Saturday, July 15, 2017

Teaching Their Heads AND Their Hearts


As we continue in our series of posts using the word HOMESCHOOL as an acronym, we come to the letter H.
What I’ve Learned About HOMESCHOOLing: Teaching Their Heads AND Their Hearts
The basic types of clouds
The dates and leaders of WWII
Nouns, verbs and adjectives
Algebra
Literature
The fine arts… 


The list of what we can teach our children seems limitless. Combining the “required” subjects, our children’s insatiable curiosity, and all of the things we want them to learn and explore to be well rounded individuals…there are simply not enough hours in childhood to cover that much information.

So, does that mean we have failed? Since we cannot teach it all, will we let our children down?

I answer with a resounding NO!  


It is not about how much we teach our children, but rather the way we teach them that will bring success.



Focus on deep learning  Our minds absorb information in many different ways. We have short term memory and long-term memory—skills and knowledge we work with on a regular basis and information that we may never think about again. It is crucial that we provide a balance for our students as they learn and study.


Although facts and figures will fly through their minds all throughout their schooling years, sometimes we must also provide opportunities for them to slow down, dive in, and immerse themselves in a topic. Sometimes our children need time to learn a new skill or truly appreciate an aspect of creation.

Do not be afraid to dwell on a specific area for a while. Allow your children the opportunity to learn in a deep and satisfying way.

Encourage independent learning  When our children are small, we are fully responsible for feeding them. Not only do we have to prepare their food, but often we have to spoon feed them and make sure they get enough food to be satisfied. As they grow and become more capable of feeding themselves, we encourage them to eat independently. 

Learning skills must be taught in much the same way. We should not always ‘spoon feed’ our children information or sit by them offering bite after bite of knowledge. As they mature, they need to begin to approach learning on their own.  We need to create opportunities for them to learn and grow- both in their structured school lessons and in everyday life.

I am not saying that there should be no boundaries or guidance! Just as we would not set a full course meal in front of a ten-month old and let her have at it, we need to set up safe learning experiences and train our children how to have discernment. We must teach our children how to learn for themselves! 

Equip them for lifelong learning Just as we want to train up independent learners, we should also want to encourage our children to be interested in learning throughout their entire lives. Three ways we can do this is through—

READING: Encouraging a love of reading is a great way to prepare our children to be life-long learners. If they are willing to read, they can learn about anything they want to know.  As Theodor Geisel once said, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” (You may better recognize Geisel by his pen name: Dr. Seuss.)

ENCOURAGING THEIR CURIOUSITY: We are all born with a natural sense of curiosity. (Just spend a few minutes watching a baby crawl around a room and you will know what I mean!) Too often, our curiosity becomes stifled by the busyness and pressures of “grown- up” life. True learners ask questions. They want to know how things work or what is happening around them. Although this sense of curiosity can seem overwhelming to us at times (all those questions), we should encourage our children to search out answers to their questions and to learn as much as they can. This may take extra effort (and patience!) on our part, but it is an effective way to encourage a desire to learn within our children.

USING A HOOK: When you are fishing, what do you use to catch a fish? A hook with bait, of course! The same concept works with teaching. Learning occurs when there is disequilibrium between what someone knows and what they do not know. Exposing students to new concepts and information can cause them to want to know more, thereby restoring their sense of mental equilibrium.   When we introduce something new to our child, we are baiting a hook. Whether it  is a brief overview of material they will study in more depth later, or a way to grab their attention concerning information being taught now, teaching our children to work through the frustration they feel (the disequilibrium) when faced with new information and the pleasure of mastering that new concept (restored equilibrium) will help them not shy away from learning in the future.

Make heart learning a priority As parents and teachers, we must also reach the hearts of our children—not just their heads! It is not enough to fill their minds with mental information, life skills, and experiences. We must also encourage them to grow emotionally and spiritually.

The most important things we can teach our children are to “to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with [their] God.” (Micah 6:8) A person who is full of knowledge, but possesses poor inner character, is a poor person indeed.

