Just Give Me An Answer!

Just_Give_Me_An_Answer“Mom, what’s the answer to this question?” I could see it in her face. It wasn’t that she couldn’t find the answer herself, she just didn’t want to exert energy in reaching it. “Well, how would you go about solving the problem? What would be your first step?” I replied. “Really, mom? Can you please just give me an answer?” As a matter of fact, no; no, I won’t.

I admit it. There are times I am a little tough on my kids. I’m not mean. I just like challenging them and pushing them to the limits of what they think they can do. While at times I am sure this is frustrating for them, hopefully one day they will see the brilliance of my plan. In my humble opinion, I believe constantly giving our children the answers is not a good thing. There is a time and place, to be sure, but we need to be on the lookout for always providing solutions without allowing our children to find them on their own. Instead of handing over quick responses to their questions, there are a few better ways to go about reaching the same end.

Make Them Find the Answer – As children learn new skills, they will often come across vocabulary and terminology previously unheard of. Instead of immediately telling them what a word means, we encourage our children to look the word up for themselves. The same goes for facts about topics of which they have little knowledge. If they want more information on Timbuktu, they go look it up! This saves them the headache of having to wait for mom and encourages them to be proactive with their education. Being an independent learner is important.

Have Them Try For the Answer – Often our children know the right answer, but are just afraid of being wrong. At others, I simply want to hear their thought process to see where they’re going off track. In these cases, I have them make an educated guess and tell me what they think the answer is. Once I see which direction their mind is heading, I can redirect, correcting mistakes and reinforcing skills already learned which would have helped them find the correct answer.

Lead Them to the Answer –  When learning new skills, I try to lead our children to the truth instead of merely stating it. We walk them through the process of finding the solution and allow them to answer the question for themselves. Through this they not only gain a better understanding of how they reached the answer, but it lifts their spirits to know they could answer the question on their own.

Give Them the Answer (and a Short Lesson) – When we’ve exhausted every other avenue, I will finally give them a straight answer. Sometimes simply looking up a word doesn’t help a child understand its meaning. Sometimes they try, but can’t find the right solution. Times like this call for a straight answer, followed up with a quick lesson on how I went about finding the solution or just better explaining what something means.

Of course, there are those times when my hands (and mind) are so busy that mommy forgets all of the above and gives a quick answer. (You should see my kids’ faces when this happens! They feel they’ve pulled one over on me and gotten off easy.) However, whenever possible, I prefer to avoid the easy route and encourage them to discover the answer for themselves. It is more rewarding for them, and offers a world of learning.

“And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.”
~ I John 5:14

Your Turn!: What resources do you keep on hand to help your children find answers for themselves?

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Happy Anniversary to Us!

Happy_Anniversary

Forgive me for keeping it especially short and sweet, but I’m too busy enjoying this special day. Today, my husband and I are celebrating our eighteenth wedding anniversary!

Wow; I don’t know where all the years have gone. It seems like just yesterday we were getting married and then having our first baby. Eighteen years later, we have four kids and have been homeschooling for over fifteen. While the journey hasn’t always been a breeze, it has been rewarding and memorable.

For all the years we have been blessed, may we be truly thankful. For all the Lord continues to do in our marriage and through our family, may we be appreciative. The Lord has been good.

Your Turn!: How many years have you been married?

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Do You Feel Like Goldilocks?

GoldilocksSo, you’ve finally figured out your method of homeschooling. But what comes next can be even more challenging; finding the right curriculum. It leaves one feeling a little like poor Goldilocks; one curriculum is just a little too cold and others just a little too hot to handle. How does one find the right fit?

I wish I could give you a simple, straightforward, fool-proof method of finding the perfect curriculum for each child in your home. But, honestly, anyone trying to sell you that should not be believed. The truth is, there is no easy answer! Like poor Goldilocks, you just need to give it a try.

Through careful study of our children we can make the job a little easier on ourselves, to be sure. Knowing how my children learn will help eliminate numerous options; narrowing down the choices. Attending curriculum fairs, perusing material displays at conventions, and reading online forums also benefit us. A few companies are generous in offering samples and trials of their curriculum. Asking friends and homeschooling acquaintances about their experience is a good option. It’s always a good idea to see something in person and read through some of the material.

