Saturday, July 12, 2008

Four year olds and choices

Well, we're here, in the new home and loving it! The kid's have adjusted well, Jesse has already made friends with two little boys down the street (it's so great to have little boys down the street!). Augie loves all the flooring options to lay down on and the freedom to roam upstairs and sleep on any available bed (we had a baby gate on the stairs in the old house). I love my new kitchen, bathroom and laundry on the first floor and space to spread out (and toys in the basement!). I also love things I didn't notice before we moved in: a beautiful mountain view from our backyard (ok, so it's a small mountain but still better than the view of the drug dealer's shack in the old house). We even met a neighbor who graduated from Gordon in 1979, CRAZY!
My sister was here last weekend and my mom for part of it and together they helped me get things unpacked, decorated and on the walls. We went crazy shopping for window treatments and landscaping. I called it the "weekend blitz" and I am so thankful for all the help!

I have also been reading a book the past few days. I am dedicating this upcoming year to researching education alternatives for Jesse who will begin kindergarden in a year. I have been leaning toward homeschooling for years now and since it will be a reality in a year I want to make sure I am making the right decision. So, I have started reading and plan to read A TON in the next 6 months or so. Right now I am reading a great book called, Guerrilla Learning: How to give your kids a real education with or without school. It's a very helpful book in explaining what a "real education" is and how you can provide that even if you choose to send your child to school and not keep them home. One of the things they talk about is giving your child choices in their education, children learn better when they are learning about something they are interested in and that they have the choice to learn about. Makes sense to me. This is exciting for me b/c I think that this really appeals to Jesse and his personality. Some kids are great with going with the flow and doing whatever task is put in front of them (Karis is alot like that) but some, like my little boy, need a little more freedom. In his preschool conference at the end of the year his teachers commented that he rarely participated in the activities they had prepared, like the arts and crafts. He preferred to play on the floor with the cars or they would find him in the book corner looking through the books- things he was interested in. But when they did a unit on sea creatures and dinosaurs, they said he did every activity they had planned and he informed them of all he knew about the subjects (he is mildly obsessed with both of those topics!). I am noticing he is alot like that with things I ask him to do around the house: brushing teeth, getting dressed, going to bed. I feel like I am constantly battling him to do things all day long and the more I force the issue, the messier it becomes. I know that some of that is obedience issues but I also realize that giving Jesse more choices and freedom helps him cooperate more. The question is, how do I give him more freedom. It makes sense to do so in education and learning, how do I apply that to other areas of life without letting him step outside boundaries that I know he needs (and wants)? For instance, he needs to brush his teeth, that is non-negotiable. But how do I allow him freedom, age-appropriate freedom, to brush his teeth so that he actually does it without a fight and without threats from me? I do I maintain Biblical parental authority without crushing his spirit? Any thoughts?


C said...


Hello! Here's a few thoughts:
1) Jesse sounds like a child who is motivated by power. There is a book that has a great chapter on those kinds of kids called The Motivation Breakthrough: 6 Secrets to Turning on the Tuned-Out child by Richard Lavoie. Bascially, his point is that a child who is motivated by power doesn't want any of your power, but needs to feel like they have their own. So, for example, if Jesse fights with you every night about brushing his teeth, perhaps giving his a small choice that you have no problem with such as "here's what you need to do before you go to bed. Brush your teeth and change your clothes. Which would you like to do first?" might help. Or if the problem is he doesn't brush long enough saying "You need to brush your teeth for 1 minute, do you want to set the timer or do you want me to?" I had a student in my class this year who could become very emotional and defiant if she didn't get her way. I implemented the strategies in the book and saw a dramatic change. Her mom also read that chapter in the book and said it totally changed her perspective. So, I'd recommend that.
2) On a side note, I have one thought to add to your thought about the importance of "giving your child choices in their education, children learn better when they are learning about something they are interested in and that they have the choice to learn about." My one caution about this approach to education is that children are children and they are also inherent sinners, which is very out of vogue with current educational philosophy I know. They do not know best and they don't always choose the best. That is why God gave them parents and teachers:) And I think if you decide to home school with Jesse's power personality you will have to be careful not to give in and only allow him to do those things he wants. in pre-school it sounds like they have them the choice, free play, etc. That's great and very age-appropriate. But as he gets older, he won't have the choice to memorize his multiplication tables, Bible verses, addition and subtraction facts, sight words, phonics sounds, states and capitals, etc. He will have to do those things whether he wants to or not. And those things are good for him. I also think that most teachers knows choice is important and will give Jesse as many choices as they can so I don't think you have to worry about that.
3) And my last point is that choice is really only important once you have the tools of learning. If Jesse wants to learn about WWII, but doesn't know how to read at a high level, think critically, debate, or speak/write clearly about what he's learned, then he'll be forever limited. When children are young they have a great ability to memorize and not so great of an ability to analyze and synthesize. In my opinion, choice is a greater factor as they become older and have the tools of learning in place so that they can then delve deep into subjects. A great article on this is by Dorothy Sayers called The Lost Tools of Learning. She was a colleague of CS Lewis and Tolkien and wrote this article back in the day. It sparked the current resurgence of Classical Christian Education. Douglas Wilson, based on Sayers work, started the Logos School and wrote a book called The Case for Classical Christian Education as well as many others. It is worth a read, I think, even though I don't agree with all of his points. He has some cautions for home school parents in the back of the book as well, which might be worth checking out.

