Archive for March, 2010

To Train Up A Child (Book Review)

Saturday, March 27th, 2010

Michael and Debi Pearl are authors of To Train Up A Child (TTUAC), a little book on child training and run No Greater Joy, a ministry to parents. They have a huge following amongst Christian home-schooling families. Their child-training resources focus on consistency, the use of “the rod”, and training children before disobedience occurs. They claim not to advocate child abuse, stressing the need to never discipline in anger. They emphasize the importance of cheerfulness both with parents who discipline as well as children who receive chastisement. There is a huge emphasis on building sweet family relationships. Obviously, much of their advice is good. So, how is it that recently Lydia Schatz, a seven year old girl was killed at the hand of her abusive parent who claimed to follow the Pearl’s teachings? Sadly, this is not the first case.  Sean Paddock, a four year old boy, also was killed several years ago by parents influenced by principles read in TTUAC.

When I first read these stories, while saddened, I was also a little angered. I saw blame-casting and also felt a little condemnation. Am I guilty too because I own books written by the Pearls? Are these “witch hunters” accusing me of being authoritative and harsh simply by association? I own many of their resources and have read No Greater Joy newsletters for over a decade. We live in a society that is very quick to blame and very slow to accept responsibility. I do not believe the Pearls are legally responsible for either of these murders. This post, in defense of the Pearls, has some valid points. Certainly, there is no resource other than the Word of God that is infallible and Christians need to be discerning and prayerful while reading any book. I can “eat the meat and spit out bones” and so should these folks! However, over the past few weeks, my opinion about this has changed as the Lord has prompted me to reread TTUAC, pray and reflect on my fourteen years of parenting.

In my recent study of TTUAC, there are three teachings that I find harmful. Yes, I could find  three things I disagree with in anything! However, I believe these teachings could, at worst, lead to abuse or, more likely, damage parent-child relationships. It is probable that the Pearls address the concerns I have in publications outside of TTUAC. However, I am looking only at their book TTUAC for this review because for so many people, it is the only Pearl resource they will read. I am no longer angered by the publicity this case has received. Instead I am hopeful that through the deaths of these children, more examination will occur. While I still don’t believe the Pearls are legally responsible for the deaths, they are accountable, as Christians in ministry, for the influence they have on so many parents who look to them for guidance. Parents, who want the best for their children and seek the Pearl’s advice, will read that:

1. Parents Must Always Be Consistent

Page 60: (On spanking an infant to train him to go to bed without crying): “Those who are MOSTLY consistent must use the switch too often. Those who are ALWAYS consistent almost never need the switch.” … “Just think! A child who never begs, whines or cries for anything! We’ve raised five whineless children.”

Page 62: (On teaching children not to whine): If you gave it a 99% consistent try, you would not be satisfied with the results.”

Page 11: Every small child will have one or two times in his young life when he will decide to take hold of the reins. The stubbornness is profound… If you are consistent, this test of authority will come only one, two, or at the most three times in each child’s life.

Page 23: (On preventing anger building in a parent) “… Discipline them immediately upon the slightest disobedience.”

Page 80: (On tantrums):Once he learns that the reward of a tantrum is a swift forceful spanking, he will NEVER throw another fit. If you enforce the rule three times and fail the fourth, he will keep looking for that loop-hole until you have convinced him it will not work again. If a parent starts at infancy discouraging the first crying demands, the child will never develop a habit.

When my twins were born, I had 4 children under the age of four years old. It was during this season that I began subscribing to No Greater Joy newsletters and studying TTUAC. I was in a season of intense parenting and remember feeling so overwhelmed and so sleep-deprived. Those feelings were legitimate! I also felt burdened because I wasn’t consistent in my child training. How could I  discipline my squabbling toddlers while simultaneously nursing two babies? I truly felt that their good behavior depended completely on my consistent training and I knew I was failing in that area. I simply did not have the energy to sleep train my babies, potty train my two year old and character train my preschooler with 100% consistency or sometimes even 50%. I felt they’d lack character due to their close spacing!

I thank my Lord for showing me early in this season that such consistency was impossible. I remember praying and asking Him to help me train my children with more consistency and He revealed to me something that prompted me to put this Pearl teaching away. In the midst of my tears of sleep deprivation and stress I came across a precious scripture:

“He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” Isaiah 40:10

“God gently leads me, ” I thought. “Gentleness, at this season is needed more than consistency.” The Lord revealed to me that Michael and Debi Pearl (and countless others I knew who followed their parenting advice) never parented four children in under four years. Having one toddler at a time makes a world of difference in how consistent you can be. The word “gentle” came to mind when I wondered if I should train… not discipline, but train. The Pearls recommend placing forbidden objects within reach of toddlers and mobile infants and “train” them not to touch using the rod. For curious infants reaching for something hot, they recommend allowing natural consequences. Often these recommendations seemed far from gentle.

