Sometimes school doesn’t look like school…

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I had a discussion with a young homeschooling mom this week about curriculum planning and development.  After exploring her daughter’s interests, strengths, struggles, and individual quirks, it became apparent that traditional seat work was not the best method for her.  She is active, personable, bright, obsessed with animals and art, and generally delightful!  Spelling, language, and science worksheets are of no interest to her, and cause the family school time to be uninspiring and, ultimately, discouraging.  She needs art, geography that is associated with the natural world, spelling that involves her whole body, and tons of experiential learning.

One of my favorite parts of the day was when Mom looked at me, and expressed that what she was looking for (without realizing it) was permission to allow her daughter to be herself, and throw away the mold!

While I am NOT a fan of allowing children to lead out in their education, nor do I advocate beginning the school year without a plan, I do wonder how much more we would all learn if we accepted who we (and our children) are, how we learn, and focused on our strengths rather than the areas which need work.  Math, science, language arts, geography, manners, etc. need to be taught, and even the least favorite subjects are required, but if we spent a bit more time looking around for methods that effectively teach, reinforce, and encourage our children, their love for learning would increase, and they would retain more!

Here are just a few ideas to keep it fun!

  • Allow them to make lists, diagrams, or charts rather than writing a paper with complete paragraphs if they are inclined to do so.
  • Use role play, games, and field trips more often, in order to make connections that might otherwise be missed.
  • Use music or art media to express and explore what you are learning.  Memorize or write a song, or create a logo which applies to the unit you just finished.  Construct a game or map.  If they can recreate it, they have learned it.
  • Use more manipulatives, and oral answers for math time-especially for the young ones.
  • Allow more movement.  Finger-spell.  Run laps while you drill. Get out the Legos or crayons for quiet activity while someone else reads aloud.  Our magnificent bodies were created to MOVE.  Don’t just read or write about things…DO them.
  • Collections are wonderful.  Learn to classify, organize, label, display, and enjoy things.
  • Find things to write that matter.  Family newsletters, journals, research papers,  interviews with those who have experience in what you are studying, etc.
  • Volunteer.  Get involved.  Make a difference.  Connect with those around you.

Remember, we don’t generally live in “model homes” or have a “model schoolroom.”  That’s okay.  Fill your homes with other models…love, activity and exploration, creative expression, lively discussion, and laughter.  Focus on the gifts your children have and are.  They will surprise you with what they can become.

 

Babies are a joy!

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A new little sweetheart entered my life this last weekend.  Her dark hair, dark eyes, and sweet spirit reminded me why I have chosen to make motherhood and home the center of my life.  She was born in the wee hours Saturday, and watching my youngest son support his wife (who was a champ!) during labor, and then hold his daughter for the first time was one of the most moving experiences of my life.  His parents will be amazing; they are committed to doing all they can to care for, teach, protect, and encourage this new life.  It is never easy, but they’ll do just fine.

Nothing compares with the joy to be found in home and family.  I love being a grandma!

Are you a people person? Or not so much?

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As I have been preparing for a workshop I am giving on Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences Theory, I am also running across the terms “introvert” and “extrovert.”  They aren’t new lables; most people have at least heard them, or even used them to describe themselves or someone else.  I have.  But I have been so thoroughly intrigued, I have veered my study off-course slightly to investigate.  Fascinating.  The more I learn, the more I realize we need to stop trying to “fix” people to fit them into our comfort zones.  We need to embrace each others’ hard-wiring and move forward together.

My husband and our oldest daughter are extroverts.  Big time.  They can become buddies with folks they met an hour ago.  Come-over-for-dinner buddies. They say hello to every new neighbor as they move in.  They are comfortable welcoming each new face in our church congregation.  They can strike up a conversation with the other person in the same line at the grocery store (especially if that other person is another extrovert).  And they smile for all the world to see.  They are able to seem interested in everyone, and love to spend time with others…working, playing, just visiting, whatever.  I watch them and marvel at their ease.  Parties, meetings, and get-togethers are so invigorating for them.  True story: the vast majority of the decorations for my daughter’s wedding reception, which were lovely and more than we could have put together for her, were loaned to us by a sweet woman who shopped at the store where my daughter worked.  They had struck up numerous conversations, and found commonalities.  When Elly announced her engagement and they got talking about wedding plans, this woman volunteered the decorations (which were in just the right colors).  Then, as we stood in line at her reception, I noticed a familiar face come in the door which I was having a hard time placing.  Who was it?  Turns out Elly had given an invite to the teller at our local credit union.  Of course she did.  Really?  I was flabbergasted! And even more shocked that this gal came.  She greeted us as I would expect an old friend to do, and I realized that this is what she and Elly were.  Two extroverts who saw each other on a regular basis, in other words, friends.

