Things I learned from Homeschooling – #3

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It’s time to finish up my series on things I have learned from homeschooling!  I’ve enjoyed this backward look over the past 20 years–things always look different in retrospect that they did when you were in the middle of living it.  Here’s a link to part one and part two.

Part three today carries me back to the beginning of our homeschooling journey.  My husband was working as a youth minister, and we were disturbed by some of the things we heard from the youth about their experiences at school.  I was enjoying my 3 1/2 year old, and was not particularly interested in sending him off to school all day.  My oldest sister was doing some homeschooling, and because she lived far away, she sent me some “Teaching Home” magazines.  These opened up a whole new world to me, and I began reading everything the library had about homeschooling–a wide variety of philosophies, from John Holt to the Moores to Gregg Harris and Susan Schaeffer Macaulay.  I learned some things from all of them, but because I have always been a book lover (and unimpressed with textbooks), I found that the ideas of Charlotte Mason struck a cord within me.  We followed those ideas with varying degrees of diligence through the years, but they bore great fruit in my children’s minds and hearts.

So here’s a list of things  I learned from the early years of our homeschooling:

1.  Curriculum is your servant.

This is actually a quote from Ruth Beechick.  I highly recommend her books about the 3 R’s–very sensible stuff.  But I have tried never to forget that I am the one in charge, and just because this book says to do it this way, does not mean that I must.  You know your child best, and you mold the curriculum–whatever type it is–to fit their needs.  And yes, it’s okay to skip a lesson if they already know what is being taught.

2.  Habits and character make it all come together.

It is easy at all stages of homeschooling to over-emphasize the academics, and forget the big picture:  that we are raising a child here, not one who can simply read, write and think, but one that is discerning about moral issues and has good moral habits.  There may be times when schoolwork needs to be set aside briefly to concentrate fully on developing those good habits of obedience and right choices.  But like most habits, these can be learned and reinforced one little bit at a time.  And when you keep good habits and character as a priority along with the schoolwork, you will see that they complement each other.  Schoolwork time is an opportunity to practice diligence and good attitude, and a child whose character is being molded by his parents is more pleasant to be around all the time.

3.  A mind is not a bucket to be filled.

You may have seen that quote by W.B. Yeats–“Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire”.  I was reading last night about the Common Core standards for teaching which many states are adopting for their public schools.  The lesson plan the article was describing sounded very much like the filling of a bucket to me.  A good deal of what I learned as a public schooled youngster was learned from books I read outside of class and experiences provided by my parents.  Be mindful of the spark within your children, and do your best to feed the flame.  Remember that if they love to learn, that will continue to do so throughout their lives, long after they have left your home.

4.  Small things done consistently reap a great reward.

We’re talking early years here–days filled with the demands of young children and younger siblings.  Sometimes fitting in homeschooling seems overwhelming.  The idea of learning all those math facts is just too much.  And taken as a whole, it is too much.  You may not have time to do all the addition facts every day, but you do have time to work on just a few.  You can find time to post a memory verse by the table and read it together at every meal.  We did this for years, and learned a verse from each book of the Bible.  The key here is “consistency”–if you do these small things just every now and then, they will not come together and get the job done.

If you’ve made it all this way, thank you!  I appreciate your interest in our journey, and encourage to continue faithfully on if you are homeschooling.

Things I learned from Homeschooling – #2

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(As you can see, this post is the second in a series.  Here is a link for part one, and a link for part three.)

I began this series going backwards in time–part one deals with being done with homeschooling, and reflections on the later years of our educational journey.  Today I am thinking about the middle years, when the kids could read well, were learning how to think well, and a whole world of knowledge was opening up to them.  Some homeschool moms are asked during this time, “Just how long are you going to do this homeschool thing?” as if it were only appropriate for preschool and early elementary ages.  We were blessed not only with a lack of criticism, but with good friends who homeschooled as well.  Not that my children didn’t have any other socialization–my husband was a youth minister, and we took our children with us everywhere we went.  My senior-in-college daughter wrote a paper the other day about her socialization experiences, and asked me why not much of the teen culture had rubbed off on her.  I told her I thought it was for two reasons:  because she was younger and not their peer, the teenagers talked to her as a child, and also because she frequently had her nose buried in a book, oblivious to the verbal chaos around her.  No doubt the lack of a TV in our home also had something to do with it. It was a concern for us as parents, though, and we tried to encourage our children to be who God wanted them to be, and ignore what the world had in mind for them.  We did not hide the ugliness of sin from them, but used it as a teaching tool.

So, on with our list of things learned during the middle years:

1.  You should make Bible study a priority.

I’m not saying that you just now begin studying the Bible…this is something you have done from the beginning.  But with basic Bible knowledge in their minds, you can expand on that and get to some of the meatier topics that require deep thought.  We did a study of Proverbs during these years, and were amazed at the understanding and conclusions of our kids.  This will help prepare them for thinking through decisions later down the road.

2.  You should consider their opinion.

When I first thought of this point, I was thinking of their opinion on curriculum–letting them help you choose teaching materials that they think would be most useful to them.  Now that you have given them the basic skills for learning, your role is changing from “teacher that knows it all” to a facilitator who puts them in touch with what they need for self-learning.  Granted, this is a gradual process, and is modulated by their growth in maturity.  You know your child best, and know if they need to work on self-motivation, which must be in place before self-learning.

