Dear Ol’ Golden Rule Days

School got off to a late start this year.  It’s hard to start when you’re not even home, you know?  I spent the first week just acclimating myself to thinking in terms of school, work, responsibilities, etc.  Nearly three months of being “out of it” meant that I had to get “into it.”

I think we’re on a roll now.  Look, we’re not raising proteges here.  I want to say something lofty like, “We just want our kids to love the Lord with all of their hearts, souls, minds, and strength.  When we want the Lord to be ALL in their minds, where is the room for academics?”  I want to say that.  And, frankly, to a small degree, it’s true.  However, the fact is, by graduation I want my kids to have a few solid things in their academic toolbelt.

  1. I want them to be able to read.  I don’t expect them to be able to dissect Shakespeare into every nuance that somebody with a PhD. decided it all means, but I want them to be able to pick up a book and enjoy the story, to read the Bible and understand it, and to know what garbage the newspaper says now.
  2. I want them to know how to learn.  I’m not as concerned with the specific knowledge that is inserted into their craniums.  Wait, is it craniums or crania?  Spell check says craniums.  See!  I really am more concerned with knowing how to find the information they need and process it.
  3. I want them to have enough mathematical knowledge to get through life.
  4. I want them to be able to communicate reasonably effectively via the written word.
  5. I want them to have enough historical knowledge to see when we’re about to repeat the mistakes of the past and scientific knowledge to know junk science from fact.  In other words, I want them to be able to tell the difference between politically correct revisionist history and what actually happened and not be swayed by every wind of scientific doctrine that is in vogue today.

Nothing too exciting, I grant you.  No, I don’t stop there, but those are the primary goals for me.  If something they’re doing doesn’t point to those things and if they haven’t arrived at them, I’m less likely to put a huge amount of time into it when those are more important to me.  Yes, my kids do algebra, biology, and grammar.  They read books on economics and write essays.  Take a deep breath now.

Ok, back to the point of this stuff. I discovered that I need a school schedule again.  I have kids who are behind.  That’s ok with me, usually, but right now those kids are behind when they don’t need to be and because I haven’t done anything to fix that.  So, it’s time to get in gear and well, get ‘er done.  I made a schedule for me and now I’m working on schedules for them.  These will include exciting things like:

  • Clean up your room
  • Clean up the paper mess
  • Do your kitchen job
  • Eat breakfast (make sure Lorna gets food too)
  • Do your math
  • Do your spelling
  • Watch your history movie
  • Read your book
  • Clean the bathroom
  • Do a load or five of laundry

and so forth.  Depending on the kid, some of those things won’t be on there and others will.  Jenna doesn’t have spelling anymore.  Ethan doesn’t have science.

You know, my mom always said, “If a job is worth doing (and homeschooling is), it’s worth doing right.”  Well, it’s time I get back to doing it right.

Do I have enough Coke stocked up to get me through?

Lessons du Jour

Today, I bought a new Kindle book at the recommendation of a friend and started reading.  To be honest, I wasn’t excited about it, but I thought maybe it’d be a good lesson for me– that I’d learn things.  The book?  Outlining Your Novel:  Map Your Way to Success by K.M. Weiland.  I don’t write with an outline– rather, before I read this book, I didn’t think I did.  guess what?  I do.  As I read through this, I tried to figure out how I’d do all the things that she suggested.  So, I started thinking it through with one of my books.  I had it all.  I even had the tossed ideas.  I couldn’t believe it, but the truth I realized is that I do this.  I do it all.  It is absolutely frightening to realize how intricate the lives of my characters are and just how much about them I know.

The author writes this book as if without this information, you’d have holes in your characters’ psyche.  I didn’t get it.  I mean, my characters seem to act according to who they are.  Once in a while I’m surprised by their behavior, but when I think about it, it all makes sense after all.  The reason being, people are not 100% consistent.  We all have quirky flaws.  Well, so do my characters and I always thought I was surprised by them, but I’m not.  I’m stunned.  Absolutely stunned.  I thought I was a a “go with the flow” writer.  I really thought I sat down and “transcribed” my characters’ stories.  I mean, that’s what it seemed like.  Alas, all that information really is in an outline– it’s just all in my head.

I’m writing my next series following this gal’s plan of action.  After all, I know it works.  However, this time, I’m putting it on paper.  I want to see what happens with it.  I’m curious.

Have I always been an inner outliner?  I don’t know.  I have always thought that my one “deliberate” outlined story, Thirty Days Hath…, would have had a completely different ending if I had not set who he ended up with in “stone” before I started the story.  You know what?  It’s not true.  I believed it because I know where I wanted to take the story when I got to month two.  I wanted him to end up with Christine.  I loved her.  I loved them.  It was all so very perfect with her.  But you know what?  Being very realistic about it– no.  It was never possible.  The book would have ended at forty-thousand words, there would have been quite a few women who were promised a month who never got it, and what would have happened if– well, some of those questions give away the ending.  Can’t have that out there.  LOL.

This year’s NaNo is a complicated story.  There are several motivators, interesting places, and it is all steering to one general location.  I really have a lot to accomplish with it.  Additionally, I really do not want to publish book one until book three is half done.  This is because I do not want to publish book two until book four is half done and so forth.  Having finished my first series and about to finish my second, I’ve learned that I really want the next book done before I publish the last.  I do not like it when time makes people wait.

