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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“I’m Not Interested!”: When Kids Don’t Like the Lesson

I'm_Not_InterestedHe’s just sitting there. It’s not as if he doesn’t understand what is being taught, but his eyes are glazed over and he’s slumped in his seat. If he had a choice, he’d rather do almost anything else. She’s staring me down; frustration, irritation, and a genuine lack of enthusiasm radiating from her rigid form. Sure, she could do it, but why? Why study hours of seemingly pointless details. What’s wrong with both of these situations? Neither child is interested and they are clearly making it known. It’s not that they don’t want to study anything, they just don’t want to study that. No matter how I try to twist the lesson to make it more appealing, this child won’t engage. What’s a mom to do when their child just isn’t interested?

I wish I was the ultimate teacher; able to make all children not only learn anything taught, but also like what they are learning. Unfortunately, I too, often have to find creative ways to encourage my children to learn. Oh, sure, there are some things they’d jump at the chance to do, but others take a lot more persuasion, and even that doesn’t always work.

When our children show no interest, none whatsoever, in a subject, do we force it upon them? If the thought of having to write research papers fills our children with dread, do we still make them do it? If algebra sickens them, do we push them through the equations anyway? So much of life isn’t black-and-white. There aren’t easy responses to these questions; no pat answers. Each family must pray about the individual situation and ask the Lord to give them wisdom in how best to handle it. But, here are a few things we’ve learned…

The Littles – For those with little kids balking at the notion of having to learn undesired subjects, perhaps it is our method of teaching which is hindering their desire to move forward. It might also be likely that we are introducing topics at too early an age. One further thought is that our children really don’t understand what they are going to learn. Sure, they hear the words – Language Arts – but they don’t correlate that with the telling of stories and crafting of words. Sometimes it takes a creative moment on the parent’s behalf to make the topic sound worthwhile.

The Middles – The workload is starting to increase and our children are beginning to take notice. They don’t like the idea of having to learn more subjects or take on more work. Things they used to enjoy have now become a chore. Did we increase their load too soon or all at once? Perhaps we forgot to take the time to make the topic more interesting, assuming they were big enough now to simply tackle any project plopped in front of them. We mustn’t let our middle children get lost in the mix or forget to make learning fun.

The Big Guys – Subjects like algebra, biology, and composition are looming in front of their eyes, all with loads of work attached. Our child insists they don’t want to take that chemistry class, failing to see the need for learning the periodic table of elements. Here is where things get tough. Do you force them to take all those college prep classes, no matter what they have to say to the contrary? Do you let them decide for themselves what they wish to study?
Each family needs to make these decisions for themselves and it’s not always an easy task. Through prayer, council, and wisdom we must decide for each child what is best. For some, they need the push to study topics not readily desired. Others would only be stressed and hate learning altogether if shoved.
No matter our decision, I would still encourage us to find fun ways to make learning fun. However, at this stage, we also need to stretch our children. They ought to learn life isn’t always fun, easy, convenient, or made to order. Homeschooling offers us many options, and we are grateful for all of them, but we are attempting to raise responsible adults. And, not all responsibility is fun or wanted.

Do we force learning on our children? Oh, sometimes. We want to try new things with them, expand their horizons, and help them get a well-rounded education. We also need to remember to be careful in our desire to stretch our children. We want them to be challenged, we don’t want them to be broken.

“An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.”
~ Proverbs 18:15

Your Turn!: Have you ever forced your child to learn a particular subject/topic and then later regretted it? Have you ever forced your child and later had them thank you for the opportunity? Share your story with us!

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Why Am I Two Steps Ahead?

why_am_i_two_steps_aheadI can’t help it, really I can’t. Once the end of our learning year seems to be in sight, I am already starting to think of what comes next. I don’t wait for the year to finish, I don’t wait for summer time; I start planning the minute the urge takes over. It looks like this year is no different. We hadn’t even finished our third quarter and I was already two steps ahead.

By nature, I tend to be an overly organized person. I also tend to obsess over things and continually think over them until I’ve made myself crazy. When I consider what next year might bring, it helps to start writing things out and narrowing down decisions. This gives me plenty of time to thoroughly inspect new ideas or activities and test out concepts to see if they work practically. It also helps in being able to do research, if some of our new interests require a financial investment or a great deal of time. Once ideas are written down, I don’t have to worry about forgetting a truly awesome idea or keeping information in my head. It’s down on paper and I have plenty of time to get to it.

I also tend to write down thoughts on how our routine is currently working. Is our day Bookshelf_Feb2010running smoothly? Will our day need to be adjusted next year to accommodate our children’s needs or household schedules? What is working well this year that I don’t want to change? What is not working and needs to be revamped? Which things need a complete replacement?

Planning ahead has also helped me in mapping out our children’s educational futures. By looking in the direction our children are headed, I have a better idea of how their learning should be planned out now. If my child wants to be a zoologist, I don’t want to wait until her junior year of high school to start bumping up her science courses; that is something we need to start looking at in junior high.

The only downside I see to being two steps ahead (or three, or four), is that I get anxious to start. I become excited over new projects, new school books, new routines, and new opportunities to learn. While I understand the current year needs to be completed, I’m chomping at the bit to move on.

