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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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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Review: Thin Stix Creativity Pack by The Pencil Grip, Inc.

Thin_Stix_Creativity_PackI confess, amongst all the art supplies tucked away in our home, tempura paint has not made a strong play. So when we were given an opportunity to review Thin Stix Creativity Pack by The Pencil Grip, Inc. we were beyond excited.

The Pencil Grip, Inc. has been creating quality products since 1992. Amongst their lines you will find pencil grips, therapeutic products and toys, school and office supplies, and fidgets. Thin Stix Creativity Pack is a twenty-four piece collection of tempura paint sticks. No water needed, you simply remove the cap, twist to expose the paint, create to your heart’s content using this vibrant set of colors, and watch it dry in seconds. Thin Stix Creativity Pack comes with primary, neon, and metallic colors. Thin Stix Creativity Pack is washable, and is egg, nut, and gluten-free.

Our family was given a Thin Stix Creativity Pack which we immediately began to use. Our daughters, aged twelve and fourteen, initially tested out colors without a project in mind. Having a better feel for the medium, both set about creating their own piece of work. Each Art_Project_1chose to work with paper, painting a picture with the Kwik Stix. Thin Stix Creativity Pack has since been used when working on nature journal entries, homeschool projects, and personal creations.

Thin Stix Creativity Pack is a unique product. We had not previously worked with tempura paints in stick form, and were excited to see how they faired compared to paint and brush. Our initial reaction to the Kwik Stix was one of surprise. Considering the name, we anticipated a fine tip to the colors. Instead we found the tips to be as wide as my middle finger. While this did not initially complicate matters, we learned Kwik Stix were better suited for larger projects not involving detail.

Working with the Kwik Stix was easy and clean. The tempura paint went on smoothly leaving texture similar to a crayon. While Kwik Stix are advertised as drying in ninety-seconds, we found ours dried much sooner. Kwik Stix are indeed vibrant in color. What impressed us most was the ability to overlay a light color paint over a dark color without Art_Project_2any issues. No color rubbed off onto our paint sticks and the top color retained its bright hue. We did note neon colors tended to be lighter in opacity, working similarly to a highlighter. Metallic paints did have a glittery undertone to them, but were not as strong as our kids would have hoped.

Overall, we were pleased with the Thin Stix Creativity Pack. We would recommend their use in large projects which do not require detail and for use with little hands. Our kids enjoyed this experiment with color and creativity. Having added Thin Stix Creativity Pack to our supply closet, we’ll definitely continue to use these for larger projects and with friends who come to visit.

If you’d like to learn more about Thin Stix Creativity Pack or The Pencil Grip, Inc. please visit them at their website and on FacebookTwitter or Pinterest! To read helpful reviews like this one, and gain more insight into what Thin Stix Creativity Pack has to offer, please visit The Homeschool Review Crew!

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Your Turn!: Do you have a favorite color?

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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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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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A Homeschool Open House?

Homeschool_Open_HouseOur local schools have recently all hit the “Open House” phase of the learning year. Do you remember Open House? I do. Vaguely. Only our elementary school seemed to find this necessary, and it has been far too many years since I’ve been there to have a clear picture. What I do recall are billboards overflowing with examples of fine work; instructors explaining their grand plans for the coming year; and hoping my teacher would tell my mother I had made a good impression thus far. No need to start the year off on the wrong foot.

As homeschoolers, how do we show our work to those around us? Or do we bother? Are we concerned that family and friends know what our children are learning? It’s possible we’re not troubled by what the world thinks of our schooling, but enjoy sharing the grand adventures we’ve had. Perhaps this might be the best opportunity to share why we do what we do and how we can better accomplish this goal through homeschooling.

We’re curious…

  • How do you feel about “Open House” as a homeschooler? Is this something you enjoyed in your own education and miss the opportunity, or find it entirely unnecessary? Have grandparents, or other family members, expressed sorrow at having missed such an event?
  • Would you find an “Open House” beneficial in sharing what your children are learning, or that this is best left to a more organic moment?
  • Do you think a homeschool event similar to an “Open House” would be personally helpful – allowing you a glimpse into other people’s learning – or a distraction/stumbling block to the path the Lord has placed your family?
  • In the age of social media, do you feel “Open House” happens pretty much every day via Instagram, Facebook, and other sites?
  • Unless you participate in a PSP which has an organized “Open House” event, how do you choose to share learning experiences with family and friends? Do you have a homeschool room where visitors may catch of glimpse of the fun or a portfolio your children enjoy sharing? Perhaps a large chalkboard graces your walls, with lovely illustrations focusing on the current learning topic.
  • And lastly… How often do family, friends, and visitors ask to see what your children are learning? Not from a critical standpoint, but through genuine interest.

