The Importance of Asking Questions

the_importance_of_asking_questions

“My mother made me a scientist without ever intending to. Every other Jewish mother in Brooklyn would ask her child after school: “So did you learn anything today?” But not my mother, “Izzy,” she would say, “did you ask a good question today?” That difference – asking good questions – made me become a scientist.”

Isidor Rabi

I’m a firm believer in never letting go of our love of learning. Even as adults, we ought to continue increasing in wisdom. But while some might think learning is merely a matter of intaking knowledge, learning is also the asking of great questions.

One of the many reasons I love our pastors at church is their openness. They are willing to admit they don’t know everything and are constantly encouraging us to test everything we hear against Scripture. Why is this important? We aren’t to simply intake information, accepting it for truth; we are to search truth out and verify what aligns with God’s Word, not man’s.

Shouldn’t all learning be this way? When learning anything new, we ought to break it down to the innermost parts. We ought to weigh the arguments being made, turning them inside and out. Everything we hear, read, and see should be carefully considered and thought over; weighed against God’s Word.

Some parents are afraid of their kids’ questions, especially those about their faith. However, there is no need for fear. It is okay to ask questions. It is good to ask questions! There is no question too big for God; He knows them all and their answers.

Let me be clear, I do not believe in teaching our children to be skeptics; they need to trust our word and what we share with them. But we also want them to be inquisitive and examine the world around them. It’s also important to note: not all questions are because you doubt what is being learned, but because you are attempting to build an argument for why something is true.

In our home, our children understand they are welcome to ask us anything. They are able to question our beliefs and ask why we believe what we believe. By asking these questions of us, in the comfort of a loving family, they are able to have their questions answered fully and truthfully. We are laying a foundation for all the learning to come and the questions they will receive from the world around them.

If we don’t ask questions of our children and encourage them to ask in return, how are we preparing them for the world outside our front doors? We need to learn not only to be open to questions, but welcoming. Wisdom and knowledge have been gained through many a good question. Why not start asking more today?

“Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”
~ Acts 17:11

We’re curious… How do you help your children determine the difference between asking a good question and just questioning authority?

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10 Reasons Your Child May Not Want to Attend College

10_Reasons_CollegeFor years we’ve been planning this day. All the hard work has finally paid off, college applications are starting to pile up and we’ve narrowed down which grants our student should apply for. We sit down with our baby, excited to narrow down which colleges they’d like to focus on. Then, our child hits us with a bombshell. “Mom, I don’t think I want to attend college.” Wait… what? Wasn’t that the goal of our learning? Isn’t this what we’ve been aiming for all these years?

Before we have a panic attack or start convincing our child why they have to attend college we might want to take a step back, pray, and ask a few questions. Maybe the Lord has other plans in mind.

  1. They Are Scared – Let’s face it, becoming an adult is a big step. Instead of judging our children or passing off their fears as immaturity, we should take the opportunity to pray with our child over this matter. Encourage them, help them seek comfort, and take steps to calm their fears.
  2. They Don’t Know What They Want to Do – While we’d all like to think our homeschooled children finish their learning with a goal in mind and purposeful steps toward achieving it, that’s not necessarily true. Instead of criticizing and nagging about needing to make some decisions, we need to pray and give them time to hear the voice of the Lord. Trust God to speak to them and guide their futures. We should council our children in their strengths and help them see their own potential.
  3. They Don’t Understand the Importance of Higher Education – Our child might be an artist, a writer, or already have a job (see below). While it might be true, getting that piece of paper might not make you a better artist, our children need to be made aware of the other benefits of attending college. Connections, discipline, and business management. Besides, who says it can’t fine tune those God-given talents?
  4. They Want to Take Time Off – They’ve just finished twelve years of solid learning. If we were planning for college, the last four to six have been heavy-duty studies. It’s not shocking for some students to want down time. For some, it’s the best thing we could do for them.
  5. They Already Have a Job – Some view college as a means of obtaining a job. If they’re already working, going to college seems pointless. This might be a good opportunity to point out that higher education will help them further their careers. Even if you stay at a job for several years, you’ll want to work your way up the ladder. You will need to take business courses and managerial courses to do this.
  6. They Want to Attend Vocational School – Not all careers require a four-year university. Instead of immediately jumping on the college bandwagon, we might want to consider local schools which focus on our children’s interests and gifts. Vocational school is not a step down, but a clear path towards the goal.
  7. They Want to Run Their Own Business – Some don’t want to climb a ladder, but build their own. That is an admirable goal. Instead of discouraging our children, this is a great opportunity to lead them toward focused classes which will help them meet their goal. We need to help them think of this as a business investment.
  8. They Want to Join the Military – Joining the military is an honorable endeavor. If this where our children are being led, my only advice is to pray. Pray a lot; pray tons. Then, we need to give them our blessing and continue to pray until they are home. May the Lord go with them and protect them.
  9. They Want to Be a Missionary/Pastor – The Lord has called our child into the field. It can be a scary step for a parent, knowing our children might be in danger or rejected. But, if God has called them, who are we to stand against? Pray, seek the Lord for confirmation, and then help them prepare for the journey ahead.
  10. They Want to Be a Stay at Home Mom – A noble career often looked down upon, even amongst ourselves. (Isn’t that sad?) Some of our daughters are not going to seek jobs and that’s not a bad thing. Until the day the Lord blesses them with families of their own, this is a great opportunity to help them learn the fine art of making a home. If we’re concerned about them providing for themselves while they’re waiting upon the Lord, this might be a great time for them to work in fields which help promote such gifts. They might work at a crafting store, a bakery, or in any other establishment which helps them further their gifts and serve the Lord while doing so.