“Having to always be consistent” is a ball and chain to a mother who has on her plate more than she can handle. In my case it was impossible. However, outside of “never discipline in anger,” consistency is key to training success according to the Pearls. God showed me that my desire for consistency was robbing me of joy. He showed me that He’d given me “more than I could handle” so that I would give him my load. He led me gently and I praise Him for that! He also showed me that my children weren’t doomed for character failure just because I could not train with the consistency the Pearls recommend.

2. Parents Must Spank Until Submissiveness / Repentance Occurs

Page 80:  “It is his purpose to intimidate you and make you feel like a crud pile. Don’t be bullied. Give him more of the same… If the crying turns to a true, wounded, submissive whimper, you have conquered; he has submitted his will. If the crying is still defiant, protesting and other than a response to pain, spank him again.”

Page 46: If you have to sit on him to spank him, do not hesitate. and hold him there until he is surrendered. Prove that you are bigger, tougher, more patiently enduring and unmoved by his wailing. Defeat him totally. Accept no conditions for surrender. No compromise. Your word is final.” (Now, to be fair, Pearl also says on page 47, “There are always some who act in the extreme and use what has been said about legitimate use of the rod to justify ongoing brutality of children.” He then goes on to warn against abusive behavior. The above is also in reference to an older child.)

There is much in TTUAC that emphasizes the need for a child to submit and repent before spanking ceases. Yes, Pearl says not to be abusive. However, for strong willed children, repentance may not come. Some children may not ever, in a spanking session, submit.

When my son was 18 months old, he learned to jump out of his crib and I decided to train him to stay in his new toddler bed. I put him to bed and kissed him goodnight and closed the door. He got up. He received a swat. I put him down. This went on for a while. He wasn’t “getting” it. He wasn’t repenting. He knew I wanted him in bed. He didn’t want to obey. He was absolutely “out of sorts” and I knew he’d had enough. I looked at his sweet little face, picked him up and took him to my rocker. We sang and cuddled. I told him I was sorry for being harsh and he fell asleep on my chest. The next night I put him down and he got up. His room was childproof. I told him goodnight and later found him asleep in his closet. He received no spanks. The third night he just crawled up on his bed and went to sleep. I didn’t win. He did. However, in the end, we both did! I now wish I’d never even tried to win. Nathan was not submitting or repenting and it did not appear he was anywhere close to doing so when I discontinued his “training.” The story of Sean Paddock comes to mind and it grieves me. Like my son, this little boy continued to get out of bed. His parents wrapped him so tightly that he suffocated. The Pearls, nowhere in their writing, suggest wrapping a child so tightly suffocation occurs. They do recommend “winning,” and being consistent. My guess is that Sean’s parents were trying to be consistent and yet discontinue spankings, not kill their son. The consequence in this case was horrifying and heartbreaking.

3. The Pearl Way Works!

The Pearls make countless claims in TTUAC that following their training methods always works. In rereading this book, there is very little mention of the role of prayer while in the midst of a training session. As a matter of fact, in the 109 – page book, I saw only one reference to prayer while training and it was not in the context of praying for wisdom in parenting but rather asking the Lord to use the rod to do its job:

(page 46) “When the time comes to apply the rod, take a deep breath, relax and pray, “Lord, make this a valuable learning session. Cleanse my child of ill-temper and rebellion. May I properly represent your cause in this matter.”

I believe this omission of prayer is one of the most dangerous aspects of TTUAC. The Lord may at any time lead parents to parent differently than a manual suggests. The Pearls present child training with a common sense approach: The child does this… the parent does this. When a child rebels…  the parent spanks. If a parent is consistent and uses the rod like this… children will behave beautifully. It sounds simple. However, parenting is complex. There is not a formula to raising well-behaved children. Sometimes the Lord may lead us to extend grace even to a rebellious child. Sometimes spanking is the wrong tool. I know the Pearls are not against prayer, but a book that ignores its role in a discipline or training session bothers me.

There is much said in TTUAC about the mother who is driven by her emotions and that not being a beneficial parenting trait.

(page 37) “The pitiful look of betrayal in his poor little eyes just breaks her suffering heart. It would hurt her too much to obey God in training up her child. Because of her fear of personal emotional suffering, she neglects the rod… To set aside one’s own feelings for the purpose of objectivity regarding the good of the child is the only true love. If a mother should smother her baby while kissing him, she has not loved him.”

