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.
I understand if you have your doubts. We have been taught to think that we need a special credential to teach our children and that if we teach something in the wrong order our children will be permanently damaged. As you will see in a minute, the research suggests that not only are parents qualified, but that they do an awesome job.
The reasons should be obvious…who is more concerned and tuned in to a child than his parents? Who knows his/her strengths and weaknesses better? Who is more interested in seeing that child succeed? What school can offer the individualized help that a parent can offer? Just the one on one tutoring nature of homeschooling gives it many advantages over a classroom situation.
Added to the fact that parents have far smaller ‘classes’ to teach, curriculum writers have realized that homeschoolers are a big market and have written curriculums with the parent/educator in mind. You don’t need a credential to use these materials, most come with step by step instructions. Understanding that parents will be doing the teaching, curriculum writers have made their products family friendly. (more…)
Do you hate History? Did you watch the clock tick off each minute as your teacher droned on? Did you suffer through dry readings, memorize meaningless dates, and answer pointless review questions? Do you dread subjecting your child to the same boring process?
If so, I’m sorry. Believe me, it doesn’t have to be that way!
While in college I have a vivid memory of sitting in the library studying with some friends for an upcoming test for World Civilization. We were reviewing English history during the 1500’s. My friends were struggling with dates, names and seemingly unrelated events.
I wasn’t struggling. The reason… in high school I had read a series of historical novels set in the courts of England. Nothing boring or dry there. There had been romance, court intrigue, religious conflicts, betrayal, heroes and villains. I’d cried for Queen Catherine as she watched her marriage and family crumble because she couldn’t produce a male heir, and was horrified as her daughter, Bloody Mary, turned her reign into one marked by revenge, fanaticism and bloodshed.
I wrestled with the issues that caused England to break from the Catholic church and was fascinated by the complex and fragile allegiances that were formed to consolidate power. The characters I met were complicated individuals who were forced to make decisions that would affect whole countries, individuals often beset with self-doubt and questions. I found myself caught up in their dilemmas wondering what I would do, what they should do…and rarely finding a satisfactory answer. (more…)
Do you have some sort of reward system in place for chores? Do you reward yourself when you lose a certain amount of weight or work out every day for a week? Do you pay your kids for good grades, or take them for ice cream if they read a certain number of books? When my boys were playing baseball, I knew a parent who paid their kids if they hit a home run. Perhaps you give your child a treat if they finish their veggies, or a reward when they finish their math.
Rewards are an odd thing. We’ve probably all used them at one time or another. You’ve probably read articles about using rewards to help establish new habits or change behavior. The thing is, offering rewards can actually sabotage your efforts, and they should be used with caution and intention.
I’ve always been leery of rewards and have seen a great deal of negatives when rewards are overused. Let’s examine a few instances to see the danger.
The chore reward system, there are lots of these. In some kids put up stickers as they do their chores and earn a reward at the end of the week. In others, kids start out with a certain amount of money and if they don’t finish their chores, money is deducted from their ‘allowance’. In still others parents post jobs they want done with a dollar value attached and children can choose which chores they want to do to earn spending money. You can probably come up with many more.
In our house, every member of the family did some of the work, because we are a family. There were regular chores the boys did every morning and on the weekends there was yard work or cars to wash. I didn’t pay the boys for these things because they are part of the family and once they were old enough, they took on some of the responsibility and work to keep things going.
When I knew one of them was trying to save money for something (usually another musical instrument) I might offer to pay them for some work, but that wasn’t the norm. They weren’t compensated for their regular chores.
I think I tried the pay system once or twice but abandoned the idea quickly because it led to an attitude of entitlement. It seemed that those systems quickly sent the message that they should be reimbursed for every contribution they made…and that wasn’t going to work for me. (more…)
At the start of a new school year we focus on creating a workable schedule, buying the best curriculum, and writing up lesson plans. As the school year progresses, we discover that curriculum choices and schedules are only a small part of our challenge as teachers.