We must remember our children are becoming adults. We may council them, guide them, and disciple them, but our children need to make their own decisions about their future. If our children are floundering or making seemingly poor decisions, we need to be praying on their behalf.

I would also encourage us to not wait until high school years to start praying over our children’s futures. From their births, may I encourage each of us to constantly be lifting our children before the Lord, asking Him to speak clearly to our children and make His paths known to them.

As I am constantly telling our own littles, “This is not about what I want for your future. This is not about what you want for your future. This is about what God wants of you. My job is to prepare you for whatever He has called you to. My prayer is that you hear the voice of the Lord clearly and then, that you obey it wholeheartedly. Seek God first.”

We’d like know… Is college something your children are interested in?

“Seek the LORD and His strength, seek His face continually.”
~ I Chronicles 16:11

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Developing a Teachable Spirit

Developing_Teachable_SpiritA child who lacks a teachable spirit can be a challenge. It can be quite frustrating to attempt correction and improvement in an area, only to have our child dislike our endeavors. Hurt feelings, pride, and sometimes anger soon ruin what could have been a wonderful learning opportunity. It is important our children be able to receive instruction, with the right attitude of heart and mind. How do we remove this blockade and develop a teachable spirit?

Developing a teachable spirit isn’t always easy and it takes time. We first need to identify the root of the problem before we can find a solution. The most common reason for lacking a teachable spirit… pride! No one likes to be told they’re wrong or that there is an area which needs improvement. Why would we expect children to be any different? Knowing why our children are struggling in this area better helps us to remedy the situation.

We most certainly don’t have it down pat in our house, but I believe there are several ways in which to establish this principle:

  • Parental Modeling: When, as parents, we are open about our own needs for improvement, we lead by example. Don’t be afraid of sharing with your children your own areas of improvement and how others have helped you become better.
  • Biblical Models: Make sure to point out examples of Biblical leaders who had teachable spirits. (Moses took advice from Jethro; Joshua from Moses; and so on.) Seeing these important spiritual men as not just leaders, but students, will help them understand the wisdom in learning from others.
  • Historical Models: Add to those men of the Bible, other people who have made an impact on the world. Share not only their triumphs, but also the lessons learned from mentors and teachers.
  • Don’t Be Afraid to Fail: Encourage your children to view mistakes not as failure, but as a means of learning. Just because you didn’t get it right, doesn’t mean a valuable lesson hasn’t been learned. Accept the fact that it didn’t get done right this time, but assure them they learned a good lesson and will be able to move forward.
  • Lots and Lots of Prayer: While doing all of the above, do a lot of praying on your child’s behalf. Ask the Lord to work not only in their hearts, but in yours; showing you ways in which to reach out and help them learn this important concept.

May I share a personal thought?  It ought to be noted that sometimes our children struggle with this area due to lack of parental respect. If this is the case, we might consider taking a break from book work to recapture our child’s heart. I find that when the ties between us are strong, the rest flows along nicely.