Additionally, I want to end this book knowing that I have eked out every single bit from this story that I can.  I want the readers to be swept along with ship, cresting waves and then crashing down when the characters do.  The intricate intertwinings of plots will necessitate lots of foreshadowing and appropriate use of back story at perfect places.  I really think that if I am not very careful, this will turn out to be a very mediocre story.  I don’t want that.  I want a very strong solid story.

I learned a lot from this book.  That is what I want.  So often, I read books about writing and walk away from them with the feeling that I just wasted my time when I could have been writing.  Don’t get me wrong, I do not think I know all there is to know.  I know I have much to learn.  However, too many books rehash what other books have said and often without giving it a fresh outlook to make what we should have “gotten” in previous reads alive in this one.  I think I just “click” with this writer.  So, I second the recommendation.  Get the book and, while you’re at it, start following her checklists.  I bet you’ll learn things about yourself and your characters that you didn’t know you knew!

Who is Hitler?

Ok, something is seriously lacking when your thirteen-year-old daughter asks who Hitler is.  So, this week we’re doing a blitz study of World War II.  We’ll start with the bombing of Pearl Harbor and work through D-Day to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the surrender of Germany in May 1945.  (It was May, wasn’t it?)

Of course, I expect to start reading, share the atrocities, and then finally hear from her, “Oh, THAT Hitler.”  Because there are so many others we could have meant, right?

I plan to use this website so that I don’t miss anything major.  I think as I work through the “blitz”, I’ll plan a more in depth study of it later.  They’ll be familiar with it anyway.  Along with going over basic events, significant people, and how it affected the world, we’ll watch a few movies of the time.  I’m thinking one per day.  Among them will be…

As for books, we’ll read the wonderful story by Elizabeth Enright, Thimble Summer.

What/Who Am I?

Last week, my blog post was about Deuteronomy chapter six and how, after examining our lives, I do not think I am living up to that command.  The funny thing is, a friend linked it to her Facebook account, and it started quite the discussion.  Somehow, my emphasis on “I” was missed and people saw the “we” that I mentioned as being “all homeschoolers” instead of our family.  I guess that makes sense considering the persons reading don’t know me, but in context of the post, it was a little odd to me that they got the idea I considered homeschoolers godlier than others, that I was striving for “perfection” and that somehow I was adding “stress” to my life.  Those who know me know that this is laughable, but it was a good lesson.  After all, sometimes people will read what I write when they don’t know me and don’t know how I am about these things.  I don’t DO stress, drama, and my idea of perfection is “done.”

However, as I told the ladies on my friend’s wall, the fact is that there’s something wrong when my children can recount in great detail the story lines of movies and TV shows but they wouldn’t know some reasonably major/familiar Bible characters.  We’ve focused too much on theology and less on Bible.  HOW did that happen?  I don’t know.  But, I wanted it changed.  However, one thing that the scripture seems to imply is that this teaching should be natural as we go about our days, not a constant monologue of a sermon chattering in their ears.  Talk about the perfect way to teach them to tune out the Word of God.  We need silence at times to process things.  Another reason to make sure the TV and/or music is off sometimes.   But how?  How can I find that balance?

Well, the answer came to me in the shower.  Isn’t it funny how often the shower is a perfect source of inspiration?  Odd.  So, I’ve instituted, “What is it?” or “Who is it?”  While they’re doing the laundry, I might ask, “General Proverb or Bible?”  Then I’ll say, “Cleanliness is next to godliness.”  Their job is to decide if it’s Bible or Ben Franklin.  Snort.  Sometimes, I do a person instead.  “Ok, Queen Vashti, Bible or History book?”  “Miriam, Bible or History Book?”  “Ptolemy, Bible or History book?”  “‘Faithful are the wounds of a friend,  General Proverb or Bible?”

It’s simple, easy, and it doesn’t matter if they know or not.  When we’re done, they do.  And guess what?  They remember it.  They get one, two most at a time unless they ask for more.  They do.  Nice, eh?

I’ll probably branch out to other things, but this is a nice easy, gentle way to infuse a little more of the Word AND help them learn to discern between a proverb and a Proverb.  I’m into easy.

All Day Long…

One of the primary reasons, if not THE primary reason that we homeschool is because of Deuteronomy chapter six.  It’s a familiar verse; we’ve all heard it.  Teach these things… diligently… as you walk by the way, lie down, rise up.  Basically all day, every day.  Do it.  I can’t do that if my kids are out of the house and committed to work and projects to school after classes for the majority of their waking hours.  I don’t believe it is a sin to outsource our childrens’ education.  I think I need to make that clear up front.  However, I don’t see how I can do it without having them around TO do it.

But then the question arises.  They’re here.  All day.  Every day.  We do the math, the grammar, the science, the history, the spelling, and even… the Bible.  Yes!!  But can I say that I do it on a continual basis?  Is it such a part of our lives that I can stand before the Lord and say that I “diligently t[aught] them to [my] children?”  Unfortunately, I don’t think so.  I’m not proud of that.  What’s the point of doing the hard work (and believe me, it’s hard work) of rearing these children, educating them at home, and not doing the one thing that prompted the whole commitment in the first place?  Why do my kids know more about this movie or that book than they do about THE Book and the One who wrote it?  How did I let this happen?

Part of me says, “Who cares?  Just fix it.  Quit spending your time dredging up ideas of how things should have been and where you went wrong.  Just get in there and make the changes.”  It’s a good argument.  However, if you don’t know how you got somewhere, how will you know how to avoid it (or repeat it if it’s a good thing) the next time?  There needs to be a balance between introspection and action.  My problem?  I have a bad habit of getting bogged down in the mental and forgetting the practical.  I need a bit of both.