Our intellectual knowledge should enhance the relationships and service opportunities with people around us, not isolate us from them. It is crucial that we spend the same quantity of energy and quality of resources on training the hearts of our children, just as we do their minds and bodies.





Friday, July 7, 2017

Know Thy Child

As we continue in our series of posts using the word HOMESCHOOL as an acronym, we come to the letter C. How well do you know your child(ren)?


What I’ve Learned About HOMESCHOOLing: Know Thy Child


My brother and his wife have six sons. One of the joys of living near our family again is being able to spend time with my nephews. It is so fun to be an auntie.

One of the things that has surprised me is how different the boys are from one another. Here they are, having the same parents, the same home life, the same upbringing, and yet they are each so unique in their personalities, interests, and abilities.

One of the delights of homeschooling is the flexibility we have to tailor our child’s schooling to meet their needs.

My son is a number whiz. He breezes through math and rarely comes upon a concept he does not understand. (He is just like his dad in that way.) The math curriculum I chose for his kindergarten year was great. He excelled at the lessons and loved doing math each day. It was a wonderful program and I assumed we would use it every year until both of my children graduated.


Then my daughter started kindergarten. Those same exact math lessons were torturous for her (and me)! By Christmas time, she was crying every time we worked on a lesson and could not seem to retain concepts from one time to the next. She began to complain that she was “terrible at math” and say that she “wasn’t smart enough to do math.” My mama’s heart was breaking. What should I do?
  
This had worked so well before, but it was definitely not working now.

I am so thankful that the Lord brought another, more experienced homeschool mom into my life that year. She reminded me that what worked for one child’s learning style and strengths may not work as well for another child. And the beauty of homeschooling is that I get to choose how to handle each subject for each child! She encouraged me to start a program that had worked well for one of her sons (who had similar struggles) and thereby help my girl learn using an entirely different method.

That was a turning point for usnot only in math, but in my approach to schooling my children. I no longer worked off the assumption that what was good for the one would be just as beneficial for the other. I realized that God had made each of them differently and they may need to absorb information through different avenues (visual, auditory, kinesthetic), at different speeds, and with different amounts of review and engagement. (And two years later, if you were to ask my daughter what her favorite subject is she would tell you math!)    

In what ways are your children different from each other? Can you recognize their learning style differences? Take time this week to watch how they interact with the world around them. Do they touch everything in order to “see” it? Do they talk through their ideas or spend time quietly listening to what others have to say? Do you catch them people watching or observing how to do something before they will try it for themselves? Their learning styles will come out naturally as they play and explore their surroundings. How wonderful it would be if we could incorporate some of those same methods into the way they learn for school!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Seasons of Life

As we continue in our series of posts using the word HOMESCHOOL as an acronym, we come to the letter S. What season of life are you in today? 

What I’ve Learned About HOMESCHOOLing: Seasons of Life 





Spring, summer, fall and wintereach season has its own beauty and trials, reason and reward. What would life be like without beautiful spring flowers, long summer days, a full autumn harvest, or a quiet winter night? 

Each season has a different purpose and allows for different activities, hobbies and productivity.

Life also has a variety of seasons. Based on our age, ability, income, and responsibilities, we will experience many different seasons throughout our lifetime.

Much like the seasons we see in creation, seasons of life have different purposes and allow for different activities, hobbies and productivity. 

Each life season has its own beauty and trials, reason and reward.

It is easy for us to get frustrated with the season of life that we are in, or to long for a season that is past. 

Do you ache for the sound of toddler giggles in your home again? 

Do you long to have a whole day all to yourself with no interruptions? 

Maybe you crave nights of uninterrupted sleep or the freedom to travel and pursue personal hobbies. 

Perhaps you are dealing with illness, caring for an aging parent, or adjusting to a job transition. No matter what stage of life you find yourself in, it can be tempting to wish we were experiencing something else.

Sometimes as mamas and teachers, we can feel impatient during this season of life. 

The days of schooling seem endless, the list of to-do’s is long, and the minutes are few.