Try as we might, at the end of the day, our only option is to make that purchase and give it a go. We pray the curriculum choices we’ve made work and we do our best to not squander our funds. It’s a gamble, but we pray it pays off. Generally we do okay, but sometimes it takes a little finagling. Then we are left wondering what to do with the curriculum we now have no use for. Should we sell it off or perhaps give it away?

Even if we can find what’s ‘just right’ for this moment, give it a year or two. Just when you think you’ve got it down, your kids grow up a little and you’re making changes to accommodate their needs. Here we go again!

Does this all sound a little disheartening and discouraging? It shouldn’t! Think of it this way. We all go through this; you aren’t alone! (Well, okay, most of us. I suppose some might be getting their curriculum through a charter or buy the entire boxed set from a company, but you get my drift.) For those of you who are in the midst of this Goldilocks Syndrome, know that we’ve all been there; some of us are there once again with growing kids’ needs. We’ve all had to make those tough curriculum choices. We’ve purchased items we haven’t figured out what to do with, we have resources still in the boxes, and on occasion seek the advice of others who’ve gone before. Take heart; you aren’t alone.

Once again I find myself suffering from Goldilocks Syndrome. I have a two daughters in high school, a junior higher, and a son in the last years of elementary. Finding the perfect science and history curriculums can be a genuine challenge. This year’s course in Chemistry is proving especially difficult! I want to find a fit that’s ‘just right’ for their needs. Time to dig out the spoon and test the porridge!

“Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations,”
~ Deuteronomy 7:9

Your Turn!: Share with us your most expensive homeschooling failure, and why it didn’t work!

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Do I Have a Home School Method?

Do_I_Have_A_Home_School_MethodA large portion of home school blog posts discuss which method of homeschooling is used. Should I be Classical, Unschooled, a little Charlotte Mason, or perhaps Montessori? It all makes me pause and think. Do I have a homeschooling method?

I confess, I have never given it much thought. When we went into homeschooling, all I knew was that I wanted to be with my children and follow the calling of the Lord. It wasn’t until I had already picked my curriculum and started schooling my little ones, that the thought even occurred to me. Do I have a method? If I do, which one do I subscribe to? Does it benefit me to stick to a method?

Reading about the different methods, I can see the benefit of each one and the purpose behind their philosophy. Each one brings something different to the table of learning. On the other hand, I can see the weaknesses in each one; the areas that just don’t meet our family’s needs. Like the Cinderella story, I need the perfect fit.

Looking through our curriculum choices, I went with what worked for my kids. I didn’t worry if that fit a particular method. I prayed and went with the company that best met my standards.

After reading the different methods, I think I have finally found where we “fit in”. We are eclectic home schoolers. There is no one method that completely fulfills all we need. So, we take a little of everything, add a huge dose of prayer, mix in real life, and run with it.

I have come to realize, it doesn’t necessarily matter which method we use. If the Lord is the center of our home and growing in His wisdom is the backbone of our learning, we are sure to succeed.

“For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”
~ Romans 12:3

Your Turn!: How do you feel about the different methods of learning? Do you have one your family prefers?

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Can I Skip School for a Last-Minute Field Trip?

Can_I_Skip_School?Good news! A fellow homeschool parent just rang up with an awesome field trip opportunity. You are so excited you can’t wait to take advantage of this incredible opportunity. The problem? Well, you didn’t really plan this into your year. Do you skip the regularly scheduled program, reduce it, or double up another day? Decisions, decisions…

I like field trips, don’t you? They are fun, exciting, and get us out of the house. The one downside to last-minute field trips is that they tend to throw my routine off-balance. What do I do with the material I had already planned for that day? Put it off or just skip it altogether? Well, it depends.

Honestly, if I can avoid it, I try to not have my kids ‘double up’ on work just to enjoy a field trip. This isn’t fun for them and doesn’t seem necessary. However, on occasion, there are subjects which I really want to cover and activities the kids would enjoy; these I try to simply move to another day.

Field trips, in-and-of themselves, are generally educational. We aren’t really skipping school, merely replacing a day of book learning (home learning) with being out in the field. It’s all in how we choose to view the situation. Field trips can be incredible learning experiences and there is much to be gained by them. Let’s enjoy and get the most out of our day!

(For those looking to organize field trips, but are struggling to put one together. HERE are some tips on getting the most out of your field trips!)

