Monday, July 22, 2013

What I'm Reading: The Christian Mama's Guide to the Grade School Years by Erin MacPherson

Last year was Moose's first year of full-time school. I feel I had a leg up on the letting him go part because he'd been to 1.5 years of preschool plus 3 days a week summertime preschool. Well, I was wrong. Full day is a whole other ball game! Plus I had him in full-time AND Squirt in part-time - whew was my mama heart full of stress for awhile.

I didn't know what Moose was eating, who he was (or wasn't) playing with, who his paras were, how he acted, how other kids acted. Nothing. It was really hard for me. Until I prayed. Of course, prayer makes everything come into perspective. God was with my Moose (his Moose) - always.

Erin MacPherson's book "The Christian Mama's Guide to the Grade School Years" is a wonderful book to read (along with being a prayer warrior for your kids) to get moms comfortable with the idea of their children being in school. This book is not just for public/private school goers either! I would say it is more geared toward that, but in Chapter Six, they discuss choosing a school for your child(ren). I thought this chapter did a wonderful job discussing the pros and cons of various types of schools: public, private Christian, homeschool, and parent partnership school (which is something I'd never heard of - kind of a hybrid between private and homeschool. Sounds awesome). I think the most important thing she said is that there is NOT one right way to do it - for every family (or I think, every child). Personally, we pray every year about what to do the following year. So far, God has lead us to send both of our boys to public school but we are open to other options (well, the options available to us here).

MacPherson is a likable author; she seems like someone you could have coffee with (although she may get a little chatty, she's funny-chatty!). Her parenting model aligns very closely to our parenting model - putting Christian values, morals, and a relationship with our Lord above academic and extracurricular success while seeing the values in those things. She defines success in her "Fifteen Factors" that we should be trying to instill in our children:

1. Genuine faith
2. Vision
3. Resiliency
4. Wise decision making
5. Work ethic
6. Responsibility
7. Courage
8. Focus
9. Godly knowledge
10. Self-control
11. Discernment
12. Self-motivation
13. Teachable spirit
14. Honesty
15. Positive attitude

I believe if my children master those, I would be one happy mama. MacPherson emphasizes working toward heart goals (i.e. "I want to learn to work hard in any situation so God can use me as He sees fit.") versus head goals (i.e. "I want to get good grades so I can go to college and earn a lot of money."). She also discusses having a family vision statement (and gives advice on how to write one for yourself). Her family based theirs off of 2 Peter 1:5-7:

"For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love."

We can use this vision to guide our parenting. To teach our children, bit by bit how to become a successful part of our family. MacPherson broke down their vision statement by introducing bits to their kids (having a Brotherly Kindness month where the kids were rewarded when they were caught being kind to their siblings). She incorporated the Fifteen Factors and Vision Statement into their conversations ("Wow! I can see that you're showing perseverance, and that's one of the qualities our family has listed in our vision statement. Good job!" I've used a similar statement when working on no training wheels with Moose). Last, but not least, MacPherson prays about instilling this vision statement (induced with God's Word) into her children's hearts because "sometimes (okay, oftentimes) it's enough to just pray."

MacPherson bribed her mom into helping her with this book (her words, not mine); her mom is a principal at a Christian school so has the expertise, along with parenting her own children, to add to the "From the Principal's Office" portions of each chapter. I loved her "8 Ways to Avoid Being a Helicopter Mom," especially #4: "Don't immediately pick up the phone to call the teacher or coach or school when your kid is upset. Go to God first in prayer." What a great reminder to season everything (EVERYTHING) with prayer. Also the "Extra Credit: Protecting Your Kids from Big, Bad Bullies" was a well-written 'article' that really is applicable! I've discussed school bullies with a mom friend a few times; I can't wait to share this information with her.

I really enjoyed reading this book. It wasn't overly technical or boring; she has a great voice throughout, bringing humor (like the time her son put glitter glue in a friend's hair) along with sound advice (10 Simple Ways to Teach Your Kids Social-Emotional Skills). The other chapters were easy to read, intriguing: Your Kindergarten-Readiness Checklist (simple tasks to help along academics), Great Communications Anonymous (nagging less), The Glitter Glue Incident (about incidents and behaviors at school that will embarrass you; we've had enough of those in our house to know it's normal and it's OK. Your child's actions don't define you or your parenting!!), a chapter for dads (telling that they do better letting children go), Michael Phelps Was Born Swimming (mostly about extracurriculars and over-scheduling), and Do This, Not That (really helpful ways to help your child, like letting them make mistakes rather than correcting EVERYTHING for them). And the Appendix is really the most useful - about praying Scripture over your children.

I plan to pass this book around to friends whose kids are entering school for the first time. I hope it helps ease some mama-stress as we do send our children out into the big bad world...

Disclaimer: I received this book to write an honest review. Others may or may not share my opinions.

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