Let me encourage you today. Just as God has promised that nature’s season will continue to cycle, so too will the stages of life and motherhood! 

Babies will eventually sleep through the night, your children will help with the household chores rather than just create new ones, schooling will one day be over…. 

Whatever season of life you are in will not last forever. Like all other seasons before it, it will pass by and you will find yourself in a new place, fulfilling a new role, impacting new people.

Let us determine to be content right where we are and enjoy this season of time. 


Who knows, perhaps someday we will miss it too.











Wednesday, June 21, 2017

This Effort Is Not Wasted


As we continue in our series of posts using the word HOMESCHOOL as an acronym, we come to the letter E. I hope these thoughts will be an encouragement to your heart. 

What I’ve Learned About HOMESCHOOLing: This Effort Is Not Wasted

Teaching is hard work. I spent several years teaching in a classroom setting and now many years teaching my own children here at home. Sometimes it can seem that we do the same tasks over and over again. Sometimes progress can be so slow that it hardly seems there has been any improvement at all.

But I am here to tell you that the time and energy you are putting into your children is not in vain! Your effort is not being wasted! 
The hours you spend together, the choices you make concerning your school day, the life lessons you teach will have long-lasting value.

There are many things we do each day that have practical value. I need to clean the toilets and wash the dishes so that my family can be healthy and have something on which to eat. The clothes must be cleaned, dinner will be cooked, and the floors swept.  

But will these tasks mean anything in 20 years? Will my spotless house and organized closets help my children be more successful as adults or help them build meaningful relationships? Although we have to maintain the practical side of life, we cannot lose sight of our main priority—our children’s hearts, souls, and minds.

Time spent speaking into our children’s lives is never wasted. 
I encourage you to keep on keeping on. Do not get so overwhelmed by the busyness of the days that you lose sight of your long-term impact.

You have been specifically chosen by God to train your children and prepare them for the life He has for them. Do not lose heart, Mama! The hours of thought, prayer and effort you invest into your children will influence them for the rest of their lives.

Now that is a noble venture!

Friday, June 16, 2017

We Were Mamas First



As we continue in our series of posts using the word HOMESCHOOL as an acronym, we come to the letter M. I hope these thoughts can encourage you on your own homeschool journey. 


What I've Learned About HOMESCHOOLing: We Were Mamas First

I am known by many names: Mrs., Auntie, Sis, Beth—but one that is beyond precious to me is that of “Mama” (even when I hear it 20,000 times a day). Ever since I was young, I dreamed and prayed that one day I would be a mother. My journey to motherhood was not an easy one. There were many tears and times of great fear as we wondered if we would even become parents. However, God has blessed us with two beautiful children and I could not be more grateful.

Those days of babyhood, now long past (they are currently eight and ten years old), are sweet memories for me—baby snuggles, first steps, silly songs, bedtime stories, all those moments we spent simply playing together... How could time have gone by so fast? 

Now that my children are older, it is easy to forget to cherish this time we have with each other. This can be especially true when it’s time to do our schoolwork. See, I am a Type A, list-driven kind of girl. I love the feeling of marking things off of my to-do list as I go throughout the day. Sometimes I find myself in this “get it done” kind of mode when it comes to our school day. I feel an urgency to move onto the other items on my list and I don’t want to linger over our school lessons.

This past year I have really been challenged in this area. (Perhaps because my oldest hit the decade mark?!?) The days are passing quickly and I don’t want to rush through moments that will one day be only memories in my heart.


I must never forget that I was a mama before anything else. Before I taught them how to read, before they learned about the Civil War or 2 + 2, long before they had handwriting or spelling—I was their mama. As important as being their teacher is, I do not want to lose sight of our relationship as mother and child. I need to make time for those extra questions and tangent moments. I need to relax and enjoy their snuggles while reading together on the couch. I want to relish the sound of their voices as they describe the stories inside their heads. I want to be all there, connecting in my heart with these little ones I call son and daughter.

Sometimes we forget to appreciate the great opportunity we have to spend each day with our children—to watch them learn new things, ask us their multitudes of questions, join in as they explore and discover this amazing world, simply being together….These days of childhood, will all too soon be past, and will only be sweet memories. I don’t want to miss a single one!


