Application learners

This is part three in a three-part series of the learning levels for classical education.

Application Learning

The Application level learner is an adult-in-the-making.  Learning about their relationship to life around them is the focus for this age.  Teens at this level will focus more and more on their specializations and individual interests.  While a well-rounded education is still important, more energy will be funneled to a developing field of expertise.  Let them soar, but also ensure that they are continuing to enjoy a complete liberal arts education.  Math, science, language arts, history, and critical thinking (and the skills learned while studying them) are all necessary for life.  Many subjects can be taught with the possible help of other adults.  Upper level math, drama, music, etc. are all opportunities to interact with others.  Take this opportunity to introduce great role models to them!

Provide primary source materials as much as possible.  Rather than referencing pre-digested information from text-books and commentaries, help them engage with the greatest minds of history.  Read what your teens are reading. And then talk about it. Mom and Dad’s education will continue as you learn with them and from them.  By sharing this experience with your youth, you are reinforcing the principle of life-long learning.  This level of learning is mentally exhausting, and so exciting!

Academic studies should be presented from the context of their life’s mission and belief system as much as possible.  Encourage (and participate in) philosophical, political, religious, and ethical discussions.  Teach your teenagers to defend civilly what they know to be true.  Equip them with the knowledge that will allow them to state their position with respect, confidence, and clarity.

Application level learning begins at approximately age sixteen or somewhere in the later high school grades.


Analysis learners

This is part two of the three part series on learning levels.

Analysis Learning

The Analysis level youth is full of questions and challenges.  Finding the relationships between facts and events is the focus for this level.   Help your youth identify effects of various events and people on each other and history in general.  Your child will let you know when they are ready to expand their learning to this stage.  As they approach the teenage years, adolescents challenge what they have learned and what they are being told.  Rather than becoming overly concerned as this happens, consider their questioning a signal that they are looking for deeper understanding. Consider the inquiries a desire to know for themselves rather than just taking another person’s word for it.  What a great opportunity!  Now is the time to have discussions on motivation, ethics, relationships and for them to begin learning to be logical, rational thinkers.

The beginnings of this self-discovery are exciting to watch.  Mom, be aware.  This level of learning is emotionally exhausting!  (They tend question everything, and “yeah, but….” becomes a standard part of their communication style.  Take this time to teach them to question with respect, and to express themselves clearly and thoughtfully.)  Areas of specialization and personal interest can be detected during this stage.  Help your youth set goals that will allow them to excel academically, and help them grow personally.  Now is a great time for longer-term interests to be explored.  Music lessons, classes in hands-on skills (wood-working, sewing, etc.), or sports can be great opportunities for growth.

More seat work is to be expected at this stage of education…gradually. Outlining, writing, research, and scrutiny become a large part of the learning process.  They will have more work of which to keep track.  Now is the time for practicing how to set up a notebook system, and get things organized!  Give them time; encouragement is appreciated as they work to get used to following through with the effort required.

Analysis level is generally the most expensive level to teach at home.  Often more specialized supplies are needing to be acquired at this stage than any other; much of what you buy will move with them in the coming years.  Try and find reusable materials or share with others teaching the same level, or consider it an investment for your children and generations to come.

Encourage youth to spend time with media that enlightens and uplifts.  Much of what is produced for this age (and the coming years) is dark, lacking in moral direction, and introduces topics and language that is questionable.  Be aware of the media to which your children are being exposed-in your home, and elsewhere.  Be sure to keep a dialogue open as they move into the teenage years.  This is when parenting becomes exhilarating!

Analysis learning begins at approximately age eleven or grade five.  Girls generally enter this stage before boys.  Remember, this is flexible!


Discovery learners

Today begins a three-day post that deals with how children learn best during the different stages of development.  The information given is crucial to understand if you want to optimize the opportunities for each stage.  The ages listed are approximate, and vary with each child.  Exceptional children (those with learning challenges), and giftedness can also affect the timing for the later stages.  Watch your children and you will learn to recognize the clues for each.

