Category Archives: Homeschooling

The Best Way to Beat the Summertime Blues may be a Homeschool Moms Convention in January

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                I’m in a rush as usual because tonight is the deadline.  It is the deadline for the best “give-away” that I personally, as a homeschool mom, can think of.  (Good grief! My grammar is lousy tonight….) I digress.  There is a chance I (and a friend) could win a weekend in San Marcos, TX  at the “Homeschool Moms’ Winter Summit”.   Woo hoo!!!!   The description sounds GLORIOUS!  Especially right now because, to borrow a line from a movie, our home is a “hothouse of female emotion”.   Anyone that has daughters knows what I’m talking about.  Just seems like a perfect storm at the moment.  Thank goodness, storms pass.  So, I’m breathing deeply.  And praying for calm feelings.  And looking forward to January.

                If you need a break like I do, you might want to join the fun in January.  Check it out here:  http://www.homeschoolwintersummit.com/  And here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Homeschool-Moms-Winter-Summit/242820272446772. Also here: http://www.smockityfrocks.com/?s=Homeschool+Moms+Winter+Summit. I’ve told a friend of mine who is homeschool mom newbie about it, and I think that , regardless of the outcome of the contest, we’ll be making the road trip.   But last night, as I lay in my bed praying and thinking and trying to whip up some creative submission to win this contest, I chastised myself.  I’m being selfish.

                You see, over 20 years ago, I met this friend of my college roommate. She was a quirky, happy, funny kind of girl named Kat who didn’t have a mean bone in her body.  I didn’t know her real well then, but we’ve reconnected through Facebook, and I have grown to admire her IMMENSELY!  And after a harrowing summer, she, if anyone, deserves this.  So, I’m writing this on her behalf.  She doesn’t know I’m writing this, and quite frankly, I don’t know if she’ll be able to get away.  But I figure,  if she has enough time to prepare, this may just work out for her.

                So let me tell you why I think she deserves this.  Simply, she has 9 children (and one more in heaven).  She and her husband have adopted most through international adoptions.  What started out as rescuing children from heavily burdened institutions and impossible situations, has intensified to include special needs children.  Last year, in the middle of one of these adoptions, their family learned that their son would not have the benefit of knowing them because he passed away before they could retrieve him from the orphanage.  Yet, in their grief, they decided to move forward with another adoption from the same institution.  And a few months ago, their latest blessing made it home to Texas. 

                There is so much more to the story that I can’t describe in one blog post.  So if you get a chance, please go read her blog. http://everlastingmomentum.blogspot.com/. It will leave you with a renewed hope in Christianity and mankind.  Unbelievable faith… it leaves me in tears and speechless often. ( Although, I have to say, some of it is both hilarious and relatable.)

                I would love to win this.  My Newbie Homeschool Mom friend and I would have a wonderful time.  But, it would be even better if Kat won this and got a little rest, refreshment, and reward.  And that would be better than a winning it myself.

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Everything I know about Education I learned from Little House on the Prairie

 

 

                One of the great unintended benefits of homeschooling is the amount of literature that I get to immerse myself in now, that I should have immersed myself in when I was younger.  My favorite read-alouds were the Little House books.  The values, history, and examples of good behavior were a huge part of our homeschooling for a few years and contributed to discussions of many subjects.  I just can’t recommend them enough.

                The interesting thing about my appreciation for these books, however, is how applicable so much of what happened to the Ingalls family is to my life, even today.  And as an adult reading the book, I have a different perspective than I would have as a child.  Kids still love the books for the adventure and mostly happy endings.  But considering that Laura Ingalls Wilder was an adult at the time she penned her memoirs, I think that her point of view was more closely aligned with mine.  For that reason, I’ve decided to tell you what I’ve garnered from her experiences, especially as they relate to education.

