how to homeschool
The Art of Conversation Creates Art
It was a lovely morning yesterday. Seth and I tried a new LaVazza variety (falling off the wagon a bit on this aspect of Zero For Six-ing, but more on that later) on the balcony. We likened the rustling of the Aspen leaves to the feel of clean cotton sheets, the breezes in the pines and the birdsong to music.
The conversation went and wound its way here and there, and somewhere in there I had a fantastic idea–a doable, practical example of how to remind our government that indeed, they work for us. I won’t go into the particulars of the idea, because I want to talk about the power of conversation.
We’re meant to have it, and it’s meant to produce ideas, solutions, revelations. It’s meant to connect hearts and minds and put us in the creativity zone. So, if our conversations aren’t producing this magical marvel, especially when we’re talking with our adult children, we can examine ourselves.
Do we listen carefully and thoughtfully? Do we interrupt? Do we have to be right? Are we taking a parental role when our family members are not asking for that? Just as we’re extra polite and considerate in our conversations with non-family folks, are we also with our beloveds? Do we remember that sometimes hearts simply want to be heard–not to hear our opinion?
When we don’t know the answer do we simply say, “I don’t know, but I will pray for wisdom, and I will pray for you to have wisdom, and all will be well”?
It’s helpful to remember that those who talk the most and loudest are often drowning out the words of those with the deepest and best thoughts. Just in case you’re like me, and maybe are a bit chatty, it could be time to put some art into our conversation.
Dull Books, Dull Boys and Girls
“You appear to have absconded with my keys, Mother,” my daughter said. “Oh, no! I’m so sorry.” And I was sorry about it, even as I was delighted in a child who says, “You appear to have absconded,” rather than, “Hey! You took my keys!”
It pays to homeschool, especially when you have a literary approach. That is, approach the teaching of spelling, speaking, writing, and thinking via literature. Put excellent books in every nook and cranny. Read to them and with them. Read books they recommend. Talk about it: What was your favorite part? Do you agree with the author’s worldview? Are there plot holes? If you re-wrote the story, what would you change? If this book were to be a movie, who would you cast as the villian?
DO NOT read below their level. One of the best parts of any book is a new word. Beatrix Potter’s use of “soporific” is a great example. Don’t go into Mr McGregor’s garden: your father had an accident there, he was put into a pie by Mrs McGregor. It is said that the effect of eating too much lettuce is ‘soporific‘.
Perhaps he shouldn’t have been absconding with other people’s property, eh?
Phyllis McGinley, in the treasure of a book, Sixpence in Her Shoe, wrote, “If I had time and courage enough, I’d write a children’s book stuck plum-pudding rich with great jawbreakers of words,” and, “I am certain that children, left to themselves, would prefer a rattling good story . . . to the handsomest volume in the world which brings no glory to their dreams or quickening to their pulses.” She continues, “They are a braver generation than we suppose. So they deserve brave books. They deserve the best that men and women of wit and talent can write for them.”
And they deserve parents who will read to and with them. Books with big stories, big wonders, big ideas, big words.
You’re Not “Stuck” at Home. You’re Having the Time of Your Life, Homeschooling, That is!
Hello and welcome to all parents who are suddenly at home with their kids. As a veteran homeschooler I have some thoughts, tips and downright excellent ideas for you.
- Begin every day with “The P.J.’s of Power – a psalm, a proverb, Paul’s wisdom from something in the New Testament, and Prayer, and Praise, and then some of Jesus’ words. If the kids are readers and awake (this is a lovely time for all of you to catch up on sleep by the way), instruct them to do the same, take notes, and let it all be done in P.J.’s!
- Make this something they truly enjoy, perhaps all around the table first thing, along with hot chocolate, and begin teaching table manners and conversation arts at the table. Best of all, you are teaching them to love and enjoy God!
- Have all hands on deck for meals. Rotate assignments for who is helping cook, setting the table, doing the dishes, sweeping the floors afterward, etc.