When our children struggle with having a teachable spirit it can make our learning day, and life in general, quite challenging. Before moving on with academics, the attitude of our hearts needs to be dealt with first. When a child possesses a teachable spirit, learning is a joy and a pleasure for all!

We’re curious… What advice would you give to the parent of a child struggling in this area?

“Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’
I Peter 5:5

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5 Ways to Incorporate Creative Writing

five_ways_to_incorporate_creative_writingYou’d think, really you would with all the books I read, I would enjoy writing. Truth be told, I like sharing; that’s why I blog. But, writing – writing for the sake of writing – writing to tell a story? That’s a little more intimidating. The mere idea of sitting down to flesh out an entire novel scares me. All those details, plot twists, and unearthing a satisfying ending? I’m tired just thinking about it. As I’ve started to encourage creative writing in my children, I’ve come to realize perhaps I am thinking a little too hard. I need to start off with something small and work my way up to ‘bigger’ projects. Take one moment at a time and simply enjoy the process.

Over the years our family has incorporated a few creative ideas to encourage a love of writing in our home. Some you’ve already heard of; some you might already be doing; and others are just fun to explore!

Family Mailboxes

Who doesn’t like to receive mail? Each of our children received their own ‘mailbox’. We taught our kids how to write letters, post mail, and to respond within a reasonable amount of time to keep the fun going.
As a bonus, we helped each of our children create their own letterhead, bought them rubber postage stamp sets (to use in place of real stamps), and boxes of envelopes. Seeing our children become excited to both give and receive letters was such a blessing. It’s great to see them look for ways to bless the other members of the family.

Letters to Friends

Pen pals are fun, too! In the past, we’ve written letters to family members, friends, and online acquaintances. There are even websites you can work through to help your children get connected with others who are looking for a pen pal.

Dante’s Wardrobe

A few years back we ran a series on this fun, creative writing technique. Dante’s Wardrobe consisted of having our children create an ‘alternate’ personality for themselves; each person in our family picked a character they wanted to be. For the next learning year we wrote to each other, left clues for each other, and made presents for each other, based on the character we had chosen.
This helped our children think outside the box and find imaginative ways to tell about themselves. Each year we did this, we picked an entirely new character and explored new options.

Journaling

Journaling has allowed my children to write down their personal stories, poems, and thoughts without the fear of anyone else reading. We usually have scads of notebooks strewn about the house for them to use. However, we also have dedicated writing journals.
At one point we even set the children up with their own blog! Writing in this manner was especially fun for our kids and they loved the feedback from the few readers they had, besides mom and pop.

Writing Prompts

Occasionally, I have been known to throw out a writing prompt as part of our homeschool lessons. I try to make the topics something our children will want to write about. We have personified stained glass windows, asked what pirate name best suits us, and explained battle plans for attempting to conquer foreign lands.
Our prompts are generally based on our history lessons. Each of us, mom included, has a personalized journal to write in. The idea is to use the prompts given (which are planned to be silly, yet thoughtful) and write for only three minutes; no more! Then we take a moment to read our prompt and see whose is the funniest, cutest, or most heartfelt.

It’s important to point out, while doing these activities, we parents aren’t checking for errors. The purpose of these exercises is to increase their love of writing, not to make sure they are writing correctly; that is where formal practice comes in. Using these five, easy writing ideas, we are cultivating a love of writing in our home. Enjoy the ideas, and go with the flow; this should be fun!

We’re curious… Which of the five ideas above would your family use most and why?

“And he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs…”
Exodus 35:31-32

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10 Ways to Fail As a Teacher

10_ways_to_failAt the start of each learning year I try to self-evaluate. As my children’s teacher, are there areas which could use some improvement? How can I help my children better understand what I’m trying to share with them? Is there anything I’m doing which is preventing my children from drawing closer to the Lord?

Perhaps my evaluation ought to begin with ways in which I could be failing. Hey, you have to start somewhere!

