The Law of the Farm

If you are feeling overwhelmed or that you aren't accomplishing enough in your homeschool day, this tool will give you a better perspective.Farmers have to plan for the long haul.  They plant in the spring, water and tend their crops all summer in hopes that, come fall, there will be a bountiful harvest.  Can you imagine a farmer foolish enough to think he could go out and plant in October and harvest in November?

The law of the farm applies to many areas of life.  Parenting is just one example. As parents we repeat ourselves, endlessly.  Teaching our children to say thank you, to wait their turn, to ‘use their words’ and to share takes persistence and fortitude.

Parenting isn’t for the impatient.  You can’t hurry up the maturing process, and you can’t ignore your kids for years and cram parenting right before they hit 18.

The same holds true for teaching. The law of the farm can provide homeschool parents with a balanced perspective that can serve as a guiding principle.

My boys, four of them, entered college ready to take on the next phase of learning. Their preparation happened gradually over the 18 years leading up to their departure.

I’d like to say they were college successes because of my amazing teaching skills, or because we spent the money to buy the perfect curriculum, or even better because they are geniuses. None of that is true. They found success due to daily habits and steady plodding over weeks, months, and years.
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Why Shakespeare?

To teach or not to teach Shakespeare that is the question.

Don't let your fear of Shakespearre keep you from enjoying and teaching it. I admit, I’m one of the nerds who loves Shakespeare. I was introduced to the Bard in Jr. High in a drama class, and was asked to compete in a Shakespeare Festival performing a soliloquy from King Lear. While I’m sure my performance was sadly lacking, I was able to watch performances by some very talented students, and I was hooked.

In high school I had excellent English teachers (Thank you Miss Irwin) who furthered my appreciation. Then, the summer after high school, I had the good fortune to travel and study in Europe. During that summer I visited Stratford (Shakespeare’s home town) studied Hamlet at Cambridge, and saw several productions by the Royal Shakespeare Company. It was glorious and I was officially a fan.

Perhaps your experience with Shakespeare was a little less positive, and frankly, if you never have to read or see another play you’ll be perfectly content. You are certainly not alone

But, as Hamlet would say, “There’s the rub.” You’re homeschooling now. You’re responsible for your child’s education…and Shakespeare seems to be on everyone’s list of subjects that should be tackled. But why? Perhaps if you understand why Shakespeare and why a play, you’ll be motivated to give it another chance. And, at the end of this article, I’ll link you to a few excellent resources to help you in your endeavor.

Shakespeare deals with enduring themes that remain relevant to every new generation of readers. The emotions and situations that are explored are at once familiar and recognizable across time and cultures.

If you are human, the characters, plots, and themes are relevant. The plays explore family relationships, love, power, morality, politics, wealth, and death. Emotions such as hate, anger, despair, jealousy, courage, and wonder are examined and expressed with passion and empathy, (more…)

Busting The Myth Of The Perfect Homeschool

And Embracing The Imperfect Journey That Will Nourish Your Child's Soul.

Great article about embracing the everyday, ordinary moments.I was scrolling through some past newsletters and came upon this paragraph. In the article I was talking about the value of going on field trips, I’ll let you read it before I go on.

Sure, the boys probably giggled at the naked statues at the art museum, chatted with their friends while a docent was talking, or mindlessly played with the science exhibits without reading the information. However, they also, with continued, regular exposure, came to appreciate fine art, love poetry, respect nature, and comprehend the scope of history. I feel sure that it was the routine exposure to the world beyond our door, that has contributed to their thoughtful, seeking attitudes as adults.

A key to successful homeschooling is realizing that not every day is going to be exceptional. Most days, your kids will fight, lose their book, or complain that they hate to read (or write, or do math, or all three). Chances are good that tomorrow your kids won’t suddenly morph into Super Homeschool Child who wants to do extra Saxon lessons, read Plato (in Greek) and act out a Shakespeare play. Most of the time, you’ll just plod along, doing what comes next and hoping to catch up with the laundry.

