It’s summertime and the planning’s good

Okay am I the only one who is geeked about planning for next year? Oh my but I love everything about it! Every year is a fresh start, full of possibility. New school supplies and clothes (we get these things), fresh teacher planners and juicy new dry wipe markers are all signaling school’s about to start!

I know you may wonder why I am chatting about this now. It’s early July, you think. I have plenty of time, you think. I’ll do that later, you think. I wouldn’t if I were you…

Planning for the year is important. You know the saying, “If you fail to plan you plan to fail.” It happens every time I think I can “wing it.” I like to think I’m a free spirit but I really need more structure than I want to admit sometimes. For me, writing it all down helps keep me on track and [mostly] productive.

Here is my planner for this school year. I have linked below to all the wonderful blogs whose free printables I used in this planner. Isn’t the cover beautiful? I cobbled the contents together from several sites to fit my needs. I laminated the covers and comb bound it (I happen to have tools to do both). Super cheap and just what I needed!

Here is a tour of my planner on YouTube. To me its easier than a bunch of pictures.


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Here are the links to the printables I used.

 

 

 

7 wonders of the [homeschool] world

1. Reading. Teaching your own child to read is the first step on the road to lifelong learning. I call it the Golden Ticket. In my opinions it is the greatest gift you can give your children outside of salvation. And you can do it all by yourself (with some good phonics books).

2. Graduation. You homeschooled your own child. They made it. You made it. And you didn’t need a school system to pull it off. That’s pretty wonderful.

3. Affordability. It’s not expensive to educate your child yourself, unless you choose to spend the dough. It doesn’t take $4000 per child per year to educate your child. Score.

4. Individuality. There’s seemingly no end to this one. Individuality of lessons, religion, methods, children, diets, schedule etc. are but a few ways that you can customize each child’s learning experience. This is wonderful, not spoiling. Everyone should have the opportunity to learn in such an environment.

5. Rabbit trails. When something interests your family you can swerve your lessons right into it. You can’t do that in a classroom setting

6. Camaraderie. You are able to form close relationships with own family, a “values in action” exercise because your children see how you live day-to-day.  And home educators are a tight knit and friendly community. No one is more willing to share wisdom, information and materials than homeschoolers are.

7. Seamlessness. School and life are not separated, they are celebrated. All of life becomes learning and all the world becomes a classroom.

What’s on your “seven wonders” list?

Thermometers and thermostats

Thermometers and thermostats seem similar on the surface. Both deal with environmental temperature. Both use numbers. But inside they are very different.

Thermometers simply tell you the temperature of the area. They offer a reading of the local temperature. This is handy but not life changing. It cannot to anything to change the environment, it only reflects it.

A thermostat, on the other hand, does not tell you what the temperature is. It tells you what someone wants the temperature to be. Thermometers are read, thermostats are set. Thermometers tell you the current state of things. thermostats tell you what things could be.

I want to be a thermostat. I want my character to set the tone from the inside out. I do not simply want to reflect the mood of the room—or the society. I don’t want to be relative, reflective.

The Christian Educator from the position of God’s Word must subdue the environment rather than submit to it. In teaching students his use of the environment should emphasize the internal demands of conscience as causative of behavior and action and the external environment as effect.

Slater, R. J., & Hall, V. M. (1975). Teaching and learning America’s Christian history (American Revolution Bicentennial ed.) (95). San Francisco: Foundation for American Christian Education.

God please help me to live life from the inside out. Help me not to simply reflect culture but to shape it. Help me to listen to your voice and to do the hard things.

Commonplace Blogging

<div xmlns:cc="http://creativecommons.org/ns#" about="http://www.flickr.com/photos/crespoluigi/3334034556/in/photostream/"><a rel="cc:attributionURL" href=Before the internet craze of blogging we wrote our thoughts down in something called a journal. Or a diary maybe. But it was for your eyes only, no worries of nasty comments from people you’ve never met–or kudos either. There is a comfort in putting pen to paper, capturing thoughts in space and time with the confinement of the written word is challenging and exhilarating.

This article (and my other passion) got me thinking about what I do here online. While it’s good and helpful and sometimes I dare say necessary, it is something my family, even though they participate by default, know very little of this part of my life. I don’t sit and read them my posts or share articles from other moms that bless me. They don’t know most of what I share here, not because I have a secret but I suppose it just never seemed necessary–at least not at this time.

But what about later, when they are older, when they have children of their own and are filled with questions, or when they are searching for more homeschool memories, the little memories that are crowded out by more urgent matters. I could just point them to this URL and let them search, like any stranger could, probing for information and answers. I don’t want a cold computer screen sharing my thoughts on this season of life with them. I think I can do better than that.

I have decided to keep a written record of the posts I feel are the most poignant to my family. I want a sort of scrapbook, more of a commonplace book about our homeschool years, filled with blog posts, pictures and all the other memories that make everyday life interesting. It will be in my own handwriting (ugh) and filled with my thoughts and dreams and hopes and yes, even fears, with those who mean the most to me.