I am an introvert.  While I can enjoy the companionship of others, I recharge most easily by spending time with me.  Alone.  Filling my bucket can involve reading, watching a documentary, listening to music, cooking, or quietly filing papers in the office.  It just needs to be just me.  By choice, I have few close friends (but I know I can depend on them when the chips are down!), a number of people with whom I am friendly, and lots of acquaintances.  I’m not looking to greatly expand my circle; I like it this way.  Needing to make small talk with someone I have never met before is my idea of purgatory.  While I love teaching and presenting ideas and skills I have learned with others, I find that too much time surrounded by others makes me tired.  Edgy, even.  And if I want to send myself into a full-blown fibromyalgia flare, all I need to do is say, “yes” to every request made by every person with whom I rub elbows.  This not is not only hard physically, it wipes out any energy reserves I may have managed to save up.  Our younger daughter is much like me.  She has a few close friends, and a love of quiet, books, and time to think.  We can sit and share opinions, thoughts, memories, and quiet for hours.  Or take a nap.  We’re good at naps.  She and her husband may end up in a cabin in the woods raising cows, pigs, and produce and they’ll be happy as can be.  They’re both introverts.

Extroverts are enlivened by people.  They often find joy in the energy of a crowded room, or the opportunity to welcome a newcomer.  They work well in groups, can be easily distracted and spontaneous, and tend to be easy-going and fun to be around.  New experiences and opportunities are stimulating, exciting even.  Extrovert children need people, group activities, stories about people and adventure, time to ask questions and discuss what they’re learning, and breaks from the norm.

Introverts need solitude to recharge.  People drain them, and while they can be great listeners, they aren’t comfortable listening or sharing of themselves all the time.  While they have been accused of being self-absorbed, they simply want time to think about what they have learned…about others, about themselves, about life.  Joy comes from understanding and exploring the world inside, then they can move outwards.  Introvert children enjoy a distraction-free school experience.  Routine, minimal unplanned adventures, and time to think about what they are learning.

I must admit, I am duly impressed by the extroverts in my life.  (There are quite a few of them.)  They help me want to look up and see what lies over the horizon.  My fellow introverts help keep me centered, and content with where I am now.  We all need a bit of both around us.  I guess that’s why the Lord gave us each other.

 

 

 

I remember!

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Years ago when I was in junior high school, Frau Cooley, my German teacher, spent two years of her life teaching us to speak German.  This task obviously included tons of memorization!  It was such fun!  How did she do this?  With patience and a grin.  I can still see her at the front of the classroom with her tiny frame, long brown pony tail, and a twinkle in her eye, encouraging us to go through the vocabulary yet again!  We also memorized short quotes or excerpts in German.  These were the first things I remember memorizing without music as a help-and I did it!  Now when I want to memorize something (or help others to do so) I think of Frau Cooley, and do it her way.  Start at the end and finish at the beginning.

It makes perfect sense.  Generally when you memorize something you are strongest where you started.  If you start at the beginning, you become more uncertain as you go.  If you learn the final few lines or sentences first, your confidence increases as you continue reciting.  Let’s use Robert Frost’s poem, Fire and Ice, as an example:

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.     

 

While I haven’t retained most of the German vocabulary I drilled in that classroom decades back, I am regularly grateful for the skills I learned.  They have been used in my own life, and taught to others as I teach.  Frau Cooley, thank you!

 

 

                     

 

 

 

 

Getting the job done

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When our children were young, chores were a part of each day.  For me and for them.  While I knew that it was important they learn to work, my husband and I struggled with what to expect.  As time passed, we realized that we would need some way of stating and reminding them what the expectations were for each assigned task.  One tool we used was our “This room is clean when…” lists posted in a frame in each room.  As long as the child was able to read, the need to nag was greatly minimized.  If the child wasn’t reading yet, pictures helped.   The lists looked something like this:

FRONT ROOM

  • Straighten pillows and afghan(s) on couch and chairs
  • Clean up floor clutter and trash
  • Tidy surfaces
  • Check under furniture for stray items
  • Dust
  • Empty trash
  • Run sweeper over carpet daily/ vacuum on Saturday