  1. Attitude is everything.  If you keep persevering, work hard, complain little (tough one for me), you can have a full, successful, satisfying life.
  2. Respect authority, but don’t be a lemming.  At nearly every turn, teacher, government officials, parents, were obeyed; however, initiative was often taken to be independent and self-sufficient.  Good judgment trumped blind obedience, especially when it came to helping your neighbor or your family.
  3.  Use your brain.  While you respect laws and authorities, in the end you answer only to God.  So stop believing that you need a body of people who don’t even know what you look like to help you out of whatever your current crisis is.  The Ingalls embodied the American spirit.  They were brave and full of ingenuity and creativity.  The federal government was only meant to provide general military protection and ensure property rights and that basic laws were enforced.  That was it. Even education was their own responsibility and they took it seriously.
  4. A strong family influence is the single greatest measure of success academically.  You want your children to be intellectual giants?  Then make it a priority.  Commit to do everything  in your power to help your child.  Whatever your academic situation with your children, you can get the best results.  Not a teacher, not an administrator… you.  If your child has a learning disability, it is up to you to advocate for that child, to do the teaching yourself if necessary, to find the resources.  Case in point – Mary Ingalls.  Blinded as a child due to an illness, it did not stop the Ingalls from helping her to learn as much as she could at home and then later do everything in their power to send her hundreds of miles away to a school that could help her, and (huge shocker!) all without the aid of any of the information you have at your fingertips today or a government subsidy.
  5. Public education was a privilege, not a right.  Yep, no one demanded that their children be educated by someone else… period.  If the community could come together and pay a teacher, decide on how long a school term could be, and find an acceptable building and some books, a school may have existed.  In that case, children were happy to be able to go.  Poor behavior was not tolerated.  Expulsion was a real threat, not just a few days off to do as you pleased.  If no school existed, it was up to the parents to decide if formal education was a priority and how to impart such knowledge to their children.
  6. Public education was local.  See number 5.  Let me note, though, that this was essential in helping to make education a more practical experience that was relevant to a particular community, and aided in making education more readily individualized.
  7. Education was a skeleton which could later be fleshed out by the individual student.  Students were not required to learn everything, but rather to learn how to learn anything.  They were given the basic skills to find the answers themselves.  While they were expected to perfect those specific skills, they were not required to perfect all the skills that they would ever need.  They stuck to the basics.  The rest was self-determination.
  8. Grade level and age were not necessarily one in the same and there was no shame in it.  The textbook levels were meant for the individual not for a herd of cattle.  If you caught on quickly, you could progress quickly.  If you didn’t, you were given extra instruction and time to study until it was mastered.  A ten year old who had never been to school started his reading at the same point as the fortunate seven year old who was enrolled on his/her first eligible day. (By the way, reading was taught in several ways.  By rote or sight, phonics, and through writing the words.  Often it was a combination of the three.  The readers were set up so that a number of strategies could be employed. The emphasis was not on the mechanics as much as the results.)
  9. Socializing with other kids (of many age groups) was an added bonus of the educational experience.  Teaching children to interact with their peers (although many age groups usually co-existed and mingled) according to the current social standards was not seen as another duty of the teacher or administrators. The Golden Rule was the clear standard for the school yard and class room.  If broken, the consequences were just as clear and administered immediately.  Parents took care of any other needed character development.
  10. The school did not own the child.  Students filled the classroom at the discretion of the parents, and when school was not in session, learning continued to take place; either through the textbooks or a bible owned by each student, or through the learning of skills during labor.  Hard work was an opportunity for stretching the mind and character, as well as the muscles. One hundred and eighty school days were not essential to ensure that all the subject matter was covered and the standardized tests sufficiently taught.  It all stopped for terrible winters, or for planting and harvesting.
  11. The only real requirements for great teachers were that they have desire and commitment to teach, and that they have at least as much knowledge and grasp of the subjects they were teaching as a graduating senior on their last day of school.  No inservices, no extra training days, and no special conferences where your teachers’ union officials told you how you deserved tenure, more pay, more benefits, etc.  just because you have an education degree.  If you passed high school, you knew enough to pass that information it on to someone else. 
  12. The separation of church and state existed to keep the government from interfering with religion, not to keep God from the classroom.  While most of the spiritual education was left to the family and the church, it was impossible at that point to study the history of the fledgling nation without learning about the pious principles of freedom and liberty espoused by the forefathers. True patriotism (love of God and country) was part of the fabric of the education system.  Something we have lacked now for decades.  Not only have we stripped God from the classroom, we have trivialized the reasons for the revolution and the foundations of American exceptionalism.  We have watered it down to a fight over a tea tax.
  13. The latest and greatest technology was not required, which meant education costs were low.  Books were basic.  To keep up to date with new inventions and discoveries, required the student to be self-motivated.  If they could read, write, and do basic math, then they had all they needed to be lifelong learners and creators.