And that’s okay!!!!!

There will be those amazing moments (not whole days…but moments) when your child makes a key connection, finds a book they can’t put down, or ask a particularly insightful questions and you’ll think…’YES! We are getting somewhere.’ Those moments are sprinkled in and keep us going. But if you are expecting those special moments to be the norm, you are going to be disappointed and you are going to be stressed. (more…)

Some Podcasts worth checking out!

I wanted to share some of the podcast that I listen to. These share insights into homeschooling with a bent toward Classical education, Charlotte Mason, Schole, and educating being about developing and directing our child’s affections toward the true and the beautiful.  Hope you enjoy checking them out.

If you find a great episode, let the rest of us know in the comments, so we can all listen and discuss.

This first podcast is about the Charlotte Mason method of homeschooling. I’ve linked to the first episode which gives an intro to the method.

The Mason Jar

This next podcast is about using Schole in your homeschool. Too complicated to explain quickly here, but the concept will be like a breath of fresh air for those of you who feel stressed to always to more and more as you school.

The Schole Sisters

WHEN READING FOR YOUR CHILD IS THE SENSIBLE APPROACH

Bear the burden of reading to keep your child's love of books alive.

When reading for your child is the sensible approachIn our last post we discussed the importance of allowing children to read books that are too easy for them. If you missed it, you can check it out here. Today, we are going to explore another mistake we make when it comes to our child’s reading level.

The oldest of my sons was slow to read. He was also highly intelligent, had an expansive vocabulary, and loved learning. When he was in early elementary school I began checking out options for history and science. Mind you, this was before Homeschooling had really taken off, so my options were limited. A friend suggested I check out a popular Christian Textbook publisher. I was VERY disappointed in the material.

The history text was stories about community helpers; firemen, postal workers and police. It was cute and boring, so boring. The reason…the book was written for a 6 year old’s reading ability, and so the content had to be “dumbed down.” I couldn’t see my bright son being even slightly interested in the book.

My solution was to work on his reading everyday for about 20 minutes…and the rest of the time, I read to him. We explored all sorts of interesting people, concepts, places, and art. With me, standing in the gap, he was able to pursue information about anything that interested him. At the time the Ninja Turtles were huge, and so he poured over Art books about Michaelangelo, Donatello, Raphael, and DaVinci.

Tim was a sponge. He could sit for long periods with books, even when he couldn’t read them. He would come to me with questions that illustrations had sparked and ask me to read sections.

During these years of struggle with reading, I was determined to keep his love of learning and books alive. While he may have made halting progress with phonics, in every other subject he was leaping ahead. When his reading skills eventually caught up I knew he would have a strong foundation and mastery of words and concepts to build on.

At the beginning of his 3rd grade year he was still sounding out most words, and reading quite slowly. Then, seemingly overnight (although it had been years of steady work) it clicked. Boy, did it click. By the end of 3rd grade he was reading at a 9th grade level.  When his reading skills synced up with all of the other learning he’d been doing he was capable of reading and understanding just about everything he picked up.

Even if your child is a whiz at reading, more than likely, in the early years, their comprehension will be greater than their reading ability. Don’t limit their science books to only those they can read on their own. Don’t limit their enjoyment of literature to graded readers with limited vocabulary. Read to your children all sorts of books! Their busy minds will love being fed a steady supply of fresh ideas, and their love of learning and books will continue to grow. They will want to become better readers because they will know, through you, the magic that books contain.

I had another student who was severally dyslexic. After years of testing and work, the conclusion was he was always going to struggle. You might think this limited him educationally, but it absolutely didn’t. His mother, and a younger sister read him all of his books. In High School I taught him Shakespeare, Chemistry, Biology, and History. He did great in each course.