Above all else, I am continually praying for our coming year. No matter what new changes – and there are going to be some awesome ones – come our way, I want to make sure we are following the path He has laid before us. If I do this on my own, I know I am going to fail. With Him, this next year looks to be an excellent one!

The heart of man plans his way,
    but the Lord establishes his steps.”
~ Proverbs 16:9

Your Turn!: When do you begin looking at next year’s routine?

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How MY Home Schoolers Measure Up

how_my_homeschoolers_measure_upWhew! I could breathe a sigh of relief. Looking over that clever diagram of how home schoolers are measuring up, I could tell we were doing fairly well and I felt encouraged by how successful home schoolers are doing as a whole. Then, a thought occurred to me… This isn’t why I chose to home school. What matters is how my home schoolers measure up. Not to someone else, not to a diagram, and not to a standardized test. Rather, how they measure up to their own capabilities.

I can see how this diagram, and others like it, come in handy. There are people who need to see the numbers before they will believe that home schooling truly is and can be a success. Others need encouragement, seeing the evidence of their hard work. I could see myself using diagrams like this, presenting it to those who might have questions or doubt the outcome of learning at home.

I need to issue a cautionary note though, more to myself than anyone else. My advice is this: ” Self… this is not the measure of your child!” There, I said it. The minute I start spending more time focusing on whether or not we meet someone else’s standards for my family, rather than on what they need, that is when I lose my way. This isn’t a competition between them and anyone else; they are to achieve at their own pace and in their own 2-homeschooling-by-the-numbersway.

May we also point out that while the stats and information are helpful and interesting, this tool should not be used as a means to bash our public school friends over the head. Homeschooling is a calling. While we have chosen not to put our children in public school for various reasons, we understand and respect not every family has the ability to make this choice; nor the desire to do so. Let us not use this information as weapon, but a means of communicating the value in what we do.

Diagrams can be helpful and fun. However, they are not a guide for living. I will not panic if my child is a little below the “standard” and I am not going to get puffed up with pride if my child “excels”. I am going to accept my children for what they are, helping them to become the best they can be. After all, the measure of my child’s success is not going to be found on any chart. But in a life well lived.

“But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor.”
~Galatians 6:4

Your Turn!: What do you use to help measure your children’s achievements?

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When The Kids Are Less Than Excited About School

when_the_kids_are_less_than_excited_about_schoolDo you ever have those days when you wake up well rested; ready to embrace the day? You’re popping at the seems to share some tidbit of learning with your kids you just know is going to have them doubling over with laughter or eagerly pouring over the activities you’ve planned. Then. Then, my friends. You wake the kids and they are not quite as excited about this learning day as you are. In fact, they are less than excited.

I love learning. Always have. I love teaching. I have since I was a child. Call me crazy, but there is something satisfying about creating lessons plans and seeing the bigger picture come together. It is a joy to see that spark ignite in another learner. But I can be honest. Despite what social media might present to you, not every day is a joy in The Homeschool Mom household. In fact, some days are downright hard. All those well-planned lessons? Somehow my kids don’t always see the joy in them or visualize that big picture I mentioned. They are out of sorts, and before true learning can take place we need to readjust some heartstrings.

From me to you, here is what God has shared with this mama thus far:

Pray – For them. For me. Pray together, for each other. For the situation. For His will to be done. First and foremost, or the rest is pointless.

Put Feelings Aside – My emotions tend to get the better of me. But if we’re going to get to the bottom of this situation, emotions are the last thing we need. Thus, how I feel has nothing to with it. This is about my child be righteous before God and us moving forward with His plan for our family.

Be Understanding – Not everyday is my favorite. I shouldn’t imagine it will be for my kids either. Instead of jumping down their throats, I want to extend grace and compassion. I get it. Mondays don’t rock for me either.

Be a Good Listener – Oh, this hard for me. I tend to want to fix it and move forward as quickly as possible, as if nothing happened. Yeah; that doesn’t always work. Scratch that. It usually never works. I need to listen, hear their heart and not just their words, and then we can make some decisions.

Determine Our Course – So we understand one another, now what? Unfortunately there is no easy, pat answer. Each situation might call for a different solution. I might rub their back for a few moments and tease them with all the fun things to come for the day. Other times might call for a bit of downtime after breakfast before they are ready to tackle learning. If the situation calls for it, back to bed might be best. In drastic situations, a complete change of venue livens up our day and we learn in the field. We allow the Lord to lead and set the course for our day.

Notice a Pattern? – I can understand one day being off course. Especially those pesky Mondays. But when Monday becomes Tuesday, which quickly turns into Wednesday and Thursday is no better? Then, my friends, we’re missing something. Is there a subject they are trying to avoid? Am I overloading them, or perhaps not challenging them enough? This might have nothing to with school at all, but a deeper issue which needs to be dealt with. I will not simply write this off as a “phase”, but instead focus on what is really at the heart of the problem. Only then will learning time return to the joy it once was, and true wisdom be gained.