I’ve got much more to say about the subject, especially with the new Common Core controversy, but I’ll save it for later.  For now, you understand how my thinking about education has been reshaped over the years.  And you can see how far off the path to education excellence we’ve wandered. Let’s pray we can find our way back.

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Don’t Talk With Your Mouth Full and Other Table Manners Applicable to Life

 

 

Wow!  That title, all by itself, was a mouthful.  But it is all too relevant to me. Right now.  I have bitten off more than I can chew, and I must speak at the same time.  I don’t have a choice.  I have committed myself.  Again.  I have got to finish.

This is my state of mind at the present.  But it seems to be a prevailing, recurring theme in my life.  In fact, it seems, for some strange reason, that I work better under pressure.  I think this may be an underlying factor in my terrible habit of procrastination.  If I don’t have a ridiculous amount of stress, I don’t perform as well.  Procrastinating manufactures that. 

The bad thing is (or worse thing,) I have to exhibit the mandatory emotional meltdown before I can get on with whatever I need to do.  It’s illogical.  I don’t understand myself.  Yet, I continue to do it.  Isn’t that the definition of insanity?  I guess because I’ve managed to get good results most of the time there is a reward for the behavior.  I unwittingly reinforce my procrastination by succeeding, or at the least, satisfactorily completing whatever it is I said I would do.  (Excuse me while I wipe my mouth.)

Although I feel like a head case after divulging all  of that, my guess is that I’m not the only one.  Whether you’re the harried homemaker, or have-it-all career mom, or even if you’re a dad and you fall in one of these categories, you’re most likely stressed to the point of being one mini-crisis away from being a heaping puddle right where you stand.  This isn’t a new problem.

 

So how do we deal with it?  I don’t have the answers.  I have suggestions that may or may not work for you.  Sometimes they don’t work for me, but here goes.

 

1)    God.  Go to him.  Pour out your heart. Ask for help. Read his word.  Meditate on it.  Keep him first.  Remember the whole, “Seek ye first” commandment.  It’s reassuring.

 

2)    Take assessment of what’s going on in your life.  Re-prioritize.  Pick your battles. Say “no” and don’t feel guilty. Someone told me one time to concentrate on what is important instead of what was urgent.  That tends to be my way.

 

3)    Make a list.  Start with the easiest thing and work your way up.  You may be delaying the inevitable worst one until the end, but you may just be so encouraged from completing everything else it won’t seem like such a difficult thing to do.

 

4)    Make a daily list.  Okay, this one seems like a repeat, but I have to share this trick that pretty much got me through college. I cannot take credit for this.  It was a suggestion to a roomful of RAs by the VP of our university who also taught classes, ran businesses, was a church leader, and the mayor of the city all at the same time.  He took an index card everyday and listed everything he needed to do that day (he recommended a calendar with special events and assignments to reference).  At the end of the day everything on the list was either completed, discarded from the list, or carried to the next day.

 

5)    Make a daily list of 10 things for which you are thankful to God. Sometimes we need to take stock of all of our blessings to get us out of the mire of pity and guilt that can worry and delay us.

 

6)    Just do it.  Sometimes you need to just pick a starting point and march forward.

 

7)    Go have a meltdown.  Yes, give yourself permission to have a weak moment and pity yourself.  But limit it to just a few minutes.  Then give yourself a pep talk and go to it again.

 

8)    Delegate and seek help from others.  Then either let them do it or take the help and suggestions graciously.  Have you ever asked for help and didn’t like the answer? Let go!!!! A very good piece of parenting advice that I follow came from a blog.  Texashomesteader.com to be exact.  The blogger was talking about chores around their homestead and with her homeschooled children.  She followed the advice of another who said, “Teach your children to do something well.  Then get out of their way and let them do it.”  I don’t think this means they have to do it perfectly, but you should allow them to do the task without constant criticism.  It’s okay to correct mistakes, just don’t be a dictator, perfectionist, control-freak about it.  How ever much was completed is less you’ll have to do, even if you have to finish the job to perfection, later, out of view, for your own peace of mind.