  1. Force Curriculum – While I’m all for exposing our children to various pursuits, and require our children learn all core subjects, there is a significant difference between mandatory subjects and forcing curriculum. Algebra is non-negotiable in our house, but I’m all for trying various companies and methods to find which works best for each child.
  2. Do Everything in a Book – Nothing frustrates a child more than having their nose stuck in a textbook all day. I need to make sure I’m offering a good balance of book work, hands-on projects, and active outside opportunities.
  3. Make Them Do Everything – I know there are a lot of awesome activities in that language arts book. It can be very tempting to make my kiddos do every-single-one. However, that might not be the best way to encourage a love of learning. I need to pick my battles and be willing to let a few stray addition problems go. On occasion. Maybe.
  4. Don’t Listen to Them – Am I talking over my kids? Constantly. Do I allow them to – respectfully – share their thoughts and opinions? Perhaps if I listened more, and truly heard them, we might get a little further.
  5. Confuse Them – Am I being too vague in my teaching? Am I explaining things fully or in a manner which they can understand? Am I teaching to them or at them? If I am teaching for the sake of teaching, with them taking nothing away, what is the point?
  6. Be Demanding – Do this! Do that! Come here! Sit down! Be quiet! (See the problem here?) None of this is being said with love, kindness, grace, or understanding. I need  to make sure I am tempering my responses, requests, and commands with affection. It helps; it really does!
  7. Offer No Free Time – I need to be careful how much time we are spending with organized activity. Too little can be an issue, but so can too much! If I want to drive my kids crazy, all I need to do is take away all free time.
  8. Refuse Questions – It’s frustrating being interrupted when we’re in the middle of a thought. But, what if the interruption leads to wonderful things?! What if we need to be interrupted because our child just isn’t getting it?
  9. Lecture Often – This topic always conjures up images of Mr. Ben Stein. Me standing at the front of the room, book in hand, chalkboard behind; I’m droning on and on regarding a topic my kids have lost all interest in, thanks to my monologue. While I’m all for a pointed lesson on a given topic, I need to evaluate whether I’m being helpful or just speaking to hear my own voice.
  10. Forget Character Training – Here’s a biggie!! While I don’t find public school teachers responsible for character training (they aren’t the parents after all), I cannot get by with this excuse. I AM the parent! It’s my job to train my child in the way he should go. Shoving through a stack of textbooks and paperwork does my child little good if I am not teaching them how to be righteous in the process.

I may release a sigh of relief; I’m not completely failing as a teacher. However, I also see areas in which I might need to relax. Overall, we’re doing pretty well. The kids love learning, we’re progressing nicely, and our family is centered on Christ. With His help we’re accomplishing more than I could have ever dreamed. Perhaps I’m not doing such a bad job after all.

We’re curious… What would you list as your top 3 ways to fail as a teacher!

“May my teaching drop as the rain, my speech distill as the dew, like gentle rain upon the tender grass, and like showers upon the herb.”
~ Deuteronomy 32:2

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When the Kids Know More Than We Do

when_the_kids_know_more_than_we_doIt’s happened. I knew such a time would come a time in my children’s learning adventure. I just didn’t plan for it to happen quite this soon. We have finally reached that point in life when areas of my children’s knowledge have surpassed my own.

If I’ve done things well I will begin to work myself ‘out of a job’. As a parent, especially a homeschooling parent, my goal is to raise a fully functioning adult; four of them, in fact. In raising independent learners, it was inevitable that at some point they might discover things I have yet to explore. What are parents to do when their children start to exceed their knowledge? How do we continue teaching them when they absorb facts faster than a sponge absorbs liquid?

Practice Humility

Pride is hard to overcome. We’ve spent years educating our children and they have the nerve to start telling us we’re wrong? They want to explain how things are done, when events happened, and impart newfound knowledge to us parents.

Sure, we could get upset with them for correcting our poor grammar and interrupting our lessons with more detail than we prepared. Or, we could make this a teachable moment. We need to be able to swallow our pride, accept that our children are eager to learn, and continue to teach.

Teach Humility

It’s wonderful to learn new things and impart that knowledge to others who might be interested. However, we also need to learn the right time and place to share. We need to learn how to share. While our children might have learned facts we haven’t, they still need to learn how to share with kindness, grace, gentleness, and humility.

Learning new things should not fill us with self-righteous pride and arrogance. If that is the case, you have increased your knowledge base, certainly, but have yet to increase in wisdom. Wisdom is by far the more important of the two.

Be Patient

When our children wish to share all the exciting new things they are learning, expressing their interest in the topic, they can often times exhaust our patience. We need to remember that our children are learning and loving the adventure. The surest way to kill their enthusiasm is to become frustrated with them, belittle them, or refuse to hear their thoughts. Be open to hearing them and listen with attention to what they are trying to say. You never know, you might enjoy the lesson!