The wonderful part of it all is that “His mercies are new every morning.”  Or, in the words of Anne Shirley, “Tomorrow is fresh with no mistakes in it.”  I love that.  I am grateful to know that I will wake up tomorrow with another chance to wrap my children in the Word of God– to help them spend more time with Jesus and less time with things that’ll pass away someday– if their interest lasts past tomorrow.

I want to make sure to turn off media, focus on the Word, and make sure that they know what they need to know about what God has said is important for their lives.

I can’t get back yesterday, but I can live today to the glory of God– and teach my children diligently as we walk by the way, as we lie down, and as we rise up.

Maybe I’ll reread R.C.Sproul Jr.’s book as well.  It’s wonderfully encouraging and convicting.  Yeah.  I’m going to add that to my pile too.

As You Walk By the Way…

As if the banner verse for homeschoolers the world over, Deuteronomy 6:9 is often in the forefront of my mind.

6“These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart.

7“You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.

8“You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.

9“You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Now, of course, this is talking about the Word of God– His commands for His people.  However, I’ve found that this works for most subjects in our educational process.  Something happened recently that made me think of this.  Andra has a unique way of telling a story.  It’s nearly all dialogue.  She’ll start telling me about a conversation with a friend and it’ll sound something like this:

“We were talking and I said ‘Where’d you get that?”

“Oh, my mom bought it for me at a garage sale.”

“Oh, really, that’s really neat.  I wonder if I can find one in the store.”

“Probably not.  Mom said they’ve been out of stores for years.”

“Oh, drat.  I’d like to find one.  If she sees one at a garage sale, would you ask her to get one for me?”

“Sure!  I know she’d love to.”

And that’s it.  There’s the story.  Exactly as told.  By the third sentence, it’s hard to tell who is and isn’t speaking anymore.  If she were writing a book, the reader would go INSANE.  I’m not sure when this started, but I noticed it a few months ago and kept my mouth shut.  Then, after a few long, frustrating months, I decided to show her how she should tell a story so that others don’t get frustrated and confused.  I confess, at first it was about my sanity.  It drove me crazy to hear her tell any story that had any dialogue in it at all.

She’s a smart little thing.  In just a week or two, and after only a few reminders, she’s pretty much cured of the habit, and her storytelling ability seems to naturally have improved.  If she can write as she speaks now, she’d have a great writing ability.  Even if she can’t, she’s been taught not to drone on and on without giving the reader a hint of who is speaking.  The only thing worse than that would be every line having the person’s name tacked on after, “Said.”  UGH.

I was thinking about this later and realized, she got quite a lesson in just a few lines of instruction on how to tell a story.  I bet it took me less than three minutes to show her the difference, but she learned it well, painlessly, and if we can translate it into writing, it’ll be a huge lesson that she learned while I browned the ground beef.  Not too shabby.

“As you walk by the way, as you lie down, as you rise up, as you brown the ground beef…”

Looking Back…

A few weeks ago, I did an evaluation of how things work around here– what might need to be changed and such like.  I made a few changes, watched, observed, and this is what I’ve discovered in the past few weeks.

Andra needs a detailed checklist to help her from getting distracted.  I’m thinking about making up a checklist, giving her a grease pencil or Vis-a-vis pen and once I’ve checked things, I’ll wipe off for tomorrow.  I’m working on this checklist “as we speak.”

It seemed as if some of the kids were lacking in some Bible knowledge, so I was going to start drilling at home, but Kevin and I got to talking about the Bible Study at church.  Right now, it’s primarily focused on one topic– the same topic for the past nine months (highly unusual btw)– so we decided he’d keep the family home from Bible Class and he’d start using the Bible Study Guide for All Ages with them.  That’s been working VERY well.  I’m adding in reading Bible Stories to Lorna too.  It’s also time for memory work again.  I haven’t been doing it, but now that I’m starting to “think” about these things, I’m going to add it in.

One thing that is very important is for me to retrain my own mind.  It doesn’t do any good to pile on a bunch of new expectations without retraining how we all think about it.  I’m still not there, but it’s working.  We’re going through 100 Easy Lessons with my fledgling readers, we’re listening to audio books, watching science videos, and aaah… SPELLING.  Poor kids.  I’m a mean, mean mama.  mmmwwwaaahahhahaha  Ok, so I gave them yesterday off for Lincoln’s birthday.  I’m not totally evil… but today… ugh.

Actually, that’s the key, though, isn’t it?  How many times have we heard that it takes twenty-one days to form a new habit?  How many times have we discovered that if we deviate even once during those twenty-one days, we have to start all over again.  It’s a hard thing to do.  It also has made me adamant to form good starting habits for Lorna.  I mean, we always mean to, but well-meaning intentions don’t always translate into excellent habits.  So, the point is, I’ve got to do it.

Oh, and I think we’re going to have a few more read-alouds.  I’m not really fond of it, but I saw this book on the couch yesterday, and I forgot how much I love Jean Fritz.  So, I’m going to start reading this today.  Ethan is gonna love it.

Yeah, nothing earth-shattering.  Just posting it here as a reminder for myself.  Yes, yes I am.

Christian Mothers

Photo compliments of Istockphoto.com I buy all my photos from Istock.

