The World’s Standard is a Set-Up

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.

What We’re Reading–March 2011

 

Why would I sit and read individually with kids who already read?

There are numerous reasons, from helping with interpretation and larger vocabulary, to increasing comprehension through the right emphasis and inflection of voice, to monitoring pace and making sure the books are read, not skimmed through.   However, the real reason that, after 7 years of homeschooling, I still spend time reading with each child in addition to reading to them as a group is simple: it is the one academic time period spent one-on-one with each child doing something very non-academic—curling up with a good book and giving each one undivided attention.   

 

After lunch, everyone gathers together for Bible study and a group read-aloud.   My preference would be that this happened first thing in the morning, but the afternoon accommodates for everyone’s internal clock and associated time it takes to get to the table awake and alert.    We’ve wrapped up the book of Proverbs, and the kids are developing their own books of wisdom, based upon an idea in our youngest daughter’s Bible.    I can’t wait to see what they’ll come up with by next week.

Our group read-aloud is The Fellowship of the Rings, the last of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.   We are almost finished with this series, and I am very glad we read the books rather than relying solely on the movies to educate us.   In fact, our kids stated very plainly that they much preferred the books over the movie.    Our son has taken a real interest in author Rick Riordan (of Percy Jackson and the Olympians fame), even reading the books that Riordan listed as his boyhood favorites.     So it’s been a real treat to introduce him to the origins of many of the modern fantastical writers that he enjoys.    I have to say, though, that unless there’s going to be an unexpected surprise at the end of this tale, Tolkien could have stopped at the destruction of the ring for me (although the marriages were romantic).   I can’t figure out what purpose will be served by all of the restoration to be done to the Shire, but with 20 pages left, I guess we’ll know by next week’s end.   “Learning through History” magazine has a nice tie-in to Tolkien’s work and medieval history that I look forward to sharing with the oldest once we’ve finished.    From here, we’ll make a somewhat stark transition to Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.

 

The oldest finished Emma recently (a bit out of time sync with medieval history, I know), and we had fun watching “Clueless” and drawing the connection from a 15th century classic to the quirky Alicia Silverstone version we enjoyed.     Sir Gawain and the Green Knight was a great story, and a quick read for both of us.   As it was my first time reading this one, I stayed curious regarding the end all the way through, but I’m thinking I’ll go with The Once and Future King (or maybe use both titles) when our son covers this same period of history.    My plan was to spend our next time together reading novels about Japan and China, but our daughter lost two books!!    Once I could breathe again, we had to make adjustments, and since she and our son had a project associated with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, they’ll head there instead.

Again, our son is doing a lot of reading on his own, following the path of one of his favorite authors.   The Flames of Rome moved past the heathenish nature of ancient Rome and into the persecution of Christians—still graphic, but a different eye-gate.     We’re using a “No Fear Shakespeare” version of   Twelfth Night, and will wrap up with a project similar to the oldest’s classic vs. modern themes.     Amanda Bynes’ “She’s the Man” is based upon Twelfth Night, including the names of the main stars and the setting.   The advantage of this is that it is easy for him to do most of the comparison and contrast; the disadvantage of this is that it is easy for him to do most of the comparison and contrast.   He tried to argue his way out of writing his own one-act play—the harder, more creative side of the assignment.   What is this noise about shying away from hard work?   Does he not know that dog won’t hunt in this house?

The youngest and I are falling in love with Old Yeller.    Yeah, I know that for a kid who barely survived parts of Bambi, this probably wasn’t a good move.   Yet, I wanted her– and the others—to hear this moving tale, and as I often say to them, there are so many references to this classic in the stories they watch every day until they needed to be acquainted with the original sources.   In fact, when our son began to argue that he couldn’t possibly come up with an alternate setting for Illyria, we talked about how many renditions of The Prince and the Pauper, or A Christmas Carol, or Cinderella he’s seen on all of those silly sitcoms he likes to watch.  It was a nice try, though.   Because she didn’t get to read through the Chronicles of Narnia with the older two, I had a great idea to begin reading through them with her.   I have not done justice to these great books, skipping days between reading.   I sometimes wonder if she has been able to follow along with the plot of The Horse and His Boy at all.   I’d almost abandon this project until she’s older, but I keep recommitting to daily reading, thinking that she’ll pick it up if I just stay consistent.    Of course, I say that, and I missed reading it today as we quickly approached the time to head to dance practices.    Ugh.