I agree that emotional parenting isn’t a positive thing. However, Mr. Pearl is not a mother. This is a statement of the obvious but I think is important to remember when reading any book that involves motherhood as well as fatherhood. God put in mothers a sixth sense when it comes to caring for babies and children. Sometimes that sixth sense tells us to intervene or “give in.” The Holy Spirit speaks to mothers through our nurturing instincts. These instincts are God-given and while they can lead us astray, do not always! A practical husband may not understand and may view us as weak when in fact we are responding exactly how God has wired us.  I believe this is one reason Titus 2 tells women to teach other women how to love children. While TTUAC is co-authored by Debi Pearl, this portion is written from Mr. Pearl’s perspective..

I am not advocating arguing with husbands. I am not advocating giving into your child’s every whimper. I am not advocating being characterized by inconsistency! I am saying that always denying a mother the privilege of comforting her crying baby when training can be damaging. Sometimes, yes, it is necessary but there are no rules here. Husbands and wives sometimes need to pray for wisdom together while training. The following explains my point:

Eventually, we have had to train all of our children to sleep through the night. This has never involved spankings in the Jobe house but it has involved some amount of “crying it out.” When it comes time for this training, my husband takes the lead because I absolutely cannot check on my sweet babies without comforting (nursing) them. He puts them down and when they awaken, he puts them back to sleep. Usually they protest because they want me. However, after a night or two the nursing-in-the-middle-of-the-night habit is broken and we are all sleeping better. Our 5th child, however, took longer than a night or two. On her third night of sleep training, she cried for about an hour. I told Daniel I felt like I needed to go to her. Daniel reminded me (being practical) that we might “undo” two nights of training. However, I had “that feeling.” We prayed and Daniel agreed that I should tend to Sarah. I am so very thankful that Daniel and I sought the Lord instead of Michael Pearl! Sarah had no symptoms other than crying – no fever, tugging at her ears, or loss of appetite. However, two days later, at a wellness check up, we were informed she had double ear infections!

In our parenting journey there is no doubt that we will make mistakes. However, asking the Lord for guidance is sure to prevent some of them! The Pearl child training methods may work. Some of it is Biblical and does work. However, the claim that perfect training always works is misleading and can cause a parent to feel inadequate or incompetent when promised results aren’t apparent. It also can encourage a mother to ignore the Holy Spirit prompting her to “make an exception.”

My Conclusion:

Much of TTUAC speaks of honorable and wonderful things – relationships, love, and well-behaved children. However, without the Holy Spirit, this book could be very dangerous.  Imagine an impressionable mom, looking for parenting advice that works. Her children are out of control and she desires more than anything to train them in righteousness. She must be consistent. She must chastise until her child is submissive. She doesn’t trust her intuition. She consults TTUAC when conflicted instead of praying for guidance. It is possible to physically abuse a child and not be angry, especially if you feel you are doing it for his good. Yes, Pearl warns not to “cross the line.” However, with so much emphasis on the need for consistency in training, that bit of advice could easily be forgotten during a discipline session.

Please read this from an acquaintance of Lydia’s family.

Article from WORLD Magazine.

Over a decade ago, I turned to TTUAC because I needed help with training and consistency. The book did help me in these areas. Upon reflection, however, I realize I was adversely affected by the same teachings that had some positive results. With each parenting memory I’ve described, there was an internal struggle. I felt “wrong” for rocking my son when he refused to sleep in his bed. However, I know the Lord led me to comfort him. My husband and I felt conflicted when sleep training our baby. Yet we later realized the Holy Spirit was leading us. Sadly, through my TTUAC reflections, many memories were brought to mind where I was too harsh and failed to parent with the grace my children needed.

TTUAC does contain potentially dangerous information. At least two children have died at the hands of misled parents who went too far. It grieves me to consider how many more have likely been physically abused or even just denied the comfort of a mother’s loving arms. While I do not think Michael Pearl intends for his teachings to lead to abuse, I can clearly see how reading TTUAC could influence parents to sin or at least exasperate their children. I am not calling for a Pearl book burning. I do still believe that Christians should “chew the meat and spit out the bones” with any resource. Doing so, however, requires wisdom. So many parents who seek parenting advice are young, inexperienced and lack discernment. (I know I was!) Seasoned parents should direct young parents to resources that emphasize the need to pray for wisdom continually and are written in a gracious manner. This is a response Pearl wrote to his critics. I do not know when he wrote it or the circumstances behind it. I do know it is this tone that has kept me from readily recommending his materials over the years. I do think this writing style is not necessarily representative of his heart. However, an inquiring mother would be better off reading encouraging and edifying resources that leave her inspired to discipline her children in righteousness – not afraid of failing in consistency, convinced she must chastise until repentance or condemned for acting upon her God-given desire to show mercy toward her babies.

