My love/hate relationship

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Okay.  I admit it.  There are things that leave me so conflicted, I can’t seem to decide how I truly feel.  My latest hair-pulling is found when I am at my copier.  I LOVE the ease of copying when the masters are spiral-bound rather than the typical glued binding, but then I often forget which reproducibles I have when they are bound that way and miss opportunities to use things that could add just the right thing to our studies.  OR I don’t spiral-bind my books, and copies come out lop-sided, messy, or missing a few letters on one margin or the other.

I think I may have to go to using three-ring notebooks and page protectors, but that gets pricey.  And I will need more shelf space….

What drives you crazy?

We still have hope…

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Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.  John 14:27

We live in a world that is a mess!  Anyone who watches the evening news will agree.  Local, national, and world events can be shocking, disturbing…even disheartening.  What can we do?  We have these sweet, young, innocent souls in our homes who we want to teach to trust, hope, and move into the future with confidence.  Can we?  Can they?

The answer is a resounding YES!

Where I live (Utah), this Friday is a state holiday – Pioneer Day.  It commemorates the first pioneers coming into the Salt Lake Valley, and is quite the party in my neck-of-the-woods.  The Grand Marshall of the Days of ’47 Parade was interviewed about this event, and what he said has gotten me thinking.  Pres. Henry B. Eyring, 1st Counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, remarked that he has spent even more time than he had in the past reading the stories of those who came west in preparation for his duties this weekend, and as a consequence of what he read, he will “try to be better.”  When asked how he stays positive in spite of the problems in the world today, he replied that God is aware of us.  He has gotten us through hard things in the past, and will continue to do so.

It made me smile. Pres. Eyring is right.

Regardless of what we hear on the news, man is not in charge.  (I realize that will come as a shock to some.) God is.  He will see that His purposes are carried out, and our safety lies is staying true to Him.  We can have peace in the midst of trouble, because peace isn’t something that we generate ourselves.  Peace comes from He who reigns.

Can we teach our children to trust?  Absolutely.  Can we move into the future with confidence?  Without a doubt. We simply need to follow Him, and teach our children where safety is to be found.  Let’s have a party!

Thoughts on teaching

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Have you ever attended  a class or workshop which left you “flat” while all around you people raved about the teacher, and you wondered what you missed that they did not?  Maybe it isn’t what you missed.  Have  you ever taught information you were excited about, but didn’t feel the others caught your vision?

Sometimes presenters teach others they way they would want things presented; when we are the presenter, we need to be aware of others’ learning styles or the end result can be that people who learn the way we learn tell us what a wonderful job we have done, and yet others can be left largely uninspired.  If you regularly teach groups of people, whether children or adults, it can make such a difference to keep in mind the different ways folks learn.  In order to engage those around you, use varied methods of presentation so that everyone has a chance to catch at least something.

  • Chalkboards/whiteboards are great IF you are a visual learner, but not so great for kinesthetic folks UNLESS you allow them to write on the board. They can scribe for you, or write answers to questions you’ve asked.
  • Try adding music, pictures, maps, and interactive activities to whatever you are teaching.  It is an invitation to others to join in the fun.
  • Invite a guest speaker to help.
  • Spend time writing well-thought-out questions.  Give them something about which to think, and give them time to quietly write before they need to answer.  There is nothing wrong with a little quiet before you get a response!
  • One of my favorite ways to involve those who seem bored or tuned out is to bring flannel board story figures and script, and have them retell the story you’re discussing.
  • Make a meal, or learn to say basic sentences in the language of the country you are studying for geography.
  • Draw outside pictures on the sidewalk that apply to what you did during the class.
  • Pass out paper and other supplies, and ask them to draw or paint illustrations for your newly-finished chapter or even reference book.  What did they learn?  (You can do this with adults; watch ’em cringe.)
  • Write a review or an advertisement for the class.
  • Create new words based on the information given, and put together a class dictionary.  Let them know ahead of time that this will be happening, so that they can be looking for ideas!
  • Break class members into pairs or small groups and allow some discussion.
  • Go on field trips, or bring relevant visuals and hands-on activities to the class.
  • Create a game to reinforce the principles or information taught.