A couple of weeks ago, an article from the Wall Street Journal provoked an interesting discussion on one of my message boards.  The article, Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior, inspired some, angered others, and several wondered if it wasn’t supposed to be a little satirical.  After pondering all the responses, my own responses, and thinking about it in light of scripture, I wondered if Scripture was the basis of what methods were and were not appropriate for child rearing rather than anecdotes and tradition.  After all, just because you gain the end result you want, doesn’t mean that you’ve been truly successful.  Your methods can do much damage even if the motivation behind them are valid and just.

I do think the author makes very excellent points about how we’ve made a god of “self-esteem” and “childhood,” but I don’t think the answer is to become bullies that belittle and berate a child for being less than the absolute best AROUND (rather than the best they can be).  Something my mother has never understood was how one day my best could be a four (on a scale of 1-5) and the next a five.  See, if you can achieve five, today, why couldn’t you yesterday?  Well, if Michael Phelps can break the world’s record today, why didn’t he yesterday?  We aren’t robots.  There are a million environmental and personal factors that can influence our abilities.  I don’t think those are an excuse for mediocrity, but neither do I think that if a child gives everything they’ve got and they get 98% on a test, I should treat them as if they were absolute failures.  Sure, find out where the disconnect is, make sure they’ve studied well next time, but why?  I think why is the key.  Why am I concerned that the child gets the 100% on the test?  Is it so that I can say I have a perfect scoring child?  Is it because I know the child is capable of it and needs to be held to that standard?  Or is it because of some combination of the above… or none of the above?  Why?  Isn’t that the key?  Isn’t the point that our why determines the true success of the what?  It seems like that’s what Paul was talking about when he wrote,

I Corinthians 13:1-9

1If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.

You know, I read that passage, comparing it to the article, and I do not think that I could emulate that mother and apply that passage at the same time.  I could not demand that my child be “the” best, because I would not have the kind of agape love for my child that I think this passage is calling for– that selfless servant love that is so precious.  I would become fixated on the visible end result.  The grade, the skill, the accomplishment, the preparation for life.  I think those things can be achieved, but only if the goal of teaching my child what GOD requires of him in regards to loving the Lord with all his heart, soul, mind and strength and his neighbor as himself.  I would likely create a child full of knowledge… and he would have nothing.  That’s what Paul said.  Without love, my child, no matter how much knowledge I pumped into him, would be NOTHING.  That’s some pretty scary stuff there.

The author condemns the “western” idea of elevating self-esteem over the self-respect that comes with self-discipline and earned achievement.  I agree with her.  I think scripture does too.  Scripture says, “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” (Romans 12:3)   That seems pretty clear to me.  The whole idea of building up psyches and worrying about esteem tends to produce “puffed up” people who cannot handle accurate criticism.  When someone says, “You are wrong.  The Lord says this,” they tend to run, lash out, and instead of examining their hearts, find another group of people who will build them up as they cry, “Foul!”  Yes, the church is particularly good at wounding their own.  However, that doesn’t mean that when someone says something that hurts, they actually want to say it.  There is the Proverb of a “faithful friend” who “wounds” rather than gives the “kisses of an enemy.”

My question is; however, just what does this mean for the Christian parent/child.  We are COMMANDED not to exasperate our children.  We’re also commanded to discipline them, train them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, to discipline them while there is hope and not desire their death (which kind of seems to assume that if we don’t, we’re asking for their death… that whole “stone the rebellious child” thing).  It is serious stuff, but I read Ms. Chua’s anecdotes, and even as accustomed as I was to absolute obedience even when it seemed impossible, I would have been HIGHLY exasperated as a child.  I rarely remember my parents “exasperating” me, but yes, a very similar scenario (sans the tantrum– I wouldn’t have dared) happened once when I was about ten, and let me tell you, I was exasperated.  Perhaps Ms. Chua’s child wasn’t.  Well, that’s excellent, but I have a difficult time imagining that many children would not be.  For a Christian parent, that kind of exasperation is forbidden.

I think the point is also that we need to know our children.  We need to raise them in such a way that they ARE accustomed to obedience and high standards– but to what end?  To the end that says we, “Do all to the glory of God.”   Does it glorify God that I do my best work?  Scripture seems to say so.  In Clarence Day’s paraphrase of Ecclesiastes 9:10, “Whatever thy hand findeth to do, do thy doggondest.”  Scripture seems almost to demand a certain level of excellence.  The parable of the talents is an excellent example.

Matthew 25:14-30

14 “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. 15To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then h) went away. 16He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ 21His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 22And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ 23His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 24He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 26But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

I notice that God in the flesh, when it came to telling a story, chose to mention “according to his ability.”  He didn’t demand that they all had the same abilities.  He did, however, expect much of each of them.  And, the first two lived up to those expectations.  He was harsh with the one who squandered the opportunity.  The interesting thing is, the master does call the servant “names.”  If you want to get technical, he  does do this.  I really had to think about that, because it seems to fly in the face of so many other scriptures, and then I think I figured out the reason it wasn’t wrong.  Those names were true.  The servant was wicked (he let his fears overrule his responsibility) and slothful (and then took the easy way out).  Notice the master doesn’t do name-calling for the purpose of berating the servant.  He doesn’t shred the guy for dinner, he speaks truth and then awards what is obviously an understood punishment.  After all, he is known to be a “hard man.”  It made me wonder if I would have objected less to some of the things Ms. Chua said if the words had been pure truth rather than emotionally charged words designed to whip a child.  Seriously, give the kid a spanking.  It’s kinder.  It’s over quicker and if done by a parent under self control, most kids can’t remember specific ones.  They just know they got cheeky sometimes, threw a tantrum, defied mom, and got a few well aimed swats at their backside to “realign” their thought processes.  I know some consider that barbaric, but I find it much more reasonable and less extreme than screaming at my kid until I am hoarse calling her things like “garbage.”  To this day, the one time I remember a parent losing all control with me, the words that were used STILL cut… and they were untrue.  However, they still cut.  I try to forget them.  Had the author used words such as, “lazy, unmotivated, disobedient”  I could get behind her calmly using those terms to point out error in their child.  Firmness.  Strictness.  But without the fruit of the Spirit (self-control), how can one possibly expect the fruit of that kind of behavior to be that which strengthens a child’s walk with the Lord?