“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” Proverbs 25:11

There are many Christian parenting resources that, while not perfect, are written without the authoritative tone of TTUAC. Consistency is emphasized but not more so than prayer, grace and gentleness. My all time favorite is The Mission of Motherhood by Sally Clarkson.

Blessings to you as you parent your children and train them in righteousness.

Bartered Blessings (Frugal Fridays)

Friday, March 26th, 2010

Free science classes. Free artisan bread and bagels. Free art for some of my children and free ballet for my girls. Free baby gifts! OK… Not really “free” but it sure does feel like it!

How do I score such great deals? Certainly not by couponing. No, Harris Teeter has great triple- coupon days but no promises of free extracurricular lessons. And they’ve certainly never given me free bagels!

These super great deals come by way of bartering. I teach a writing class and have friends that teach science and art. Their children take my class and my children take their classes. No money changes hands. In my basement is a sprung wood dance floor which was a tremendous gift from a very loved teacher several years ago. In exchange for hosting dance lessons in my basement and babysitting the teacher’s children, my girls dance. Again, no money changes hands. The bread… this is where I am so very fortunate. Mr. Awesome Baker’s daughter, who I think is a writing prodigy, takes my class as well. I am more than happy to receive Owl Creek Breadworks as payment! (See The Breadlist and place an order!) The baby gifts are one of my favorite bartered blessings. My girls knit! I buy their supplies but when I need a babygift, like this adorable pacifier clip, they knit for me for free.

The Lord has provided some extras for my children through bartering. While you may not teach a class, there are many creative ways to lend your services in exchange for others.

Please feel free to comment and share your bartering success stories! For more Frugal Friday tips see Life As Mom.

Teaching Children To Write

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

Writing is possibly one of the most difficult subjects to teach, both in the early years as well as the high school years. It is subjective. It can nearly always be improved. It can be a huge source of stress in the home school.

For some children, writing comes easily. They are verbose and it shows in their writing in the form of too many words! These children write with the false assumption that more must be better, failing to see that often they’ve said a lot of nothing. Other children struggle with subject material. They stare at a blank page and no words seem to come to mind. Both types of writers need direction. If you are a mom to more than one child, especially if  they happen to be a girl and a boy, you will most likely experience the stresses and frustrations of guiding one child to “get to the point” and the other to “get something on the paper!”

I majored in elementary education and had the privilege of teaching young children writing skills for several years after receiving my teaching degree. However, most of what I have learned about teaching writing has come from home schooling my six children over the past 9 years. I have learned that there is help for all types of writers. There are absolutely wonderful materials out there to help with all the difficulties associated with teaching this subject. (More info on my favorites to follow). While I don’t have all the answers, I have discovered some wonderful tips that take some of the stress out of writing class.


Don’t push your children to write too early. Some children will be wanting to write as soon as or even before they “crack the code.” Others will be reluctant. Much of this is personality related. One of my daughters, who is very creative, had no reservations about “sounding out” and attempting to write at a very young age. She didn’t ask me how to spell anything because her writing was a “work of art” and “perfect” (in her mind!) just the way she wrote it. Another daughter, being a perfectionist, would not even think of writing anything unless her words were spelled perfectly. She didn’t write until about second grade while her sister began publishing her great works at the age of 5. Both daughters, now 13 and 14, are excellent writers.

Once your children are writing, do not focus on handwriting too early or excessively. It is completely normal for children to form their letters incorrectly. Forming letters backwards will correct. When children begin writing, let them and gradually teach correct letter formation. Once you’ve taught the letter, make sure they do it correctly during handwriting lessons. If you see they are not forming the letter correctly when writing Grandma in their free time, leave them alone! I am talking about young children here – preschool through maybe second grade. Correcting every letter will kill their enthusiasm. Keep up with the handwriting lessons. Over time, you will see correct letter formation even during their non-lesson writing sessions.


Is “invented” spelling ok? Yes, and no. As with handwriting, there is a time for correct spelling and a time for creativity. Expect published works to be perfect. If it stresses a child to “sound it out,” don’t make him. However, if you see your child happily writing away without a care in the world, let him “invent” all he wants!

Always be willing to spell for your young children. This is a huge advantage of homeschooling. A class room teacher can not spell all the words a typical second grade class will ask in a 45 minute period. A home school mom, however, can certainly do this! Keep a dictionary of common words for children 3rd grade and under. One notebook page per letter should be sufficient. When asked how to spell a word, put it in the notebook dictionary. Teach your children to look up words you’ve spelled for them in the past.

