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Friday, March 30, 2012

Can Anything Good Come From the TV?

The television is such a powerful force in our culture, and the pull to sit mindlessly in front of it for hours on end is strong. In America, children have been babysat by the TV for years, and have grown accustomed to escaping their world in front of a television, wasting away half their life.

In our family, we wrestle with the influence of media through the television on an ongoing basis. We haven't had satellite or cable television for several years. We do, however, have Netflix, as well as an antennae to access network television.

It never ceases to amaze me how Hollywood sends un-Godly messages through the shows they produce - even for kids! The minute you begin to believe something is safe for the kids to watch, BAM! You are broadsided by garbage. Sometimes my husband will say, "I grew up on this show." But I'm shocked even watching shows I watched as a kid. I don't remember them being that bad, but they now disgust me. Everything from violence to potty talk to teens playing kissing games - I've seen enough junk on kids shows to make me sick to my stomach. Even TV or movie ratings do not guarantee a show is decent for OUR children (although, with the exception of Passion of the Christ, we, in general, do not allow our children to see PG-13 or above). We, as parents, are the only ones who can truly determine if something is appropriate for our kids to watch.

Here are some red flags for me in what my kids watch:
  • Violence isn't ALWAYS a throw out - my children have seen Passion of the Christ, and we love Little House on the Prairie, where occasionally Pa has to set a bad guy straight. We know that in real life, they may be called upon to fight against injustice. Battles are a part of our world history, and God calls us to fight at times against the forces of evil. Within reason, we do not shield our kids from real life and what truly happened historically, such as the fact that Jesus was beaten and bruised for our sin. But purposeless violence just for the sake of entertainment is ridiculous. Many cartoons, even, have lots of fighting that isn't necessary. We steer clear of Sonic the Hedgehog, Ironman, Hulk, and even Spiderman. Sure, they may be fighting for a good cause, but too much watching these kinds of shows without parental supervision to explain moral lessons just isn't healthy. I have a house full of boys, on top of it. It's far better that they go outside and play "Courageous" (they like to each be one of the police officers) and do something WITH their brains instead of sit numb in front of the TV watching characters fight.
  • Disrespect, selfishness, and rebellion is a big one for me. Shows that depict families where young people disrespect their parents, do things behind their parents' backs, or have a rebellious spirit towards any authority, I don't tolerate. I am actually sickened by how many shows Disney (and others) produces that show entire families completely self-absorbed, always putting themselves first, looking to dodge serving anyone, all the while, the audience laughing.
  • Lust and teen or child girlfriend/boyfriend relationships - the Bible says we are not to awaken love before it's time. Since we instruct our children that they are to save themselves and their hearts for when they are much older and prepared to marry, why would we have them spend years watching shows that create a longing in their heart at much too early an age? It makes no sense, and is torturous.
  • Unwholesome talk and behavior is annoying, rude, and ill-mannered! Since we are trying to teach our children to have excellent manners in respect of others, they do not get to watch shows where there is burping, farting, disgusting and inappropriate "potty talk," or the like.
  • Aimlessness is an epidemic in America, where young people have not discovered their purpose, and therefore, spend their days foolishly. Shows that encourage kids to or depict kids doing stupid stuff  and finding it amusing are a waste of time.
  • Pretty much anything that depicts the opposite of our family values as being normal is out of the question.
You may think, "Well, just because my kids watch these kinds of shows doesn't mean they will do the same things. I've taught my kids differently." Well, so have I. However, the Bible cautions us to guard our ears and eyes against unrighteousness. Why? Because whether we think we can overcome it or not, the spirit of what we watch and hear creeps into our spirit. Soon, your teenager will start to think what they see regularly depicted on TV is the norm, and that your instructions are weird and not normal, and therefore, should be disregarded. YOUR CHILDREN ARE WHAT THEY WATCH! That's the facts! It will seep into them, whether you like it or not.