Ok, I know, Ms. Chua may not care a whit about what Christianity says about anything.  I have no idea what beliefs she holds and rejects.  My point is, I AM a Christian parent and everything I read must be read with a Biblical lens.  I don’t care how successful any parenting, educational, musical, practical, or any other “-al” is, if it does not line up with scripture, it’s worthless to me.  Where the author has no compunctions about CALLING her child “nothing” (if you’re willing to call them garbage, you’re certainly willing to call them nothing), I am concerned with creating one who IS.

So what did I learn?  I learned that I don’t expect enough from my kids.  As my recent evaluations have shown, this is not a surprise to me.  However,  I also have learned that my kids need a lot more Jesus (even if it means a lot less math and science) if they are to be the people HE wants them to be.  It’s a sobering thought.  This mother’s dedication to her childrens’ welfare is admirable (even if, as some claim, it is rooted in pride and self-aggrandizement.  I don’t know if that’s true, but regardless, she IS dedicated).  I can always improve, all of us can, the question is where does the LORD want me to improve myself and where does He want me to stretch my children.

What other lessons should I be learning from this article?  Back to the Bible.  It’s the best place for those answers.

Playing Catch

Image compliments of Istockphoto.com. I buy all my photos from Istock.

One of the biggest blessings of home education is that we can easily allow a slower child to take their time and really master something.  It is also one of the pitfalls.  There is a certain art in knowing exactly when to push and when to back off for a little while.  For the most part, I think the average homeschooling parent does a reasonably good job of finding that balance.  Oh sure, they might push a little too soon or wait a little too long, but on average, I think it’s ok.  Unfortunately, sometimes you just miss the boat.  From watching my kids, I learned pretty early on that if they got behind, they could catch up reasonably quickly, so I wasn’t really afraid of taking it slowly.

Well, I have two students that are definitely behind.  I’ve watched them, I’ve given space, and now it’s time (well past time I think) to kick it up a notch.  For the past week, I’ve really been focusing on the subjects that I once barely gave a nod to.  After doing an assessment, mapping out a realistic goal for getting back on track, I realized that it’s not likely that I’m the only parent who has ever had to do this, and why not share what I’ve learned along the way.

My method begins with:

Assessment

First, you have to make sure exactly where your student actually is.  See, you often discover that they don’t know what you thought they did and know an awful lot more than you realized.  Both.  It really helps to sit down and take inventory of their progress in every subject/skill.  I checked

Penmanship
Spelling
Reading
Math
Bible
Self-direction

If the student was at the 3rd grade level or approximately so, I marked it down.  If I had any doubt, I marked below, not above their level.  If it’s easy for them, they can always work faster through the easy stuff.  Next was

 

Prioritize

I couldn’t just push a whole new slew of things on the kid.  After all, if they are behind due to lack of ability, they’re not suddenly going to have all new abilities.  If they’re behind due to my own fault, shoving them into a new level of expectations overnight is just going to exasperate them for my failing.  Wrong.  I had to choose one or two things to focus on and then I can always add more later.

Bible was a top one for me.  It was non-negotiable.  I found where their knowledge was lacking which makes it an easy starting place.
For my slow reader, I discovered that I needed to focus on spelling as well as reading together.  Everything else was set aside for now.  Next I’ll add in more reading and penmanship, but I know that an older student can fly through several years worth of work in just a few months given help, motivation, and the maturity that comes with age.
For my other student, I realized that a good 60-75% of being behind is due to a character flaw.  Because the student WAS a little slow, I’ve allowed that to become a defining characteristic.  Not a good idea.  I need to make diligence and responsibility the top choices.

 

Commit

One thing I learned for myself is that I have to commit for a certain amount of time.  If I don’t, I find that life can crowd out the new way of doing things.  I start small and then add on to my plans at smaller intervals.  I do this because it works for me.  My goal this time has been until January 31.  On that day, I’ll reevaluate (next step), and determine if I need another full month of focus on the same things or if it is time to move onto my next priority and add more to their schedules.

 

Reevaluation

Inevitably, after a few days or weeks, you tend to notice where your new focus is off and what you need to change in order to make it a success.  I’m obviously not at that point yet.  When I’ve been here before, I’ve almost  ALWAYS discovered that I was still expecting too little.  I won’t be surprised if that happens again.

 

You know, I could beat myself over the head for all the ways I’ve “failed” to let this happen at all, but I’m not going to.  Experience has taught me that a child who is behind can catch up in a reasonable amount of time without undue pressure (but definitely needing to step up the work-ethic).  Allowing myself to wallow in self-deprecation does none of us any good and weakens my resolve.  When I already feel defeated, I rarely feel like killing myself to prove to myself that I’m “better than that.”  I usually give up– for a while.  That just isn’t productive.  I’d rather get in there, get it done, and move on.  I can’t change the past, but I can change tomorrow.

