All posts by erikarizkallah

The most important thing I taught my children

By Erika Rizkallah

With the exception of teaching my kids about God’s love for them, the single most important thing I’ve taught them is to trust their gut. In a language they could understand I called this their “Spidey Senses” and explained that God gave us all Spidey Senses to help us know when to run from danger. When they felt those senses tingle, they should run for help, no matter what. And mommy and daddy would never be mad or embarrassed if they did.

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                                 Teach your kids to trust their “Spidey Senses.”

I can’t tell you how many times my children came to me saying, “Mommy, my Spidey Sense started tingling, so I ran away!” They exited numerous encounters (probably freaking out some well-meaning adults along the way) but I always praised them for it.

As my daughters got older they became highly sensitive to feelings and energy they picked up from people. More than once they used it to escape dangerous situations.

I’m reminded of this because last week I had to pick up a young friend – a daughter of my heart – after she’d been date raped. For now, I’ll call her “Jessica” and like many sad and strange tales, there’s more to the story I can’t talk about. But what I can say is that Jessica, who just turned 21, didn’t trust her gut and got hurt as a result.

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                                        Sex trafficking is a global problem

She connected with a man on Tinder, a popular relationship and dating site. One look at the front page and it’s easy to see how people can be lured in by the beautiful people and positive testimonies. Let me say that I’m not blaming Tinder in any way. Jessica takes responsibility for her actions and has had both good and bad experiences meeting people on this site.

However, in this case she was preyed upon. Only now can she look back and see the things that were a little (and a lot) “off” about this guy. But he was a smooth talker, a player – and she ignored her intuition. She went out for a couple of drinks with him and woke up naked in his bed the next day with no memory of what happened the night before. She was drugged.

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                               14,500-17,500 people are trafficked in the U.S. annually

The detective and hospital nurse believe he may be part of a larger organization – like a sex trafficking ring – and his plan was to lure and trap her into prostitution.

The one thing Jessica did right was go to the hospital, but the incident sparked an argument with her naturally upset family. So now she’s here with mine.

Why did I post about this topic today? Because as parents and homeschoolers, we’re responsible for giving our children all the skills and tools they need to navigate this perverted and evil world. If you haven’t yet talked to your children about intuition, please do. You might spare them from danger and trauma on the road ahead of them.

Now you: When has trusting intuition worked for you?

 

Every day is a blessing from God

By Erika Rizkallah (reposted from http://www.Erikarizkallah.com)

“Every day I feel is a blessing from God. And I consider it a new beginning. Yeah, everything is beautiful.” Prince

2015 was a hard year for me – filled with physical, mental and emotional challenges. I can’t remember how it began but it’s fresh enough to remember how it ended.

November and December was like a slow moving hurricane whirling off the coast toward a direct hit on my home.

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Last year my husband and I decided it was time to renovate our highly outdated home. We’ve been wanting to remodel certain areas; get rid of the mirrored backsplash in the kitchen, replace broken appliances and get rid of the gold fixtures in the guest bathroom.

But you know how those things go. Once you decide to change certain  areas, you may as well go big and do it right. So what started out as a simple kitchen/bathroom remodel turned into a full scale renovation of our middle and upper levels.

There were many disagreements between us along the way. Multiple meetings with the contractor and interior designer that came with the job. And packing up EVERYTHING. This was no easy feat for a homebody homeschooling mom like me, but I did it (for the most part). In order to give the contractor a good start we decided to take a trip so we left the country for two weeks and spent time visiting family in Dubai.

And we came back from this life-changing vacation to this . . .

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Goodbye kitchen
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My favorite room in the house – our heritage room
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Just like a man . . . the tv stays

So that’s where I’ve “been” – metaphorically and physically speaking – and I have so many new things to share with you in 2016.

I’ve resolved that this year will be different – I’m saying goodbye to the physical, mental and emotional challenges of last year. And even though I’m living in a literal mess, I agree with Prince’s assessment that each day is a blessing from God and yeah, everything is beautiful.

Mental Matters: Homeschooling kids who hate school

By Erika Rizkallah

I don’t enjoy Mondays. Not for obvious reasons – repetitious drudgery or weekend exhaustion – but because I know five days of life sucking fights are ahead of me.