Handwriting / Dictation:

Do not be afraid to create your own handwriting curriculum. You may find, as I did, that handwriting curriculum sold as a part of a language arts package is often lacking in several ways.  Startwrite takes care of this problem. With Startwrite, you can create your own handwriting pages using any style you prefer (ball and stick, modern, d’nelian, etc). In about a minute, you can design your child’s handwriting practice with any size lines, print or cursive, broken lines to trace over or starting “balls” in which to place the pencil. This is truly the only handwriting curriculum you need for children in preschool all the way through high school. I use it for my second grader for beginning cursive as well as my teens for long passages of dictation!

Do dictation exercises. I combine this with copywork. Every Monday, I give each of my children a passage to copy (using Startwrite.) I generally take the passage out of their science or history text. Young children copy a sentence or two from their readers. Older children copy whole pages of text. On Wed., they write as I call out the passage. They then correct anything they copied incorrectly. This is an excellent way to learn basic grammar as well as spelling. It’s important for children to copy what is “right” as opposed to grammar books where they find mistakes and correct them. In the early years, children don’t know what is correct. However, the more “good writing” they copy, the more they will recognize what is well written. By late elementary or jr. high an “edit this” grammar book works well. This year with my older children I am using a wonderful resource called Fix It! I just don’t recommend showing young children incorrect writing with expectation that they will know how to improve it.

Editing and Grading:

Be your child’s editor. In the early years, one paragraph may take a whole week to write. That is ok. Take your time so writing doesn’t become too stressful. Do a rough draft, revise, rewrite… but not all in the same day! In the early years, I do dictation two days a week and a writing assignment (just 1) the other three days.

It is not necessary to edit everything your children write. Leave their creative endeavors alone. Let them know your are proud of them for choosing to write with their free time. Praise them and do not criticize!

When grading papers, focus on style and structure but leave content alone. This doesn’t mean you accept a paper that makes no sense. It does mean that as long as your child meets writing requirements, they are allowed freedom with the content. Of course, you may give a topic for a report. However, your child then has the liberty to write what interests him about the topic. Grading with a checklist is immensely helpful. A checklist for a fourth grade student may contain the following requirements for a one paragraph assignment: sentences are complete; contains topic sentence; contains concluding sentence; has an “ly” adverb; spelling is correct; paper is double spaced; title is underlined; contains a sentence with a prepositional opener; contains a strong verb. My observation is that if students know what is expected, they will try their best to meet expectations.

Require assignments be completed. I know this seems like an obvious suggestion. However, I have found that when mom takes on the teacher role, it is easy to accept incomplete writing assignments. I’ve thought, “Well, it’s not their best and could use some editing, but at least she did it.” This year I have raised my expectations. I have sent my children back for revisions until their papers are excellent. This has meant loss of privilege a time or two. However, my children now know that they are capable of truly outstanding work. They are very proud of the papers they’ve written this year and now have higher expectations of themselves.

Other Teaching Ideas:

Be a scribe. When children are very young, they often have wonderful stories in their minds but do not possess the ability to write them. Have them dictate their stories to you while you write for them. They will be so proud of “their” work and aspire to have the ability to one day write such works themselves.

Assign your children practical writing assignments: copy recipes, lists, thank you notes, etc.

Scrap booking is a fun venue for creative children to practice writing skills.

Write your children letters. They will cherish them and they may just write you back!

Encourage children to learn typing as early as possible. This will come in very handy in later elementary school years when those writing assignments become more complex. It’s much less stressful to revise a paper on the computer than by hand!

With supervision and monitoring, a blog can be a wonderfully creative writing outlet for children. Having an audience is inspiring and gives purpose to their effort. Encourage your children to post their creative writing assignments. Sometimes having Grandma comment on a blog is more motivating than a paper handed back with an A+.

Work to find an audience for your child’s writing assignments. Let your children hear you read their papers to grandparents. Encourage them to submit their writing to contests. Have them write poems or  stories to be read at special family gatherings. Display their home-made cards.


Model writing. Yes, write yourself!

Know that writing absolutely can not be a “read and do” assignment. You must be willing to teach, edit and model good writing for your children. Even children blessed with natural writing ability need direction. Children who are reluctant need much encouragement. Set writing assignments during a time when you can help.

Write with your children. Yes, that means do the same assignments as you assign them! I know busy moms have a tendency to send children off to write. Often, we have to! However, it is so important to occasionally write right alongside your children. This has made a huge difference in the enthusiasm my children have toward their assignments. They love it when they come up with a better simile/alliterative sentence/strong verb than I when writing a report. They also love the samples I provide for them and are inspired by them.

Curriculum Suggestions:

For young children who like to draw, motivate them with Draw Write Now. This is a wonderful set of books that incorporates art, science or history and writing. After writing a few sentences about a subject, award them with pretty pencils and time to do the drawing portion of the lesson.