I know there are homeschool moms who have never looked over their students’ curricula and thought, “Hmm, I think we’re behind here.”  I know there are.  However, I know a lot more moms that say, “AAAK!  We’re falling farther and farther behind.  I need to DO something.”  Well, then do something.  Start small, get it done, and don’t try to “undo” the past.  It can’t be.  Just catch the present up to where you need to be in the future.

Get Them Kids Learnin’!

Occasionally, I look for some way to make this home education process a little more interesting both for the kids and for myself.  I’m not the homeschool mom that you’ll find in magazines on “how to do it.”  I’m more of the, “Well, doing it this way will work… but you’re nuts if you want to” kind of HS mom.  Oh, well, it works for me.

This year starts off with a bang.  Jenna and Nolan are doing something that none of my other kids (I’ve graduated FOUR now.  FOUR!  *thud*) were able to do.  They’re taking an online class.  It’s an eight week creative writing class with Barbara Coyle.  I’m so looking forward to seeing how this goes.  They’ll learn about the structure of the short story, review several stories, and then write their own.  All of the short stories are being compiled into a book and each student will receive a copy.  It’s an exciting idea.  I can’t wait to read what the students come up with!  Prayerfully, they won’t end their sentences with dangled prepositions as I did in the last one I wrote.

Ethan is being introduced to the joys of Spelling.  He’s had so much of a struggle to read, that we didn’t give him that too, but it’s time. He’ll get more penmanship practice as well as the spelling helping to solidify the reading now that it is a bit more concrete.  The kid can read now… he just doesn’t REMEMBER that he can.  Braelyn did that too.  She’d been reading well for months before we didn’t have to say, “Well just read it yourself.”  One day she just looked at something and read it.  I’ve never heard of a kid doing that before, but I’ve had two now that have.  Lorna will be introduced to actual reading lessons starting Monday as well.  Praise the Lord, I’m almost done teaching reading.  The Lord giveth (the need to teach reading) and the Lord taketh away (the need to teach reading because now they’ve learned it) Blessed be the name of the Lord!  (Because I don’t have to teach it NOOOOOOOOOOOO  more……. PAH-RAAAAAAAAAAAAAIS the LAWD!)  Yeah, not a fan of teaching reading.  Just sayin’.

I am adding 30 minutes a day listening to audio books.  We’ll be starting with the seven Narnia books and then onto the Melendy series.  Obviously, we’ll start with the first book, The Saturdays.  Once we get through the Melendy Quartet, I’m thinking about doing Swiss Family Robinson.  I’ve always loved the book, but for kids who aren’t natural readers, it’s a bit much.  So, I’m going with it.

I think it’ll be interesting to see just how much they notice the differences between the book and the movie.  I want to do Robinson Crusoe too, but since we’ll just have done a “castaway on an island” thing, I will probably do something in between them.  Maybe Robin Hood by Howard Pyle.  (Isn’t he the one who did Robin Hood?)

Frankly, with all the amazing audio books out there, moms like me who don’t enjoy doing read-alouds really have no excuse.  GULP.  Just sayin’… mostly to myself.

Andra got a calligraphy set for Christmas, so this week we’re trying to figure out how to use the pen and learn the strokes.  Let’s just say that just because you buy a calligraphy set from a children’s store like HearthSong, doesn’t mean that it is automatically a simple thing for a twelve-year-old or her much older mother to know what to do.  I think it’ll be wonderful– if we ever figure out what we’re doing.

I’m thinking we’ll be planting peat pots with seeds and such.  They’ll like that.  It’s too cold yet.  Better wait a month or so.  Green leafy things are so cute when they’re babies!  Add a couple more science videos to the mix and they’ll have a bit more fun than the usual same old, same old.  Oh, and I’m seriously considering a trip to a Children’s Museum.  We’ll see.

Nothing too staggering, but it will mix things up around here.  Gotta keep ’em on their toes, eh?  What’s up for your students in 2011?

Monday’s School Room…

So, tomorrow is Monday.  You know, that day of the week that seems to create love or hate wherever it goes?  I know very few people who seem ambivalent about Mondays.  Most don’t like them, a few love it.  Me, I’m bi-polar about the day and flip-flop.  That’s just me.

The other day I realized that it’s time to start reading all the wonderful books I have for Lorna to her.  I tend just to read the ones she crawls up in my lap with instead of the ones I choose to enrich her.  Yeah, I’m lazy.  Well, in the slightly altered words of Izma, “She ain’t gettin’ any younger!”  The child is now six and ready to flourish educationally.  Some of my kids were younger at this point, others were older, but she’s “there.”  So for Monday’s schoolwork for her we have…

Bible

It’s time to make sure she has all the basic stories “down.”  I know that I didn’t do this with Andra and Ethan, and I was surprised at what things they knew WELL and what things they DIDN’T.  I’m going to use The Children’s Illustrated Bible by Selina Hastings for DK as a reference for going through the Bible to make sure I don’t miss any good stories either.  For those who have never seen this wonderful “Children’s Bible” (It’s been a while, but I don’t remember taking issue with much in it at all!), there is an inexpensive copy up on eBay with a “Buy it Now.”

And, she’ll be learning (with her siblings)

Thou Art Worthy

Thou art worthy
Thou art worthy
Thou art worth, oh Lord.
To receive glory
Glory and honor
Glory and honor and pow’r
For Thou hast created
Hast all things created
Thou hast created all things
And for Thy pleasure
They are created
For Thou art worthy, oh Lord.