The old joke about mothers being “blessed” (cursed) by having children just like them was made for me. I hated school too. Each morning I’d think of new ways to avoid going.

My favorite was putting my clothes in the dryer and faking sick. Mom would scowl, tell me I wasn’t really sick and prove it by getting the thermometer. In those days we used the glass thermometers that you’d shake down to zero and wait forever for the silvery mercury to rise.

She was always rushing to get to work so she’d say, “I’ll be back in a few minutes to check it, now get ready for school!”

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good old thermometer trick #fakesick

I’d get my clothes from the dryer and use the heat from my jeans to raise the temperature on the thermometer. Then I’d shake it down to 100 or 101 degrees.

Sneaky? Yes. Successful? Always.

Of course now I stand watch over a digital one but it doesn’t keep them from whining about invisible ailments. Headaches, stomaches and nausea are easily faked but I know the truth. My teens simply hate school. They’d rather focus on other interests.

But work must be done so I cajole or encourage and on bad days, threaten.

Most days we’re not one of those smily families working at desks or the kitchen table. They sprawl on the sofa, sit in bed or hang outside on the deck. I suppose that’s what I get for causing my mother so much grief.

I’ve given up fighting about when or where it gets done but I insist that it will. get. done.

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Smile for mommy – hee hee!

Homeschooling kids who hate school is harder than anything I’ve ever done. But the struggle isn’t without costs and benefits. The cost? My energy and patience takes a hit. The benefit? We’ve learned how to fight fair, negotiate and compromise which is useful in the real world.

All days aren’t like this but Mondays …

How about you? What do Mondays in your homeschool look like?

Trusting God with homeschool plans

By Erika Rizkallah

Here’s the follow up to my post about the adversary trying to steal my homeschooling joy.

My husband was convinced that sending our son, Sam, to a private prep school was the best choice for him. But I wasn’t. I’ll be honest, Sam is a challenge. My pregnancy was difficult, his birth grueling and at nine months he weaned himself. I’m not kidding, he took one look at what I offered, pushed my boob aside and sat up. Done!

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In kindergarten he had panic attacks at the doorway despite my efforts and those of a gentle and loving teacher. It got better in second grade but increased again after bullying incidents (by kids and a teacher) in fourth grade. By the end of that awful year I was done. I decided to trust what God was asking of me and give homeschool a try.

It was the best decision we ever made.

Sam’s always been one of those kids who hangs out on the fringes of activity. He doesn’t like many people, loud noises or chaos. He’s never been one for sitting down either.

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First grade field day
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watching from a distance

So I don’t know why my husband thought transitioning back again in 8th grade would be successful. I suspect it’s because he’s like Sam and avoids school activities like the plague (leaving me to deal with the drama). But he was insistent and I agreed that if it was meant to be, God would work it for good. My husband had a connection at the prep school and was assured of an “in.” He was 100% certain.

With a heavy heart and a friend’s assertion that “private schools will take anyone whose check doesn’t bounce,” we went through the application process and entrance exam. We waited for the director to call and prepared to shop for new school clothes and supplies.

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But special clothes aren’t needed for homeschool and we won! I mean, God won. The school called saying unfortunately they couldn’t accept him because they didn’t feel they could meet his needs.

What that really means is that he didn’t meet their standards. My thoughts on that could create an entirely different post but I’ll spare you.

Anyway, I’ve never been so happy to have Sam rejected! The takeaway for me was this: God’s plan won’t be thwarted. I yielded to my husband’s decision and was faithful through the process, but in the end, God’s will is what matters.

We can trust him with all things.

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. Proverbs 19:21

Your Turn: What plans have you trusted God with?

 

 

Wrestling with the thief: When joy is threatened

It’s that time again. Time for planning the school year ahead of us. Generally, this is one of my favorite times a year – it’s right up there next to the fresh, earthy smell of spring . . .

(I wrote those words over 25 days ago!)

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But this year, I’m late – a little like one of those late blooming flowers that I thought wasn’t going to come up with the others. I should have known that after I published my last post, Joy Story, something would come along and try to steal it. The well known and often repeated words of Jesus says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)

If anyone can recognize the work of the thief, It’s Jesus.