KITCHEN

  • Empty dishwasher (dish drainer when we didn’t have a dishwasher)
  • Clear table
  • Place dirty dishes in dishwasher (or stack neatly for hand washing)
  • Complete hand wash
  • Tidy and wipe down counters and appliances
  • Sweep floor
  • Empty trash
  • Wipe up any sticky/dirty spots on cabinet fronts and walls

BATHROOM

  • Clear surfaces
  • Tub toys put away in net bag
  • Wipe down fixtures-inside and outside
  • Empty trash
  • Clean mirrors
  • Check linens; put out fresh if needed
  • All clothes go IN the hamper, not around, on top, or close to
  • Scrub all fixtures and surfaces on Saturday

BEDROOM

  • Make bed
  • Tidy floor/ toys put away
  • Place dirty clothes in the clothes hamper
  • Fold and place clean clothes in dresser (DO NOT put dirty clothes in drawers)
  • Tidy surfaces and closet floor
  • Check under furniture for stray items
  • Empty trash
  • Run sweeper over carpet daily/ vacuum on Saturday
  • Dust on Saturday

Twice a year, I would go through their room and straighten every drawer, closet, shelf, etc.  If they worked with me without whining, they had some say in what stayed and what left.  If not, I purged on my own.  This clear-out generally happened once at the beginning of the summer, and once before Christmas.  I also went through our school supplies, kitchen cabinets, and all closets (linen, coat, etc.)  Not always our favorite thing, but we all enjoyed the clearer spaces.  Some years I would save the excess for a yard sale; most of the time, it went to the local charity shop.

One of the greatest advantages to these lists is that the standard was set.  My mood, their whims, or a tight schedule didn’t affect the expectations.  They were clear, posted, and easy to follow.  When the children were first learning the procedures for each room, Mom or Dad would work with them.  As they got older, they could take care of each room on their own. As adults, they can clean, sort, clear, and organize their own living spaces.  That is a great pay-off!

The wonders of a homeschool convention

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June is the month when our state convention and vendor fair is held.  Each year as I teach, I am impressed by the number of new homeschoolers (affectionately referred to as newbies) in attendance.  The homeschooling movement is growing so quickly; it is such a joy to watch!  Moms learn so much as they attend the different classes, and fires are kindled (or re-kindled) over the course of the day(s).  Getting ideas from others who have taught their children successfully can remove the feeling that you must be somehow trying to “re-invent the wheel” in your homeschool.

I also grin as I watch parents make connections with others who live in their area, and expand their networks.  Having a support system is a massive help when you are working to teach your children and stay sane at the same time!  You can gather names, email addresses, and collect information about groups in your state while you are there.  What a great bonus!

Each year my daughters and I look forward to the vendor fair, and each year we find something we didn’t know existed (and now can’t do without it).  Lessons in that arena include- there is always something new around the corner that you can use to fill a gap, and there are so many things you could your spend money on, be careful.  You can overspend easily!  Even though I am a bit of a homeschool junkie, even I have experienced buyers remorse.  Not all curriculum, supplies, and games are created equal.  Saying “no” can be as wise as saying “yes!”

Take time to check out the convention in your area.  Hidden gems are waiting for you.

 

Stay home

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Sometimes you hear that stay-at-home mothers are lacking in ambition.  *exasperated sigh*  Due to circumstances beyond my control, I have not been able to stay home for a while.  What did I learn (or learn again) about staying home?  Here is a smattering:

  • Sleeping in your own bed is a blessing I take for granted WAY too often!
  • I can cook meals that feed our bodies and souls with real ingredients…and love.  That is hard to do without a kitchen! Eating out or just grabbing a quick bite is hard on our health, budget, and nerves.
  • Spending time with family is best done daily.  Too many special trips, extra goodies, or just being out of touch is tough on husbands, kids, grandparents, and everyone else.  Nothing beats routine, regular time together.  Touch base with those you love only on the days you brush your teeth.
  • Slow and steady really does win the race!  I can’t cram all the prep, planning, cleaning, and teaching into a few hours per week.  My home is cleaner, my body is more responsive, and my heart is more peaceful when I focus on hearth, home, and the things the Lord put me here to do.
  • It is cheaper to be home and doing than to be out and about..in just about everyone way!
  • I am a better wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, and friend when I stop being “busy” and I give attention to the things that matter most.
  • My mind is sharper when I take time for me.  Prayer, scripture study, time to meditate, and exercise are essential for mental clarity.  Those are most easily done at home.
  • When I can’t stay home, I need to use that opportunity to reflect on the blessings that are so often overlooked, and give thanks for all that is mine when I can.

