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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Our Field Trip Survival Guide

Field-Trips

Who doesn’t like a good field trip? There’s nothing quite like fresh air, a change of scenery,  and a little exercise to rejuvenate your learning routine. While field trips can be a lot of fun, they will quickly turn into a frustrating mess when not planned properly. Join us as we share tips on how to make the most of any field trip and explore ideas for a smoother day.

When it comes to field trips, the last thing to pop into our minds is research. Usually, we just pick a day to get out of the house, pick a location to spend the day, hop in our cars, and take off! What usually results is a busy rush to get out the door, cranky kids wondering when we will arrive, and an overly full afternoon rushing around the exhibits, trying to get the most out of the trip before heading back home again.

What if we could make the day more simple? Wouldn’t the trip be much more enjoyable if we had a plan of attack and were better prepared? I think so! After planning field trips, both for myself and for larger groups, there are a few tips we’ve learned along the way.

While the bulk of our field trips revolve around some aspect of my children’s education, all excursions would be rather pointless if we left out one essential element… fun! This is time with our children, family, and/or friends. A day is not successful because we hit every point on the map and fulfilled our goals in the time estimated. We are successful when we have enjoyed our children’s presence and, hopefully, learned a little something along the way.

Go out and explore! Have a lot of fun and enjoy your children while they are young. It won’t last forever.

“But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.”
~ Job 12:7-10

📢 Chime In!: How much planning goes into your field trips?

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Investing In The Future

Investing_FutureAs home educators, we generally consider a wide variety of resources ‘learning material’. We purchase text books, reading books, rulers, pencils, microscopes, and more. We stock our cupboards full of art supplies and handy helps, which make our jobs easier and our kids lives more fun. None of these things is wrong; in fact, if you didn’t do this, I would be a little concerned. I just wonder if we haven’t overlooked a few additional areas of investment.

When was the last time we dug out our pans to teach our children how to bake? Might we buy candy molds to learn the art of being chocolatiers? Have you ever played with fondant? Do our children know how to sew, crochet, or knit? Are our kiddos interested in learning how to cross-stitch, play croquet, or shoot a bow and arrow?

To some, these items might all seem frivolous. After all, they aren’t essential in a standard learning experience. But one has to ask, why not?! Why aren’t these areas of learning a natural part of our children’s year?

Our children are all growing up. They each are expressing interest in various creative endeavors and we, as their parents, are doing our best to make this happen. New baking pans are miraculously popping up in our cupboards, candy molds are finding their way into our shopping carts, sewing kits have been created, and research is being done for group activities.

Some of our investments might be a bit more pricey; those will require patience and a dedicated savings allotment. Surprisingly, most are within reach and worth the nominal fee. Anything which will help our children better discover their gifts and further the path the Lord lays before them, is a must.

📢 Chime In!: What is the most unusual investment you’ve made for your children’s education?

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