Home and Family, Homeschooling

Just keep going!

It’s official.  Cold season is upon us.  One daughter’s family had just kicked their coughs and sniffles, and now at our house the 5 month-old has been coughing for a few days, and it is spreading to the other kids. We went into the doc to verify it wasn’t anything more concerning than a normal cold, and he told us not to worry….but to be aware that everyone seems to be catching it.  (Translation-if you’re lucky enough to still be healthy, don’t go anywhere, meet with anyone, or leave your house.  Goody.)  Time to make sure each family has what they need from the store, and revamp school plans (slightly).

The plan:

Mom has been up for a few nights with the baby who isn’t sleeping, but the other five children are awake at their normal time to begin the day.  Hmmmm. Time to simplify. What does school look like with one eye open in between yawns?  Group time will involve less reading aloud (Mom is getting a sore throat), but more art and hands-on activity.  Individual work will utilize more learning/tutoring DVDs and less individualized verbal instruction.  Snacks now include spiced cider (for everyone’s sore throats), less dairy, and more fruits/veggies.  Breaks may happen at unusual times; if the baby goes to sleep, so does Mom.  Naps are allowed for whomever needs one.  But the basics get covered.  Outside time is still fun.  And we press onward.

Even if things turn for the worst (flu, bronchitis, etc.), we can continue to do something.  Charts of who had which med when, graphs tracking hours of sleep or fluid intake, learning about the science of the human body and infection fighting, and history/science/art/Schoolhouse Rock videos are waiting in the wings.

Life is a school, and when life changes, we may need to adjust.  We keep going as best we can.  And we do it with a smile and as a family.  If our children can learn that, everything else may be simply icing on the cake!

Home and Family, Homeschooling, other, Parenting

Thoughts on teaching

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!

Homeschooling

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.

Home and Family, Homeschooling

Change is a good thing!

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!

Homeschooling

Let’s DO school!

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!

Cooking, Finances, Home and Family, Homemaking, Homeschooling, Organization

It’s summertime!

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!

Home and Family, Homeschooling, Parenting

Help them see what is right!

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.

 

Homemaking, Homeschooling

Sometimes school doesn’t look like school…

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.

 

Home and Family, Homeschooling

Are you a people person? Or not so much?

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.

 

 

 

Homeschooling

I remember!

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!