- Speaking of rotating assignments, one of my best ever ideas was my COD idea – Child of the Day. It began first with who was going to pray at meals because when they all chimed in the food got cold before they finished. They prayed for Grandpa’s cows, and the neighbor’s sick dog, and anything else they could think of. So, it was Benjamin on Mondays, Hannah on Tuesdays, Rebekah Wednesdays, and Seth Thursdays. Friday was my day and John got Saturdays and Sundays.
- Let things evolve, according to the needs of your family. The COD evolved so that chores were added, along with privileges, per child, per day. A favorite part of being the COD was getting to pick the bedtime story.
- Make the bedtime story non-negotiable, and make it a story that even the parents enjoy reading. It’s a good time, if you’re in a cold climate, for a cup of warm milk (we used the neighbors’ goat milk gifts this way) with honey, which is relaxing and delicious (add cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla if you like).
- Begin developing and promoting the idea of personal libraries, as you read books like Frog and Toad, Hattie Rabbit, Barnyard Dance, Goodnight Gorilla, and Thomas the Tank Engine. Those are just some that still make me smile as I recall taking walks with thermoses of tea and a few cookies (which the kids LOVE helping to make). If the kids are older choose Little House books, such as The Long Winter. If you don’t have this book, order it! It’s .99 plus shipping, and all of us living today should read about those who came before us, who built this country through hardship and hunger such as we’ve never experienced.
- Make memories every day. We have a favorite memory of taking the red wagon, the two younger kids riding with the picnic basket and quilt, picking blackberries along the side of the road in rural Arkansas, and settling in the shade to read Timothy Tattercoat. Books inspire. This book actually planted the seed in our kids’ minds to one day live in Colorado, which is the setting for Timothy Tattercoat. As the kids grew they enjoyed Louis L’Amour books about miners in Colorado – be on the lookout for books and outings (we know all the best museums wherever we’ve been) that make learning History fun and fascinating and unforgettable!
- It’s OK to take all day. Tea parties all the time, any time, by any name are a great use of an entire day. Because after all, the best part of this whole home-with-the-kids thing is becoming truly acquainted with your children. This is done quite effortlessly and beautifully over tea. We had History teas, where we discussed whatever anyone wanted to discuss from History, which can lead all kinds of marvelous directions; there were geography teas (look at maps and talk about countries). “Look, there’s France – what do know about France?” Hmm, your humming mind ponders, shall we do a unit study on France? Google “homeschool unit study ideas” and remember to tailor these ideas to suit yourself!
- “Maybe,” you might ponder, “We should do a unit study on our state, and do a field trip approach, right in our own backyards. What are the herbs coming up this spring, and how can we use them? Let’s make a plan to gather rosehips, mint, and whatever else will work, and make the best ever herbal tea. Maybe we’ll learn a bit about home remedies.”
- Pray for anointing as a parent, and you will soon know that you are uniquely qualified to teach your children, and you will learn right along with them. In my case, I believe I learned more than anyone.
- Have “Dreaming Times.” When our four kids were small I had a great need for an hour of absolute peace and quiet in the afternoons. I would go into my room with a book (John and I always taught by example that reading is a treat), and say, “Don’t say my name for one hour. Play alone and dream and we’ll do something wonderful when we’re done.” They would very quietly sneak into each other’s bedrooms and play, but they knew I meant business about an hour of peace and quiet. Now be prepared to talk about, and respect, their dreams. And your own!
- Have a plan, but be ready to switch gears. If after Dream Time you meant to go grocery shopping, but they’ve had a dream of building a fort and starting a “John Wayne Club” (yes, this was a thing), the groceries can wait. Building and creating should always trump spending money. This is where you can get creative with what’s in the pantry, and play happy music to accompany the beautiful sounds of children at play. Let them see and hear you happy, as you sing and dance.
- Teach them good personal and homekeeping habits. They can make their beds each morning and brush their teeth, before the “privileges” of outside play, or getting to learn something new about a Founding Father, or mixing and using their own finger paints, etc. They can brush their teeth and pick up the living room (baskets for everything work well) before they get their bedtime story.
- You are the fearless leader, and part of that is meaning business and making House Rules. These rules are for your sanity, and to make your children popular with others. Ours were things like NO RUNNING IN THE HOUSE, NO YELLING AND SCREAMING IN THE HOUSE, RESPECT OTHERS’ PROPERTY, RESPECT OTHERS. PERIOD. Then there was a written and publicly posted list of table manners: No phone answering during meals, no gross or negative conversation subjects during meals, etc.