Show Some Respect

There is a fine line between sharing newfound information and disrespectfully tossing around facts to belittle parents or others in authority positions. Again, the purpose of increasing in knowledge is not to lord it over another and make them feel small.

When our children share with us, and others, they need to be mindful that respect remains intact. They should respect the life experience the adult has, respect the feelings of the adult being spoken to, and respect the role the Lord has given that person in their life. Yes; they might have knowledge to share, but that doesn’t give them an excuse to be rude to those around them.

Encourage Growth

It can be uncomfortable to admit our children know more about a certain topic than we do. But, to my way of thinking, this shows what a good job we have done as parents. Our children have been well-taught; they know how to find information for themselves, comprehend what they are reading, and are motivated to keep doing so. We ought to give ourselves a pat on the back and enjoy the fact that our children are learning, and we didn’t have to do a thing. Encourage them to keep up the good work. Encourage them to keep sharing what they find with the family. Encourage their love of learning.

Continue Teaching

The fact that our kids might know a little more than we do in a particular area should not prevent us from continuing on with the remainder of their learning. If we feel out of our depth, it might be time to find other ways to assist them. However, this should not discourage us from trying our best and moving forward. Things might need to change, but it doesn’t mean we need to give up. Keep pressing forward!

More or Just Different?

I’ve teased that my kids know more than I do, but, in truth, they don’t. They might have learned a few cool, new facts. They might remember dates better than I. What they’ve learned is not more, just different. Life experience and some Godly wisdom are on my side.

If your children are avid learners, take heart; you’ve done a great job in your parenting. Do not be discouraged when your children spout facts you never knew, read more books than you can, program an app that makes your head swim, and/or cook better than you on any given day. Their increase is a direct reflection of the hard work and dedication you’ve put into their education. Be proud of what your children are accomplishing, and train them to use it wisely.

“Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’”
~ I Peter 5:5

Your Turn!: If applicable, in what area has your child surpassed you in knowledge?

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Searching for What Works

searching_for_what_worksI have a confession. I bought a book – a set of books, really – and they just aren’t working for us. I’ve tried to renegotiate and finagle; I’ve tried to beef them up with additional materials. But the sad, sad fact is they just aren’t what my kids need. It seems I am back to searching for what works.

You’d think after many years of homeschooling this mama would finally have it down, wouldn’t you? After all, once we find a good curriculum it ought to work for the remainder of our schooling experience. Theoretically. However, once you’ve done this a while you realize something. Kids change! What works one year, doesn’t work another. What worked for one child, won’t for another. It can be just a tad frustrating. A tad.

It can be a continual search for materials which best fit our kids needs, and our household budget. How do we determine which curriculum works best? When do we make that investment, and when do we walk away? While we seem to go through this process each year, weighing each child’s needs, there are a few constants our family stands by:

Christian Materials (or at least not anti-Semitic/Christian) – As Christians, we try to ensure our children’s learning is centered on Christ. When at all possible, we purchase materials based on our worldview.

Budget – Is this something I can do myself, find somewhere else for less expensive, or get at a discount? If not…

Longevity – Will this last for only a month or so? Can I make this stretch for more than one child? Some materials are worth the high price, even for only one child; others could be set aside for something better.

Preparation – Will this help my child be ready for whatever future the Lord has prepared for them? One child may need to be challenged in a particular area, whereas another needs something completely different. I want to ensure each child has what they need to fulfill their calling.

Time Consuming – I don’t mean for my kids, I mean for me! Is this curriculum going to take up mounds of my time in the planning, prepping, and teaching? If so, I might wish to regroup.

Challenging – This is for my kids! I want them to be stretched and challenged. (Notice I said challenged and not overwhelmed!) I want our kids to be pushed to achieve more, continuing to find their own limits.

Enjoyment Level – Lastly… While I understand some subjects might be forcefully endured, especially during high school, I like to make their learning as fun as possible. Will my kids enjoy this particular curriculum or is there something which might excite them to learn more?

While there is no perfect method for choosing which curriculum works best for our kids, the checklist above helps guide us in narrowing down our choices. Each curriculum we’ve used, no matter how long we’ve used it, has always taught us something valuable. Even if it’s just to appreciate the beauty of something else… anything else!

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.”
~ Proverbs 19:21

Your Turn!: What are your criteria for picking new curriculum? Share your list with us and help other homeschooling families in their journey to finding new learning materials!