Our PSP has never hosted an “Open House”. Friends’ groups have, and they are lovely. We did used to have display tables available on Promotion Night. Unfortunately over the years fewer and fewer families have expressed interest in keeping up this tradition. It is a deal of work and that night is already quite full. It’s understandable. In our own home, we do keep portfolios which we readily shared when the kids were younger and each was filled with colorful illustrations, maps, and diagrams. These days they are filled with tests, notes, and writing assignments, and we are less inclined to pull them out.

Every once in a while the notion of hosting our own “Open House” strikes me. It might be fun for the kids to host their own event, planning out how to best display our projects and offering insight into their learning. Who knows, maybe one of these days we’ll try it.

“What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”
~ Philippians 4:9

Your Turn!: We’d love to hear from you! Please share your thoughts on all things “Open House”.

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When Did I Become the Mother of a College Student?

Mother_ofa_College_Student?Becoming a parent was an adventurous adjustment. We quickly followed the first with several children. It was surreal to start teaching elementary school. When not a single child was in preschool, I was overcome with the notion I would never again have babies. Now two are in high school, one in junior high, and another about to follow. The years have passed much too quickly, and I find myself once again in awe of where we are. When in the world did I become the mother of a college student?

Okay so she’s not entirely in college yet, but you understand what I mean. How did the years pass so quickly I have a daughter taking college courses and looking to start a job? It seems just yesterday we were playing at the park, studying baby animals, and practicing our Bible verses. Now we’re hunting for scholarships, balancing schedules, attending Bible conferences, and learning to drive a car.

I’m not going to lie. The closer we come to end of this portion of our adventure, I am prone to become overwhelmed wondering if I’ve done enough. Been enough. At times I cry out to the Lord unsure I’ve got what it takes. There are days this feels overwhelming. But it’s just that. Feels. In truth the Lord has this covered. As we follow His plan, He has given everything we need to make this happen. What He began He will be faithful to see through.

Aside from my brief, personal reminisce I am sure you’re wondering what point I have yet to make. Just this. The years are short. Oh, the days feel long at times. Moments feel an eternity at given points. But, overall, these years of parenting are vapor. Before we know it our kids will be adults.

Even as I watch my children outgrow their skids and beg for new jeans, I want to embrace each second I have left. I don’t want to spend each day so focused on the future I am unable to appreciate the present. So we are purposeful in our time. We look for ways to stay connected amidst the busyness of life. We talk, create memories, laugh at one another, continue to learn about the others in our family, and never assume we have tomorrow.

Some might laugh. After all we still have several years to go, don’t we? And yet the last sixteen flew by so quickly and we don’t have another sixteen to go. We have less than half that. This is no laughing matter. The appreciation of now is vital. The building of today key in maintaining a closeness with my children tomorrow.

Even as I type the Lord uses His words to calm my heart and fill me with His peace. When did I become old enough to have teens? I have no idea. What I do know is that it’s been a lovely – sometimes scary – adventure. I can only imagine what tomorrow brings. Until then I will find the joy in today.

“So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
~ Matthew 6:34

Your Turn!: If you could go back to the beginning of your parenting journey, what advice would you have for yourself?

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Look It Up: Teaching Vocabulary Through Reading & Research

Look It UpTeaching my children to read at a young age was to the greatest advantage of all involved. It made my job as a teacher that much easier and helped my children to develop an immense vocabulary. If there was one frustration associated with starting out so early, it was a limited vocabulary on the part of the reader. Children can become discouraged if they are reading words they do not understand.

Our family’s solution to this problem was to ensure that plenty of dictionary, thesaurus, and idiom books were on hand. If we didn’t know a word, we looked it up! Our children were taught, first by example and then by practice, to look up all words they were unfamiliar with. If there was a phrase they weren’t sure about, we brought out the idiom books and learned from whence it derived and its meaning.

By now this practice has become second nature. They are frequently seen looking up various topics, attempting to gain a better understanding.

While I would like to own a large collection of encyclopedias for them to use as well, that is neither practical in regards to space or finances. This is where the wonderful world of Google comes in. Under parental supervision, our children are occasionally found to be looking up detailed information regarding such topics as world history, persons of interest, or the feeding habits of rolly pollies. Yes, rolly pollies.

Given the amount of time our children spend both reading and increasing their vocabulary, it ought to come as no surprise that our children use some of the most amusing expressions. I clearly remember my littlest girl at about the age of five. She had just finished an activity and was asked how she liked it. “I found it particularly astounding,” she replied. Okay.

At times they still catch us off guard, using terminology we didn’t think they had developed yet, causing us to chuckle. It is a blessing to see them take such an interest in the usage of words and practice it whole heartedly.

I have no regrets in implementing this practice within our homeschooling routine. Our children are growing by leaps and bounds, stretching their minds and expanding their horizons. Starting early is by no means mandatory, but if the kids are ready and willing, why not give it a try? See where the Lord leads and enjoy the adventure.

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” ~Ephesians 4:29

Your Turn!: Do your children surprise you with their mastery of vocabulary?

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