- Read and re-read daily scriptures on the Tongue from Proverbs, and let your kids see you forget the scriptures entirely, mess up, repent both to God and to them. This practicing of what you preach, learning and growing as you go, will be a marvelous example, and will draw their hearts to you, and to God. This will also help your marriage flourish, which is the very kindest thing you can do for your kids – the most important education you can give them (please pardon me for causing you pain if you’re a single parent – these rules still apply, and I wish I’d known them when I was a single parent!).
- Consider the power of your example as you make the most of this unexpected situation, as you show them love by sacrificing your normal routine and getting to truly know your child, and yourself. Remember that your child is unique in all the world, indeed in all the history of the world, and that you have been given the gift of unexpected time together. To love.
- Be sure they know that you see this time with them, this family time, as a marvelous treat, a wonderful blessing. Tell them this.
- Don’t try to cram too much into your days. Seek a lifestyle of His unforced rhythms of grace.
- Keep it simple, and remember, “A little child will lead you.” But you must lead first. And you must first be led. By Him. Amen.
What Homeschoolers Need Most is What We All Need Most
There are so many excellent resources for homeschooling parents, but how to choose? So many opportunities, but which ones to forgo? This is a big deal, and it must be done right! Right?
Know your child via time with your child’s Maker. You MUST pray for and receive the wisdom of God for each child. Individually. You have birthed an individual, unique in all the world, indeed, in all the history of the world. One of your many excellent reasons for homeschooling is to train this child up into the fullness and wonder of that uniqueness.
So, get to know your child. This, dear parent, is a lifelong process, and you are called to it. As a parent, we partner with God to create and give and nurture life. It is a lovely process of discovery, and today is the day to begin!
Seek God’s face and His grace. Ask Him and He will answer. My experience homeschooling taught me that He really likes to get involved in this marvelous escapade! He wants you to know Him, and He wants to reveal the heart of your child unto you. Blessed, so blessed are you.
What do we all need? To know and to be known. Give yourself and your child a gift so far beyond curriculum, field trips, and co-op activities. Give yourself up to the wonderful journey of getting to know God, who will reveal to you yourself, and the heart of your child as well.
Home School Help for Me!
I’m enjoying a book called The Rhythm of Family by Amanda and Stephen Soule. As I was reading Amanda’s writings about canning and crafting and all sort of creative and beautiful activities, I was comparing my efforts of past years, when my kids were young.
And I found myself weighed in the balance and found wanting – can you relate? Could we all just stop doing that? I stopped myself with a positive “yeah, but . . .”
Yeah, but my kids made a hammock in the top of a tall oak tree, forts in the woods, ships on the creek, trains in the garage. They made up and wrote stories about the local rabbit family and buried and hunted treasure, caught and lost crawdads and lizards, and slew as well as drew great dragons.
They loved and were loved by an oddity of a dog. He seemed odd to us, that is, but to him his behavior was absolutely normal. I’ll share more about this dog in a moment, but back to my kids’ having a childhood – maybe they didn’t live on the ocean in Maine and maybe their mom wasn’t the craft queen of the universe. But she made them homemade fingerpaints when it was raining, and turned grape juice into popsicles when it was hot, and they know how to make artisan breads, and what a snake smells like when you get too close while you’re picking blackberries.
They still remember reading Timothy Tattercoat on a quilt in the shade with a thermos of iced tea and peanut butter on saltines. And through Timothy, a desire was instilled in their hearts to live where he lived, in the mountains of Colorado.
I mentioned our old dog, Buster, who died by the way, chasing a car, and as we told the kids – he died instantly as his head connected with a fast-moving fender, and it was probably painless.
Buster was better at chasing cows – they and he knew who and what he was.
We were walking in the country a long way from home one day and we came upon a pasture full of cows, in the corner farthest fro m the road. Buster went across the pasture, herded those cows to the opposite end of the field and they did exactly as he bade them. He was the boss of these big and theretofore unknown cows.