Our time with books isn’t all fun and games.   I’m constantly after the older two to express themselves more fully through the characters.   I’ll stop them in the middle of their reading with an obnoxiously loud yawn and say, “I’m sooooooo boooooorrrrrrred!   Read it again, and this time, entertain me.”    They’re no actors—this I know for sure.    The youngest, a very expressive reader who is a joy to listen to, jumps up from the table quickly.   She knows that once she completes math and reads with me, then there’s a break.    I worry that she’s way too young to have such a negative attitude about school.   But, as I was reading some old notes from a homeschool conference, I came across some notes I took from a Sally Clarkson conference.   She talked about family ways, and how, as mothers, we can show our kids how to respond to life by our own responses.   I later reflected on an older post by Linda Fay, when she talked about why her children read Plutarch, and giving their minds something noble and courageous to feast upon.    This is what I hope the kids will realize in time, and while I wait, I enjoy a smile, a laugh, and even an occasional cry while we uncover increasingly more stories.

A Day in our Lives

 

I’ve been trying to pen a “Weekly Homeschool Wrap-up” for a couple of weeks now, but my mind hasn’t been able to compartmentalize enough to make the various sections sound  like something other than garble.    I think some part of the problem is that everyone except me had some variation of a cold on last week.    Being the only well person in the house is a challenge unto itself; although the kids fought mightily to complete their work each day, I felt as if I was teaching three children through a dense fog cover.    I was a hot-tea-making, supervising-the-hot-bath-taking machine, and so time with my thoughts was a rarity.    Time with my thoughts and a pen was all but out of the question.

Given that my wrap-ups went MIA, I thought to pen my heart during this season where many moms are beginning to homeschool for the first time, needing hugs, encouragement, and votes of confidence.    Nada.    So, what to write about?  The bit of progress that I’m most excited about is the ability to school with a now 13-week-old puppy and boast of a reasonably smooth day.   So until those other thoughts formulate into something that wouldn’t be too embarrassing to share, I’ll go with a straightforward day-in-the-life post.    They never get old.

I’ve been getting up about an hour before the kids, allowing me to catch up on mail, do any remaining pre-school (as in before school since I no longer have preschoolers anymore) activities, and primarily, getting breakfast together.   By this time, my husband has served the puppy her morning meal, she and our older dog have barked at all the kids on the way to the bus stop, and she is back in her cage until I come downstairs.   Hubby’s left for work by this time.

Once the kids are downstairs, I work with our youngest.   Right now, at least, I can count on the puppy for an extended morning nap.   If it happens before we begin school, I follow the “normal” order: I read to her, then she reads to me, then math and phonics before her first break.   If the nap is yet to come, we postpone my reading to her until the puppy is napping.    Reordering my day around the puppy allows me to be most flexible when she is most active—kind of like a toddler, you know?   Anyway, with the latter order, I’m standing and moving around, if necessary, while the puppy is active.   There are days when the youngest will actually want to read with the puppies in the backyard.    She is my one “outdoorsy” child who likes to get out when the weather allows.

As an aside, we’re 233 pages into The Wheel on the School.    The wheel finally made it onto the school.

 The youngest is on a break at this point, and I get some quick chores completed—folding of clothes, cleaning breakfast dishes,  preparing fruit for mid-morning snack, etc.    Then it’s one-on-one time with our son, reading to one another.    He wrapping up William Carey, a “Christian Heroes: Then and Now” biography from last year’s studies, and I’m covering The Story of Christianity.   We also share our notes from logic (How to Read a Book), apologetics (Know What You Believe), and/or character (Ourselves), dependent upon the day (see our homeschool schedule).

Our youngest comes back to the table.   Most of the time, the puppy is still asleep!    We read some more (These Happy Golden Years) while she works on handwriting.   Then she completes grammar, history, and/or science, again, according to the schedule.

By now it’s lunch time.   I piddle between chores and work, and oh, yeah—I eat.  