Anyway, right after I wrote that post about my daughter, Kat, getting accepted into the local community college, she inexplicably changed her mind and decided she might want to spend her senior year at a local college prep academy. What the heck? I was irritated to say the least; I’d spent loads of time getting her into the college, but ultimately it’s her academic future and I wanted her to have the choice. So we went through the requirements of taking a tour of the school and spending a day in the classrooms. She loved it.

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But because she’s a teenager she of course couldn’t make up her mind. So I gave her a few weeks to decide. Then all of a sudden, my husband felt that since she wanted to go to the prep school our son, Sam, should go as well.

Oh. My. God.

I was crushed. I know the Lord called me to homeschool my children and I also know a traditional classroom setting isn’t the place for him right now. But my husband was insistent – he wanted him to be in “a regular school.” In his own words, “This homeschooling b.s. isn’t working for me.”

All my dreams and hopes for guiding Sam through his high school years were smashed. What’s a broken-hearted mother to do?

Pray!

Oh Lord, how I prayed that somehow my husband would change his mind. Listen to my reasoning. Understand my son’s desire to continue homeschooling. But he didn’t and so I thought. Maybe God is doing a new thing . . .

Since this post is already long, I’ll tell you what happened in the next one – and I promise I won’t take 4 months to do it. Stay tuned!

For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. Isaiah 43:19

Joy Story: Homeschooling changes lives forever!

Thank you all for your patience and prayers as we went through the process of dual enrollment in our local community college.

I’m thrilled to report that my daughter, Katya, was accepted into the program. After a long four hour testing period, she exhibited mastery of all subjects. It means big changes in our homeschooling routine for next year and I feel the pressure lifted from my shoulders.

And by that I mean literal pressure – and pinching. I hold all my stress in my shoulders and suffer from pinched nerves that prevent me from turning my head sometimes.

Homeschooling teenagers is not all fun and games. Surprised? They can be as stubborn and set in their ways as adults – training for old age I guess. Anyway, I went for a celebratory massage the next day!

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At the same time, I regret to say that my nephew, Justin, wasn’t accepted into the program. This is difficult for all of us, but he exhibited courage and grace well beyond his seventeen years. Now, he and his mom are trying to determine the right path for him to follow for next year.

Despite this setback, I also got some good news today after his mom called the college’s program director. He told her Justin was only four points away from mastering the English requirement. Four points! We could hardly believe it because all his life Justin was labeled learning disabled in reading skills.

In fact, when he came to me from public school a year and a half ago in 9th grade, he only read at the 5th grade level. This last national testing revealed that he was up to a 10th grade level. The Accuplacer test shows that he has the potential to work at the college level.

This is not to toot my own horn, but goes to show what daily one-on-one help and encouragement can do for a kid beaten down by a system that wrote him off as “unable.”

It’s great that Katya got in, but for me and even bigger payoff is knowing Justin’s life is changed forever. He’s not the speechless, broken kid he once was, but has a new confidence for the road ahead.

All glory goes to God for that. Can I get an Amen?

Now you: What’s been your biggest homeschooling joy story this year?

Homeschool Help!

I know it must seem like I’ve taken an extra long spring break – don’t I wish – and I apologize for being gone so long. At the last minute, my daughter and nephew (also my homeschooler) decided they want to be dual enrolled in the local community college.

Can you say “freaked out?” Because I can. I am totally freaked out about the idea of sending my kiddos off to college so soon. Even though it’s not really college, it’s high school in a college setting. They’re not ready. I mean . . . I’m not ready.

I don’t always jump at their every wish or impulse, but this is a great opportunity for us all. It allows them to finish high school and earn college credit at the same time. It will also free me up from teaching two students. Bonus!

Because I didn’t anticipate this, I’m not adequately prepared. Thank God – and I do thank God – for Lee Binz. For those of you not familiar with her, she’s a sanity-saving resource for me and many others. One of the things I have to do to get the kids ready, is prepare high school transcripts and Lee is a wealth of information for everything high school related.

This week I’ll prep my kids for the required Accuplacer test and beef up their essay writing skills. So while I’m busy prayerfully trying to stay focused on the goal of getting in, I ask that you lift us up in prayer as well.

Be back soon with tales of this adventure and helpful hints in case you decide to dual enroll.

With God, it’s always an adventure!

If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer. Jesus (Matthew 21:22)