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”
~ James 1:5

Your Turn!: What do you do when an unscheduled field trip opportunity pops up; skip, double up, or reduce?

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Reading Books Before Watching Movies

Reading_Books_Before_Watching_MoviesWith the coming release of Murder on the Orient Express, a household policy is being resurrected. Before we can watch the movie, we need to read the book. Thus, as a family, we will be hunting down a copy from the local library and indulging in this ageless story.

While the kids will occasionally groan and complain about our movie/book policy, I believe they understand its importance. If they were to watch the movie first, it is highly doubtful the book would ever be read. Now that they “know the story”, why should they bother with spending hours reading it? If they read the books first, they will have a better understanding of the story and often appreciate the movie even more. There are no details that have been cut or unnecessary additions, it is enjoyed as the author intended.

While on occasion our children have liked the movie just as much as the book, I have yet to hear that they enjoy a movie more. They have always appreciated the books much more than the films.

In the past, one fun way we have helped encourage our children to read through their books is to reward them with a “special viewing” of the corresponding film. Once the book has been finished, the movie is rented and they are allowed to stay up later than the other kids and watch the film with mom and dad. Each child, in turn, is allowed the same privilege once a book has been completed. We have done this with the Narnia series, Bridge to Tarabithia, City of Ember, The Hunger Games, and several others!

Our children not only breeze through these books, but we then have the opportunity to critically think about each selection. How did the movie compare to the book? Which similarities or differences were noticed? Was there a lesson to be learned? While reading the books has been an essential part of our lives, watching the movies has definitely added something to our learning.

While I am sure we have neglected a few books along the way, we have been very faithful to our book policy. When we come across a new movie for our amusement, the question always arises, “Do we read the book before watching the film?” But, yes, of course!

“I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes”
~Psalm 101:3

Your Turn!: What is your family’s favorite rendition of a film based off a book?

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No Regrets

The following article was written for our monthly PSP newsletter. With permission from our principal, we are sharing this with you; praying you are blessed by the heart of his message. Enjoy!

….. 

No_RegretsI recently had a conversation with a couple that was new to home schooling.  To say that they were discouraged would be an understatement. They started out excited about what they believed to be God’s call on their lives regarding the raising and educating of their children, but were now ready to throw in the towel. What had changed in the short time since the school year began?

The answer is a couple of things had changed. First of all, as we all have come to understand, “free time” is a luxury that the home school mom is often lacking. For those used to dropping kids off at school, doing as they need, wish, and please until it is time to pick the kids up can be a difficult thing to let go of. “Where do I find the time to…?” is a frequent question amongst newer home school moms. Balancing family, taking care of the home, looking after kids, a husband, three dogs, a cat, the turtle, and 5 goldfish can be quite demanding. Coming to terms with the fact that home schooling is not just “something we do,” but in fact really is a totally different life style can take some adjusting to. Some people never accept the change and, sadly, stop home schooling before they start to see the real blessings begin to come in.

Another thing that had changed was the perspective of their kids. The delusion that home schooling meant no more work, lots of extra play time, and running around in pajamas (sometimes that does happen, but shouldn’t be counted on) all day was quickly dispelled by devotions, about 5 extra subjects (the creative home school mom can easily give credit for many things taken for granted), and added responsibilities to look after younger siblings while Mom helps another with their lesson.

I was reminded of the account in Exodus 11 of the children of Israel and their situation… “…so the children of Israel also wept again and said: ‘Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic: but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!” Numbers 11:4-6.

The Lord disciplined the children of Israel for their grumbling and complaining, not because meat is evil itself, but because the dissatisfaction with what He had provided was an offense. They were looking back with longing to the way things used to be; which, if we remember correctly, included slavery, cruel treatment, and misery (so easily overlooked in their moment of hunger).

Discontentment will always poison our joy in that which we do have, what God is doing, and the fruits of our current labor later on. In Philippians 3 Paul describes in verses 7-11 the idea that the things he had to “give up” for Christ were actually rubbish by comparison to what he had gained in knowing Christ. In context, he was specifically dealing with his Hebrew heritage, zeal for the law, and assumed righteousness; but the concept applies to us as well: the things which God calls us away from are not to be desired over the blessings He wants to bring into our lives when we are obedient to His will, His calling, and His Spirit as He leads us.

