Tag Archives: Parenting

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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What’s your sign?

I love Pinterest. In fact, it is one of my great stress relievers to spend an hour by myself “pinning”. I have to make a set time and time limit; otherwise it would easily, and has at times, become an unhealthy obsession and time-stealer. In some instances, the ideas shared there have been a great help to me in one way or another.

One of my favorite ideas are the wonderful quotes, funny quips, etc. that end up on signs to be hung about the home. It occurred to me how the selection of one of these signs could reveal so much about the occupants of the home. And how much time I take thinking if something really applies to our clan or not.

I love the signs that tell about the family personality. You know the ones that start, “In this family we…” fill in the blanks. Maybe these things are aspirations rather than hard fast habits by all the members, but I’ve yet to find one that really describes my family. In some ways, writing a description that is both accurate and mostly positive seems untruthful. So, I won’t. I refuse. As heart-warming as the signs are, providing only the positive without the negative describe only one half of the family’s personality. So what if I wrote a truthful sign, regardless of what perceived negative attributes come spewing forth? Could it at least make people smile (or probably laugh) even if it didn’t cause that lovely mushy feeling that most do? Hmm….let’s see. Here is my attempt.

In this family we:

Have too much estrogen for four walls
Encourage Dad to go fishing to preserve his manhood and sanity
Share the chores, but still leave dinner dishes often until the next day
Photobomb
Laugh, and laugh, and laugh
Cry
Talk about God
Talk to God
SING together in the car and solo in the shower
Opine loudly and zealously to the guests on Fox News
Argue/Bicker with each other
Learn
Love
Have tickle fights and horseplay
Get mad
Make up
Enjoy Food (too much)
Dream for the future
Encourage service to others
Try to be real
Laugh at flatulence
Pick on each other mercilessly, at times
Love NASCAR
Exercise our 2nd amendment right
Converse with the dogs as if they are people
Attempt patience and forgiveness
Need to exercise more
Read, paint, draw and do crafts
Pluck each other’s eyebrows and chin/ear hairs
Give fashion advice
Are mostly unorganized
Hate Algebra (all of us)
Stick together

So that’s our family, what about yours?

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