Author Archives: WesleyDir

How to share the gift of prayer with your children

I do not have much of an imagination and do not enjoy science fiction,  fantasy or cartoons. Therefore, it is curious that I had an imaginary friend, named Boy, when I was a toddler. I simply called him Boy and in retrospect wonder why I never chose a more creative name for my friend. Boy was a compassionate and playful pal who went with me everywhere.  We chatted and giggled, happily trailing behind my three siblings.

After I became old enough to attend Sunday School and understand the lessons, I quickly replaced Boy with a new best friend, God.  We held hands in joyful, faithful trust, and have never let go.  We have an ongoing conversation about the blessings in my life, the splendor of His world, and the things with which I need help.  I ask for guidance on how to be His vessel and how to be a beacon of love and peace in a turbulent world.  I pray that I serve Him well at Wesley and that I care for you, your children, and the faculty with kindness and grace. My prayers always include my appreciation for my wonderful family and friends.

It is amazing to talk to God, who loves me unconditionally and who I trust and love with all of my heart. I pray that you also have this experience and that you prioritize prayer for yourself and your children. I encourage you to share the power of prayer with your children, as it is an integral part of a faith journey.  As we age, faith and prayer insure a path back home if we become lost and confused.  Church leaders and Sunday School teachers provide critical information on the Bible and its contents.  They influence your child’s walk with God in many ways particularly the value of daily prayer.  Although their role is significant, you are ultimately responsible for your child’s Christian education and faith.

Some readers may ask, “How do I teach prayer to a young child?”  I will include some simple guidance and suggestions.  First, be a role model in daily life.  Offer simple, spontaneous prayers of thanksgiving to God in front of your child.  My mother said, “Thanks be to God” several times each day. Pray regularly and frequently in front of your child.  Susanna Wesley, the mother of John and Charles, the founders of the Methodist movement, would put her apron over her head for peace and solitude when she prayed.  Given that Susanna was the 25th of 25 children and had 19 children of her own, the apron idea seems a good one.  While Susanna stated that her prayers were always of thankful appreciation, I have to wonder whether she included the request for a good nights sleep :)

In that children thrive on predictability and routines, I suggest that prayer times be at regular times, such as before meals or bed.  Together thank God for your blessings and then ask the child, “What one thing would you like God to help you with?” If your child is challenged by the question, memorize together a few simple prayers to share together until he/she is older and more comfortable.  You could simply have the child repeat a prayer after you.  Try the five-finger prayer where you hold up each finger and pray for a particular person.  Take a prayer walk, listening, seeing, and smelling, to reflect and rejoice on the beauty of creation.  As children get older, teach the Lord’s Prayer to reinforce the link between home and church.

Prayer is an invaluable tool for children to have on good days and not so good days.  It facilitates a dialogue about anything and everything with God, who loves us unconditionally and forever. It shapes our heart and gives us peace.

I  recommend:

What Happens When I Talk to God by Stormie Omartian

Every Which Way to Pray by Joyce Meyer

Devotions for Preschoolers by Crystal Bowman

God, You Are Always with Us by Carrie Goddard

A Child’s Goodnight Prayer by Grace Maccarone

Thank You Prayer by Josephine Page

Poems and Prayers for the Very Young by Martha Alexander

Thank You, God by J. Bradley Wigger

 

 

My Reflections on Parenting

I have raised our children and embraced middle age with my spouse and golden retriever.  I often marvel at the intelligent, compassionate, and independent young adults which my children have become. I would like to take credit for their accomplishments but must admit that I was a member of the “helicopter parents” prevalent in the 1990s. Psychologists hypothesize that our helicoptering evolved from our fear for children’s physical safety and emotional stability.  The media was partly at fault as news events, particularly terrible and scary, were more easily and frequently disseminated. To insure safety, we ambitiously tried to prepare the path for the child, not the child for the path.  As we overprotected and over- directed our offspring, we hampered their intellectual and emotional freedoms.