Giving up some of the control in a classroom setting can be frightening.  I get that.  You start class with a plan.  You have material you want to cover.  But if the point of teaching is not simply the dissemination of information, but the learning of it, you MUST involve those around you.  It makes all the difference in the world.

And it’s more fun!

Heaven or Harvard? Anti-Intellectualism in Christian Homeschooling

I found this blog post onhttp://eclectic-homeschool.com/heaven-or-harvard-anti-intellectualism-in-christian-homeschooling/.  All I can say is, “Amen!”

Enjoy!

Heaven or Harvard? Anti-Intellectualism in Christian Homeschooling.

A few weeks ago, someone on Facebook posted a quote that went along the lines of “Raise your children for heaven, not Harvard.”  I pondered the statement for a little while trying to grasp the logic in it.  No, it still didn’t make sense.  It was like one of those pretty little sayings that sounded good, but didn’t actually make sense.

This saying assumes that there is a choice between the two.  One must decide whether they want to focus their efforts on getting their child to heaven or into Harvard.  Really?   Is it not possible for a Harvard-bound child to have a personal relationship with Jesus?  This doesn’t even consider the idea that parents can’t really do either thing for their child anyway.

There seems to be a growing fear of education in the Christian homeschooling movement which is concerning to me since our job is to educate.  It is like many are afraid that their children will lose their faith if exposed to certain ideas.  Statistics are touted as reasons why children need to be grounded in certain ideas if they are to stay true to the faith.  As a result, science is often taught from a perspective that mixes science facts with apologetics.  Exposure to other beliefs and religions may be limited.  This could spell trouble for a child headed to college because the child may encounter Hindus, Muslims, or atheists who are superbly wonderful people to be around.  The child will encounter science topics that may present information that had not been covered and countered by the apologetic curriculum.  With all this going on, the child may question his faith.  Many in the Christian homeschooling movement devalue higher education for this very reason.

What is the reason for this loss of faith?  Is it education?  Is it knowledge?  Is it fear?  Fear is the opposite of faith.  When we fear education, we teach that to our children.  We teach them to be on guard for attacks on their faith whether this is from an atheist professor or information learned in class.  As Christians, should we be motivated by fear?

Instead, we should let our children encounter ideas and facts that may be troublesome to their faith while they are young.  Let them grow up thinking about things.  Let them grow up wondering about issues that may cause questions to arise.  Do that while you are there to provide guidance and help them through those difficult questions.

Apostle Paul was a very learned man.  As a result, he was well-equipped to travel around and share the Gospel with different groups of people.  He would have studied Greek, philosophy, as well as the Law and the Prophets.   I am reminded of the time that Paul was in Athens and was confronted by philosophers there as recorded in Acts 17.

 

22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.

Paul knew about Greek gods.  He knew the culture.  His education allowed him to connect with the people there and share the Gospel.

Christianity is about a relationship with Jesus Christ.   As a Christian homeschooler, I place high value on helping my children develop a strong relationship with Jesus Christ.  In their life they will encounter many trials.  They will have questions.  They will have doubts.  It is during that time that a strong relationship with Jesus Christ will make all the difference.  It is a relationship that is important.  It shouldn’t be about shielding the child from different perspectives and making sure the child is grounded in a certain belief system.

We needn’t fear knowledge.  We needn’t fear education.  Children can grow up strong in the faith and strong in their education.  They can go hand in hand and a child who grows up wondering and questioning can be very highly prepared for the future.

So, how do we do it in our homeschool?  I try to keep these things important:

  • Fostering a relationship with Jesus Christ.
  • Teaching my children to question things and wonder.  Also, logic and philosophy are formally taught.
  • Teaching my children about people who believe differently as well as those who don’t believe in any higher power.
  • Teaching pure science without any Christian interpretation mixed in.

I place a high value on education because we are Christian.  I want my children to be knowledgeable about the world.  They are learning different languages and appreciating other cultures so they will be able to connect and communicate with those who are different from them.   They are exploring ideas about origins and making up their own mind.  Discussion is very important in our homeschool.  We talk about different ideas and wonder through things.  We also realize that some things don’t have answers right now.  I teach them to have an open mind about things that aren’t essential Christian doctrine.