My experience is that most literary or classical curricula assumes you know how to teach your children to write. Young children may be instructed to do a simple pre-writing exercise and then write a report from the exercise. My experience is that too much is expected of  younger children who are developmentally not ready to tackle complex assignments. Often, once students reach jr. high age, writing lessons are incorporated into the history lessons with little writing instruction as a subject in and of itself. Ironically, in my opinion, it is during the dialectic years that students benefit most by being taught writing structure. They are old enough to understand it and yet not too busy to study it. Once students reach high school, they often have little time to take composition classes. Writing assignments are given but often instruction on how to format these writing assignments is not offered. In our home school we  use a wonderful Classical curriculum, but I found that we needed a more comprehensive writing program. This leads to my next point…

Learn to teach your children to write! The Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) has a set of DVD’s called Teaching Writing With Structure and Style. The DVD’s cover about 10 hours of writing instruction for the teacher. They have revolutionized our home school! How I wish I had such instruction from the very beginning! How I wish I’d been taught the structure and style elements that this program offers when I was in school! How thankful I am that my children have the opportunity to learn valuable writing techniques and have knowledge of structural models now! I can not in this post write a complete review of IEW’s material. Browse their website and you will learn much. However, I will say that it is an outstanding incremental writing curriculum. Skills are taught and then required. Checklists are provided for all assignments. For example, once a child is taught adverbs, they must include one adverb in each paragraph and this requirement is part of their checklist. IEW covers 9 units of structure including: key word outlines, narrative stories, reports from one source, reports from multi-sources, essays, critiques, and the 5 paragraph model. Sprinkled throughout the units, stylistic techniques are taught including various sentence openers, strong verbs, quality adjectives, adverbial clauses, adjectival clauses and adverbs. Metaphors, similes, quotes, questions, and other advanced writing techniques are also taught and gradually required. Grammar and vocabulary are learned in the context of writing. There is an emphasis on “banned” words which encourages students to use a thesaurus to make their writing more interesting.

After learning the methodology, you can incorporate IEW concepts into any curriculum. When you see “write a report” in the teacher’s guide, your child and you will know exactly how to go about doing so!

In the early years, do not stress about formal structure. Just write daily and do dictation exercises. Stay positive. IEW instruction can be used for 2nd graders and up. However, I did not begin using their materials until this year with two 5th graders, a 7th grader and an 8th grader. I have found the later elementary years to be a perfect time to begin formal writing instruction. Of course you may begin earlier; especially if you have a precocious young child who wants to do work like her big siblings!

Miscellaneous Tips:

Expose your children to great writing. Read to them. Good readers don’t make good writers but reading certainly does help. When reading aloud to your children, occasionally stop to discuss excellent literary techniques.

Expose your children to excellent writing of other children their own ages. This is not to discourage them but rather to inspire them. This year I have taught a writing course using IEW materials and I believe the most advantageous aspect of this class is the inspiration that the students have given one another. Each week I read papers or portions of papers that demonstrate excellent use of the techniques we are learning. It’s amazing to see these students work hard and encourage and learn from one another! My two oldest daughters are taking my class and my 5th grade twins, while doing IEW lessons at home, are begging me to teach it again next year so they can enjoy the group benefits!

Expect awkwardness. I have a two year old who just learned the word “actually” and it pops into nearly every conversation I have with her. The thought of telling her she is overusing the word has never crossed my mind. When your child learns alliteration or adverbs or other stylistic techniques, it’s likely he may overuse them. This is  natural. He is experimenting and most likely his efforts will initially come across inelegantly. As he gains proficiency at implementing new concepts, proper usage also will be learned. Meanwhile, praise him for his effort!

Be Patient!

Have fun and be patient with yourself and with your children. Remain enthusiastic. Cheer for them as you did when they first began to speak. Then, they may have had a lisp or jumbled their words awkwardly when forming sentences. It didn’t matter to you because they were trying! Writing is the same way. It is developmental in nature. There is not a “rule” for what they should write when just as there is not a scope and sequence for what order a toddler will learn new phrases. In the early stages of language development, you praised them. Eventually they learned to read and you most likely invested in a few resources to help them with this new skill. Writing is similar. Just keep writing and keep encouraging your young writers. As they mature, find tried and true resources to help you instruct them. Keep at it and you will be amazed at the progress your children make as they mature in their language and put word to paper!

A Mindstorm Blessing

Sunday, March 14th, 2010

My son has been talking about Lego Mindstorms for quite a while and I have been ignoring him. I love Legos and think they are possibly the greatest invention for little boys ever… and I have invested in quite a few, but I just didn’t want to do the Mindstorm thing because they are extremely pricey.

When Nathan decides he would like to own something, he is persistent. Over the past few months, I’ve heard nearly daily one of the following questions/comments…

“Mom, how do you think I could earn money?”