He was able to enjoy the language and beauty of Shakespeare through others standing in the gap for him. (And he built me an amazing reproduction of the Globe Theater) He excelled in the sciences. He had the science series in an audio format and would work ahead so that he could do the experiments, work out all the kinks and do them in class for the rest of us. It was awesome.

I was so proud of him when he graduated. He hadn’t ‘just’ made it through high school, he’d thrived. With his family’s help, he’d received an excellent, well-rounded education, because his mom hadn’t let his inability in one area determine what he could study in other areas. She played up to his strengths and stood in the gap to help him in his weak area.

The point I’m trying to make is that, all children will probably experience a time when not all of their skills will sync together, growing in perfect harmony.  This does not mean they cannot continue to excel and grow in every other area of their education. With you, helping to bear the burden, they can continue to progress while you work on their weaker areas.

I’ve witnessed far too many students who have difficulty with reading, or a learning disability become stalled in every other area of their studies. Not being able to read well meant they did poorly with history, literature, and science. Not being able to read, could stall our student. They could be limited to remain at their reading level…but they don’t have to be.

No, we don’t want to do the work for our child, but there are certainly times where we can bear the burden with our child, and stand in the gaps so that they can continue to grow and enjoy their school years.

This doesn’t just make academic sense, it makes emotional sense.

A child who is slow to read can experience severe damage to their sense of self. They can feel stupid and less than their peers. I know adults who have never recovered from being in the ‘slow’ reading group in elementary school. At a young age they internalized the message that they are not intelligent, not good at school.

For most kids, that’s a lie. The problem is we expect children to all develop at an arbitrary rate, to learn in a steady progression upwards. For a percentage of kids that works, but for most they learn in a stop, start, 2 steps back, 1 leap forward individual pattern.  Each child has their own strengths, their own areas of intelligence and giftedness, it’s our job to nurture those areas, and work steadily where they struggle.

So, be aware of where your child struggles, get them assessed and helped if they need it. But also, don’t allow those areas to limit their education. Stand in the gap with them to be the bridge to the information they need while they develop the tools to build that bridge for themselves.

Oh, by the way, my son Tim graduated from college with an English degree and is now a High School English teacher.

If you’d like to check out the other posts in this series, here are the links.

Curriculum is a tool, nothing more

The key to raising a reader that most of us miss

Make this paradigm shift to get the most out of your school year

When rewards backfire

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THE KEY TO RAISING A READER THAT MOST OF US MISS

How to encourage reading

How to encourage reading

We all want our children to be good readers. We want them to love books!  A child who loves to read has a huge advantage in life.

But there is one common mistake parents make that can quickly turn your child off to reading. That mistake, pushing them to read harder and harder books.

I see this all of the time in bookstores and at the library. A mom is standing with her 8-10 year old child and the child has picked a book. The mom looks at it and says, “No, this is too easy for you, go pick another one.” Or the parent picks a book and shows it to the child who says, “No, there are too many words on the page.” Sound familiar???

It seems obvious that if we want our children to get better at reading, we should push them a bit to read harder and harder books. Let me explain why this backfires.

In order for your child to enjoy reading, they have to be able to follow the story. I’m hoping you have all had the experience of becoming lost in a book. The world around you fades away, and you are living in the story. This is a wonderful experience, and it’s addicting, in a good way. If we want our children to get addicted to reading they need to have this experience.

Now imagine yourself reading that fabulous book but every few words you have to stop and struggle to sound out a word. With determination you make it through the page, but because you have been reading in stops and starts, you could never really enter into the flow of the story. Your enjoyment, no matter how fabulous the book was, would be limited. More than likely, your comprehension would be less than perfect as well.

I’m hoping you are seeing the problem. If a child is always pushed to read at the top level of his ability, he will never be free to enjoy the book. The result is that your child will not see reading as enjoyable but as work. For some kids, if they are constantly pushed, they will begin to feel frustration every time they pick up a book, this frustration can quickly turn into statements such as: “I’m not a good reader.” “I hate reading.” or “I’m stupid.” (more…)