Math

A few more pages in her math book.  Being off all summer seems to have made her forget that the numbers nine and ten exist, but she’s almost back on track.  She does great after twelve, but nine and ten apparently are still on vacation.  She adds nicely, had no trouble with clocks, so I’m thinkin’ it’s a bit of laziness combined with a few months of mathematical famine.

Reading

First we’ll pop in a “letter DVD” because it seems to get her brain in gear for paying attention.  Then I’m going to pull out 100 EZ lessons and see if she does well with that before we go through the whole “Scaredy Cat Reading” thing.  After all, that was a last resort for Ethan (who just couldn’t grasp the concepts before that) and 100 EZ is much more up  my alley.  We’ll see.

Writing

Right now, we’re doing  BASIC stuff.  SUPER basic.  I write her name, and she makes the letters correctly.  Up until now, she’s been writing her name in all caps, so we’re working on forming the letters correctly (she likes to try to make letters without “tails” or “horns” and then tack those on afterward.  It works ok for a lowercase A (if a bit time wasteful), but when you make an r as just a curved thing and then stick a tail at the top, that is just ridiculous.  So, she’s almost gotten down the r, n, and a in Lorna and making them in one fluid motion instead of two.  🙂  This week, we’ll be adding middle names and such.

Book List

I have lists and lists of books I like to make sure the kids are exposed to.  I don’t always succeed, but I’m determined to make up for it for several with Lorna.  I read them to her, they’re in the room, they over hear, voila!  Win/win.  This week’s books will be..

Arts & Crafts

I didn’t used to have to add this to my plans for the week, but I’ve discovered that if I don’t, I tend to discourage it because, let’s face it, I’m lazy.  So, I’m adding it to make me do it.  There’s something about a list that makes me feel like I’ve gotta do it.

  • Show her how to color a picture, cut it up, and glue it back down to a piece of construction paper, tracing the cut lines with a black marker for “stained glass.”
  • Play-dough
  • Leaf art
  • Pipe Cleaner “sculptures.”
  • Make the Grandmas cards.

Movies

Yes, I do like to include movies in our educational plan.  Otherwise, I find that we’ve seen some of our favorites so much that the younger ones didn’t get exposed.  So, this week it’ll be Anchor’s Aweigh. Love that movie.

Games

EEEK!  I forgot games.  This is one thing I realized too late that I missed with some of the kids.  I tended to forget to play games with them.  So, this week we’re going to do something super basic.  Slap Jack.  We’ll move onto more highbrow games like Crazy Eights and Old Maid later.

There you have it… as you can see, we keep things simple for the little guys.  They learn so much by osmosis around the older kids, that it works for us.

The Year Is Coming to a Close~

This is the time of year that I naturally step back, take inventory of my life and where I’ve grown, where I need to grow, and where I’m planting that isn’t fruitful.  Sorry about the growing analogy… once I started, I was kind of stuck.  I’ve been considering things like my relationships with family, friends, and online, my responsibilities of  , home education, writing, and as a message board owner, and the things I love and enjoy like my hobbies.

This is also the time of year when home schooling mothers start questioning themselves.  Are we doing too much, too little– why isn’t everything as perfect as I imagined back in August when the boxes of curricula arrived?  We’re usually our most diligent in September through November and then again in spring after Easter.  This isn’t any kind of scientific research.  It’s just what I hear from mothers when they start talking about their school year at this time of year.

It becomes tempting to second-guess more than a schedule or  curriculum choices.  Soon, an entire philosophy of education comes under fire as doubts multiply faster than dust bunnies under my couch.  Early or late, classical or Charlotte Mason, Lifestyle of Learning or straight textbook– the debate rages internally and then spills into conversations both with local friends and confidantes and on internet message boards and blogs.

Some responses are quite predictable.   Any time a mother is struggling, one of the first suggestions she receives is to take a couple of weeks of to regroup.  She’s pushing herself or her kids too much.  The family is sick– take time off.  I’m not going to rehash how much this bothers me.  I blogged about it a couple of years ago, but if taking a week off for a ‘teacher in-service’ week to regroup so you don’t grow ‘weary in well doing’ then by all means, take those few days.

I truly think the root of our problem comes from trying to make sure we show everyone how great we’re doing– that we’re as good, or better yet better, than our educational counterparts in the government or private schools.  I think we get too caught up in proving ourselves as teachers instead of proving ourselves teachers to our students.  Our responsibility isn’t to the home schooling movement, to the naysayers, or even to ourselves.  Our responsibility is to our students– our children.  They are the one who will bear the brunt of an overzealous mom trying to shovel information into their minds like food into a pate goose.  They are the ones who will suffer when we allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by our responsibilities and shut-down.

There are several maxims that apply well to home education.  I’d like to remind us all of them again.

  • Slow and steady wins the race.
  • If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
  • You eat an elephant one bite at a time.
  • You reap what you sow.  (This kind of implies you have to sow in order to reap… don’tcha think?)
  • If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right.

It helps to recharge when life gets this.    First, I recommend When You Rise Up by R.C. Sproul Jr.  This book is one of the most encouraging books on home education that I have ever had the pleasure of reading.  It reminds me that there is so much more to educating our children than pounding their brains with information.

The How and Why of Home Schooling is a really basic book on why someone would make the choice to home school in the first place.  Whenever I felt tired and wanted to just quit, I’d pull out this book and think, “Oh yeah, this is the point.  This is why I’m putting all this work into this.”