I can’t make my child have a relationship with Jesus Christ.  I can’t get my child into Harvard.  But I can foster a love for Jesus and a love for learning.  Education is a beautiful thing.

Change is a good thing!

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One of the challenges of living as a homeschooling family is the reality that you spend LARGE quantities of time together.  While that is a tremendous blessing, it can also be hard.  And same-y.  Daily anything can become a drag.  This summer as you spend time together, and during your planning for the coming academic year, insert some change.  (If you have children that depend on a routine, plan ahead, and let them know what is coming!)

  • Take a few days and reverse your meals.  Have dinner for breakfast, and vice versa, or eat outside.
  • Plan your meals using different themes.  Try all finger foods for a day.  Or add a previously untried fruit/vegetable at each meal. Don’t turn on your stove for 24 hours, but still eat at home.
  • Introduce a different culture’s cuisine every few days, and learn to make food from another part of the world, or explore the same basic food from different countries.  Some foods appear in most places, just in a different form.  Sandwiches become quesadillas, bao, etc.  Looks for examples of soups, one-dish meals, salads, pies (sweet and savory), or desserts.  YUM!
  • If you generally spend Friday running errands, pick a different day of the week, or check out a few less-familiar stores.  You never know what you might be missing!
  • If you live in a “touristy” area, become a tourist for a day and explore all those places people come from all over the country to visit.
  • Spend time at a different local swimming pool, library, or park.
  • If you can have access to them, teach your children to use a typewriter, or carbon paper, or use a slate and chalk for a day rather than paper and pencil.
  • Have a game day as a family.  No academics.  Minimal chores.  Easy meals.  Play games together-board games, card games, go outdoors and learn hopscotch and jacks and kick-the-can.  Laugh together.

As we open up the world to our children, we encourage them to think a little differently.  Flexibility is a requirement in today’s craziness!  Take some time as a family, and develop some together!

Take time to celebrate this weekend!

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Well, it’s here.  Tomorrow is Independence Day.  The 4th of July.  America’s Birthday.  Time to go camping or hiking, eat something tasty and indulgent, watch a fireworks display, or simply enjoy time together as a family.  While all of these things are worthwhile, please take a few minutes and focus on why we commemorate the 4th of July.  Ensure your children hear the story of our Great Nation.  Remind yourself what blessings we have simply because we live here.  Make this weekend a little more special.  Here are a few ideas:

  • Sing patriotic songs together.
  • Read about the founding of our nation.  Books such as The Fourth of July Story, by Alice Dalgliesh, The Children’s Story, by James Clavell, or a biography of a Founding Father are wonderful ways to remember afresh the blessed past we have, and to recommit to maintaining our freedoms.
  • Watch a patriotic movie as a family.  Talk about the blessings and responsibilities we have as citizens of the United States of America.  One of our family favorites is the BYU production, A More Perfect Union.  Fabulous!
  • Attend a parade.
  • Take a few minutes and visit a veteran’s hospital to say, “thank you for your service” or do something thoughtful for a service member in your community.  Teach your children about the sacrifices made by those who are in the armed forces.
  • Send a few letters or packages to the troops serving overseas.
  • Talk as a family about things you can do to get involved, and help ensure the continuation of our freedoms for the next generation.
  • Post the Stars and Stripes at your home, and teach each member of the family proper care of our flag.
  • Find a game on the Constitution,  American geography, etc. to play as a family.  Pinterest, second-hand stores, or book stores are good places to look.
  • Pray for our people and government.  Petition the Lord for His grace and guidance as we move into the future.

The land in which we live is a gift.  Let’s focus on the gift as well as the fun of this weekend.  Have a truly blessed 4th!

Let’s DO school!

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It’s that time again.  Homeschool conventions, curriculum fairs, and planning.  Lots of planning.  I remember worrying as a young homeschool mom that I wasn’t doing the right thing, or enough (or too much?), or that I didn’t have everything I needed in order to truly teach my children the things that would best serve them for their future.  Now I watch as my daughters and friends do the same thing.  When I began our homeschooling journey in 1991, there were few resources available.  Scraping curriculum together took time and hunting.  Fast forward 24 years. There are so many options available now, it is enough to make your head spin!  Two thoughts I have had in the last few weeks as I watch this dance happening around me:

First-There is no such thing as a perfect curriculum.  Often we think we have failed, when the failure is in the book…or box…or file.  There are very few prepackaged kits that I would regard as safe bets for just about anyone, and often those will still need tweaking a bit depending on the child.  Stop looking for perfection; consistency is what can make the difference!

