Can I confess something? Until 2012, I had not been to a homeschooling conference that required me to put on something other than pajamas in years. In a homeschooling community that thrives on conferences and gatherings in general, I had reached—or so I thought—that point in my homeschooling journey where conferences had little to offer. I felt that I had passed the “how to homeschool” phase and I am definitely past the point where I need other parents around me to convince me that we are doing the right thing. I have to say, however, that this “more seasoned” dog, shall we say, was blessed by others’ new tricks. You can find more about my experience here in my contribution to Heart of the Matter Online. Also, be sure an check out the AHEAD Conference at http://americanhomeeducation.org/. Enjoy!
Where does a mom’s mind travel to after her oldest graduates and, along with litle brother and sister, finishes her final dance recital? Toward plans for the fall. After all, as many “last moments” as we have all cried through in these last few weeks, we still have two kids here who need an education!
Our summer trips revolve primarily around getting our oldest to college, although there may be an opportunity to take one or more smaller trips on one or more of the kids’ behalf. There’s also summer camp. But eventually, I have some decisions to make about our fall dilemma.
What’s the problem? Well, for several reasons, both of our younger children are between grades. Though I am totally comfortable with explaining this within a homeschooling environment, when I am asked by someone else outside of that community what grades the kids are in, it just doesn’t go over so well.
Part of the between-grades scenario is due to where we stopped at the end of this year, although there are other reasons. As a related digression, one bit of wisdom I heard–though I did not immediately accept–in the earlier days of homeschooling was that a parent cannot focus on every child every year; as I said, initially I thought it foul play that one kid might receive more attention at the expense of others. I have come to realize, though, that this does not mean that any child is left unattended; it has more to do with setting goals and estabilishing priorities. As my mother would say to me when she had to do something for my sister, “It’s not always your turn.” Later in life I recognized that this doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t get a turn; it just means my turn wasn’t right now. This is the mentality I have chosen to adopt in our home. Having said that, I will readily confess that this was our year to ensure that the oldest finished her senior year positioned as much as possible to step into higher education, so there are other items that took a back seat in educating the younger two, whether deservedly or not. That season is over. Time for a change.
The whole idea of fitting in betwen two grades is not as much of a big deal for our younger daughter, but our son will complete high school in 2 years–or maybe 3. Our plan right now, of which he is well aware, is to allow him an additional year at home to attend college courses, volunteer and/or work, etc. during that third year. This would also allow our summer baby an additional year to mature into 18 years (if we sent him away in 2 years, he would be a very young 17) and get ready for the pace of college. BUT, at that age, there are many additional factors that come into play; one of those is a combination of his feelings about moving on combined with public perception. Let me share an example.
Yesterday was the annual dance recital. The kids performed marvelously, but the overall mood was bittersweet for us. This was our oldest’s last recital, and between the teacher’s tearing up while acknowledging her and the final video shots which featured her and wished her well, we were, at best, melancholy. I could not help but think of our son in 2 years. Will he consider himself a graduating senior? Should we give everyone the elaborate answer about his grade and the gap year plan when asked? Should we just start telling people now that he’s in 10th grade, and if so, how derailing will that be to his motivation and self-esteem (given that he thinks of himself as having completed this same grade)? If he wants to dance at the same studio, how do we explain why he is still there? What will the other dancers think? Am I crazy to have spent so much time wondering through all of that?
The scripture that continues to come to mind is to ‘occupy ’til I come’ (Luke 19:13); I have been given no other instructions, so I will worry about names, grades, tags, and what all of it means for us later. The priority, as far as I am concerned, is to continue to challenge our son and to speak into him as a young African-American male about who he is and whose he is. So, if the Lord says the same, our son will embark on a similar program as the oldest, entering college this fall under dual enrollment. At 15, I am sure that his eye- and ear-gate will be exposed to something(s) new, but at least we can continue to minister as needed with him still under much protection from home. He will become the newest Honors Program participant, taking an English/ Humanities course. This in and of itself is interesting given that he’s just finishing the 8th grade Rod and Staff English text–part of that between grades thing again. But his writing is such that I think he can prosper in this course, and besides, he often felft that Rod and Staff was ridiculously repetitive , and that he was ready for more. Well, son, time to put money where your mouth is.
