
This is the verse my parents quoted to me and my brother...again, and again, and again.  It's a judgmental verse and just saying it to Cooper every day makes me do a little quiet assessment of myself... " judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart..."

Gentleness...If we want Cooper to be empathetic and see needs in other, than it starts with gentleness.  He needs to understand that throwing toys breaks things and makes others sad.  And biting and hitting hurt.  NOW, is he hitting out of meanness? No.  But, sometimes out of no where, Coop will start hitting my arm and smile at me.  And I have to say, "Gentle, Cooper.  Gentle..." And after a few times of showing him what gentle actually means, he's working on it.  He'll even hit me and then immediately shake his head no and say, "gentle" and do it again softly.  How can I be mad at that??

...and then there's potty training.... {Read more about that here.}
...sigh... only Bible verse I can think of to get me through this goal is...

"For the things we see now will soon be gone..." {2 Corinthians 4:18}  
This too shall pass. :)

Mr. and I are not perfect parents.  We do not by any stretch of the imagination have it all figured out.  None of us do.  But we are trying.  And we are training based on goals we have set for what we think is best for our kid...and that's all anybody can ask, right?

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