In those moments when my kids are less than excited about their learning day, may I learn to be gracious, kind, and understanding. Better still, may I point them to the God of all wisdom who hearts their heart and best knows what they need. For without Him, learning has lost its meaning.

We might not be excited about today until we consider all God can do in us and through us in this short space of time. Who knows what possibility it holds? Only Him!

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
~ Hebrews 4:15-16

Your Turn!: What are you excited about today?

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Helping Our Children Develop Hobbies

helping_our_children_develop_hobbiesOkay, let’s be honest. I don’t necessarily allow myself much free time. It’s there; I just don’t take it. But, if I did use my free time, well, freely, I would never run out of things to do. There are so many possibilities. Reading. Writing. Planning. Organizing. (Don’t judge. It’s relaxing.) Napping. Oh, the list could go on. So when my children come to me and ask for a suggested afternoon activity because they are bored… I have to resist the urge to scratch my head, and instead lend a hand. Sometimes our children need help developing hobbies, and it’s our privilege to open the doors of exploration.

I’ve never been one to collect stamps. And crafting is lovely. Truly. But not my thing. Thus I understand my children’s dilemma of finding activities which hold their interest and offer enjoyment. So we’re on a journey to find what peaks their interest and will encourage them to use their free time wisely. We’ve learned a lot on our adventure:

Go Exploring – Hobbies don’t always present themselves to us. While one of my daughters enjoys music tremendously and loves writing, my other children have needed to try various projects before finally settling in for further pursuit of a skill.

Dig Deeper – Hobbies aren’t always obvious choices. We’ve discovered we occasionally need to think outside the box. We’ve tried fostering baby animals from a local shelter, woodworking, jewelry making and growing roses from seeds.

It’s an Investment – Often our children’s hobbies require more than just pointing them in the right direction. Instruments might be involved, tools needed, and/or some amount of driving is required. The hardest investment is time. Especially on our part. That archery club equals extra drive time and two hours out of our week. The sewing projects depend on mom passing along her learned skill. Through this we’ve learned the value of our investments, and to choose our investments wisely.

Don’t Give Up – Perhaps we find our hobbies quickly, but sometimes we don’t. In this we must remember not to lose heart, but to keep searching. We aren’t failing at finding a hobby, but discovering more about the world around us and an appreciation of skills we don’t possess. We’re on an adventure, and still looking for our personal interest.

How about you? As a parent, and an educator, how do you address the issue of hobbies?

  • Do your children have hobbies?
  • Did they develop their hobbies on their own, or through your leading?
  • Have your children’s hobbies changed over the years?
  • Do your children have multiple hobbies?
  • Do you set a limit on hobbies; either in time required or money spent on them?
  • How much involvement do you have in your children’s hobbies; either in time or attention?
  • Have any of your children struggled with finding a hobby?

So little time, so much to do. Well, for me at least. Now, we’re working on helping our growing kids discover what holds their interest. While there have been moments of frustration in the journey, we’re enjoying the adventure and having fun along the way. It’s amazing to discover new skills and meet new friends along the way.

“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.”
~ Ecclesiastes 9:10

Your Turn!: Join us in exploring the fun topic of hobbies. Share your thoughts on the questions above!

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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 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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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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Teaching Curriculum vs. Teaching Children

teaching_curriuculum_vs_teaching_childrenWhy isn’t she moving faster? Doesn’t she understand I want her to get through the material in the next half hour! I really want to get through this part of our day so we can move on to other things. It really shouldn’t take this long. Then, the Lord hits me full on… Am I teaching the curriculum or teaching my child? Oops; guilty as charged!

I think, sometimes, we homeschool parents can get caught up in the wonderful resources we have available to us. We ooh and aah over new-found books, get excited about special projects, and store up on awesome resources. In all our enthusiasm, I wonder if we have completely forgotten why we do what we do.

Are we getting caught up in buying resources which seem wonderful, and pushing our children through the motions, without bothering to ask ourselves if this is helping our children actually learn or – though learning is taking place – they are enjoying the learning process?

Heaven forbid I force my children through hours of lessons every single day just so I can say I finished a book we purchased. Lord help me if I am pushing my kids to finish material in a certain amount of time simply because I have other plans for the day.

Now, don’t get me wrong. In our learning, we most certainly have a wide arrangement of resources available to us and I highly recommend using them to the fullest. However, I need to be careful the resources are being used as a help and not as the driving force behind my children’s education.

Ultimately, I don’t want my children to simply learn how to finish a book (although that is a good skill to be learned). I want my children to love learning! I need my children to fully understand the world in which they live and the impact the Lord wants them to make in their own sphere of His creation.

The books, games, projects, and field trips we have before us can be used wonderfully in each of our learning endeavors. However, I want to be careful of how I am putting them to use. At the end of the day, if the only thing my kids did was push through a stack of paperwork so I can say we were productive, I have failed in my job. Getting through the books isn’t the goal! The goal is to teach my children, to reach their hearts, to minister to their souls, and to encourage a love of learning.

I need to make sure I am teaching my children and not merely the curriculum!

“All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children.”

~ Isaiah 54:13

📢 Chime In!: Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a lesson and suddenly realized this is not working? How did you redirect your learning to be more productive for your children?

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