“Do you think ebay might be a cheaper place to get some Mindstorms?”

“Mom, sometimes I wish I had harder stuff to build. Ya know… challenging stuff.”

“Mom, have you ever built a robot? I think that would be really cool.”

“Do you think that if I didn’t get anything else for both my birthday and Christmas and everyone went in together, I could get some Mindstorms?”

It became apparent that  ignoring my child and hoping his Mindstorm fixation would pass was a failing strategy. Finally Daniel and I told Nathan that he just would not be getting Mindstorm Legos. They weren’t in the budget. We didn’t ask him to pray about it because honestly, we didn’t really want to pursue finding them cheaper, saving for them or organizing a “let’s get Nathan Mindstorms for his birthday” campaign. Sometimes it’s ok to just say no.

Last week, Eric, a 16 year old great guy and friend of ours, e-mailed Daniel and asked if it would be ok if he gave Nathan his Mindstorm Lego set. Daniel spoke with Eric’s parents and was told that Eric felt led to give and they wanted to encourage that. They felt like it was a God thing. Humbly, we accepted this nice gift for our son.

Nathan is overwhelmed with appreciation. He is enjoying his new Legos and has spent about 8 hours today building a motorized car. I have never seen him so happy when his invention actually worked. He was stunned. “Mom, I just took an online tutorial and it’s so neat to actually HAVE all these cool pieces!”

“Nathan,” I asked my son, “Did you pray about getting those Legos?” His response was, “Yes, Mom. I prayed a lot and God answered my prayer.” With tears in his eyes he could hardly answer my question.

Now, I am overjoyed… and not because Nathan has a new toy. His life has been spiritually influenced by a young man who is sensitive to the Lord’s leading. Nathan wants to be a giver, like Eric. He also knows that God not only cares about our needs, but He also cares about some of our wants.

Next time maybe I’ll be a little braver when my child wants what seems unattainable and suggest, “Well, let’s just pray about that.” (even if it’s Legos!)

“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35

Thank you, Lord for young men like Eric who are willing to listen to your gentle leading and bless others. You can use any and everything for your glory – even Legos! I thank you for providing Mindstorms for Nathan, and I thank you even more for the influence of Eric’s godly character in Nathan’s life.

Free Doggy- Dos (My Frugal Friday Tip)

Saturday, March 13th, 2010

We have a little yorkie named Tanner and we just love him. He has many wonderful qualities but the fact that his hair grows quickly and needs grooming is not one of them. I remember when we were trying to decide on a dog breed, considering the grooming costs. Ideally, I wanted a dog that didn’t need grooming which certainly would rule out a yorkie. However, when we were in the puppy market and my in-laws told us about the most adorable yorkie puppies from “a good Christian family” we were completely sold. “I’ll just learn to groom him, myself,” I thought.

I learned pretty quickly that dog grooming is not a hidden talent of mine. After helping me wrangle our tiny 6 lb puppy for two hours, my husband, exasperated, told me to please call and schedule a beauty appointment for our dog the next time he was shaggy. So I did. Every 8 weeks for two years I forked out $40 for our little dog to look handsome. I know my frugal friends are shaking their heads. Believe me, paying more for my dog’s haircuts than mine was terribly painful. However, so was torturing him with the clippers. The poor thing would shake, snap and sulk. Seriously… the home grooming sessions were traumatizing for both of us.

So – how do I get my doggy’s do done free? Christina, my almost 13 year old daughter, is the dog whisperer. The clippers I originally used were an old set of my husbands. Christina requested a pet set and I decided, after two years of beauty salon appointments, to buy a new set and see if my daughter could do a better job than I. The answer is yes!  In 30 minutes this afternoon, my daughter  gave our doggy a new do. It looks fantastic!

My Frugal Fridays tip is not to just clip your pet’s hair at home though this definitely saves money. My tip is to believe in your children. Give them tools. Encourage them to learn new skills. As my children are growing and maturing, I am blessed to see their God-given gifts develop. What a joy to see them learn things that I haven’t taught them! This could go places! I can see free cake decorating, sewing, landscaping, medical advice and who knows what else in my future! For now, however, I’m appreciative of Tanner’s new do!

For more Frugal Friday tips see Life As Mom

A Different Kind of Nesting

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

Dad got the call yesterday that he is officially on the transplant list. We are thrilled. The average wait time for a heart is 2 months at the Carolina Medical Center. However, we’ve been told that his could come much sooner than that because he is on the top of the list for his blood type. We could get the call in an hour or it could be awhile – even longer than the estimated 2 month period. So now I feel like I am 9 months pregnant and waiting for labor. Immediately, I may have to change plans and get to Charlotte. Immediately, someone else may have to step in and help with meals and childcare. Thankfully, with two teens and two tweens, this isn’t as hard as it once was. However, it still means I feel like I need to have food ready and the house in decent shape, school plans ready to go and I can’t be too far from home. We are so very thankful to be only a phone call away from the recovery side of all this waiting!