Sure! I'm actually  encouraged by how Christians are finally putting out high-quality films these days that compete with Hollywood. Here are some things we enjoy:
  • Documentaries are fabulous. We are a family that loves to learn. Netflix has several documentaries that are about great men and women of faith or history (who inspire my kids to be better), or about Biblical places, or historical events, or even science, that we find fascinating and educational. 
  • We are a big sports family, and watching the pros helps my sons perfect their gifts and talents. JUST WATCH OUT FOR THE COMMERCIALS - have the remote in hand to change the channel when necessary.
  • Shows with a positive message - we love Liberty Kids, VeggieTales, lots of PBS educational kids shows, and a myriad of Christian films accessible on Netflix. Even movies about actual historical events are fantastic. We love Little House on the Prairie, and own the DVDs to season 1-7. When our oldest was very young, we started watching LHOTP. All the sudden, we watched her behavior improve, as she was copying Laura & Mary's manners and respect for adults. My husband said to me, "Please, let her watch as much LHOTP as she wants!!!" because he was so impressed with the positive influence it had on her.
Ultimately, you want to monitor your children's behavior. If you have some real problem areas, media isn't to be blamed. However, if media isn't helping, if it isn't supporting what you're trying to teach, and if it isn't influencing them to be better, than why watch it? TV is not a necessity. Your kids can live without it. In fact, there is a movement across America of families who do not even own a television.

We prefer our children engage in productive activities during their free time - anything that promotes creativity, learning, or serving in some capacity is productive by our definition. That's the direction we try to steer our children. We require our kids to monitor the time they spend in front of any screens (shows, games, whatever), and they must limit it to an hour a day.
What part does media play in the life of your family?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Clothing Inventory & Chore Charts

When spring is fast approaching and I know the weather is about to change, I start taking inventory of all the children's clothing for the coming season. (I do the same thing again as fall gets closer.)

1. I go through each child's winter clothes and put them away in storage bins or on the top shelf of their closet where they're still accessible, but not mixed with summer clothes.

2. Then, I go into the barn where I store hand-me-down clothes. I look for cool clothes in the size my children are going into - hand-me-downs from their older brothers. I include shoes.

3. All this time, I'm getting rid of clothing with stains or that are really out-dated.

4. When I'm all done gathering summer clothes, I count how many of each item I have using a chart I created:

5. I decide how many of each item each child NEEDS. I then circle or highlight whatever I do not have enough of. That becomes my shopping list for that child for the upcoming season.
Here's the Seiler family's chore chart for this month. Notice we've now added "water garden," to the list - yay!!!

Friday, March 16, 2012

When Your Child Isn't Like You

For me, it all began at the Mentoring Mansion, which was in Youngstown, Ohio then. I was pregnant with my second child, and my firstborn was three years old - the age when lots of unique personality begins to shine. During the intensive I attended there, I was introduced to the DISC Personality Profile. Although I knew my firstborn was a lot like me in many ways, I also knew there were parts of her forming personality that were not like me. This profile test, which I have gone on to teach many times in the years since the intensive, revealed to me very clearly what I had already begun to notice about the similarities and differences between me and my firstborn. Now, I could see it on paper for the first time, and things began to make sense.

It also gave me many insights into how to interact with her. For instance, my personality, as I shared in last week's post, is very task-driven. I love to get things done. My firstborn is very social, and loves to be with people. Many times, as a stay-at-home mom, I was looking for activities to keep her busy by herself so I could go about doing my housework or whatever I had to do, free from interruption. I learned that my daughter isn't really wired to spend lots of time alone. She would be far more happy working right alongside me on whatever I was working on. And so I needed to make adjustments for her sake.

I also learned that she is driven by fun, while I'm driven by tasks. Therefore, her natural tendency is to do fun activities first, and procrastinate on work. Knowing this, as a mom, I am able to guide her and teach her tools to overcome a tendency that could become a problem for her. I teach her to do work first, then fun, or on days when her work list is super long, to do one work task, then 20 minutes of something fun, then the next work task, then another 20 minutes of something fun, and so on.

I have many similarities in personality with my first two children. They aren't entirely like me, but I do understand a lot about how they think and process life. I can relate to them in many ways. However, my third child is my complete opposite.