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Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”
– John 14:27

Let_Not_Your_HeartI am a worrier. Lord forgive me, but this is true. If our routine’s off by just a smidgen, I start to sweat. Mass amounts of responsibility sit on my shoulders and I start to wonder if I can handle it all. The kids are getting out of hand, acting out, and I start wondering if I’m failing as a parent. My choices in curriculum and social activities begin to weigh on my mind. And these are just the small worries.

If work is slow, paying bills is going to be tight because we are self-employed. My kids need glasses, clothes, food, and so much more. New laws in our state might force regulations upon us that usurp our parental authority. The list could go on.

It is in my nature to worry about everything and anything. I worry about having dinner finished at a good hour; using too much laundry soap; stretching our budget; whether or not I should have said those words to that person; and if I am ‘enough’ for the people who depend on me. I worry. I worry. I worry. This is who I am… on my own.

Ah! But that changes everything doesn’t it? What I am on my own cannot compare to what I am in Christ. In Christ, I am a new creation. (II Cor. 5:17) My old nature is constantly battling with who Christ is trying to help me become. I can easily slip back into a pattern of old habits, allowing myself to be overwhelmed by life; forgetting Who is in control. My emotions war with the Holy Spirit who is trying to comfort me, offering me peace during times of trial.

Overwhelmed by Emotion

If gone unchecked, emotions can sometimes overwhelm; clouding our minds and paralyzing us. We cannot see the truth for the feelings standing in the way. We have allowed reason to fall by the wayside and allowed our hearts to dictate our current state of mind.

And yet, we are reminded in Jeremiah 17:9 that our hearts are deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. We are not to be ruled by our emotions or the turning of our hearts. What we feel is not to be our focus, but, rather, what is true.

What Is True?

The truth, as we are reminded in John 14, is that we have been given a spirit of peace. Not just any peace, peace given by God Himself! We have the God-given ability to accept this peace and move forward, but we have to choose to do so. God will not force His peace upon us. He will not shove this peace down our throats. He will not beg us to take it. We must choose to accept His gift willingly.

Let Not Your Heart…

Our emotions are not going to gain control of themselves. We need to be proactive about not letting our emotions control us. We need to rely on the Lord and ask Him to remove this stress and fill us with His peace. We need to trust He is going to see us through.

This does not mean He will always meet our needs in the way we expect; sometimes He doesn’t! Christians die, go hungry, and are persecuted – we are told to expect this (John 15:20) – instead we ask that He see us through the trial and come out of this stronger. We accept that God is in control.

On my own, I am a worrier. In Christ, I am learning to have peace; peace which surpasses all understanding (Phil. 4:7). My friends, let not your heart be troubled. Instead, accept the gift our Lord has freely given. Peace which fills our empty hearts, calms our sea of emotions, and confounds the unbeliever. May we choose to accept the gifts Christ so willingly died to give us and enter into a life well lived.

Your Turn!: When worried, I find it helps to pray and reorient my focus. What helps you when emotions seem to hold sway?

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Help for the Reluctant Homeschool Writer

help_for_the_reluctant_homeschool_writerI can already hear it coming. First, it will start with a shocked expression taking over her face. This will be followed up by a glare; then a deep breath; and then she will attempt to talk me out of the assignment… My oldest daughter loves to write; really, she does! Furthermore, she’s good at it. She has a way with words; is able to paint a vivid picture using just a few short sentences and lots of heart. Give her free time to write and she’s a happy camper. Ask her to write a report and… well, just see the sentences above.

While I would love to toss those pesky reports into the circulatory file (trash bin), she’s really at an age where it cannot be avoided. High school is ever-present and reports seem to be the thing. Sure, I could let her off, but would that really benefit her? If she plans to continue her writing career, she might want to expand her horizons beyond story telling. If she plans to attend college (which she does), she needs to be able to write a research paper.

Whether or not our children plan to be writers or attend college – we understand not all children are called to this path – teaching our children to write is an important life skill. Why? Our children need to learn the fine art of language. They need to learn how to construct a great sentence, put thoughts together into paragraphs, and connect those paragraphs to form an argument.

Perhaps you have a reluctant writer, as we do, or are unsure of where to start in the writing process? Here are a few tips and hints we’ve learned to inspire our little writers:

Start Early – Don’t wait until high school to have your children begin the writing process. make creative writing and reports a fun part of learning as soon they are ready.

