Friday, May 10, 2013

Guest Post: Cooperation Boot Camp Part I: Introduction

Say hello to Lily, mother of my children and amazing wife. I so loved her recent writings on child rearing that I wanted to share them here.

Well, I'm doing something important this week. It is Cooperation Bootcamp. Beatrice has some behavioral issues and there are kinks to be worked out with Ambrose too. Things I've put off for months because I was just too busy with school to be the kind of primary caretaker these kids needed. So we are making up for it with an intensive week to get on track for summer.


What is Cooperation Bootcamp?

It is a week-long program that features a fun, well-planned daily schedule with plenty of opportunities for conflict resolution. The more conflicts we encounter, the more opportunities we have to resolve our issues. My hope is that this week provides enough conflicts and resolutions for us to get a feel for what's going to work longer term.

Beatrice and Ambrose must cooperate with me and trust me. I must be patient with them and practice self-control. My goal is not just to have a peaceful home, but also to have a loving, affectionate home providing a safe, stable environment conducive to learning and long-term honest communication.

Parenting is an experiment. This is my first go-round, but I've been an observer and assistant in a variety of labs. I've seen stuff work and I've seen stuff appear to work only to back-fire later. Or in some cases, not exactly back-fire, but just lead to strained relationships and bitterness for years at a time.

I think it's really important to look at the big picture and long term objectives more than the convenience of the here and now. Yes, it is important to me that my children behave in public and cooperate when I need them to. But it's not as important as my long term relationship with them. Yes, I want them to come when I call and sit and stay and listen to me and respond appropriately and all of that. But it is more important that I lead by example. I'll go into that a bit more in my upcoming post about tactics.

For now, I will give a brief overview of how it's going so far. Our morning schedule looks like this:

breakfast
dress and make beds
chores for me and playtime for them
morning snack
activity time
lunch

I know it looks like snacks and lunch are almost back to back, but activity time packs a punch. We sing songs and say our Bible verse. Then we have a Bible story. (Right now we are focusing on the concept of The Good Shepherd, Ps. 23*) That's a lot of sitting, so we do exercises next. (We can call it exercising even if it is free movement dancing, right?) Next we do our letter sound flash cards and read some stories. The children have a little wooden table in the living room where they get to practice writing letters. Amby is not good at this at all, but he can scribble really well. Then we learn about shapes and numbers using construction paper, scissors and glue. 

This may read like a quintessential homeschool preschool. But it's not as simple as that. We have fun, but we also have conflict. And that's kinda the point. It's really good for me to have this big chunk of time every day where the children have my full attention. No chores, no distractions, lots of coffee in me. We don't answer the phone. We just learn together and get redirected. A lot. (And not just the kids. I have to check in with myself to stay on track and keep my focus!)

Then naps happen. That's when I get a break. I don't do chores. I do my own thing.

After naps, we still have a couple hours before James gets home, so there's time to cuddle on the couch before we start on dinner. Yeah, we start dinner really early so the kids can help. It's slow going, but builds cooperation and hopefully teaches them a bit of the domestic arts.

The rest is pretty standard: dinner, baths, stories, brush teeth, bed by 7:30 or 8. 

Ok, so I have a lot more to say about what's going on around here. I am working on my post on Tactics and another on Biblical Non-Violent Parenting. Shoot me an email through the contact form above if you'd like to pipe in on either of those topics. 

*This led to an interesting conversation today. Bea said she can't be one of Jesus' lambs because she is not white. The lambs are all white in Tomie dePaola's illustrations. I told her that sheep can be brown, beige, black, white, or any color just like people. God made us that way and Jesus loves us just the way we are.