A Personal Letter

Dear Friends, Today I offer a personal letter – and a confession of sorts – to those of you who know me and also to those of you I have never met, but take the time to read my blog. Thank you! I find myself in a somewhat dark season right now, a time when I feel like I am going nowhere and unable to accomplish much. Even writing a blog feels difficult. I find myself posting less and the blogs I do write feel hollow. My mind feels like it’s stuck in neutral and has been for over 8 months. That’s when my life took a “detour” with my 89-year-old mom moving in with us. Immediately the pace of my life slowed down. I no longer had the freedom to come and go as I pleased or to do much outside the home, except for those activities that could be done with a person in late stage Alzheimer’s. My greatest challenged morphed into how to find contentment in these circumstances –  In doing the same things all day long, day after day.  In trying to be interested in the same limited, circular conversations.  In serving my mother even in the most simplest of tasks.  In maintaining the simplest of schedules in order to accommodate her needs.  In continually having to answer the same questions.  In keeping her safe while allowing for her need to be independent. I consider myself pretty tough. Resilient. I am a Finn with SISU. I have learned how to meet major challenges and to rise up when I have fallen, but God is teaching...

Mini Blog #4: Teach Your Kids to Not Interrupt

Kids interrupt. When my grandchildren want to ask or tell me something they begin to talk excitedly, often without pausing to think that I might be in a conversation already. Sometimes three or four of them will try to get my attention all at once. Eight-year- old Kate was the family’s “queen of interruptions.” But that is changing because she is learning better ways to get the attention she needs.  On the way to school last week she began to recite an assigned poem, but midway through both her cousin and her brother interrupted her. Frustrated, she cried out “I can’t remember my poem when I am being interrupted.”  She personally experienced how interruptions disrupt focus and feel very annoying.  With 4 to 6 grandchildren with me on Tuesday home days, interruptions can make all the difference in my ability to effectively attend to each individual as well as their ability to stay focused. Plus interruptions eat up time. That’s why I am making it a consistent aim to teach my grandkids a more prudent way to get my attention. If I give in (which is often easier at the moment) and pay attention to their interrupting, I reinforce this bad habit, whether my responses are positive or negative.  Kids interrupt to get what they want or to get our attention. They just need to learn better alternatives.  Last week, I gave my grandchildren two simple choices; they could either raise their hand during our school time to let me know they needed something OR they could put their hand on my arm or shoulder indicating they needed me for something....

Mini Blog #3: Teach Your Kids to Journal

There’s something about writing things down that helps me remember.   Whether it’s a grocery list, a to-do list or a list of people to pray for, writing information down makes it far more likely to be remembered.  Throughout the years I have recorded many things in my journals, which include times when my life seems to be crumbling as well as times when everything comes together perfectly. Overall this stack of journals form a record of prayers as well as my spiritual journey AND they form a reminder of God’s promise-keeping faithfulness in my life. Because this practice has been so life-giving, I decided to begin journaling with my grandchildren. I am blessed to have one school-at-home day each week with my grandchildren. After a morning group meeting, I hand them their journals, which include a note I have written to each beforehand.  I usually include both affirmations and suggestions. Then ten minutes of silence follows during which they write a response to my note (as well as anything else they wish to write about).  Their statements are heart-felt and often define behavioral expectations they plan to work on. At the end of the day, I ask each child how they felt they did in hindsight.  The girls in particular choose to write again reflecting on the day after it’s completion. I am reminded of how reflecting on our experiences can be a better teacher than the experience itself.   Journaling is definitely a means by which to intentionally foster reflection. At first the process felt awkward to them, but in just a few days, their journaling is...

Mini Blog #2: Begin the Day With a Higher Perspective

The perspective I start out with when I first climb out of bed in the morning usually determines the quality of my day. When I begin with prayer and a time of spiritual reflection, I am more apt to see the entire day through this lens. However, when I begin by diving right into my to-do list, my entire day tends to play out like a checklist as well. Then I wind up more focused on merely getting through the day rather than drinking fully from the experiences it actually holds. I notice a similar pattern in the school days at home with my grandchildren. Sitting down with them with a time of prayer and reflection, before we jump into school lessons, sets the day up to be more peaceful and productive. After prayer and discussion about a spiritual concept, each child agrees to a character focus for the day. For one it could be working on a teachable spirit. For another it may be attentiveness or patience. Persistence is always an aim for all. Discussing these qualities up front gives me permission to remind them during the day of their personal character aims. As a result, a deeper purpose rises out of the process rather than merely getting the task list completed. Plus we all enjoy the day much more. Perhaps you feel like you have absolutely NO margin in your jam-packed school day to add in such a meeting with your kids –  that your only option is to urge them to jump right into the day’s work as soon as possible. Although you value prayer and...

Mini Blog # 1: Growing Persistence

I offered my grand daughters, Haddie (6) and Kate (7), beginning piano lessons this summer. I didn’t start out with many expectations. Having never taught piano before, I figured we would all learn along the way. One day I announced to them that they would be giving their families a recital in two weeks. They were excited about the idea until they learned that not only would they play the one-hand-at-a-time pieces they had grown comfortable with, but they would also be playing a piece that required both hands at the same time – something they had not yet tried. “But Oma, I can’t do that,” each girl stated in her own way. “That is too hard for me.” Sitting beside them one at a time, I held firmly to the expectation and by the end of the session, both discovered that they actually were capable of learning the two-handed piece. Having grown a bit complacent towards the end of the summer, being stretched was just what they needed. Both the time and effort they put into practice multiplied from that day forward. On recital day, they joined me early to make an Amish cake roll to serve after the performance. The event was a huge success and both girls gained some persistence as well as confidence in their growing skills.  (Both in the kitchen and at the piano!) They are already planning a Christmas recital.  We all know what persistence is —–working through challenges and not giving up. And we know that persistence leads to success. But how do we help our kids grow in it? It’s actually...

Mini-blog series: FOSTERING a CULTURE of LEARNING & GROWTH

Until recently IQ was considered the most important factor with regard to a child’s success in learning. Now scientists are finding a very different set of skills believed to be crucial; these are non-cognitive skills such as persistence, fortitude, self-control, curiosity, drive, and thoroughness. They are often referred to as executive function skills, those intangible character qualities previously regarded by many as not teachable. Now however scientists are saying these may in fact be the most important skills to teach.  How can we foster a culture in our homes and classrooms in which children learn these qualities that are vital to their growth and development in every way? How do we encourage them to be “attentive observers and industrious doers, propelled by their own initiative?” (Veritas Valiant) How do we teach our children grit or SISU, that tenacious ability to persist despite the challenges? How do we help them grow in attentiveness and self-control? Starting August 28th, I will post a “mini blog” each week related to how we can foster such a culture in our homes and classrooms:  The blogs will be short posts consisting of simple ideas, links to related articles, thought-provoking quotes or scripture. Whether you are an educator, a parent or grandparent, or simply someone interested in helping kids, join me in this series. I value your ideas and insights and plan to include your great ideas in future posts.  You can share them via the comment function OR simply email me at geschuk@gmail.com. To receive notification by email, go to familywings.org/blog.  On the right sidebar, you can subscribe to receive notifications of new mini-blogs as...