Start Small – Don’t start the writing process off with a five-page research paper. Start off with little assignments. Ask your student to construct just a few great sentences and build from there.

Keep it Simple – Once your student has the concept of great sentences down, consider having them write small papers. Teach them how to construct an opening statement, the body of their paper, and then a closing statement. It doesn’t need to be long, it just needs to have all the essential components and focus on one main point.

Shake Things Up – Don’t have your student write the same type of report each time; this can quickly become boring. What kind of reports might we look for?

  • Cause and Effect
  • Descriptive
  • Argumentative
  • Definition
  • Narrative
  • Critical
  • Compare and Contrast
  • Process

Topsy Turvy – Doesn’t that sound fun? If your child balks at the notion of writing a two page report or even a 1,000 word report, consider making it a challenge. Turn your child’s perspective around and have them look at the assignment from an entirely new angle. Inform you student they cannot use more than 1,000 words to make their point. One word over and they start losing points. It changes things, doesn’t it?

Make a Point – While all papers should have a main point, not all papers mean something to your student. However, they should! Pick the type of paper your child should write for this assignment, but let them choose the topic. They might want to argue for why Legos are better than MegaBlocks. They might wish to explain what Minecraft is. It doesn’t matter what the subject of the paper is, only that they learn to write well. As they mature, so will the topics and assignments.

Join the Fun – One year, my daughter was having a particularly hard time gaining inspiration for a paper. To help her out, my husband and I joined the fun. Each of us turned in a paper on the same topic! It was fun and a great learning experience. We didn’t do this each time she had an assignment, but it helped.

For whatever reason, speech and writing seem to be the two least favorite assignments of most students. Perhaps, with a little effort and enthusiasm on our behalf, our children will learn to not only appreciate the art of writing, but enjoy it. Writing can be lots of fun!

“See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand.”
~ Galatians 6:11

Your Turn!: Are you a writer? Share your tips with our homeschooling families on how to encourage a love of writing!

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The World is our Classroom

the_world_is_our_classroomI think most homeschoolers dream of having a place to call their own. You know… a dedicated ‘homeschooling’ space where the bulk of our learning gets done. While not all of us have a dedicated room to do our schooling in, we are fortunate to call the world our classroom. Learning takes place anywhere and everywhere!

Like most families, I’d love to have a homeschooling room. A special place set aside just for our learning materials, instead of having them nudged into a closet. A place where colorful charts, verses, and artwork could be proudly displayed on the walls. A place where, if learning isn’t finished, we can simply leave our projects to rest until later. It’s a lovely dream, but, for now, we work with what we’ve got. The world is our classroom and here is where you’ll usually find us:

The Kitchen Table – We don’t have a dedicated homeschooling room, but we do have a dedicated homeschooling place! If you happen to stop by on a moments notice, you’ll find us at our kitchen table plugging away at our lessons. It’s a good size and convenient for having snacks.

The Office – My husband has a ton of books, supplies, and inspiration all packed into his little office space. Sometimes you’ll find us crowding his space to do a little learning.

The Backyard – The great outdoors, filled with greenery and fresh air. If we can, we try to get outside on occasion.

The Park – Sometimes the backyard doesn’t do it. We need some leg room to run around, swing from trees, and rough-house with our friends. What better place than the park? Plus, they have basketball courts, volleyball courts, tennis courts, and more!

The Library – If we can’t be at home, this is where we prefer to be. Our favorite place on earth. Books, games, research materials, and more!

The In-laws – Who else is going to teach us how to garden, cook, crochet, cross-stitch, craft, sew, and more? Being at my in-laws is always a treat.

The Animal Shelter – We love this special time working with local volunteers and professionals in the field of animal care. We do everything from clean the shelter, care for the animals, socialize with the animals, help with local events, and more. This even extends into fostering at home!

Hiking – There’s nothing quite like the great outdoors. You’ll find us all over our state, discovering new trails and getting dirty.

On Field Trips – Museums, galleries, music centers, and more; field trips are wonderful and we take them as often as possible.

No, we don’t have a dedicated classroom, which I would truly love, but we do have the world at our fingertips. Now, if I could keep the kitchen table clean!

“Incline your ear and come to Me. Listen, that you may live; And I will make an everlasting covenant with you,…”
~ Isaiah 55:3

Your Turn!: What is the most unusual place you’ve ever done ‘school’?

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