I realize not everyone has the ability to be home, and that I and my daughters are blessed to have husbands and family that support and encourage the moms to be with their children, but how easy it can be to get distracted and trade the things of greatest worth for a mess of pottage!

Today I choose to stay home.

The Three-Year Theory

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Occasionally you hear something that sticks…and then kinda rolls around in your brain for a while so that you have a chance to play with it, examine it from every angle, and then eventually file it away under “ideas that make sense to me.”  This three-year theory is one of those.  I can’t claim the original thought (and don’t remember from whom I heard it), but I found myself sharing it again this week. The basic idea is this:

When you begin your homeschooling journey, there are three stages:

During your first year, you learn about YOU.

During your second year, you learn about your children.

During your third year, you learn how to teach, after which you begin to become more comfortable with your decision to homeschool.

While the time frame may wiggle a bit one way or the other, the basic idea holds true time and time again. So Mom, be patient with yourself, and your children.  All good things take time to grow and develop, so give it the time it needs.  There are beautiful things waiting for you!

I don’t do drama! (Rant warning)

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God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

When did our society decide that every annoyance was to be addressed?  Or every disagreement aired and discussed? I realize that I am a grandmother, and so older than many, but I remember my father looking at me and telling me, “Life isn’t fair. Get over it.” (And he was right. Life isn’t fair.) Or, “So? Your point?”  (Lest you think he was uncaring, please note that those comments often came as we discussed the problem over ice cream from the local ice cream parlor.) At the time, it annoyed me to no end.  Now I confess, “Daddy, I GET IT!”  We are able to grow more, learn more, have more joy, and teach more effectively when we are able to “get over it.”

So many times in the recent past someone has asked for my help…for themselves, for a friend or loved one. Don’t get me wrong. If I can help, I am more than willing. The problem? The “help” these folks are seeking comes tightly wrapped up in drama! Layers and layers of it!

Come to my home, and we can discuss religion, academics, child care, organization, running a household, or any other number of topics and have a great time. I will teach you make bread, save money, or write your own curriculum…happily. But please check the whining at the door! I can’t change how your mother-in-law, neighbor, congregation member, or other obnoxious person responds to you or what they say. And neither can you. “Get over it.”  Move on, and prove them wrong. It becomes much harder to argue with what someone is doing when everyone can see that the outcome was a good one!

Besides that, your children are learning to whine, complain, and become victims the more you model that behavior. If you desire them to be strong, motivated, and able to persevere, you must do the same. No one has a perfect life. Anywhere. Stop insisting that life is unfair because you have problems. (If you think there are people who don’t have them, you need to pay better attention to others around you!)  I don’t remember Christ being a complainer.  The Reformers and later Church leaders just got on with the job. We must do the same!

I’m not apathetic to the plight of others; I just have no power to change someone else’s life.  If things need to change, make a different choice.  Do something you haven’t tried.  Or just stop thinking about all the negative. It is amazing how much a positive outlook helps, but drama is exhausting. It can literally make you ill. You miss the joy and beauty of life. And the Lord can’t guide you if you are focused on wallowing in the mire.

So if you want to know how to cook a meal from scratch, plan your literature study, or get a garden planted, let me know. The rest is for you and the Lord to unravel!

(This post is in no way meant to point the finger at those who truly suffer from clinical depression.  But if you do, get professional help.  That is also out of my league!)

You’re the mom.

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As our family wades even more deeply into the therapy and intervention options as more of the grandchildren are diagnosed with challenges, I find myself truly grateful for good information, but am also reminded of one over-riding truth- “mother’s intuition” is not to be ignored.  Or discounted.  Or ridiculed.  After all, that’s what led us to investigate in the first place!
While many of the recommendations we have received are wonderful, and the resources we have found have added tremendously to our ability to help our children, Mom needs to listen to her heart, and prayerfully implement (or not) those recommendations.
As a society, we have handed over too much of our responsibility to the “experts” and as a result, question ourselves WAY TOO MUCH.

So, repeat after me- “I am the Mom.”  Now say it again- “I am the Mom” ’cause you are. God sent these children to you to raise. You are the grown-up in their life, and they are depending on you to do what is best for them. If the local “expert” and your heart are at odds, take it to the Lord and then move forward with His direction.

After all, you and He are the ultimate “experts” on your child!

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