Rather than struggling with curriculum, most parent/teachers struggle with their student. At one point or another we all hear:
- “But why do I need to know this?” (Be sure to read that in a super whiney voice to get the full effect.)
- “I just can’t understand math.”
- “I hate to read.”
- “Why do we have to write evvverrrry day?”
Dealing with the whining and complaints can be exhausting and leave parents feeling like they are failing at the educational task. It would be a mistake to think that the issues inherent in this sort of grumbling will be solved by switching up the school day, or making learning more ‘fun’.
The underlying issue here is a failure on the part of the child to self-regulate, or to see what needs to be done, and to have the internal fortitude to get on with doing the work with a positive attitude. Developing that ‘internal fortitude’ or positive attitude toward work, is going to be far more important for your child’s long term success than any of the academic skills you are working on.
For the Children’s Sake (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2009)
Have you ever met someone and felt an instant connection? Conversations with that person resonated with your soul, and gave voice to thoughts that were somewhat vague before, but were clarified and sharpened by the friendship? That is the way I felt when I first read this book. This is a book for everyone who wants to be influential in the life of a child.
My journey as a parent and as a homeschooler was enriched and refocused often by this book. After my first reading I sought out copies of the original books by Charlotte Mason which further added to my vision.
If you want your children to have a rich education, to love to learn, to develop character and nurture a close walk with God, I can’t recommend this book enough. Some of the resources recommended are now dated, but the precepts presented are timeless and worthy of reflection. Many resources modeled after the work of Charlotte Mason are now available for both teachers and parents.
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…)
One of the easiest mistakes to make when beginning the homeschooling journey is to model our homeschool after our local public schools. Each of us has our own reason for choosing to homeschool, most often that reason includes the thought that we want more for our kids than our local school offers, or we want something different than we experienced when we went to school.
Where we run into problems is that when we begin to think about homeschooling we go back to what is familiar. We think about desks, supplies, curricula, and how to set up a classroom in our home. We structure our days to resemble a typical school schedule, and for all practical purposes, we have just moved the location of our child’s schooling, but we haven’t really transformed their education into something new.
None of this is particularly bad, it’s just not what it could be. When we begin to homeschool we have the opportunity to transform our child’s education into something richer and deeper than what can be offered in a large group setting. We can take advantage of the unique opportunities we have to do things differently.
Here are a few thoughts to challenge you. You don’t need to change everything at once, jumping into homeschooling can be challenging enough without leaving everything that is familiar behind. But small changes add up, and as you gain confidence in your ability to nurture your child’s mind, you can continue on the journey to truly transforming your approach to education.
So here are three simple things you can do to make the most of the uniqueness of homeschooling. (more…)
On a typical homeschool morning it was a major accomplishment to have all the kids up, dressed, fed, and chores done. Then we need to start school, which often went something like this. Math first, except child # 2 can’t find his book and child #4 broke his pencil. After 10 minutes of searching everyone has a book and working writing instrument. 5 minutes later child #1 needs colored pencils, which we can’t find. Child #3 thinks they are in his room and runs off. And so the morning progresses with stops, starts, hunts, and frustration.
Often being a Mom of 4 boys felt like wrangling monkeys in a home filled with black holes.
In order to save my sanity, I hit upon a method that eliminated a few of those black holes. So often the best solutions are the simplest, that is definitely true of this tip.
At the beginning of one school year I got each of the boys a box with a lid large enough to hold all of their school books and supplies. It worked so well I did it every year until they were in High School. (In high school, they were responsible for their own supplies.)
The system was super simple, and only effective if the rules are followed without exception. When the school day started each boy pulled out their own box and everything they needed was right there. At the end of school everything was returned to each box, the lid popped on, and there was no opening it back up until the next school day.
This solved the obvious issue of having to hunt for books, pencils and other miscellaneous items, which was a huge help in keeping frustration to a minimum, but the school box solved a few other things I hadn’t foreseen. (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