Friday, June 9, 2017

Opportunities Abound




As we continue in our series of posts using the word HOMESCHOOL as an acronym, we come to the letter O. I hope these ideas will be an encouragement to you and help you brainstorm about options available to you.


What I've Learned About HOMESCHOOLing: Opportunities Abound


One of the concerns someone who is thinking of homeschooling might have is concerning extra-curricular activities or areas where they are not knowledgeable. Over the years, I have discovered that there are so many resources and opportunities available for our children—many of which are very low cost or even free. You can pursue the opportunities that are a good fit for your family!


Some ideas to get you started:


Your public library—Not only can you access many more books than your own bookshelves can hold, the public library can be an amazing resource for educational classes, interactive play, and exciting learning experiences. Our small town library is not very big, but I have been amazed at how much they offer! This past year my children learned how to use Ozobots, Snap Circuits, Lego Education sets, and played with Imagination Playground blocks—all things that we do not have at home. We have also participated in a variety of classes offered at the library, including art, science, reading, music, as well as special programs and live concerts. (The steel drum performance was amazing!) Check out what your local library has to offer you.

Your town—Our town has an art gallery and a craft store (both of which offer classes for children), a city band, sports teams, youth field day events, and a city pool. What is in your town? Have you visited your local historical society? What about local festivals and city-wide events? We have thoroughly enjoyed Art Walk on the Block and attending the annual Chalk Walk, where amateur and professional chalk artists participated. Explore your home town and see what delightful things your family can enjoy.

Friends & family members—The people you know can be a great resource! Our family and church is full of very crafty and skilled individuals. We have carpenters, knitters, painters, musicians…the list is endless. My children are currently building a tree fort with their papa, uncle and dad. My son took piano lessons from an older gentleman at our church. Grammy taught them how to crochet.  An aunt has encouraged their art interests by teaching them new skills. One of our friends ran a baseball clinic; there was children’s choir at our church; we visited family friends who own a working farm…. Think about the skills and talents of those around you and connect your children with people that have similar interests. 

Online resources—The opportunities for learning online are so diverse. From online classes, learning games, educational videos, craft activities…resources abound for both the teacher and the student. Pinterest is a great starting point for searching out educational sources. (Check out our Pinterest page for some great ideas.)

Local colleges—This is an often-overlooked treasure trove of opportunity! Colleges regularly offer fine arts performances, sporting events, classes, public lectures and seminars. Many of these activities are free or are donation-based, and can help you expose your child to a vast world of knowledge.

Parks and nature centers—One of our favorite family activities is to explore new parks: local, state and even national ones. We have been blessed to live near some amazing parks with very interesting and informative nature centers. These unassuming places can hold wonderful exhibits of wildlife, teach about the ecosystems and habitats found in your area, and encourage a love of nature within your child. The miles of trails, waterways, and playgrounds can add a richness to your physical science studies, as well. For a list of state parks near you, click here.

Nearby tourist attractions—We recently moved back to the town where I grew up. Now that I have children of my own, I see this area in a whole new way. I had no idea there was so much here! Who knew that Revolutionary War soldiers were buried in the town cemetery? That there is a herd of 900 wild elk living forty-five minutes north of here? That there is a train car downtown that actually carried President Theodore Roosevelt? Even in small towns, and their surrounding areas, there are often places that you never thought to visit. Get creative and see what you have been missing.   

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Honesty Is Still The Best Policy

Well, the end of another school year is in sight and, as always, it makes me feel a bit nostalgic and contemplative.  I find myself evaluating our curriculum choices, activities from the year, and in general assessing the heart and processes of our homeschool. This year has been unique for our family in many ways. We are on the road frequently with our ministry, which has provided many new and wonderful experiences for our children (sightseeing, meeting new people, lots of family time…), but it has also changed how our school time looks.  Flexibility has been a key factor for this “stay at home mom,” who no longer stays at home all of the time.

