Home and Family, Homeschooling, Parenting

Educational goals

I seem to be spending quite a bit of time lately helping moms talk through the goals they have for their individual children.  They are generally concerned about helping their children receive a “good education” at home.  That begs the question- what is a “good education?”  As someone who endeavors to work within a classical education framework, the most obvious concern would seem to be growth in the core academic subjects.  Is their understanding of history, science, etc. deepening?  Are they seeing connections between the subjects and learning to think?  While these are important, there are so many other ways to develop and expand your mind.  Have we added to our moral understanding?  Is our appreciation of beauty expanding?  There is so much more than the core subjects involved in a “good education!” As the parents of homeschooled parents, we are responsible for so much more than the three Rs.

Academic education is the most obvious training when discussing homeschooling.  Literature, vocabulary and writing, science, math, and history are a great base for academic studies.  Building a solid understanding of these subjects will pay large dividends in the future, but all this is simply the beginning of education.

Character and ethics education helps build character as they grow, and critical thinking plays a large part of that.  If my children leave home having read 100 classics, are able to do calculus, and can write like a professor, but are unable to discern bias or hidden motives in the world around them, I have sent well-educated patsies into the world for someone else to manipulate. They need to know how to think.  Life is full of absolutes, in spite of opinions to the contrary.  We must teach our children what those absolutes are!

As we build minds and characters, we also are building souls.  A study of music, the Masters of the art world, poetry, and religion can give them something to which they can cling when life gets hard.  And life will.  All of these things feed the soul.  It is important to me that my children have amassed an internal repertoire so that when they watch the sunset over the mountains, or sit on a beach as the sun rises, or as a new-born baby is placed in their arms, they have a song in their heart for that moment.  Allowing them the opportunity to learn to play an instrument, paint, draw, or delve into spiritual things can increase what they have to share with the rest of the world.  Giving them a respect for the sacred, and a love of God can anchor them “on the rock” when the storms blow.

Emotional education comes as we teach them to communicate and interpret life’s events with a belief that life is good. Teach them conflict resolution, positive attitudes, and a sense of their inherent worth. Inner strength and the ability to respond appropriately to the unexpected comes as they see these traits modeled, and are encouraged and reassured as they work to refine their own emotional maturity.  Being “well-educated” is not generally helpful if you can’t handle what life throws your way!

No parent will teach all these things perfectly. However, we must do our best, and then remember their education will continue as they move through life.  We are simply building foundations.

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Home and Family, Homemaking, Homeschooling

Living with integrity

While talking through character study with my eldest grandson this morning, we discussed the difference between dishonesty and integrity.  At seven years old, he seemed to have a handle on dishonesty with no problem.  Stealing, lying, telling half-truths, etc. are dishonest behaviors and we shouldn’t indulge in them.  Integrity took a bit more explanation.  Not committing any of the aforementioned offenses is obviously part of living with integrity, but it goes further than that.  We talked about the need to be true to yourself and others, choosing to walk away rather than participate in activities that you know are wrong, and doing your best.  He seemed to “get it.”  And now his grandma is thinking… and thinking…

What does living with integrity mean in my life?  What does it look like?  This is what I decided living with integrity means to me:

  • Being true to myself, the Lord, and my priorities.  If I can’t get to everything on my list, I need to focus on the most important, and trust Him with the rest.
  • Trying to be wise.  If my health, time, or finances won’t stretch that far, admit it.  Walk away.  Move on.
  • Recognizing what each day allows.  Some nights I can put on a full roast chicken/mashed potatoes/biscuits/salad dinner.  Some nights we have box mac-n-cheese and bottled fruit.  Other nights we may just grab take-out.  Trying to create a masterpiece for each meal is just not reasonable.  We are either too busy, too stretched, or too much in need of “down time.”  This goes for getting dressed everyday including doing my hair and a full-face of make-up, having a spotlessly clean house, perfectly done laundry, flawlessly weeded garden, or even an articulately written post.  I need to do be content with what I can actually do at the time.
  • Allowing others the same.  I can’t expect perfection of those around me.  If I am letting go of that expectation for myself, I have to afford them the same courtesy.  Some days are just not the best.  If the children are having an off day, or are not feeling tip-top, let things go a bit.  Do a crossword for spelling.  Don’t ask for perfection in their math assignment.  Let the unmade bed go a bit longer (they may need to crawl back into it at some point).  If my husband had a crazy day at work, I need to lighten up on the “honey-do’s” and let him read the sports page, etc.
  • Honesty matters.  I can only do what I can do.  I believe what I believe.  I am not obligated to negotiate any of that to make someone else happy.
  • False modesty is akin to lying.  If you are good at something, be good at it!  I can cook a mean pot of spaghetti, and my bread is yummy!  I love assembling curriculum and helping others teach their children, and they come to my home for that, so it must be worth their time.  On the other hand, I am hopeless with a needle or playing sports.  Those are things I joy in as I watch my children participate.  My daughter, her husband, and oldest boy all knit and/or crochet.  My other children are gifted artists, athletes, and designers.  I do what I do.  They are good at so many other things!  And we all love to play with words!
  • Gratitude is vital.  I have no integrity if I refuse to see the amazing blessings and tender mercies that shower down each day!  I have a good man for a husband, loving and contributing children with great priorities, and the cutest grandchildren ever! (They really are!) 166766_10200951243442301_2055576302_n IMG_6477    I live a comfortable home, in a stunning part of the country, in a great nation, and have friends and faith to get me through the challenges of life.   Denying or letting go of any of that is a betrayal of all I know and love.

I can’t live each day with full excellence or perfection.  There is too much about me and my life that is human or challenging.  But “til I die I will not remove mine integrity from me.”  (Job 27:5)

Homeschooling

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.