The other question I had to ask this couple was, “What has not changed since the Lord called them to home school?” The answer was basically that God had not told them to stop. Many times, we look at our circumstances, which can certainly be trying at times, and assume that because there is opposition, this must not be God’s will for us.

While this can, in fact, be true, it isn’t necessarily the rule that should be applied to every choice we make. In Acts 9:15-16 we read the following: “But the Lord said to him (Ananias), ‘Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.’“  In this passage, it is clear that Paul’s sufferings were not a result of him nothearing God correctly, but rather the result of his actual obedience to the calling God had placed on his life.

When we walk in obedience to God’s call upon our lives, we not only can expect difficulty, but should. The enemy is not going to go down without a fight, and throughout history, whenever God has sent His own to deliver, preach, and disciple, there was always opposition. Should we expect any less when we have taken our children out of a public school system wherein he has free reign?

So where does that leave us? With the family I had the opportunity to speak to, it left them needing to be obedient to God’s call for their family, even though it was difficult, thankless, and filled with opposition. Oftentimes that is, in fact, the situation we find ourselves in. What we know we should do is the hardest choice. It would be so much easier to give up, say, “It’s too hard,” turn around, and head back to Egypt; but to do so would go against what we know God has said to us.

Thankfully, we are reminded that our help comes from the Lord. In Philippians 4:10-12  Paul writes regarding contentment, regardless of circumstances, and concludes his statements with the following: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Php 4:13). In Hebrews 4 we are reminded that Jesus Himself intercedes with the Father on our behalf, and that as our great High Priest, He is able to understand our situations, thus making His intercession perfect in every way.

“But how,” one may ask, “can He understand this…?” Remember the Garden of Gethsemane? God is no stranger to a difficult task for people that don’t appreciate what is being done for them, and who attempt to make the difficult even more unendurable.  Since our trials are eclipsed by the enormity of redemption at the cross, we seek grace and mercy from the One who understands better than we think. The resources of Heaven were enough to see Jesus through Calvary. How much more can He help us as we strive each day to walk with Him? If we really stop to analyze things, even when the going gets rough, He still includes little joys along the way to keep our hearts encouraged.

May He strengthen you when you are weary, comfort you when you are hurting, fill you when you are empty, and settle you when you are anything but at peace. He really is sufficient.

Your Turn!: What has changed in your home since you began homeschooling?

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Our October Reads

Our_October_Reads

October isn’t quite over, but we can’t wait to share this month’s short list of incredible reads with you. It never ceases to amaze us how many books we finish in a month. The lists we share here are merely books we’ve used in a homeschooling/parenting capacity; there are many more which we read on our own! October’s list has a few reads which are making a major impact on our learning routine, and others which are helping us glean the most from our nature studies. Everything on this month’s list was absolutely fantastic!

  1. The Fallacy Detective (Nathaniel Bluedorn) – Thirty-eight lessons on how to recognize bad reasoning. Learn to spot errors in others’ logic, and your own. Learn to identify red herrings, circular reasoning, statistical fallacies, and propaganda. Each lesson presents several examples of poor reasoning often illustrated by cartoons and then provides an exercise set in which you identify the fallacies. This book features a Christian view of logic and was written by homeschoolers for homeschoolers.
    Several homeschool families suggested this book. Going on faith we purchased a copy and started it near the end of this month. The book is very simple, but it is a good starting off point for young learners or those new to logic.We should also note this book deals with informal fallacies, not formal logic. That said, we cannot begin to express how much we are enjoying the lessons and how much we’re learning. It’s fantastic!
  2. The Thinking Toolbox (Nathaniel Bluedorn) – Just as you use the wrench in a regular tool box to fix the sink, so you can use the tools we give you in this book to solve thinking problems. The Thinking Toolbox follows the same style as The Fallacy Detective with lessons, exercises and an answer key in the back.
    We purchased this book as well, hoping it would be a good companion to The Fallacy Detective and were not disappointed. The lessons are short, of benefit, and offer great discussion points. I’m so glad we invested in both of these. 
  3. Audubon Guides (National Audubon Society) – The full-color identification photographs show creatures as they appear in natural habitats.
    While we’re sure most of you have come across these books before, we noted we’ve never mentioned them being used in our learning and wished to add them to our list. Lately they’ve been making a strong appearance in our nature studies. We love the multitude of photos and information to be found within. If we had the room and finances, I’d love to own more. 
  4. This Beautiful Day (Richard Jackson) – Why spend a rainy day inside? As three children embrace a grey day, they seems to beckon the bright as they jump, splash, and dance outside, chasing the rain away. The day’s palette shifts from greys to a hint of blue, then more blue. Then green! Then yellow! Until the day is a Technicolor extravaganza that would make Mary Poppins proud. A joyous homage to the power of a positive attitude.
    An online recommendation we found at our local library! We loved the artistic appeal of this picture book, and the gentle reminder to be creative with our free time. A great library find. 
  5. The Shape of the World: A Portrait of Frank Lloyd Wright (KL Going) – A little boy who loves to find shapes in nature grows up to be one of America’s greatest architects in this inspiring biography of Frank Lloyd Wright.
    I’m a fan of Frank Lloyd Wright. I have been for years. So when an online book forum suggested this read, I quickly found it at our local library. We loved learning of Wright’s childhood, and how his love of nature influenced his future work. The artwork in the book is a little wanting, but the concept is lovely; as is the short story itself. 
  6. The Beetle Book (Steve Jenkins) – Beetles squeak and beetles glow.
    Beetles stink, beetles sprint, beetles walk on water. With legs, antennae, horns, beautiful shells, knobs, and other oddities—what’s not to like about beetles?
    Nature books are a weakness for us. We found this gem while scouring the local library for nature study and couldn’t be happier. The illustrations are lovely, and the pages are overflowing with facts to amaze learners. 