As plans are made for the upcoming year, take time to DO things.  Math often makes more sense with manipulative use.  Grammar seems plainer with diagramming if you have a visual learner.  Science is more easily remembered, and more enjoyable, if you get out there and experience it rather than expecting facts to be absorbed by simply reading a book. Go to the zoo.  Dig for rocks.  Lie on the ground and observe the night sky.  Experiment in the kitchen.  Go on field trips to make your studies come alive.  Take regular breaks and get the whole gang moving.  Run up and down the stairs as you drill math facts.  Take a walk and practice observational skills.  OUr children need to learn to cook and do laundry as well as diving into academic studies. Jump on a mini-tramp between subjects for a quick brain break. Role-play or act out history lessons. Duck walk as you review spelling lists or phonics rules.    Doing wakes up the brain, increases retention, and the ensuing giggles aren’t bad either.

As you spend time exploring the world and all its wonders, remember to keep active verbs in the mix.  Do. Try. Experiment. Observe. Move. Fail. Laugh. Create things: messes, meals, and memories for a lifetime.  And cut yourself some slack.  It’s not up to you to find the perfect books, or be the perfect parent, or have the perfect family.  The only perfection we will ever attain will not come from us.  It comes from He who wants us to succeed.  Lean on Him, and go DO something!

Mom is ALWAYS paramount! (rant warning!)

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A wise and godly man I revere, Ezra Taft Benson, once counseled mothers, “Be at the crossroads… take time to always be at the crossroads when your children are either coming or going—when they leave and return from school, when they leave and return from dates, when they bring friends home. Be there at the crossroads whether your children are six or sixteen. In Proverbs we read, “A child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.”   This quote has been on my mind due to a number of frustrating conversations and events in the past few weeks.  It seems we’ve stopped caring about certain family basics in the name of “me time” and “fulfillment” in our society! What has happened to ensuring the care of our minor children?  All of them.  They are minors until they turn 18!  So many moms who seem able to understand that 5 or 6 year-olds need time, attention, and encouragement from mom somehow struggle with the idea that as they grow all those things need to continue!  The attention and encouragement you give a 15 year-old is different than that you give a smaller child, but they need them none-the-less!  And if you are never home, it isn’t going to happen!  It doesn’t really matter if you’re gone due to a blossoming career, or community service, or retail therapy.  If you’re not there, you’re not there.  (I realize some moms need to work to put food on the table.  That decision is between you and He whose children these are.  I’m talking about two-incomes for sake of the “fun stuff.”)

I am not advocating helicopter parenting.  Children need to experience life, try things, fail sometimes, learn from it, and keep going.  I’m talking about being there when help is needed. You simply can’t schedule those times when they will need you to be there for them!  The frustrations of a 7 year-old need to be addressed; that reality doesn’t change when they are 17.  In some ways, it only becomes more vital that we be there!  (The challenges a 17 year-old faces can be much more life-altering than those of a younger child!)

Think of your family as a ripple in a pond.  The ripple may be small when your children are young, but it needs to grow as they do.  As their circle of friends and number of activities increases, so should the circle we embrace.  Having your teen’s friends in your home for game nights, or attending their games or concerts used to be the norm.  Why did that change?  Teen’s are NOT mini-adults!  They have questions, and quandaries, and knowing that their mom (and dad) will be there to listen, advise if necessary, and cheer is soooo important.  No job, club, activity, or personal pursuit is worth more than the bonds that can be established when you spend time with your teens as you drive car-pool, make dinner together, help with schoolwork, or talk after a night out with friends. Include those who are important to them in your life. One of the most cherished memories I have of raising my teenagers is the day a friend of one of our boys showed up unannounced and asked to hang out.  Home was a bit of a battleground at the moment, and our home was a trusted refuge.  We had a wonderful day filled with good food, work, talking, a video, and time to just be still.

