Does Your Planner Have Room for God?

It’s funny how much of a home educator’s emotion can become tied into the state of the homeschool environment.   I am sure that, at least in part, this connection has everything to do with the amount of time and energy we pour into curriculum, lesson plans, and all matters education.   Personally, I find that, if I allow it, one child’s confusion or frustration, or a spirit of whining, can totally overshadow all of the wonderful things that are happening in our lives.

This is the season of resolutions.  And whether you buy into the idea that you need to begin a new year with new intentions or not (I personally do not), I find myself drawn to the many articles that are available right now on how to transform your homeschool in this new year.   So it should be no surprise that what I’ve thought about most how I would want our school to look in 2013.   As if that thought didn’t offer a wealth of opportunities, for we are far from perfect, I came to this conclusion as I’ve thought about this semester: I don’t want to change a thing.

For the person who is always willing to tweak and tinker, and who never uses anything in the format in which she received it, it seems odd to admit that I don’t want to make any modifications to what we are doing.   Given our extracurricular activities, I made a semi-conscious choice to not include more formal studies in music and poetry.   Each only takes a few minutes, but thinking about who to study and preparing myself and the kids with tools, etc., became overwhelming in the midst of everything else going on.   I am sure that the purists of Miss Mason’s approach could discuss at length the poor choice I’ve made, and to be sure, we might pick up some things as we go.   However, I don’t want to set the stage for something I consider far more detrimental to our school than a year without formal poetry or music study: overplanning.

As a purposeful digression, my MIL and I were having a related conversation not too long ago.   There is a practice that is becoming increasingly popular in churches.  I don’t know if it is specific to non-denominational churches or not.   The practice, you ask?  Walking to the pulpit in the middle of a sermon to lay down money, commonly called “sowing into the Word.”    This act is separate from a formal offering, but instead creates walking and busy-ness in the midst of the speaker’s message—a huge no-no in the traditional church community.    I was asked how I felt about this.  Is it disrespectful and/or disruptive?  Is it “tipping God?”   I think not.   Who are we to hinder anyone when the Spirit strikes them to move?   And though I believe in decency and order, I also think that, in some cases, we have “programmed” the Lord completely out of our services.    And that is what I don’t want to happen here.

Perhaps because our school will be one seat emptier after this semester, I am much more cognizant of the need to pour into the children—not academics, necessarily, but training in life.   I want to be sure they understand why we made the decisions we did, and what is important to us as we raise a family.   These are conversations that we’ve had before, but now I’m aware of the need to create time for them in our day.  I want to hear from them, and have a dialogue.  Most of all, I want to create room for them to just be, and for God to just be in them.   It occurs to me that we sometimes become so obsessed with the mechanics of homeschool—the day-to-day academic opportunities—until we miss out on opportunities that mean so much more.

Just as one example, I’ve mentioned previously that our youngest joined a book club at our local library.   I’ve also mentioned my general disdain for the books, but given the youngest’s almost equal amount of disdain for school right now, I have lowered my standards and allowed her to stay in the club.   This past week, the club selected a book where the content is over her head.   Even in reading the back of the book to get a feel for it, she wasn’t clear on all of the words.   But, she gave it her sincerest effort, sequestering herself on a couple of nights before bedtime (from her, that’s dedication!) to read.   After a couple of nights, she came to me and asked if I would help her by reading the book to her as a part of our school day.  Now, as embarrassed as I am to admit this, there was a time when I would have immediately said, ”No,” because it threw the reading schedule that I put together—last summer, mind you– way off track.   Yes, I’m scratching my head, too, but there they are, my exposed feet of clay.   But I’m learning.   And so I applauded her for coming and trying to get help in an area where she needs it.   She did not skim the book, finishing but not understanding; she did not throw in the proverbial towel and beg to quit—all behaviors that have plagued our past.   She wants to learn, and she made the adjustments needed to make it happen.   The book I was reading probably fits more my idea of quality literature, but okay.   This is a quantum leap forward in her attitude about learning, and shame on me if I can’t get out of my own way to accommodate her.   We will still have plenty of time to read books that will hopefully be more to both our liking—I believe God for that, and He’s always been faithful.