During this time parents closely supervised activities on the playground, facilitated interactions during play dates, rewarded all players with a trophy, hid cell phones in luggage for summer camp, challenged sports coaches, and faulted teachers if their child did not excel. My generation was so busy organizing and controlling every aspect of their children’s lives that we often forgot to teach them life skills, let them take risks, make mistakes, experience disappointment, and build resilience.  Most of your parents are my age and perhaps they were somewhat over involved in your life growing up. I encourage you to accept their “meddling” as an act of love.  While the consequences were frequently criticized, the intentions were laudable.

As a side note, my staff and I have recently read How To Raise An Adult by Julie Lythcott-Haims. The book is excellent, and I highly recommend it.  The author provides invaluable insight and guidance into parenting children of all ages, including teenagers.

I believe that your parenting style is different from your parents and mine. I applaud you for adopting a more balanced approach. In my opinion, you “helicopter” less, encourage growth and independence more, model initiative taking and accountability, and build confidence and character in your children.  While you are there to support your child through successes and disappointments, you are not trying to fix and control things.  I am proud to lead a community of parents with realistic expectations and confident in their approaches and choices.  I am blessed that you trust the administration and faculty of Wesley UMC Preschool not only to love and nurture each child as an individual but also to teach them how to successfully serve as a member of a community.

Another change between my generation and yours is church attendance.  Our families regularly attended church where we experienced fellowship, and God’s unconditional love and grace. That is no longer the case. Approximately 36% of Americans currently attend church services weekly; only 20% of young adults choose church on the weekend. I encourage you to prayerfully consider sharing a community of faith with your children so they can learn more about the value of kindness, patience, hope, joy, humility, and forgiveness.  The human heart can only find true peace with a strong faith.  Love is an action, not a quality.  When life is challenging, and it will be, faith will help you and your children light a candle, not retreat into darkness.

The Human Touch

What would an article about the stethoscope have in common with one discussing preschools in the United States? As I recently read two stories in different publications, I was surprised to find that their focus was similar, in a heartwarming way, and I wanted to share the insight with you. Both pieces emphasized our world of technology advancements and increased reliance on prescribed standards and sophisticated testing to the detriment of the value of human interactions and communication.
The article about the stethoscope was published in The Washington Post on January 2 of this year, titled “Heart Doctors Are Listening for Clues to the Future of their Stethoscopes.” Describing the stethoscope as an obsolete device, the author informs that imaging tests and pocket size ultrasound devices are now used instead. In fact, replacing the instrument makes sense in that cardiologists accurately identified 82% of patients with heart problems while cardiologists using stethoscopes were correct only 47% of the time. It was noted, however, that using more modern equipment means physicians spend less time with patients on physical exams as they must complete computerized records and also deal with an increased number of patients. While it is imperative that the medical profession utilize the best and most accurate resources, it is sad that technology is replacing the visual and verbal exchanges which occur with a stethoscope exam. The author states, “The stethoscope is an icon, of course. Yet it carries more than symbolic value. It narrows the physical distance between doctor and patient. It compels human touch”.
The preschool article was published in the January/February 2016 edition of The Atlantic and was titled “How the New Preschool is Crushing Kids”. The author explains that many preschool educators have recently adopted a more structured and formal curriculum because they believe that  kindergarten has become the new “first grade.” The academic expectations of parents at the preschool level have increased also. Consequently, in some preschools children are spending more time with seat work and direct instruction. Spontaneous, unstructured conversations in the classrooms are infrequent. Teachers increasingly direct students through structured activities and “herd” them from one activity to another. There is no time for open-ended questions, curiosity, and free exploration. Teachers are not chatting freely, reading, or building blocks with their students.

The article cites recent research and studies which found that preschool graduates exhibited more readiness when they entered kindergarten but by first grade, “their attitudes toward school were deteriorating…children who had been subjected to the same insipid tasks year after year were understandably losing their enthusiasm for learning.”