This is also a good time to consider their opinions about other things, such as their clothes, their books, and their activities.  I am not at all saying that you are giving up your parental authority here–you still have the final say.  But this is a time for them to “learn to discern” while you are still there to help them.  Use that Bible knowledge and show them how it applies in their everyday life, in what they wear and read and do.  A child who has never learned to make good Bible-based decisions is not prepared for adulthood.

3.  You need to be teaching them life skills.

Now some of you who read this have been doing this since they were toddlers–good for you!  I did not do this on a consistent basis, probably because I am not a very consistent housekeeper.  My children learned their work ethic from their father, thankfully.  Either way, in these middle years of homeschooling, you will find your children capable of more and bigger responsibilities.  Putting them in charge of certain tasks will teach them that the world is not all about them and their needs.  Cooking is one area where I wish I had taught my children more before they left home.  There are 1001 little habits and tidbits of knowledge about working in a kitchen that are best learned by example.  (As you can see by the photo, I did teach them how to bake cookies–a very important skill!)

4.  Please treasure these things in your heart.

The longer you homeschool, the more likely you will be to receive compliments on your children that are directly related to their character or knowledge–the very things you have been working on so diligently.  Be humble, say thank you, give glory to God…and then treasure these things in your heart, as Mary did. “But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.”  Luke 2:19 ESV

If you are a visual person and not that great at remembering words, jot them down in a notebook.   Because hard days will come, days where you question whether you are doing things right, or wonder if problems will be overcome…and then you can pull out your treasures and read them again.  Ponder them and feel their blessing again.

Homeschooling in the middle years is great!  Help your children climb into the big wide world of knowledge, carrying God’s Word with them as their guide.

Things I learned from Homeschooling – #1

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I don’t think homeschooling parents spend much time thinking about the day when they will be finished homeschooling their children.  I know I didn’t…we were too busy trying to nail down those “plutification” tables and learn how to write something worth reading.  (Note:  if you’ve never heard of “plutification”, you need to read Pippi Longstocking.  Definitely a hole in your education.)

But one day it comes…and you are finished.  They have moved on to higher education, or other grown-up pursuits, and there is nothing left to teach but the occasional emergency call for life skills.  “Mom, how do I…?”

In thinking about this series of posts, I assumed I would want to start at the beginning, with things I learned when the children were small.  But what is fresh on my mind is the end, which came all too soon.  So here are some thoughts concerning the end of homeschooling:

1.  You will not feel like you covered everything.

It is, of course, impossible to teach your child everything they will ever need to know.  It is also important that they learn things from other sources besides you.  However, there will be things that you consider important, books you really like, topics you wanted to discuss…that remain undone.

2. You will have seen fruit from your labors that you never expected.

Most people who homeschool have a general idea of what sort of person they hope their children will turn out to be, and expect their efforts will help shape them in that direction.  And yet, when you first see your child forming new ideas with the basic information you have given them, it is an amazing thing.  When you see their character shine in difficult situations, it will be more beautiful fruit than you had imagined.

3. You will start hoping they will want to homeschool their children someday.

This statement does not stem from a desire to get your money’s worth out of all that curriculum you bought, even if it would still be useful to the second generation.  (I know you’ve probably still got some hiding in your attic.)  Now that you are done, and the kids really did turn out all right, you occasionally think, “Surely they will want to homeschool their kids!” But before you can have grandkids, you will have a son or daughter-in-law, and this decision will be for the two of them to make.

4. Give yourself and your young adult children some grace.

This time of growing into adulthood and leaving home, at first temporarily but eventually forever, is a difficult one.  It is something you’ve never done before, but cannot do over.  So give yourself and your children some grace, for the times when you forget they are so grown-up and you are overbearing…for the times when they forget what you have taught them and make mistakes.  The road farther down will be smoother as you adjust to this new way of relating with your children, as capable adults.

So you’ve finished homeschooling?  Pat yourself on the back!  You’ve given your children a great gift, one they will appreciate more and more as time goes by.

Link to part two here…

Link to part three here…

We made it through the first week…

Brief update:  a safe trip to Tennessee was had by both vehicles and the occupants.  However, it rained, so we didn’t get to camp out.  The positive side was that we arrived ahead of schedule, and were able to explore awhile Saturday morning in a TN state forest, since we couldn’t arrive until 1 pm.  This put a smile on Benjamin’s face, and eased his nervous feelings a bit.

Walking away from our boy wasn’t easy.  We knew he would be well cared for, and did not lack for anything, and we had good feelings about the people there.  Sure enough, he had a fun week of orientation activities, and is so excited about his classes.  I could hear in his voice that he is having fun, and is glad to be there.

Back on the homeplace…actually, I had a hard time singing at worship Sunday morning, without my “boy bass” next to me.  We’ve had various teary moments, and a day or two of moping, but in general I think we’re making it okay.  It helps to know that he is doing so well–I really want him to be there, and would not be so selfish as to wish him home.

P.S.  New quilt photo to come!

One day to go…

We are pretty much packed up and ready to take Benjamin off to college.  He contacted his roommate, and together they have a refrigerator and microwave.  I did point out to him that I had neither of these things when I was in college, along with no bottled water (except Perrier), no cell phones, computers, etc, and no Wal-mart!  How did we ever survive?

Sunday morning Benjamin led singing, and chose as his last song, “If We Never Meet Again (this side of heaven)”.  He made some appropriate remarks about leaving, and there were quite a few people dabbing their eyes in the audience.  Many of them remember when he arrived, only 10 months old.

It’s been a privilege in my life to get to spend time with this fine young man, and watch his spirituality grow and mature.  And what a joy it is, to truly know, as the song finishes, “I will meet you on that beautiful shore.”