Have fun learning together!

Discovery Learning

The Discovery level child is full of life and curiosity.  Absorption of facts and memorization are the main focus for this stage of learning.  Teach basic facts.  Children at this age are literal thinkers and should not be required to analyze or interpret information (ask, “What was Columbus looking for in America?”, not “Why did Columbus want to find America?”).  Their brain development has not yet prepared them to deal with abstract thought. If pushed to think abstractly, the most likely responses from the child will be frustration, confusion, or the child could simply shut down.  Save abstract thinking for later.  They will be ready to tackle more complicated thinking as they grow.  Save it for the next learning level.  Allow your child joy in what he excels at doing now.  Allow time for wonder and play. 

Limit the seat work assigned at this stage.  Small children were not designed to sit for long periods of time or focus intently on one thing for hours.  Use hands-on learning activities as much as possible. Much of what they study can be best accomplished with games or orally, rather than through written work. (Drill, file folder games, narration, Q/A, etc.)  Applaud their efforts and remember a short, productive study time is preferred over a long, discouraging battle of the wills.  Provide educational tools and activities for exploration so that “non-academic” time will be useful.  Limit TV watching, computer time, video gaming, etc.  All life around them should be an opportunity for discovery.

Remember- this level of learning is physically exhausting.  They will need Mom to be “tuned in” and ready to help if they need her.  Working independently is not a skill they will have perfected; be prepared to work along with them to help with focus, and to teach acceptable levels of work, both academically and with life skills.  Discovery learners need supervision as they establish habits, and a strong work ethic, as well.  Your example is one of their best teachers!

Be sure to spend time on character education!   Academic instruction without clear education in right and wrong opens the door for children to assume they are above the rules if they can see a way out of them. You could potentially raise a child that is centered on self to the point of disregarding all acceptable social or moral customs or laws. You could raise a “clever devil.”

Discovery level learning begins at birth and continues to approximately age eleven or through grade 4.

Homeschooling, Parenting

Our favorite read-aloud books

Once upon a time, there was a Dad who was working full-time and going to school full-time.  His wife was a stay-at-home mom who had four young children, a house to keep, a garden to tend, and a fuse that was getting shorter and shorter.

One day after a long day at work and class, Dad came home to find Mom trying to bury herself in the nine loads of unfolded laundry.  The remains of the evening meal were still on the table; the paper piles were taking over the computer table, the coffee table, and every other flat surface in the living room; and the children were slowly preparing themselves for bed.

“How do I help?  Where do I start?”, asked the bewildered and worried father.

“Can you take over story time this evening?   I’ll work in the kitchen while you read.”  was the reply.

Thus began a family tradition that lasted for a number of years…and definitely helped with living happily ever after.

Over the years, Richard (Becca’s husband) read dozens of books with the children.  The rule was: everyone had to be in dressed for bed, prayers were said, and the children had to stay in bed.  He would position himself with a large pillow in the hall where everyone could hear him read and he would read from a chapter book for about 15-30 minutes-always stopping just before some exciting moment in the story. When the boys were small (2 and 4 years old) he would read a picture book to them and then ensconce himself in the hallway to read to the older girls.  While he read, Becca would clean the kitchen, do laundry, tidy up, take a bubble bath or play Solitaire on the computer…whatever she needed  to do so that she could take over again while he did homework and life asserted itself again.

This list is what we read for fun!  These are not the books we read for literature (or any other) study during our academic day.  We worked to avoid “twaddle” and choose moral takes or books that would simply expand their horizons.

In no particular order, what follows is a list of most of the books he read.  (The list is as complete as we could get it working from memory.)  Some books  he read more than once.  Others (not listed) were started but never finished.  (If both the parents and children were bored beyond the third chapter, we moved on to something else!)  No one was allowed to sneak a preview or read ahead in the current book.  They could, however, reread books that had been finished!  It might also be interesting to note that many of the titles on this list were requested by my children for their personal libraries!