As a final thought, I love God’s Word, but I also love the places where He left the page blank.   One of those places is where He said, “I AM.”    He did not qualify it for us, but instead allowed us to fill in the blanks.   Who do we say that He is in our homeschool?   Who do we allow Him to be, and are we leaving room in our planners for expectation of the unexpected?   May God open our hearts, mind, and lesson plans such that He can do a work this year.  God bless you, dear friends.

9 Ways to Rest and Restore

“If mothers could learn to do for themselves what they do for their children when these are overdone, we should have happier households. Let the mother go out to play! If she would have the courage to let everything go when life becomes too tense, and just take a day, or half a day, out in the fields, or with a favourite book, or in a picture gallery looking long and well at just two or three pictures, or in bed, without the children, life would go on far more happily for both children and parents…” Charlotte Mason, The Original Home Schooling Series by Charlotte Mason

 

Restoration is not just about us; we may be quite comfortable with ourselves and our methods of educating our children. Yet, we sometimes need restoration so that we can restore life and energy to what is around us. Think about it: attitude is a reflection of leadership. Are those “younger mirrors“ in your home reflecting what you want to see?   Your homeschool might be anything but restful right now, but read on and maybe store this one for later!  Blessings!!

What’s New? From Our Point of View…

It is a beautifully sunny, 74-degree day here in coastal Texas, and with the oldest at college and our son at the dentist, the youngest decided to school outside.   Funny, this was my vision when we first began homeschooling—days outside on a picnic blanket, completing schoolwork and viewing exotic animals.   (You can stop laughing now).   The vision sounded wonderful, and the outdoor school day sounded delightful until it met with my own plans and realities.   I had a fairly simple morning plan to complete a few chores and write a blog entry while the youngest worked beside me at the table.   So, it shames me to say that when she initially approached me about going outside, I sent her out and continued with my plans.   I felt bad, so when she came back inside the first time, I said, “Let me just do ____ and I’ll come out with you.”     I got that pot of vegetarian chili to a point where it could just simmer, started that load of clothes, and then pulled up a chair alongside her in the backyard.   That’s when I realized that even 74 degrees—in full sun—is still just plain hot.    After reading for a spell, we both gave in to what became our heart’s deepest longing–air conditioning.

One of our struggles this year has been sustaining her with a deliberate diet of rich literature versus twaddle, in Charlotte Mason vernacular.   Our youngest, with all the extroversion that missed our older two, wanted to start a book club this past year.   She had almost completed all the planning, complete with convincing Mom that this was a good thing, when our local library announced its plans to have a book club.    I thought this was too much of a coincidence to be a coincidence, and we hurriedly signed up to be a part of their event.   Now I wish that I had stuck with the original plan to have our own club.   The selection of books that the librarians offer—yuck!!!      I would love to simply pull her from the club, but I’m torn by the fact that she likes being a part of the group, she enjoys the time and activities, and—here’s the kicker—she likes the books.  They are much easier reading, for sure, but based upon what I consider to be a “good” book, i.e., a story that engages the mind and pricks the heart, the book club’s selections are way past poor.   The longer I allow this, of course, the more difficult it is to interest the youngest in books that demand more of her.   Consequently, I’ve not pulled her yet from the club, but have been instead picking my teachable moments.   As an example, we are now reading The Whipping Boy, which is actually very easy to read—a short book with short chapters.   Upon reading chapter 1, she immediately stopped to whine empathetically when she realized what was the whipping boy’s  responsibility (to receive the punishment that should have been given to a spoiled brat excuse for a prince).    While she was sharing how badly she felt for the boy, I talked about the power of a good read and recalled that she’d never stopped to empathize with Vordak the Incomprehensible.   She still maintains that Vordak is the best book ever (heavy sigh).

While I ponder what to do about the book club, I am excited about the cursive handwriting curriculum from LightHome Publications I found on Currclick.  Can you say $6??!!   This looks awesome!!  A chance to share the Word of God, to practice cursive handwriting, and to create a lasting keepsake of the Word in Psalms!!  Can’t beat it with a stick!!