If you chose be a parent, be there.  Help Your children AND your teens see how important they are.  Encourage them in all they do.  Laugh with them.  Cry together when needed.  Set them free when they have been taught, fed, nurtured, and given all they need to be successful as adults.  Isn’t that the way you want them to parent your future grandchildren?

It’s summertime!

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Okay.  I admit it.  Summer is NOT my favorite season of the year.  Heat is not my friend.  Pulling weeds is exhausting.  I’m not a huge fan of bugs.  Yet there is one thing that I do love about summer; it gives me a chance to regroup before the return of cold weather, canning season, and the next school year.  What do I do each summer that makes me smile?  It’s time to start making lists, so I grab a notebook and pencil, and inventory my life.

Closets get a good once-ever.  Out with the stained, ripped, ill-fitting, and simply-not-worn items (other than gardening clothes.  They don’t have to look impressive…or even respectable.  As long as they are modest, I’m good.).  I can fill in the gaps I create for minimal cost as I thrift.

Food storage is checked and straightened.  What do I have that needs to be used, or tossed? Which foods need restocking through canning, drying, sales, etc.?  Have our eating habits changed?  How does that affect what I should be storing?  I love seeing neatly faced shelves, and the knowledge that I can cook whatever strikes my fancy without an emergency shopping trip!

This is a great time to tidy, sort, and overhaul the school stuff.  Which items need to go to someone else?  What is so loved (translation: worn-out) I really ought to find an additional or replacement?  What have I not used because I forgot about it?  I also take time to move the contents of my games/learning activities shelves around.  It gives my grandchildren and others who visit a chance to rediscover old, forgotten favorites, and try new things.

I check the linen closet.  It contains not only my towels, wash clothes, and such, it is where I store the OTC meds, extra supplements, first aid and personal care products.  What needs to go on the case lot shopping list?  Having this closet stocked and things in an easy to find place before cold and flu season hits gives me great peace of mind!

As I sort, I am making mental and written lists of needs to look for as I shop, or items to add to the budget to minimize surprises later.

While this list seems overwhelming, remember it is best to eat an elephant one bite at a time!  Pick one shelf, one closet, one drawer, one category and sort that, then in a day or two, work on another one.  In a week or two, you can look back and surprise yourself with how much got done!  And don’t forget to involve the children!  They can empty shelves, take things to the trash, assist with decisions (depending on their age), and if they helped create the mess, they get to help sort it and put it away properly!  Work with one or two kids at a time, or dive in with everyone and when you’ve finished, go do something fun or eat something yummy to congratulate yourselves on a job well done!

By the time autumn rolls around, and I am ready to hunker down for the coming cold weather, the house is ready.

Happy sorting!

Help them see what is right!

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When was the last time you marveled at the antics of a nine-month old?  Or laughed at the silliness of a three-year old?  Or cheered on the nine-year old at sports, or scouts, or piano?  Children come to us ready to explore, learn, and utilize every ounce of enthusiasm they possess in everything they do.  They are joyful, or distraught, or anxious, but whatever they are, they are that thing ALL THE WAY!  They learn and grow and lose some of that….and that’s sad.

When was the last time you lost your patience at a small child for being a small child?  Why do we expect them to be big when they’re little?  And why, in heaven’s name, do we teach them to look for what they did wrong, rather than what they did right?  If they are struggling with learning to tie their shoes, do we remember how freeing it was when they could finally dress themselves?  If they got 90% correct on a spelling test, that means they got 9 out of 10 correct!  When they want to shoot baskets rather than practice piano, do we encourage their love of sports and praise them for not being couch potatoes?  Perhaps they can shoot baskets and THEN practice. If they love spending time with people, and struggle with studying in a quiet room, okay.  Put them in the middle of the action and see if it improves their spirits and scholarship.  Finger-spell their spelling lists.  Create games to help them review.  Run laps while you drill “boring facts.”  Match their studies to the way they learn best.

So the next time your child shows you a nearly-perfect paper, hug them.  Smile.  Throw a “nearly-perfect” party!  Let’s celebrate what they do well, and spend less time worrying about the rest.  Give them the gift of being “enough.”  That is all we can be, after all.

 

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