The DISC profile is explained like a circle or square broken into four quadrants. Your strongest personality traits appear in one quadrant, and most people have a secondary trait that appears in a quadrant "next door" to your primary trait. For me, I am a "DC," meaning I'm primarily in the D quadrant, with C being my secondary. DC's are task-driven. D's are natural leaders and very direct. C's are very logical in thinking, and careful and methodical.

My third child is on the other side of the circle from me. He is an "IS." The IS side of the circle is people-driven. I's are driven by fun, are quite spontaneous, and love to be around people, and S's like to take life slow, stop and smell the roses, and are very sensitive. He and I are exact opposites. I don't exactly relate to him with personal experience. I cannot get inside his head and think like him. I'm wired differently.

My third child, who is now almost 7 years old, has created a great challenge for me as his mother and teacher. Because our lives are very busy and often hurried, I have to relax a bit for his sake, realizing that he doesn't respond well to hurrying. I am learning to appreciate his love for life, his joy over small things, and his huge heart of compassion, all of which, many times, get in the way of getting things done. Schooling my first two children has, so far, been problem-free, because their learning style is similar to mine. My third born isn't responding very well to the same schooling tactics. It has become obvious to me that I need to change something. I'm not speaking his language. He's wired differently. He processes life from his heart - I process life from my head. I can learn from a book, he learns by using his body.

The important thing for me to remember is this: One personality is not better than another - they're just different. EVERY personality type has strengths and weaknesses. I shared some of the weaknesses of mine in last week's post. As a mother, my job is to encourage my children in their individual personality strengths, while guiding them to overcome their weaknesses. And I must not forget to work on my OWN weaknesses, also. That's the best gift I can give to my children.

How about in your home?

Do you have family members who are very different from you? Do you try to make them more like you, subconsciously believing your personality style is the RIGHT personality style? Or do you appreciate the different personalities in your home?

Is there something you are doing as a parent that is suppressing your child's true personality? Or are you encouraging your children to capitalize on their personality strengths, and improve on their personality weaknesses?

May I encourage you to make this a matter of prayer - asking the Lord to show you how to appreciate the uniqueness of each of your children. They need that from us, so they don't grow up frustrated and exasperated, trying to be something they are not just to please us. May God richly bless you on your journey to discovering and appreciating the uniqueness of those you live with!

Friday, March 9, 2012


Stress is plaguing us in record highs these days. It's all around us. Our homes are not immune to the disease of stress. It has crept its way into our families. It has become a way of life.

Stress is caused by many factors, including financial woes, marital or health issues, and simply too much to do, and many times, a combination of several factors. Certain personality styles struggle with it more than others.

Stress has a negative physical effect on our body - science has proven that. It can also lead to that feeling of a black cloud over your head - or depression, which is running rampant in our society, and in our churches. I've experienced the black cloud myself.

I have dealt with stress most of my life. I am a task-driven personality style. I love my to-do lists, and I like them even better when they are completed. If I don't get something done, I have a tendency to believe the whole world will fall apart because I let something go unfinished. When the to-do lists get too big and I cannot manage it all, and everything on my list doesn't get checked off before I go to bed at night, stress sets in.

In addition, my task-driven personality style causes me to always want to fix and improve things in life - whether it be schedules, decorating my house, how I school my kids - there's always new ideas. I am notorious for laying in bed, trying to fall asleep, while my mind races with unfinished business and concern about how to improve life. Often, this leads to discontentment - it's hard to admit - because perhaps I cannot make something better right away. I become unhappy with the way things are, longing for the way they could be - and the black cloud sets in.

I do not claim to have the magical formula for removing the black cloud. I do know that it is not God's desire that we live with that black cloud. God is all about the "exceedingly abundant" life! He is all about JOY! Psalms 16:11 tells us that in God's presence is the fullness of JOY. I know this! I know what God's Word promises! But there have been times in my life when, no matter what I tried, I could not make myself feel joy. I wanted it badly, but couldn't find it anywhere.

God heard my pleas to remove the black cloud - but He didn't do it instantly, the way I had hoped for. He did it by giving me new revelation. He does that a lot. I want Him to do the work for me, but He chooses instead to teach me how to do it myself.