Outside of that one college course, we will continue with Geometry using Teaching Textbooks, and we will wrap up Biology using the text my MIL gave us. We will continue our reading time together, wrapping up Medieval History and moving into early American classics. We will continue Latin (I think), but I am also flirting with adding Spanish or French to his curriculum. Spanish might be more beneficial to him long-term, but given his intentions to study dance even at the college level (as a minor), he might enjoy French more. We will probably drop current events studies and apologetics as requirements, just as we did with the oldest. I think that at this point the kids have a solid appreciation for global news and why it is important in their world. I will stay with our commonplace book narrations as a complement to our historical reading. In summary, his courseload would look like this:
- Geometry: Teaching Textbooks
- History/ Literature: Great Books Curriculum–Medieval History/ Reformation History (second semester)
- World Geography: (I modified Globalmania’s curriculum)
- Latin: Henle by Memoria Press
- Science: Biology of Life from Glencoe Science / Chemistry (second semester–no idea what text yet)
- Read-Aloud/ Reading List: (titles to be added over the summer)
- Canterbury Tales
- How the Irish Saved Civilization (excerpts)
- Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by Michael Morpurgo
- The Once and Future King by T. S. White
- A Midsummer Night’s Dream–No fear Shakespeare version
Our other summer baby, born in July, is somewhere between 4th and 5th grade, and she will be my focal point on next year. 5th grade should be a time to transition into far more independence than this busy bee is ready for; right now, her sole interest is in finishing quickly–right or wrong, school is in the way of the things that truly interest her. And her spirit is so very different than our older two. SO, I will take a step back and figure out how to adapt what I would normally do to her much more kinesthetic and generally active style. In the meantime, one
decision I have made, especially with only two kids in the house as of August, is to fully utilize her planner. I buy her one each year, but the planner winds up being more of a tool to help her feel as if she’s just like big sister and big brother; by the end of the first semester, it has dust upon it. Having a completed listing of school assignments and a better idea of what she’s doing before I sit down to the table with her will keep us both in better working condition. Right now, there are a number of assignments that have been skipped because Mom got busy, daughter got distracted, and by the time I got back to the table, she was unfocused and I was exhausted. I can do better, and I believe with some discipline on my part, she will step into what is expected of her in terms of excellence. We will spend the summer working on multiplication and long division, and then get back to the books in fall. This would normally be the year that I add in a more formal logic study, but I think I will simply continue with Critical Thinking puzzles. We will continue with a core curriculum that firmly establishes the basics for her.
- Math: Horizons
- Science: Apologia elementary series by Jeannie Fulbright
- English: Rod and Staff
- Latina Christina: Memoria Press
- Current Events
- History: American History (Blessed Heritage)/ Eastern Hemisphere (Sonlight)
The one thing I will do with her is add in composer studies as we once did with the older two, as well as art studies. Not sure how I want to cover the latter as this has always been a source of angst for me.
Those are my preliminary thoughts. I’m also trying to figure out how to keep family read-alouds going as the remaining family splits apart for classes (heavy sigh). Pray for me, dear friends.
Well, what can I say? The event came in like a lion and went out like a lamb, but oh, the flurry of activities that occurred in-between. Our area is big enough such that we actually have three larger, more formal graduation ceremonies dedicated to homeschoolers in the area. Can you imagine what that says about how far homeschooling has become??!! In the last few weeks the oldest has posed with and without cap and gown, and we have all worked very hard to create lasting memories for the graduation event. Personally, I was just happy to be able to blow dust from my scrapbooking tools, even if my time ran out on me toward the day of the event. How do you compile 18 years of memories onto a science fair board? Here was my honest attempt; unfortunately, you cannot see the books of pictures underneath the cover photos (courtesy of Dinah Zike’s Books of Books, LOL).
Our whole family became consumed with putting everything together so that this would be the celebration for us all that it truly is. The kids did a marvelous job, though I do not think any of us gained a new-found interest in the detailing that accompanies true culinary skill. Nevertheless, we did our best to work Henry Ford’s assembly line…
into these (in her new school colors, even!).
Then of course came the event that we waited for. With tens of friends and family who thought enough of our daughter to dedicate a Saturday to her, we all watched as this high schooler became an “official” graduate (see the chocolate drop, 2nd row, toward the middle right of the photo).