A Sweeeeet Deal!

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

I’ve started couponing and I’m afraid I could become an obsessed, shopping-crazy woman. My children like this new version of me. The normal me doesn’t buy any junky  breakfast food items. We eat oatmeal, cream of wheat, multi-grain homemade pancakes and whole wheat muffins with local applesauce substituted for oil. I usually don’t even look down the cereal aisle because I think I once said, “You can’t pay me to buy that stuff.” While not a health food nut, I do care about nutrition and besides – I homeschool. That means I have to LIVE WITH my kids after I feed them breakfast!  So why did I buy all this non-food today? Simple. I got a little obsessed with the coupon thing. The cereal/pop tarts at Food Lion were 2/$5.00. I had coupons for $1.50 off 2 boxes. Food Lion has a special deal going in which they take an additional $10 off 10 Kellogg’s items. That brought my total down to .75 a box. The Mini-Wheats were actually .50/box because the coupons were for $1.00 off each one. The Pop-Tarts I bought because I was out of cereal coupons and I had to get the 10 items. The total for these 10 items was $12.00. Had I more cereal coupons, I could have gotten 10 boxes for $9.00. The cashier said, “Congratulations, Mrs. Jobe. I am very happy for you.” The bagger asked me if I realized that one box of Pop-Tarts was unfrosted. He was looking out for my kids which I appreciated and almost traded for brown sugar coated (they were out).  If you notice, the Fruit Loops box is already damaged at the top. That’s because Esther tore into it before my picture. When the rest of my children came home from babysitting at MOPS, you’d think I won some “cool mom of the year award!” Since the Fruit Loops are opened, we’ll splurge in the next few days on those. The rest of this stuff I am planning to save for my dad’s transplant surgery. That way the babysitters get to indulge in these treats and I won’t be at home to deal with Jobelettes bouncing off the walls!

For more sweet deals see Life As Mom Frugal Fridays.

LISTED! (Pending Insurance, That Is…)

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

Today Daddy met with Dr. Thomlison because over the weekend he had some breathing problems and  fluid retention. We were greeted by Dr. Thomlison asking, “So, has anyone told you that we discussed your case this morning in our transplant team meeting?” We assured him we were aware that his case would be discussed but had not heard the plan. Much to our (and especially Daddy’s relief), Dr. Thomlison informed us that the team approved him to be listed. As long as his insurance covers the procedure (and we are sure it will), Daddy will be put on the heart transplant list. Usually, this takes about 3 days so we are hopeful that by the weekend, it will be official.

We feel the news we heard today is the best news we could have heard. At Daddy’s last appointment, the LVAD was discussed as a possible option for a bridge to transplant or even instead of one. We were thrilled to know of another option, but didn’t feel in the long run this was the best one for him because he would still be in heart failure. Also, the LVAD would be a little cumbersome because he’d have to always have the battery pack with him and would always be “connected” with a tube. The LVAD is wonderful for those who have a long wait for transplant or for those who are not good candidates. However, transplantation truly gives Daddy a new lease on life.

I inquired about the high calcium levels, low platelet situation, and parathyroid issue. All of those things were discussed in the meeting this morning but none of them are contraindication for transplant surgery. Daddy was told it is most important that his heart is taken care of. Then those other issues can be tackled. We are prayerful that he will be able to wait for his heart at my house and not in the hospital. That way he can continue to experience the benefits of around the clock entertainment and good meals. Daddy is not a fan of boredom or hospital food.

Being a type A+ blood and a 1B status puts Daddy in an excellent position. There are no others on the list with his blood type which means as soon as a heart in western NC becomes available that is a good fit for Dad, he will be notified to make his way to Charlotte for surgery. The average wait time for this facility is 2 months. However, Dr. Thomlison indicated that most likely for Dad, the wait would be shorter. However, there is, of course, no way of determining this.

We are so thankful for a good appointment today. We’ve put this whole situation in God’s hands and we trust Him. If we were told today that Daddy wasn’t a good heart transplant candidate, we’d still be thankful for the Lord’s guidance. We wouldn’t want him to go through this if it weren’t in his best interest. However, we all admit that “listed” is the word we wanted to hear today. For us a new heart means hope for a longer and better quality life. Daddy went to bed thinking of all the sermons in his head that he wants to write and deliver. He wants to exercise and get stronger. We all thank the Lord that hopefully very soon, he’ll be able to do those things and more.