Anyway, love you. Hope this helps in your journey:)

Lisa said...

Based on what you've said about Jesse's school experience and his personality it sounds like homeschooling would be just right for him. But my goodness, there are SO many options out there in the home education realm! It is even more intimidating than the cloth diapering scene! I was thinking about getting a jump on the homeschool preparedness this fall - researching different approaches and having a couple days of structured preschool activities. I heard an offer on the radio for a free homeschool starter kit 1-877-2-HOME-ED so I think I'll start there.
Bob read that Doug Wilson. Now he's all about Classical Education.

Jane said...


Thanks for the input- both as a friend and an educator! I have been trying to give Jesse more choices in the everyday battles but also making sure he knows that there are consequences for some of those decisons- for example, he went to bed hungry the other night b/c he chose not to eat his dinner. He wasn't happy about it but it made him think twice the next night he was stalling at dinnertime. I do think that narrowed choices also help, like you suggested. I am hesitant to open the flood gates and let him choose whatever he wants to do. But narrowing things down for him so that he has a choice btw. two or three things is something I am comforatable with and gives him a little more freedom. I am also letting him take responsibility for a few things around the house, one of which is feeding the dog- he loves it and is doing a great job.
As far as education and choices- I agree that children don't always know what is best for them and that as his mother and possible educator, I do know there are things he does need to know. However, the beauty of homeschooling is that he can learn those things in a way that suits his learning style and interests. For example, learning math skills in context to a subject that is of interest of relevance to him. He will be more excited about learning and I beleive able to retain information better if he is excited about what he is learning. Also, homeschooling allows him to learn at his own pace. And I am not sure that I trust that he will always have a teacher that will cater to those needs. After teaching myself, I understand the constraints alot of teachers have in actually teaching- but that is a whole other post!There are alot of things I like about classical education and have done some reading about it(and will add your suggestions to my list). But more than the style of education, I want to know my son, know what he loves, what gets him excited about learning and the way he best learns. I want to give him more than I had in school (a whole other post!) and I want him to love learning, not just getting straight A's for the sake of getting a grade.
Thanks again for the input and I welcome more as I think through all these things!

Jane said...


I know the homeschooling world is very overwhelming. I would suggest starting with books about education and how children learn. That's where I am now and it has been very helpful and I think I will be better able to choose a curiculum based on my "research". I do have a leaning toward classical education- a helful book is The Well Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise. I also read a helpful overview book called the Homeschooling Option by Lisa Rivero, a great help. I am reading through John Holt's classic, How Children Learn, very insightful as well. More importantly, I am finding that getting to know Jesse is one of the best resources I have. I can choose the best curriculum I think is out there, but if he doesn't like it or it is not made for his learning style, why homeschool? I have learned that recently- he has expressed an interest in learning how to read and breezes through the pre-reading worksheets we have, so I thought i would give reading lessons a try. A friend recommended a book that worked really well with her four year old. I did the first half of the first lesson with him and he said, "I don't like this reading lesson" and to be honest, I didn't blame him- it was BORING! He loves to do worksheets but he likes them to have lots of pictures and to be interactive. This was black ink on white paper and very instructor driven, not for him. So, we will give it a rest until he expresses interest again and try something different!

C said...


It sounds like you and Matt are being very thoughtful about educating Jesse (and Charis too) and I think that is great. One of my greatest concerns as a Christian educator is that Christian parents sometimes think the job is done for them when they drop their children off to school. Instead, it is a parents responsibility to raise their child in the fear and admonition of the Lord, and a school's job (if they go to school) to partner with the parents to help the child develop a Biblical worldview. I pray for your decision and agree with Lisa that trying it out for a while with sample curriculums might be a great way to see if it fits your personality and his personality.

Sullivan's Mom said...

hey there. even though sullivan is only 1, I definitely think about these things.
I think that people can be turned off by the term choice, and I totally get what you're saying. Honestly, while there are absolutely some rote things that need to be learned, education is as much about the process as the material. Times, they are a changin' and the ability to acquire what you need to know is becoming as important as what you know. I taught for a few years in a child-centered charter school in the burbs, and there's something to it. The idea of choice is, in a lot of ways, aligned with our roles as christian parents. (Or even just as parents...) Choices, even the smallest ones, have consequences, and how am I - the parent - going to to guide my child to help them make wise choices that won't harm them or others. Lord knows we made some Crazy choices, and we're all still alive and better for them. It sounds like you are considering homeschooling for all the right reasons, and so more power to you.
(plus, on a side note, the idea of choice is funny, because you can provide children the choices so that while they are making the decision, you win either way. brush your teeth now or brush your teeth after the story get their teeth brushed either way. a little teacher trick I've picked up - choices I can live with.)