Not so Chihuahuas. There was a lady who walked her three chihuahuas past our house every day. Benjamin, age 7 then, called her Mrs. Chawalla. I guess Buster thought her dogs were giant rabies-infested rats – he was terrified and hid under the back porch and cried every day when they went by.
As for snakes, he would step on or over them and not even see them. Amazing. But when it came to doing what he was created to do, he meant business. He knew who he was. He was a cowdog. An Australian Shepherd.
We come to know who we are when we grasp that great truth that we are created in the image of God, who is Love, and we are therefore, when being our true selves, LOVE.
Which means – aha! – that I can rejoice in and admire the strengths and successes of other moms, and perhaps even emulate them in some areas; I can look back with appreciation for what I did right and ABSOLUTELY forget about what I might have done differently; and I can do a great service to my kids now, whatever their ages, by modeling the rest and contentment that comes from knowing who and Whose I am.
What a way to live!
From Fear to Fear or from Faith to Faith?
I got into a discussion yesterday about home schooling. It began with the statement (as best I recall), “People home school from a position of fear.” Being just about finished with defending my position to people who are coming at me from a position of judgment (never having homeschooled themselves, and perhaps wanting to justify putting their kids in the cesspool or should I say “government indoctrination camps” which are also known, unbelievably, as schools), I was perhaps a little more direct than usual.
I agreed that yes, many people do homeschool from a position of fear, from a defensive posture. But, as I pointed out, they are still, more often than not, quite successful at turning out hard-working, independent-thinking, quality citizens. I wish I’d said what my husband John said this morning when I talked it over with him. “They may begin from a position of fear, their feet may tremble as they step out in faith, but they begin. They step out.”
I am sorry for the myriad of Christians who will someday have to defend that “Let them be salt and light in the public schools” nonsense. As John said, “You think a five-year-old (or 15-year-old) is going to stand against an institution controlled by an entity who was once God’s right hand man, an entity with thousands of years of experience to perfect his craft of stealing, killing, and destroying (John 10:10)?”
And anyway, I ask, how is that working for you? As John said when I discussed the mental cruelty my granddaughter is receiving in public school (supposedly one of the “best” school systems in her state) John reminded me, “Oh, but she’s being properly socialized.” I forcibly turned my thoughts away from all the other negatives she’s experiencing in the name of “education.”
The reasons to get your children out of the public school system are numerous, and I won’t go into them right now. But I do want to come back to that fear assertion. Perhaps it was fear on this man’s part that prevented him from home schooling – fear of being ridiculed, criticized, outright persecuted. Fear of not going along with the crowd, perhaps even fear of his own pastor’s opinion, or whoever it was that first fed him that “salt and light” malarky.
Fear. Maybe it first gained a stronghold in his mind via his childhood training in following the crowd, in trying to fit in, in wanting to be accepted, popular, “cool” like everyone else. Indeed, perhaps he is just another victim of the public school system, where we all (most of us at least) learned: not to rock the boat, to color inside the lines, and to judge. To fear.
II Timothy 1:7 – “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
Don’t take my word for it, don’t take anyone else’s word against it: Get God’s opinion, and remember He said “Train up your child,” NOT, “Send them out for someone else to indoctrinate.”
Twice in the last week I have heard how women who don’t have college degrees aren’t “qualified” to home school. Faith and Love, not pieces of paper given to 22-year-olds with no children and in many cases, even less than no wisdom, is what qualifies and equips us to train our children.
Faith in the One who made your child, and who chose you as the parent, faith working through love – that’s your ticket. YOU’RE IT! YOU CAN DO IT, AND DO IT BRILLIANTLY! I like to turn the long-ago spoken words of a school board member around. When my dad asked why we (my brother and I) weren’t learning anything, he was told, “We don’t need no smartass city dude tellin’ us how to run our school.” Newsflash: WE DON’T NEED NO SMARTASS SCHOOL TELLIN’ US HOW TO RAISE OUR KIDS.
Does the very thought of even thinking about homeschooling make you sweat and gulp? That probably means it’s time for you to get off the fear merry-go-round and get on the faith train. What a journey it’s going to be!
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