After years of, ahem, uncertainty, shall we say, about homeschooling my MIL blessed us with an entire high school biology curriculum—teacher’s guides, transparencies, DVDs, videos,… everything!   I have been thrilled with all the extra project ideas that have come with the text that really cater to how we like to learn.   The publisher of this not-so-dry text has actually partnered with Dinah Zike (foldables guru, author of The Big Book of Books) to include manipulatives to enhance the content!!  Given Dinah Zike’s popularity within the homeschool community, I couldn’t help but think this was pretty cool in an odd sort of way.

Our school this year is a gentle foreshadowing of the next 2-3 years to come as the oldest spends a significant amount of time away from us.   Her classes keep her away on Mondays and Wednesdays, but the extracurricular activities associated with the Honors Program, plus the time to complete her coursework actually occupy her throughout a good portion of her week.   My dh and I were just discussing today that even though she wasn’t the noisiest of our children, her presence, or lack thereof, is definitely felt if not heard.    Her high school courses this year include Algebra II, Physics, and World Geography.    Other than that, I’m the taxi cab driver!

During the summer, Knowledge Quest distributed what I assume was a preview of their Globalmania curriculum, but it was PERFECT (yes, I’m shouting) for what I wanted to do with World Geography.     There is enough of a guide-like feel to this .pdf file without it being too prescriptive.   I played the games that help with map memorization and, in completing them myself to get a feel on what the oldest would do, I determined that my geography needs serious work.  No wonder I almost failed this class in middle school ( LOL)!!  There is also a schedule that, again without being too prescriptive, suggests how to spend time learning a specific continental region.    What I have added (because without the additions the curriculum might be more elementary) is the idea of research of the continents to find out more about the history and culture, and the idea of understanding a major religion in that region and how you might evangelize with respect to what the people believe.    Finally, when I taught World Geography at our local homeschool store, that particular curriculum set a goal for a student to draw a world map from memory by the end of the course.   I so loved the students’ results that I incorporated this same goal for the oldest.   I’m enjoying watching her get started, and her illustrations of how much she is learning.

 

 

I am so glad, in spite of the fact that American Lit at the college level has her permanently attached to a Norton’s Anthology, that we made the decision to add in as many living books as we could to complement her studies.    She decided early on that audio books would best help her keep up with everything.    This was easily accomplished with Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days, but we’ve been reading aloud Homer Hickam’s October Sky together.   The latter book has been a welcomed accompaniment to her Physics studies, and I’m so glad that I didn’t place too much stock into the warning that this coming-of-age story had potentially inappropriate subject matter.  Yes, he’s a love-struck teenage boy who is learning, unsuccessfully, how to be suave with the ladies (picture Jerry Lewis in “The Ladies’ Man”), but what far overshadows those moments is this book’s ability to take you through Coalwood, WV with such imagery until you feel as if you stepped back 40 years and are standing alongside one of the “rocket boys.”    We even resisted the urge to watch the movie.  (Was it just a coincidence that it came on television while we were reading?   Hmmm….)   After Jules Verne, I’m on the hunt for what might our next great geography-related find: Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalists, and Fools, Including the Author, Who Went in Search of Them.   If I could just find the audio book for something less than $27…

 

What’s new with your studies?   I’d love to “hear” about all those cool and creative homeschool  studies.

 

Judge Not, Less…

 

“So, where do your children go to school?”

If you’ve homeschooled a minute, you’re well aware of the whirlwind of emotions that swirl within you when you respond, “We homeschool.”     The moment in time almost freezes while you wait for that follow-up question, comment, or unsolicited advice.   I read an interesting article not too long ago about the responses of others when you make a decision to homeschool.     Though I like to think that I am past caring what others think–at least in that area, I can remember the days when approval mattered as much as any other homeschooling-related decision we made.   Coming from families of public school educators on both sides, our choice to educate our children at home was not taken lightly–by anyone.