We generally gather our reading materials from the library, but most of these were suggestions from other homeschooling friends and online acquaintances. Who knew Instagram would be a source of book inspiration?

Join us again next month as we explore a world of literature and the adventure of reading!

Your Turn!: How many Audubon guides do you own?

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Making Room for Wiggles in the Homeschool Day

Making_Room_For_Wiggles_in_The_Homeschool_DayMy kiddos dislike sitting still for great lengths of time. While I’d love to let them run around like monkeys all day, our routine does require a little bit of sit down learning. In order to keep a fine balance and make sure their patience isn’t being over taxed, mom has learned to run with it… literally.

When our son was very little, he started an unusual routine. He would eat breakfast, get dressed, and then start pacing the house. Before we knew it, he was running from one end of the living room to the other and back again. When I would ask what he was doing, he would just say he was playing. I talked to my husband about this, a little concerned about our son’s actions. My man calmly explained that the little guy just had too much energy coursing through his system and needed more exercise.

Our son is older now but this principle still holds true. Every morning he feels the need to go running. We’ve decided to just make this a part of our day!

After initial studies in logic, history, and science our kids are encouraged to get some exercise. They are to do a certain amount of activity to help the blood start pumping to their brains and make sitting down easier. Usually this works for little man and he can focus on his lessons. If not, he promptly tells me that he wants to run a little longer and we let him.

He is really great at expressing this need to us. In between subjects, should he feel the need, he will excuse himself and do a little more running. Occasionally he will let me know he is stopping to do “PE”. He will do push ups, sit-ups, pop-ups, and more. Once he feels better, he will calmly return to the table and resume his studies.

While some might see this as a disturbance in our routine and a distraction to our other children, we’ve all learned this is what works best for him. As our son grows older, he will learn to make adjustments that better fit his growing routine and adult lifestyle. For now, we are helping him better understand his body’s needs and enjoying the fun of watching him run.

“For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”
~ I Timothy 4:8

Your Turn!: Do you take breaks in your learning day to get out the wiggles?

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What New Thing Did You Learn Today?

What_New_Thing_Did_You_Learn_Today?Long ago my sister-in-law challenged our kids with this question and it has stuck with us ever since. She went on to tell of a family in which this question was asked daily. When the father joined them for dinner each evening, they were asked to share one new thing they had learned during the day. Not only did this encourage open conversation, but inspired the children to actively find something about which to communicate. If the children hadn’t learned anything of note in their formal studies, they energetically set about searching for one!

This question is one I truly appreciate and believe should continue to be implemented in our daily living. To encourage our children, I believe we adults should also participate! Learning something new every day should not be relegated to only the young. We too ought to continually be seeking to expand our minds and add those precious “wrinkles” on our brains.

Whether it is menial or monumental, adding knowledge and wisdom to our lives is never a waste.

“Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”
Philippians 4:9

Your Turn!: What new thing did you learn today?

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