Following the graduation ceremony came an awesome reception. As I think about it now, I can recall Dawn writing to me, saying, “Make someone take pictures for you.” Sadly, that’s the ONE thing that did not happen, especially at the reception. I absolutely hate that, but maybe it was a lesson in pride for me. I was SO excited about the way all the food turned out–the Asian chicken wings, the cheescake bites with the special decorative toothpicks, the chocolate caps (shown above), etc. I was so ready to show off all of our hard work. After writing about being the non-party planner (see here), I was thrilled at the idea of displaying my results. But, therein lies the problem; had it all gone the way I wanted, I would have presented Belinda’s show, and that would not have accurately captured the spirit that was in the room. God showed up, and it was unlike any graduation ceremony I have had the pleasure of attending, even though our daughter’s celebration was the catalyst for gathering everyone together. I loved how the Lord really spoke through people about the power of His hand on a child’s life and about who He has been in our family’s life. It was ministry, and the overwhelming emotion of the moments was tears–tears of relief, tears of gratitude, tears of joy.
Oh, well, at least we got a shot of her with her cake. AND, many people thought all the food was catered!! I suppose that’s compliment enough. We will do this again in a couple of years, and I repent right now for bragging on my new-found talent and skill. Blessings, dear friends.
Soon, I will write a post about our plans for next year’s school/ curriculum plans; it’s about that time, and for a variety of reasons, I’ve already had to think about what changes will occur in our school, and what will stay the same. For now, however, I am simply enjoying our few remaining weeks, and surviving—not thriving—in the number of interruptions that continue to attempt to overtake our day.
One of my greatest joys right now is the time spent in the Word with our younger two. I’ve been somewhere between curious and apprehensive about the book of Leviticus.
God is so faithful. From the first chapter, I knew where we were going: God set a standard. Before He gave the details on what to bring, how to bring it, etc., He simply states that He wants our best. Verse 3 of Chapter 1 states, ‘If the offering is a burnt offering from the herd, you are to offer a male without defect. You must present it at the entrance to the tent of meeting so that it will be acceptable to the Lord.’ Reading this passage gave us an excellent opportunity to talk about how flawed our standards are in light of what He expects.
Often the children will gauge themselves according to how someone else is doing. Their behavior is good relative to someone else’s actions. Their performance was good because someone else did not do as well. While the outside world helps us with an understanding of the norm, there are several problems with this type of comparison.
1) It sets us up for less than our best if the standard is lower.
2) We use external measures for correction rather than internal reflection; the latter often reveals uncomfortable truths that, if we surrender them to the Father, can accelerate our growth.
3) Being satisfied with earthly means and measures of success can often mean that we are out of sync with the will of God (1 Peter 2:9, John 15: 18-21)
As an adult, I find myself making similar comparisons. And for all the same reasons, the world’s standard is a set-up. The kids and I even talked about this from a corporate perspective. I’ve shared in previous posts about some of the programs at our church, and many churches, who have become increasingly seeker-friendly (you can read more about the seeker-friendly church movement here or in tons of other places). Though we still use common church vernacular (words like ‘sin,’ ‘repentance,’ ‘salvation,’ etc.), we still stand with many congregations that, in reaching out to the un-churched, are losing a generation of young adults and kids who are hungry for Truth. In short, the world is increasingly loving the church, but is our behavior acceptable to the Lord?
So, as I ask the children when we read the Word together, what does the Lord want us to do? Well, personally, I thought about an experience I had with the oldest and a substandard midterm. We went 15 rounds about what I wanted but didn’t explicitly state, and how she performs for others versus her performance for me. I see now where the Word in Leviticus 1 would have worked–if I’d worked it. It’s really not about me; ultimately, it’s about remembering who you are and to whose standard you are subject (Colossians 3:23). My standard should not be the standard for our school; all of our work should be our best, for this is acceptable to God.
How’s the rest of Leviticus going? The youngest says, “All these sacrifices sound alike.” Our vegetarian son summarizes each chapter as “more Old Testament killing.” This kid and his growing sensitivity to meat and meat products scares me. I can’t even cook dinner without him saying, “Do you realize how many ______(name your land or sea creature) had to die for you to enjoy those?” We may not get much more than a new level of expectation out of this one, but that will be enough.