Fitting Big Business into your Little Homeschool Planner

We’re baaaaaccccckkkkk, at least for a brief moment!

We had a tremendous time, and experienced God’s “blow-your-mind” blessings as described in Ephesians 3:20.     Then, during this past weekend, our older two participated in an academic competition.   Given the trip to Memphis, we literally went almost around the clock preparing in the last minute-effort to give the kids a chance at winning.    In just five short days, we’ll leave again for the Titus 2:1 Conference in Sterling, VA.   I am pinching myself that all of this and more is transpiring in these few weeks, but I’m also glad to settle down into a blog post for moment.   Writing gives me some sense of normalcy.

It’s been a long while since I’ve been to a conference–on either side of a booth.   It occurs to me how overwhelming the choices are for someone who is just entering this season of parenting and educating at home.   One of my customers, who had homeschooled for 17 years, shared that when her family began homeschooling, it was the choice of a small few who embraced homeschooling as an extension of God’s will for parenting.   Now, as she observed, it’s big business. 

In making this big business somehow fit neatly into our home, I’ve been think about next school year and what we’ll do, where I’ll focus, etc.   Here are my thoughts as of right now:

1) Courses for the oldest will be driven by her choices of college, and what is required to close the gap between where she needs to be versus where she is.   Regardless of her plans, her course load will be some combination of high school and college courses as we continue to take advantage of Texas’ dual enrollment opportunities, chipping away at her college requirements while we wrap up high school.

Amazing that her schedule is the simplest of all three kids–WOW!

2)  Our son is continuing through his third stint in the classical cycle, studying medieval history this year.    There are books that I didn’t think our oldest would enjoy, but I’m looking forward to sharing them with him.    He also wants to study Swahili, so I’ve had fun pulling together sites for language study; what remains is to find a few living books to compliment our work.    I’m also looking for living books to accompany our biology studies.    I’ve struggled with how to approach this year, when he should study biology.   He has no long-term interest in science, and I’ve slowly, but surely,  steered away from our household staple, Apologia, at the older levels.    Yet, I’d bought their (allegedly) elementary level Anatomy and Physiology text for the youngest–a failed experiment.   So, in the effort to not waste precious dollars, we will use this same text as a spine and then add much to it in terms of labs, outside studies, and again, living books.

I’m already thinking ahead to his final year with us before moving on to higher studies.  He is our one child that skipped a grade.   If we stayed with our current plan, he would leave home potentially as a very young 17-year-old.   We could keep him here and slow down his high school progress, but I am sure that would be discouraging.    So, early indications are that he might take a gap year, in which he’ll complete any remaining high school courses and perhaps get a jump on his higher education at a local college.

3)  The youngest and her studies poses a true dilemma.    Our current methods of study with her have her longing for the yellow school bus, and leave me frustrated with her for being frustrated.   I reconciled within myself (or did I?) years ago that I can’t make every day fun for the kids.   Yet, I can remember when our older two were her age, and our homeschooling day looked markedly different.   We were far more active in a group; we cooked; we took more field trips.   We took a legitimate recess with a swing set in back and a pool.  We worked very hard to make our home kid-friendly for kids who had to spend all day there.   Now the swing set rusted, and the dog poked holes in the pool.   Even our soccer and basketballs are all deflated.   So, she will definitely be a focal area on next year.

I’ll share more as our plans begin to solidify.   How about you?    What high-level changes do you envision in your school day?    What will remain the same?

Imitation, the Sincerest Form of Flattery

Well over a year ago now, I’d taken a survey of our kids’ feelings on what was then our homeschool environment.    I also posted my follow-up plan, in which I talked about how elementary school-unfriendly our school was at that time.   Given the needs of the oldest, I’d made a very conscious decision to focus on her plan and activities, leaving the younger two relatively unattended.   Our son, a self-starter by nature, flourished on his own, but the youngest wasn’t enjoying school much at all.

Over the last year, we’ve changed quite a bit about our school, including my personal focus.  The oldest has her routine established; the task now is to execute.   Plus, she’s away from home more with college courses.    To the chagrin of our son, I can now spend a lot more quality time with him and his little sister.   Translation: he doesn’t get to cut all the curves he once did academically.  [Sigh].

We began homeschooling when the older two were 8 and 5, and our youngest was only a few weeks old.   Our older two had educational history from the private school they attended before we began, so their expectations were very different when we began educating here at home.   The youngest is our only child who has never been exposed to traditional school systems, and so her expectations about home and school are, in a word, different.

 As my husband reminded me—then and now—she was only about 6 years old, so I should not put too much stock in her comments.  And for all of the adjustments I made to better accommodate her needs, now a new need has surfaced.    It started with this comment, made a few weeks ago: “Mom, I want to have numbers (i.e., grades) on my work, and I want you to tell me how much time I have, just like you do with (the oldest).”   The setting of deadlines and timing reminders is a practice I established to combat the oldest’s phlegmatic nature when time is of the essence.   I’m not a true believer in grades; I use them at the high school level to give the kids guidance on how they are performing against my expectations.   Also, you have to have something to put on a transcript.  My interest is much more about what they are actually learning than about a letter grade.   Therefore, I haven’t begun with the whole practice of scoring elementary work, and I don’t plan on it.

During our last library trip, our son got her excited about reading the 39 Clues series, one of his personal favorites.   Though Miss Mason would consider this reading twaddle, I took joy in the fact that our child, who usually doesn’t sit still long enough to read much, enjoyed sharing two chapters aloud during our time together and never once stopped to ask, “Can I stop now?  How much more?”