In my opinion, children at this young age need more than learning the correct pencil grip and sitting stiffly at a desk; instead they need to sit in their teachers lap, hold the teachers hand, talk openly, know they are listened to and cared for. They need the human touch.
Let me assure you that  Wesley UMC Preschool graduates are well prepared for kindergarten and that we continue to make the human touch a top priority. Our educators are “building relationships with their students and paying close attention to their thought processes and, by extension, their communication.” We know how to prepare our children for kindergarten while also loving and nurturing them. God loves us, we love Him, and that love flows from us to you and your children.

Kindness and gratitude are conscious choices

Some of you may recall an article I wrote two years ago about a new passion for running I had developed. I related my excitement about using this solitary time to converse with God. Occasionally a Wesley parent will remember that article and ask “do you still run and pray?” I am proud to respond “yes” but the answer is somewhat more complex. My conversation with God is different now; there has been an evolution in the content of my prayers. Initially my prayer time focused on my concerns and challenges. I asked God for guidance and wisdom. I sorted through problems at home and at work, prayed for direction and grace, and listened quietly for God’s voice and peace.
After several months, I wondered if a different conversation would be more uplifting. I decided to change the nature of my prayer time during exercise, concluding that the communion should begin with gratitude and love for my many blessings. Not only did I begin thanking God for family and friends, but for the small moments of my day. I would recall hearing the simple laughter of your children, watching a teacher and child hug at the beginning of the day as if they had been separated for months, and listening to the joyful banter between teachers before school. On one day in particular I ran a long distance thanking God for our golden retriever who bounces like Tigger, loves unconditionally, and enjoys carrying our socks in her mouth. My focus was that God is good all the time and that gratitude is a conscious choice.
Several weeks ago I thought I needed to fine tune my prayer time again. I worry that society does not fully embrace the significance of respect and kindness towards others. On runs, I am trying to acknowledge the acts of kindness which I observe during the day and which I perform. I pray that Wesley Preschool staff model these qualities for the students and parents, and that our community fully embraces these virtues. Children see and hear how we treat others, and learn how we handle both easy and challenging situations. They know if we are the patron who pays it forward in the Starbucks line, if we respond to anger with dignity and kindness, if we help a stranger overwhelmed with a screaming child in the grocery store line, and if we take an extra minute to help an elderly person cross the street.
True respect and kindness for others, more than just a random act, but as a personal virtue, becomes much more possible when the love and peace of God rule our hearts. At the end of the day, we will be remembered for how we treated others. Let us together make the Wesley UMC Preschool a beacon of hope and love in our relationships with others.

Peace,

Laura

 

Are you Mary or Martha?

Dear Parents,

Are you Mary or Martha?  As you may remember, Mary and Martha are two sisters in the Gospel of Luke who open their home in Bethany to Jesus and many disciples.  Martha quickly went to work creating an elaborate meal while Mary, much to the chagrin of her sister, did not help with any of the preparations. Instead she sat at the Lord’s feet listening intently to what he said.  When Martha complained, the Lord answered, “Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42) Are you able to hear God’s call in your busy life? Do you stop and listen to a friend and show kindness towards others, including strangers?

It is easy to become distracted and overwhelmed with the responsibilities of parenting and the daily activities of a family. Running from soccer, ballet, piano and other activities can be exhausting and leave little time for nurturing a spiritual life. After a long day in the office or in the home, we still have laundry to do, lunches to make, and emails to read.  Frequently we do not have the energy left to engage in an intimate conversation with God or in reading the Bible.

When I take the time to nurture my spiritual journey and to spend time in God’s word, my heart fills with grace and peace, enabling me to be kinder and gentler with family and friends. Social competency largely depends on kindness.  Intimacy with God calms the heart and quiets the soul allowing believers to share positive relationships with others.

Sitting quietly in my office last week, I had the privilege of observing you pause to honor the staff during Teacher Appreciation Week.  You  showered the teachers with cards, flowers, food, and love. Most important is that your children watched your many acts of kindness and listened to your words of appreciation. I also observed the teachers working tirelessly to honor the children’s mothers with a class party in recognition of Mother’s Day.  The children were so excited by their mom’s visit and delighted to be with their parents and friends simultaneously.  It was a joyful week of celebration and kindness at Wesley.  We all paused our busyness to share fellowship and love.