After lunch, we all join around the table for Bible.   We continue the journey through the Psalms.   Today we covered Psalms 125-126, and talked about the Israelites returning to their home after being exiled for 70 years.    In the midst of all that they must have been feeling, there was one thing that remained: God was still their protection and the restorer of all that was taken from them.    Wow.  I wish I could have brought the energy and sense of awesomeness to the lesson that the passage deserved.   We are also memorizing the 34th Psalm.

Following our Bible study, the youngest runs off to play while the older two and I enjoy the Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.    By the way, the puppy’s awake by now, and I usually put her outside so that I can read in peace.    After we’ve completed LOTR, I let her back in and have the youngest and/or our son watch her while the oldest and I work together.   The oldest is wrapping up Antony and Cleopatra from last year (that abbreviated summer break is wreaking a small amount of havoc on our schedule!), and we’ve just begun Virgil’s Aeneid together.   She’s not looking forward to what she’s read is a continuation of Homer’s Iliad. “Why can’t they just play ‘paper, scissors, rock’ instead of all this fighting?” she says, laughing.

Minus any leftover work from the morning to complete, or preparation for the days ahead, the school day is over.    For me, it’s a solid 8-9 hours of work between kids, lunch, and chores.   Then there’s work, and whatever projects are happening.    The puppy is also very “puppy-ish” by now until about 9 p.m. when she settles for the night.

Well, those are our days.   At least until next week when dance season begins.    Oi, vei!

Learning about Learning Styles

I can always count on Kysha for inspiration.    After hearing Sally Clarkson speak at the HOTM Conference, and then reading her post on learning styles, I went back to one of my homeschool favorites, Educating the Whole Hearted Child, to re-read and see what I might learn.

When I was first introduced to learning styles in children I have to admit something: I blew it off.    Don’t get me wrong, I am a staunch believer in the concept of learning styles.   In my corporate days, I was formally trained in temperaments as well as the Meyers-Briggs instrument.    Being able to answer the proverbial “what makes people tick” question helped me to help others with a bit more targeted assistance.    But my earliest education regarding learning styles as they related to home education was more geared toward curriculum.   Specifically, the thinking was that if you have this type of child, then buy this type of curriculum.   For a child who prefers this, consider purchasing this.    It was great information, but it immediately posed several problems for me:

1)      Our kids used A Beka while in private school and came home each day with numerous worksheets.  Though I’ve since used A Beka with both our children, at the time I thought if I had to find storage for one more worksheet that I’d be suffocated underneath. 

2)      The idea of buying different curriculum packages for different children sounded exhausting and expensive.

I think that ultimately, there was a disconnect for me because I never looked at learning styles as a connection to a profession, and much less to a spiritual vocation.     From my own upbringing, there was school, and school geared you, at the college level, toward work.    There was no discussion of what style you used to learn, and how the same combination you used to learn is the same combination God plans for you to do specific things for the Kingdom.

In listening to Ms. Clarkson’s presentation on learning styles and a host of other topics, I was struck by how, even in talking about learning styles, she spoke of how we should always point our children back to God.    It was a very different way of looking at how learning styles are not as much about curriculum choices as they are about giving God glory.    Look at this:

‘If God has given you a Helper (Facts and Values modes of learning) he knew you could meet the challenges of educating this servant child.   God designed your little boy or girl to help and appreciate others.   As a future leader, God will some day use your Helper child to serve others, organize people and…If your Helper is a girl, her biblical role model might be Ruth, whose quiet life of service and loyalty to Naomi was rewarded by God…Her servant heart and practical skills eventually led her to become the wife of Boaz, and the great-grandmother of David.’    (Mason, pg. 153)

This, along with other passages on this particular page, describes the oldest perfectly.    In reading, I “found” our son, too.

 

 

Ultimately, who our children will become is God’s work and His will.    We are given care over them for a brief time, and with the help of the good Lord, we do our level-headed best.    Where we screw up, there is still grace and mercy.    However, re-reading these pages gave me such a peace about who our kids are.    And every now and then, He shows us, in the midst of all the pulling and tugging, the questions and the uncertainties, and yes, even the sinful anxieties, a glimpse of Ruth, a peek at Paul, or David, or Esther, or Peter, or Deborah.    May He strengthen our resolve to let Him do His work.