This week, the request was new, yet old: “Can I get on the computer and find news articles to write about like [older brother and sister]?”   She wanted to gather current events, as they have to do each week.   In the true spirit of who she is, she’d already found a children’s news source for me to review and approve.   I have to give it to her: when she has her mind set on something, she builds a solid case.   Here’s what she (and  later, I) put together in terms of free news sources for younger kids:

Of course, God’s World News is also available at a reasonable price.

As she sat at the computer with her news sites, notebook, and music-filled headphones—just like the older two—it occurred to me that perhaps, at least for now, her real need was simply to be just like her older brother and sister.

P.S. By way of update, that always-hungry, 5′ 3″ son with the size 10 foot (pictured here as a much younger dance student) is now 5′ 9″ with a size 11 foot–and still always hungry.

Raising Truly Beautiful Girls

We have two daughters.  

 One is a teenager who is imminently, and almost unbelievably at times, becoming a young adult.   The other is an 8-year-old who thinks she’s imminently becoming a young adult.   They are as different as day and night, but there is territory that ultimately must be covered with any girl at some point in her life: what makes a woman beautiful.   And before we can approach this topic with our daughters, we must first reconcile some of our own misgivings, our pains of rejection and persecution, and our sense of self confidence and self worth.

I have to give it to our youngest: once she gets excited about a project–and this happens almost daily–she goes after it with missionary zeal.    I am sure the Lord will use this personality trait to His glory one day, but right now, it sometimes becomes quite exasperating.    Her latest quest was to become a pageant queen.    She simply said to me, “Mom, I want to be in a pageant,” and in a matter of a few hours, she’d found the pageant online, along with another site that sold appropriate evening gowns for children, and she was thinking–in detail–through her choice for a talent. Perhaps because I’d just paid for dance shoes for three and extra dance classes for her early start on this year’s performance team, or perhaps because I was aggravated by today’s “have to, HAVE TO(!!)” project, but I said “no” in a manner that wasn’t as kind or considerate of her little feelings as I could have been.

The oldest, in the true spirit of an oldest daughter who considers herself an additional parent, began to chime in about all the hidden costs of pageants, and to share with the younger daughter that she had once considered being a part of a pageant as well.    I’d forgotten that I’d covered that same ground with her a number of years back.

The end result of all of this discussion was a very disappointed little girl, who needed a moment or two alone with her tears.   I felt bad. 

I don’t really have a problem with pageants; it’s just not a priority for me.    Of all the numerous needs and wants that come through this household, allocating money to those events, of which many look like fundraisers for various organizations rather than a real victory for any one contestant, would be on the very bottom of a long list.

I do, however, have a problem with a mentality–a mentality that says that women have to look a certain way to be considered attractive.   It’s a mentality that we swallow wholeheartedly and sometimes pass on to our daughters waaaaaayyyyy too early.    I think this video, sent to me years ago, just about sums it up:

With two girls, I’ve spent quite a bit of time with where I am, so to speak, regarding make-up, clothing, hair, and all those other “girly areas” that inevitably become HUGE topics of conversation as girls mature–sometimes even before that.   I’m clear on a few things.    There will no cleavage shown, no bellies exposed, and no dresses that go much above the knee.   Your clothing should please God first, then you can enjoy your choices, but you aren’t dressing to please a man, so nothing needs to be written across your behind (why else put those big letters there? It’s not as if YOU can read them!)   Those are not just rules for the girls; I, of ample bosom, live by the same rules.   In fact, I began sewing again in part to rectify the dress length issue: have you noticed how very short women’s dresses and skirts are currently?? 

 The foundation of any house rule must be the Word:

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.

                                                                                                                                     Proverbs 31:30

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes.  Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.                                                                                                   

                                                                                                                                         1 Peter 3:3

The Word of God is so liberating to us as we search for clarity in how we ought to live.    But let’s also face facts: we all want to be known as having more than the proverbial “great personality.”  

So, as I see videos like the one listed above, I experience freedom about the fact that on most days, I’m not a supermodel.   But there are some places where I’m not as resolved, areas where there are still question marks.   I mull over these areas each time I help our daughters prepare for dance competitions.   They must wear “stage make-up” in order to not have their faces washed out from the lights.   Okay.  A little blush here, a bit of lipstick and a splash of color on the eyes there wouldn’t kill them or me.   But this past year, we had to have fake eyelashes.   And we had to put mascara on the fake eyelashes.   Our girls both wear glasses.   Who is going to see all of that junk(?!), I thought, and more importantly, where is all of this going?

Personally, I’ve always believed in working with what God gave me.   I tried daily make-up during my freshman year of high school; it was a rite of passage, or so I thought.   That lasted about 2 days before I realized that it took too much energy to  worry about what I looked like after I’d sweated, or to keep checking to ensure that no color ran into any other.   Bottom line?  I was just too darn lazy to wash all that stuff from my face at night.    30+ years later, I’m almost strictly a lipstick woman.   I’ve been blessed with dry skin.    I say ‘blessed’ because I’ve almost never had problems with acne, etc., even as a teen.   I simply don’t have enough oil on most of my face to cause some of the blemish issues that others have, so I’ve not had to worry with powders and such.   The eyeliner that I love and adore started irritating my eyes a few years back, so I now allow my glasses to be the sole adornment of my eyes.  

Right now, my oldest isn’t a make-up lover, either, although she likes to keep her stage make-up on well after we’re home from a competition; I think she marvels at the change in her appearance.  The youngest is like most little girls who play in Mom’s make-up, I guess, waiting to be old enough to wear it amidst my parenting talks about what makes a woman truly beautiful.   As for me,  I’m still reflecting on the pageant–what I said, how I said it, and why I said what I said.     In the meantime, now 2 days later, she began forming her new rock band–band name, band members, instruments, and all.    She’s already got the names of her first two CDs and is busily writing song lyrics.

Be blessed, my friends.