Now the third book I recommend is kind of a surprise to me.   I wasn’t sure.   Upgrade by Kevin Swanson is a great book subtitled Ten Secrets to the Best Education for Your Child.  I didn’t expect to enjoy this book.  To be honest, I expected it to be a treatise on how to make education rule your family’s life.  It isn’t.  It’s not that I agreed with every word in the book, and really, there is an undertone of “We have something to prove”, but aside from that, the book was encouraging.  It reminded me that this is a job, I can do it, and I can do it well.

Take a breath today.  Look into your children’s faces and smile at them.  Think about where they’re doing well.  Every child is doing well in some area of their life.  Find something they can succeed in, and give it to them.  Help them feel that wonderful sensation that comes with success!  Find their weak spots, help them overcome them.  Set yourself up for success.

However, for your sake and the sake of your children, make yourself step up and serve them exactly what they need, not what someone else expects, not what trying to prove anything to anyone.  I really like what I said up there, so I’m going to say it again.  I think we get too caught up in proving ourselves as teachers instead of proving ourselves teachers to our students.

Graduation= Commencement

You know the old drill.  People graduate and have “Commencement” exercises.  Beginnings.  New directions.  For the homeschool mom, nothing could be more true.

Alas, I must confess, I didn’t realize the full impact of that until yesterday morning.  Saturday Morgann asked for a “High School Transcript.”  I didnt’ do one of those for Challice.  I had her records, of course, but I didn’t summarise it in a transcript.  There was no need.  Morgann had a need.

I pulled out my Homeschool Tracker software and went to work.  I cringed.  I cried.  I wanted to scream.  (I hadn’t used it the whole time she was in high school so we’re talking a huge undertaking- or so I thought.  I considered crying, but it’s just not my style.

So, I decided to save time and just create my own in Word.  A few tables and voila.  We’d be sitting pretty.  I decided to get an online picture so that I could be sure of the best placement for all my cells and such.  I found this.  Home School High School Transcripts.

I’ll be honest.  When I saw the title, I almost didn’t click.  Too often things billed as “for homeschoolers” or “by homeschoolers” are folksy and unprofessional.  I was prepared for disappointment but I thought if it showed an example, I could still create my own, so I clicked.  The cost was low and it sounded more professional than I had expected.  The example shown looked perfect and the “customizable” thing sold me.  I mean, 12 dollars to save me an hour or two was WORTH it.  Especially since time was of the essence.

Why am I impressed?

  • I received my document QUICKLY (less than 30 minutes after purchase)
  • My question was answered promptly and courteously even though in my haste to ask it, I was a bit terse.
  • It was easy to use even for this Excel-challenged mom.

*Note to the other Excel-challenged moms of the homeschooling realm.  Don’t delete rows until you’re all done.  Thought you oughtta know.

Buy it.  Use it.  Love it.  Ahh.

Education vs. Schooling~

“What’s the difference?” you say.  Well, I’ll tell you.  Nothing- and everything, depending on who you are and what you’re doing.  For some, they’re synonymous.  Some school and happen, in the process, to educate.  Others, however, educate, they don’t school. 

 

My definitions. 

 

School:  v.  To teach or train.

 

Educate:  v.  to develop the faculties and powers of (a person) by teaching, instruction, or schooling.

 

We all school our children when we “home school.”  Do we educate?  I confess, I generally school.  This year, I want to educate. 

 

Which would be more successful and interesting to you as a person.  Being schooled in something or being educated?  I’d rather be educated.

 

For example.  To school a child in Early American Colonial History I can fork over a book and say, “Read it and we’ll have a test on Wednesday.”  There is nothing wrong with schooling my children this way.  It’s no sin, and frankly, sometimes it is necessary.  However, if I can EDUCATE them… if I can whet their appetite not only for the basic facts but for truly understanding life at that time, their goals, their passions….  As a student, which would make the process more interesting and which would likely produce a lifetime interest in the general topic of history?

 

That’s my goal this year.  Education, not merely schooling as much as possible.

School Days… School Days… Dear Old…

 School days, school days
Dear old golden rule days
Readin’ and ‘ritin’ and ‘rithmetic
Taught to the tune of the hickory stick
You were my queen in calico
I was your bashful barefoot beau
And you wrote on my slate
“I love you, so”
Will D. Cobb, 1907

 

Two years ago, those words pierced my heart.  I have very fond memories of school, learning, and the various schools I attended.  Would my children have the same fond memories?  Was I building great memories of learning or was school going to be just another part of life that they didn’t necessarily dislike but just wasn’t all that memorable. 

 

I decided to make it memorable.  I instituted me reading aloud their history and science.  This is huge.  HUGE.  I do not like to read aloud and I do think that reading it yourself is extra beneficial.  There is something about your eyes seeing those letters that seems to burn the information into your brain just a little clearer.

 

Oh, I know, that means I’m a “visual learner.”  Actually, I’m not.  I’m an auditory learner if anything. 

 

In addition to that, I do not like to read aloud.  I’m actually a very good reader when I put my mind to it but it it torture for my brain to keep my eyes on the sentence that I’m reading when it is dying to skip along much faster than my tongue or my  children’s ears can follow.

 

It was a success.  My children loved it.  Shame on me.  There is no reason I shoudln’t have done it years earlier.  Now they’re clamoring for History, Science, Geography, and projects, assignment sheets, and more accountability than ever. 

This year, I’m adding them all.  In addition, I’m adding quite a few new things to the mixture.  It’ll mean new responsibilities for me and a change in schedules around here but it’ll work I think and work well.

 

What are you doing to make school run smoother and more interesting for everyone involved?