As I have been thinking over this past school year, I have found myself asking several questions: What worked well for us? What areas would I like to change or improve?  What do my children need from me as their mama and as their teacher? How do I stay focused on the why’s of my homeschool heart and not just the how’s


I would like to share some thoughts and ideas with you over the next few weeks in a series of posts using the word HOMESCHOOL as an acronym. I hope this will be an encouragement to you in your own homeschool journey. Starting with H, then….



Honesty Is Still the Best Policy

How many times has someone asked you a question and multiple answers run through your mind. This happens with our children all the time. “Mom, where did you put my big paper star with the glitter on it?” Oh, no! Your mind whirls with what to say. The truth? (“I threw it in the trash.”) The brush off? (“I’m not sure.”) A lie? (It must be somewhere in your room.”)

We often find ourselves in these moments with other people; they invite us over, ask if we will be going on vacation, comment on a recent purchase…the list goes on. Questions can easily put us in a defensive mode or tempt us to take the “easy” way out by answering with a lie or giving them the brush off.

The hardest moments come when we are asked about something that is close to our hearts. “Mom, why did we have to move away?” “Why do you homeschool your kids?” “You only have two children?” (or “You have how many children?!?”)

As uncomfortable as it may be, I have found that the honest answer is still the best one we can give. On so many levels, honesty is a win-win. Not only do we want to be known as a person of integrity, we would like others to be honest with us. This is especially crucial with our children. I need to be willing to answer them in an honest way so that they can trust me with their hard questions.  Sometimes this can be humbling. Sometimes it means that I will have to own up to a mistake. Sometimes the honest response will lead to more questions, or possibly even criticism.

Being honest in our answers may not be easy, but it can have long lasting value. Your children will know that they can trust your words and believe what you tell them. You will be modeling a lifestyle of genuineness in front of them—and can then ask that they be open and sincere with you.

Here are a few ideas to help when you are faced with one of those kinds of questions:

  •   Have an answer prepared ahead of time.
Even when our son was quite young, he was tall for his age. (His daddy is 6’5”.) People would make the strangest comments about his height, and I began to notice that he was getting embarrassed whenever that would happen. I did not want him to feel insecure about this, so I came up with a way to respond every time someone would say something to him about his size. “Yep,” I would say, “tall and strong, just like his daddy.” My little guy would throw back his shoulders, puff out his chest and grin. (He wanted to be like his daddy!) The person would smile and walk away laughing a little. Whew! Awkward moment instantly neutralized.

Think of the questions you get asked a lot. Are they about homeschooling? Are they about your children’s abilities? Are they about where you live or how you spend your time? Come up with responses that are kind, but also honest, and have them tucked away ready to use at a moment’s notice. 

  • Be discerning about how much information you give, and to whom you give it. 
  • You can be honest and forthright without disclosing all of your reasons or sharing everything. Sometimes we feel like we need to defend our actions or convince others to agree with us and this causes us to say too much. Sometimes our children are not ready for all the details or will not understand the full answer. Think through what you should say and how much you should say. Speaking less is often better—especially in controversial conversations.

  • Ask questions.       

One way I have found to respond to a question is with another question. This is especially useful if the person you are talking with is engaged in a similar activity. For instance, if someone asks you, “What type of curriculum do you use in your homeschool?” and they also homeschool their children, you could say, “Oh, a variety of things. What curriculum do you use?” Asking questions allows you to be on the guiding side of the conversation and can help keep a potentially uncomfortable situation from becoming downright awkward.  







Saturday, May 20, 2017

Take a Summer Reading Challenge!


 

Looking for a way to encourage your children to read more this summer? Here are some ideas-  



·     Check out the summer reading program at your local public library



·     Visit http://www.scholastic.com/ups/campaigns/src-2017/ to join the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge


·     Choose a theme and read a variety of books based on that theme (sports, history, animals, etc.)