So what did He reveal? Well, first, that the root of stress is fear - fear that the world will fall apart, fear of lack of progress, fear that if I don't do something, it won't ever happen - and fear is not of the Lord.

And to go even deeper, the things that created the black cloud over my head had everything to do with my perspective - how I viewed those events in my life. I know the Scripture that says God's ways aren't our ways and His thoughts aren't our thoughts - I recite it to myself all the time. But I mistakenly thought that He operated in my life in such ways that He knew were comfortable to me or that would make me happy. I didn't take into consideration that He isn't AS concerned about my happiness as He is my wholeness.

As a parent, I know that my job is to train up my children in the way they should go. By nature, they don't want to go that way. But I am not concerned about whether or not they WANT to go that way, because I know that way is the best for them, and that's what I truly want - the best for them. I realize that they may scream and kick and flail and throw tantrums as I train them, but all the while, I know it is for their best interest that they learn God's WAY. Sometimes, I even set up situations to test their growth in this area or that.

Life is a giant one-room schoolhouse, isn't it?

So I began to understand that what I perceived as "bad" in life, God may not necessarily see that way - even when "bad" involved loosing a child or being trapped in miserable employment - things that seem obviously "bad" to us humans. I began to understand that even these experiences have a purpose, and it's not my job to try to figure out what the purpose is, but instead, to trust God and roll with the "punches." Fighting Him doesn't make things better - it just leaves me exhausted - and with a black cloud over my head.

If anything I'm saying is ringing true to you in a personal way, I would highly recommend picking up a copy of One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. This book will take you on a journey towards a much-needed life perspective-shift, and as you shift your perspective on your life, the black cloud slowly is removed. I've experienced it for myself!

I pray that you begin to look at life differently - ask God to allow you to see from His perspective - and even begin to thank Him in trials. I am praying for victory in your life, and growth in God!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Reading Lists by Grade

In our home, our children are required to read every day. One of the ways I try to accomplish this is by putting them to bed 30 minutes to an hour before their bedtime, and having them read in bed until lights out. My oldest has always been an avid reader, so I don't need to remind her to read. My boys are a little less willing to read by free choice. But that's OK. Reading is still a daily requirement as long as they are of school age in our home. I call this "Free Reading" time, but the word "free" is somewhat misleading. They aren't free to choose whatever they want to read at this assigned reading time. I direct their book choices. There are other times of day when they are free to choose any book they wish to read, but I want them reading out of a book I've chosen for them daily.

I really have a vision that all our children leave our home one day having read as many classic books as possible. Last year, I spent some time creating a list of classic literature, and then looking up the grade level of each book. I use Book Adventure as my main source for finding out the reading levels for most books. I then created reading lists for each grade and saved them on my computer. These lists are what I use for each school year. My children are required to read every book on the list for their grade-level in the span of one school year (and sometimes, into the summer break). The lists are not final - they are still a work in progress.

As spring rapidly approaches, and summer is just around the corner, books are a great way to keep children engaged in learning. In our house, we encourage our children to find productive activities during their free time. Reading is an activity that not only increases their vocabulary and leads to good writing skills, but also immerses them in some great stories that are part of our history. Character lessons can be taught through classic literature, whether they be good examples or bad. We strongly desire for our children to develop a LOVE of reading while in our home, even if they don't have it naturally. We tell them that READING is LEARNING.

I would like to share my grade-level reading lists with you, but I have a few disclaimers:
  • I have not taught all of these grades yet. My oldest is in 7th grade right now. So these lists may change based on what we discover as we get into the upper grades.
  • I have not read each of these books myself. I cannot vouch for their moral appropriateness until we get to each one.
  • These are suggested grade levels. Your child may find some books on their grade-level list too difficult or too easy. Each child is unique. I have one son who reads one grade ahead of his grade-level. So for him, I use the list appropriate for his reading level, not his actual grade.
  • These lists definitely are not all-encompassing. You are welcome to add to them or take away as you see fit. I might do that myself. There's far more great books in the world than are listed here, that's for sure.
OK, here they are! I hope you find them useful.