Nightly stories with Dad continued until our 16 year-olds got jobs, and it was too hard to keep everyone up to speed in the current book.

The Princess Bride by William Goldman

The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Rudolf Wyss

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

Indian Captive by Lois Lenski

The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis  (All but the last.  He wanted them to read that one privately.  Good move.)

The Arabian Nights  Reader’s Digest Edition

The Prydian Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander (All but the last.)

The Remarkable Journey of Prince Jen by Lloyd Alexander

The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks

The Sherlock Holmes Mysteries series by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson

The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare

The Cricket in Times Square series by George Seldon

The Great Brain Series

The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks

The Hobbit by J. R.R. Tolkien

The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

The Black Arrow by  Robert Louis Stevenson

TheWestmark Trilogy by Lloyd Alexander

Pippi Longstocking series by Astrid Lindgren

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

The Arkadians by Lloyd Alexander

The Fighting Prince of Donegal by Robert T. Reilly

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell

Animal Farm by George Orwell

Robin Hood by Howard Pyle

Doctor Doolittle by Hugh Lofting

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Cooking, Homemaking

Recipes using dehydrated foods

Recipes for
Dehydrated Ingredients

These recipes are some of our family’s favorites using dehydrated ingredients.    None are particularly difficult or time consuming.  All of them rate high on the “yummy” scale, as well as being easy on the budget!  As you begin making them, just remember to assemble your ingredients before you begin, making sure to rehydrate, soften, and grind (flours) as needed!  Enjoy!

Carrot Cake

2 c. sugar

1 1/4 c. vegetable oil

4 eggs (I use dried.  1/2 c. powered eggs and 1 c. water, beaten well)

1 c. whole wheat flour

1c. all purpose flour

2 1/4 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

2 tsp. cinnamon

3 cups dry carrots, rehydrated (if using cubed carrots, pulse into smaller pieces before rehydration)

1 c. nuts (optional)

In large mixing bowl, mix together sugar, oil, and beaten eggs.  Combine flour, soda, salt and cinnamon in a separate bowl.  Stir dried ingredients into wet ones, then fold in rehydrated carrots and nuts.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 40-45 minutes.  It is done when the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan.  Cool completely.  This can be topped with a dusting of powdered sugar, or cream cheese frosting.

Cream cheese frosting

1/2 c. butter (1 stick), room temperature

5 tsp. cream cheese

1 1/4 tsp. vanilla

2 1/2 c. powdered sugar

Cream first 3 ingredients together.  Add powdered sugar gradually and whip until smooth.  Makes enough for a 9×13 cake.


Potato Pearl Casserole

1 c. potato pearls

2 c. water, hot

1/3 c. sour cream, room temperature

1/4 tsp. onion salt, scant

2 oz. cream cheese, room temperature

3 tbsp. parmesan cheese

Salt and Pepper

Combine potato pearls and water.  Add other ingredients, mixing well.  Spoon into a 9×9 buttered casserole and top with grated cheese, if desired.  Place in a 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes (just to heat through).  Serve warm.


Peanut Butter Chews

1 c. powdered sugar

1 c. peanut butter

1 c. non-instant dry milk

1 c. honey or corn syrup

Mix sugar and milk powders together thoroughly. Add peanut butter and syrup to dry mixture.   Knead with your hand to combine.  Press into a cake pan and cut into bars, or roll into walnut size balls.  Optional- add nuts and/or dip in chocolate.


Sloppy Joes

1 lb. ground beef

1 1/2 cups cooked cracked wheat

1 tbsp. dried onions, rehydrated

1/4 c. green pepper, diced

1 can tomato soup

1 tsp. mustard

1/2 tsp. chili powder

Salt and pepper to taste

Saute beef, onions and green pepper in a large skillet.   Add the remaining ingredients and simmer 20-30 minutes, until desired to consistency.  Serve on toasted hamburger buns.