 

9)    Do something fun.  Sometimes you need to act spontaneously and get your mind off of things.  Denial is usually one of those things that can be destructive personally, but every once in a while it is a tool that can prevent an obsession.

 

10) Eat right and exercise.  That just hurt, really bad.  I don’t know why this is so hard to do, but it is.  It tends to be the thing on my daily list that gets discarded or moved to the next day the most.  It is one of my biggest personal struggles to be motivated to do this.  I’m still working on it, not very well, but I am.

Like I said, some of these don’t work for me right now.  Some of them do.  Some I hit sporadically.  All in all, it is occasionally uplifting to recall this wisdom that I’ve learned from others and realize that if things get really rough, I do have the ability to handle it.  As my mother says, “This too shall pass.”

            Oh! Wait a minute! Wasn’t I supposed to continue the analogy of table manners and life…. Oh well, it will have to go on tomorrow’s index card.

 

 

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FINALLY!!!!! A Homeschooling Post!!!!

It’s finally here. A post about one of my favorite subjects —- homeschooling. Since I hope to post about this subject often, I’ve struggled with where to start. So, why not start at the beginning. The very beginning.

Sometime toward the end of my oldest daughter’s Kindergarten year in a small private church school, I realized I was going to have to start thinking seriously about the next step. The school was a preschool which included a Kindergarten but went no further. Our other options were the local public school of course, and two other private schools — one private school which would have required being wait-listed and the other too far out of budget . The public school had become a scary thought to me. I would have never guessed this prior to having children. However, watching the experiences of my co-workers with their children deal with the school system made me nervous.

{I take this time to pause and say this. I admire teachers. I admire the dedication they have. I admire those who are passionate about helping their students learn. I come from a long line of teachers and have plenty of teachers in my family. We need teachers, good teachers. My choice to homeschool is not an indictment of the teaching profession. It’s an indictment of a bureaucracy that has gotten so large and out of control, so cookie-cutter (e.g., Common Core), that teachers have no time to help the struggling kid that does not fit the mold, or move the advanced child along so they’re not bored. We’ve taken an important individual privilege (education), historically, and mandated and regulated it so heavily at the federal level that true learning, discovery, creativity and individual personal achievement are getting harder and harder to attain. If you don’t believe me, read the Little House series for yourself from the perspective of the historical significance of public education. In many ways, we have devolved, not evolved.}

Ok…back to the story. It was a blessing that over the years we had become close with a couple of homeschooling families in our community. They had older children, so the possibility of combining forces to tackle it together was not realistic. Instead they offered me encouragement, wisdom, and a book. The book was So You’re Thinking About Homeschooling? by Lisa Whelchel. I recommend this book to anyone who has even the slightest urge to venture into home education. It’s a compilation of stories of other homeschoolers and their methods of homeschooling for many different situations. It’s an easy read, but BEWARE….it will make you feel empowered. I was convinced after reading it that I could do it. My husband agreed and the rest is history.

I have called it the grand experiment. When we first started, we reassessed the situation each school year to make sure it was a good fit for the family. Every year we make adjustments, but we no longer question if we will be doing it or not. It has become a lifestyle for us. And as my husband told someone over the phone a while back, it is the best parenting decision we ever made besides teaching our children about God.

After all these years, I still doubt my abilities, I still pray that I’m adequate. But with prayer and the grace of God, we continue to make progress. I am thankful every day that I’m afforded this opportunity. I’m thankful that I have been able to watch my kids learn and grow up close and personal. I’m in awe of the wonderful young women they are becoming. I’m also aware that education and educating is a privilege not to be taken for granted. And the ultimate responsibility for developing my children’s intellect and creativity is mine irrespective of if I choose to do it myself or enlist a public or private school.

And that’s my two cents. But stick around. I have more pennies. Feel free to leave comments, even ones of disagreement as long as they are respectful and there is no profanity.

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