I pray that this summer is a time for you to reflect on the story of Mary and Martha and for you to share its message with your children. Find as much time as you can to play with your babies. While you are playing with your children, have fun, enjoy the moments, and when those opportunities arise, share with them the good news of God and His beautiful world.

Peace,

Laura

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peace be with you

March 2013

Dear Parents,

I did not lose my enthusiasm about the Director’s blog; in fact, I have focused on it many times.  I simply was having difficulty honing in on a topic.

I initially planned to address the question — how do we, as parents, balance our efforts and desires to have our children reach their greatest potential with embracing them simply for who they are. In other words, how hard do we push to make them the best they can be? That lead me to ponder a second topic. “Are our parenting efforts always beneficial or are we striving to make our children like us and to meet our expectations of the perfect child?”  If a child is born “far from the tree”, do we celebrate his/her differences? If a quiet, introverted child is born into a loud and rambunctious family, what happens?  If our child enjoys reading and solitude while we prefer sports and celebrations, do we acknowledge and cherish the different personality or find it perplexing and annoying?

Hopefully you will not wonder about my attention span, but a third topic surfaced when I observed many of you interacting with your child at the recent Wesley Church Easter party.  Obviously, most of my time with your child during the school year is in the classroom.  While supervising the cookie decorating station at the party, I had the privilege of watching your child create a beautiful Easter cookie.  Some parents were happily chatting with friends and not even aware that their child was at my station. (No, worries, I am accustomed to watching many children simultaneously and it was a true delight seeing your warm smiles and friendship.) Other parents were carefully managing the decorating activity and offering advice and guidance to their child.  Driving home, I reflected on the many parenting styles I had observed and even wondered how I would have viewed myself with my own children.

After much reflection, I decided that Wesley parents are well educated, resourceful, and perceptive adults.  As a group, you do not need my advice on parenting or my observations on your relationships with your children. Instead I want to compliment you on your excellent parenting and your reliance on your faith to raise God’s children.  I am proud to be a part of a community which takes such good care of its children.  Rather than trying to control the path, you let your child walk with Jesus every day.  Peace comes because you are humble enough to turn your heart to God and to ask Him for guidance with loved ones, particularly on difficult days. With God’s help, you are striving to be the best parent you can, to be at peace with your decisions, and to remain hopeful about the future.

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)

Peace be with you,

Laura Hoing

Recommended Resources for Apps for Preschoolers

Dear Parents,

I am excited to post my very first blog!

I have not suffered a full blown mid-life crisis and purchased a motorcycle or gotten a tattoo. However, an empty nest brings extra time in my day and an opportunity to explore new things. You may remember that I began running a year ago and frequently run short races. If you know me well, you know once, just once, I won my age group and STILL brag about it. Yes, running continues to be great fun in my life. More importantly, it provides me wonderful moments of reflection, prayer, and time with God.

Another mid-life adventure I hope to tackle is to become more informed about social media. As your Director, I feel that it is imperative that I understand and use the technology that we embrace daily. In the near future I will send you a survey monkey asking how you prefer to receive information from the preschool office and how you feel about the integration of tablets into our curriculum.

I recently participated in several workshops led by Fran Simon at the Virginia Association of Early Childhood Education Conference. Fran is the Chief Engagement Officer of Engagement Strategies, a national marketing, educational technology and webinar production consulting company. She is also the author of Digital Decisions: Choosing the Right Technology Tools for Early Childhood. Check out her website: www.ECETech.net and also the Early Learning Environment Community (ELE) on www.fredrodgerscenter.org for recommendations on educational apps for your child’s tablet. Fran likes: My Story, Cookie Doodle, Toca Boca, and Smacktalk. Fox News recently suggested the following apps for preschoolers: Grandpa’s Workshop, Wood Puzzle, Endless Alphabet, and Counting Bear.

I hope that you enjoyed my first blog and can check out some of these recommendations.

God Bless,
Laura