I have often stated that one of the nuances about choosing to homeschool is that you must speak from a place of confidence long before you have it.   Moreover, once you do become confident, or have even feigned confidence long enough, it’s not a far jump to arrogance and/or judgment of others because they don’t homeschool.    I can remember that phase of my own homeschooling journey when I thought people who chose not to homeschool were just missing out.   I became particularly condescending when other parents would state very plainly that they lived in the la-te-da school district, and so they had no reason to homeschool.   Of course, my response was often prompted by a comment like, “Well, if I lived in your district I’d homeschool, too.”    This was the one time that I defended our local public school and its Texas-exemplary status.

To be sure, homeschooling is not for everyone, and we shouldn’t be too upset with those who will say, “Ooo, child, I just don’t have the patience for that,” or something similar.   Our decision to homeschool, for whatever reason, is our decision; it works for our household and family structure.   Returning rudeness with rudeness does not allow us to minister grace.   How do we steer clear of judgment?   How do we acknowledge our choice without belittling someone else’s?

1. Understand our own emotions.    We need to dig into that whirlwind and understand what those emotions are and why they are there.   Years ago, I heard a pastor make a statement that was very powerful for me at a time in my life when I was truly struggling with feeling cast out and rejected.   His comment was that people don’t actually hurt your feelings; they just brush against sensitive areas that you’ve not surrendered to Christ yet.   Wow.   I’d never thought about it that way!   Could it be that the hurt I was feeling was because another person stated aloud some subconscious pain I’d been dealing with all along?   Could it be that someone else’s comment of “How are you going to homeschool your children?” really stings because it’s occurred to you that you might not be able to homeschool?  Acknowledge their concern, regardless of how obnoxious it may be, with something like, “Yeah, that has occurred to me, but…” and then begin to minister in wisdom.

2. Learn the facts.   For you to minister in wisdom, you must grow in wisdom.   There are an overwhelming number of articles that point to the tangible and intangible facts about homeschooled children.   Reading some of this information not only helps you with the sister(s) or MIL who is put out that you think you can do what they were formally educated to do (that’d be me and my house), but knowing some facts will also give you the encouragement you need, especially in those days when the fruits of homeschooling are still germinating.

3. Understand the nature of people.    As sad as it is to say, human nature is to respond negatively to things with which we are unfamiliar.  Every now and then, you might receive genuine curiosity about homeschooling.   Caught on the wrong day, this can be aggravating for me because I don’t always feel like answering the typical questions about reporting, socialization, testing, etc.   But then again, when I’m aware of my own emotions, I recognize my mental fatigue and fight through it–you never know when you might be an angel unaware to another homeschooler-to-be!   Yet, I’m convinced that people sometimes respond negatively because they have little or no experience with homeschooling, and because it is not the status quo–always a source of mild anxiety for some.   When I consequently hear about their friend/ relative/ someone they knew who had a horror story of a homeschool journey, my simple response is, “Oh, well, that’s not been our experience.”

Also realize that we all want the best for our children; some of us just form different opinions about how to get there.   The parents that move to a certain area in order to place their child in a certain public school are doing this for the same reason that you have taken your child out of the public school system altogether.   Allow them the same freedom of choice that you would want for yourself.   

4. Give others–and yourself–time.    You will not slay every dragon that comes in the form of an unsolicited, unwelcomed response all at once.    If we are honest, some of the concerns might be legitimate, and we owe it to ourselves and our children to think about the question and do the homework required to be sure there is not a budding issue.   As a personal example, several years ago, one of my sisters, an English teacher by formal training, questioned our choices for literature, especially poetry.   As one whose love for poetry is still germinating (lol), I could have responded defensively.   But she was right; regardless of my own personal feelings, I owed it to the children to at least expose them to rhythm and rhyme and rhyme scheme and…ugh.     Just last week I was telling her and another sister that our oldest was accepted into the Honors program at our local community college.   And though I’ve homeschooled long enough now until the children’s development is pat on the back enough for me, it felt good to hear the two of them say, “You are doing a great job.”   People may question your methods all day long; what they cannot knock is your fruit.

How do you respond to people’s comments after saying “We’ homeschool”?    Hopefully with all the knowledge that you can muster in the moment, all the wisdom of someone who is ever hoping to improve, and all the grace and mercy of a child of God.   Blessings, dear friends.

A brother offended is harder to win than a strong city, and contentions are like the bars of a castle. (Proverbs 18:19 NJKV)