·    Explore different genres of literature (Visit this blog for a great list! http://www.ateachableteacher.com/summer-reading-challenge-list-for-kids/)


·    Join Barnes and Noble’s summer challenge (and earn a free book!!) http://dispatch.barnesandnoble.com/content/dam/ccr/pdf/2017/summer-reading/summerreading_letter.pdf


·     Search reading bingo ideas on Pinterest


·    Explore the bookshelves at your local library with this challenge- http://growingbookbybook.com/summer-reading-ideas-library-challenge/


·    Enjoy these book related activities at http://www.bookitprogram.com/summer/default.asp





Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Let’s Play!

My son asked me to play this week. Now I am good at playing games with them. I can read aloud and color, do puzzles and shoot hoops. But play? He was asking me to engage in his imaginary story and become part of that world. And I froze. I am embarrassed to admit that I truly didn’t know how to respond. It was so easy to play along when they were little–have a tea party, drive big trucks, rock the baby doll… But as they have aged and their stories have become more complex, I realized that I had stopped playing with my kids. Is our imagination like a muscle? Can it atrophy? I was truly lost when I only had my imagination to lean on. Needless to say, this bothered me terribly, and after our rousing time of bomber planes and army soldiers ended, I began to contemplate the value of knowing how to play.
In a world of screens and noise, imaginary play often takes a back seat. This great gift, that is always with us and doesn’t require batteries, is often not exercised to its fullest potential. I realized that because I had not been using my imagination, I didn’t have much of one to use. My children on the other hand, can fill hours with a story line based on trains, animals and houses (like the one that covered my living room floor not too many days ago!). Is this something they could lose? A skill that can be forgotten?
I recognize that the way they play and imagine will change as they grow, but I cannot help thinking about some of the great creators in our world- authors, designers, problem solvers…are they good at what they do because they have not stifled their ability to imagine? They can imagine a solution, imagine a story with amazing characters, imagine a design to meet a need. They use the same creative muscle to do these things, that my children are using when they play. I want to encourage and develop that ability as much as I can…even when it means that I have to learn to play all over again.

Ponder a Picture

I have a challenge for you–stop and look, look around you. What do you see? So often we are in such a hurry that we do not actually see what is right in front of us. This was driven home to me this week, in the dentist’s office of all places. Our family was visiting a new dentist for our six-month cleanings and I spent a good bit of time in the one room as he worked with both of my children. Near the end of the visit, my son had to cooperate for an uncomfortable procedure that would last for two minutes. As I was scrambling to distract his mind from the large piece of equipment in his mouth I blurted out, “Hey, bud, look at that picture! What story does it tell you?” Now, I had been ‘staring’ at that same picture for the past hour, but as we actually looked at it and I pointed out unique elements of it for him to think about, it dawned on me that I hadn’t really seen it at all.

How often does this happen to us? Maybe it is a teachable moment or a memorable experience; perhaps it is a beautiful view or my daughter’s smile…what “pictures” am I staring at every day, without really seeing them? Not only do I often miss what is right in front of me, but I have not been intentional about teaching my children to “see” life either. Things are not slowing down; life is not getting simpler. I want to train my children to see past the busyness and pause to ponder what is right in front of them. Several ideas have come to mind as I thought how to do this. First, I want to demonstrate through example. I want them to see me gasping in awe at a beautiful sunset, or relishing the view of the snow on the hills. I want to point out unique architecture and the intricacies of God’s creation. I want to look them in the eye and hear their inflections while they speak to me. I want them to learn from me. But I think we can tangibly teach this skill of “looking to see” as well. Challenge your child to study a photo or painting for one minute and then discuss what he/she notices about the picture. Encourage him to write a story about that moment which is frozen in time. (Norman Rockwell’s paintings are perfect for this!) When driving, ask your children to list five adjectives or adverbs that describe the sky that day. Have them close their eyes in a busy room and describe what they hear. Play a game where you have them walk into a room, look around for a moment, and then leave again. Remove an object from view or move it to a different location. Can they spot the difference when they reenter the space? (This is especially fun to do in a room of your own house where everything becomes so common we tend to overlook it.) There are many ways to teach our children to “see” what is before them. I challenge you to stop and look, and train your children to do so also!