Oatmeal Cookies

3/4 c. white beans, mashed

1 c. brown sugar

1/2 c. sugar

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla

3 c. oats

1/2 c. whole wheat flour

1/2 c. all purpose flour

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.   Beat mashed beans, sugars, egg , and vanilla until smooth and creamy.  Combine remaining ingredients in a separate bowl.  Add to bean and sugar mixture; mix well.  Drop onto greased cooked sheets and bake for 10 minutes.  Cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack and cool completely.


Rice and Apple Breakfast

1/3 c. apple juice

2 c. cooked rice

1 tbsp. honey

2 tbsp raisins

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1 handful dried apple slices, rehydrated (For best flavor, rehydrate them in the apple juice, heated.)

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan.  Cover and simmer 8-10 minutes over low heat.  Serve plain, or with milk.


Apple crisp

2 c. rehydrated apple slices

1 tbsp. lemon juice

2 tbsp. rehydrating liquid

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

Combine and spread in a greased, 8 inch pan.


3/4 c. brown sugar, firmly packed

1/2 c. whole wheat flour

1/4 c. rolled oats

1/3 c. butter or margarine

1 tsp. cinnamon

Combine and sprinkle over apple mixture.

Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown.  Serve warm or cold.  Good with cream or ice cream on top.


Home and Family

Saying “no”

I had a most refreshing experience this week.  A sweet lady in my life asked me if I could do something, and I said “no” to which she replied, “Okay.  Thanks anyway”.  I was floored.  She didn’t ask for an explanation.  She didn’t ask again, but in a different way.  She just accepted my response, and life moved on.  I was so relieved.  And then I got thinking about it.  Why was I so relieved?! Why do I expect being honest, and saying, “no, I’m sorry.  I can’t”  to be treated as a criminal offense?  I realized I was shocked because the myth of Supermom is so prevalent today that everyone tries to do everything for everyone else at all times.

Here is today’s newsflash.  I am NOT Supermom!  No one is. The more we try to pretend we have no limits, the crazier our lives will become and the more stressed and unhappy we will be.  I love so much about what my life holds-my husband, my children and grandchildren, my home, my friends, and my God. I need to remember that.  I also need to remember my gifts are different than your gifts, and our limits and stresses are different.  Can we resolve to accept that about each other? And support each other as we all learn to say, “no?”

What a great life we would all have if we stopped trying to be everything, and just worked on being ourselves!  So…all together now.  “No.” Wasn’t that refreshing?




The Art of Consistency

The church bags were packed, and ready for each of the boys Sunday as we entered the chapel for meetings.  Each grandson had a couple of books and a quiet activity or two in their own “Sunday bag” with their name on it.

Church bags

As the meeting progressed, they worked through the books, the coloring pages, and the quiet activities, each pausing to sing hymns or fold their hands for a prayer when appropriate or to help with a baby for a minute or two. All-in-all, a quiet meeting.

How do three young boys, ages 7, 5, and 3, learn to sit reverently?  The same way they learn to make their beds each morning, complete their schoolwork, and empty the dishwasher each day.  All are required, and are consistently attended to by the grown-ups in their lives…the very tired, but determined, grown-ups.

Children do not fall from the sky with discipline, good manners, or the ability to follow-through.  (Actually, many adults seem to struggle with those things too.)  Positive behaviors are learned, and then reinforced, when the rules don’t change and the boundary lines are firmly set.  As the parents and grandparents, we make a request or give an instruction one time, and then get on our feet if the child needs help completing the task.  They know the expectations, and the results for obedience, or a lack thereof.  No guessing games, just certainty that gives them security, and allows the adults to be clear, and calm.

Are we perfect in this?  Nope.  Is anyone?  Not that I have met.  But I do know that the more we are consistent, the better the day goes, and the more we enjoy being together as a family.  When did we start living this way?  When we realized the Lord works this way with us.  No screaming from the heavens.  No random consequences as a result of our actions.  Just clear guidance (from the scriptures, and the Spirit), and then the chance to learn from what we do right or wrong.  Why would we parent any other way?