<div xmlns:cc="http://creativecommons.org/ns#" about="http://www.flickr.com/photos/nate/412783683/"><a rel="cc:attributionURL" href=This is a gift, something I can leave as a legacy, my blog posts and more, written by my own hand. Who doesn’t love finding treasures like that up in Gramma’s attic? We all love poring over old letters and pictures. Who wouldn’t love to hear great gramma’s thoughts on a particular time of life? Family is a big deal and I don’t want to deprive mine of the part of my life I share with all of you.

Commonplace books on our family. Now there’s a treasure worth leaving future generations.

Open house–us in a nutshell

I haven’t updated on our family in a while, and since we are starting a new school year soon (and since it’s open house time at The Homeschool Lounge) I thought I’d bring you up to speed on my brood.

I should start by saying in this open house post that we homeschool because we feel we are called to do it. That is not the case for everyone, but it is for us. And we plan to continue through high school. We do not have a room dedicated to school, so learning happens all over the house (and outside). All of life is school, so we are always learning something. We use the Biblical Principle Approach method and if you are so inclined you can see a link to my philosophy of education in the sidebar.

We school year-round pretty much. We use notebooks. We watch TV. We eat too much fast food and not enough veggies. Sometimes we sleep too late and sometimes we argue. We are not dresses-only. We have no problem with home educators who do things differently than we do.

We also love God with all our hearts. we love to read His word and do good deeds (in secret). We leave each other love notes in our mailboxes and love a good movie together. Music is important to us and you can almost always hear some around here. Prayer is a vital part of our everyday lives as well.

Now on to the kiddos:

Princess G is going into 6th grade. She has grown a lot internally and has been able to take on more responsibility. We are proud of her. Her interest is science, particularly the human body. She loves to work on the computer and visit with friends. She plays the piano too.

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Princess S is going into 3rd grade. She LOVES the performing arts. She’s a soft-spoken young lady who makes sure we are always entertained with her stories and songs. She plays piano and has won several awards.

Prince J is 5 and all boy. He loves cars and running super fast in his white lace ups. He recently learned to read, so he got his Golden Ticket on the literacy train. He will start kindergarten lessons. He’s going into his second year of piano lessons.

Prince M, at almost 17 months, is last but certainly not least. He’s learning new words to say every day and he’s a lover, not a fighter. Since he could hold one he’s loved books–hardback books–preferring them over most other toys. God only knows what’s in store for this terrific little guy.

Since I’ll be adding one more to our school day (more formally) I’m looking forward to the challenges and rewards another child brings to the mix. They hall have such unique perspectives and talents that getting them all together is never ever boring. We are also incorporating some ideas from Sue Patrick’s Workbox system. I think it’s going to bring a new vitality to our days that we’ve been lacking. I can go on about all the resources we will be using this year, but perhaps in another post, as this is a pretty big nutshell already.

If I should be so fortunate as to win something from the open house, my first choice would be a one year family subscription to Big Universe and my second choice would be cool shirts from the Homeschool boutique. The rest are great too and I’d love to win anything!

Average kids are gonna rule the world

photo courtesy m@rg

photo courtesy m@rg

I’m convinced of it. The over-achievers are distracted with perfection and, well, over achieving. Their parents make sure they always get a trophy and always get an A and that they always feel good.

The slackers aren’t a threat because they are mostly lazy–mentally, if not physically. Their parents might not make them do chores if they don’t feel like it. They may just lack ambition and their parents don’t require more. But they are not doing much. And they aren’t going to do much. At least not unless their feelings say so.

It’s the average kids who are gonna get ‘er done. They’re the ones with a healthy self-image and a solid work ethic. Their parents aren’t so concerned with their kids’ feelings. They’re more concerned with their character–which they know is lacking at times. These kids know they aren’t always the best but they’re okay with that. The average kids know their limitations. They know they have to work hard to do things because not everything comes easily to them. But they appreciate the reward of hard work and know that if they try they can probably do it. And if they work really hard maybe they can do it really well.

There are average kids in the news every day, doing little works with love. Helping a neighbor. Writing a pen pal. Maybe even winning an award. But they are still just going to scouts, practicing their music, playing outside, doing their chores. They may not excel at much of anything but they are really good at being average, being themselves.

They know mistakes are for learning, not covering up or running from. Failure can be an excellent teacher and they learn well. Their parents probably didn’t spend a lot of time telling them how they are the most special kid ever and how they are practically perfect in every way. But their parents didn’t insult them or require nothing of them either. Their parents are probably telling them that sometimes life is messy, but they’re good kids and that if they work hard they will have a good life. So they do, and they do. And I pray that more average kids get the idea that average isn’t so average anymore. And that they will band together and take over the world–in an average way.

They know that average is a really good place to be.

Embracing my inner school teacher

Principle: God’s Principle of Individuality 

Teacher Giving Students a Lesson in Spelling Photographic Print by Ewing GallowayI have to admit we have not been on good terms. I have poo-pooed her ideas and rolled my eyes at her suggestions. Her penchant for school supplies and compulsion to write on the chalkboard drove me to distraction. I wanted to change her altogether, reshaping her into more of a ”fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants” individual, tossing every hint of traditional education out the window. She was having none of it.

Through much prayer and seeking I have come to realize something. It’s really okay the way God made me. That may be a “duh” to you but I’m a little slow on the uptake. God’s Principle of Individuality highlights the beauty of true diversity, and that includes the way I educate my children. God knew what temperaments my children would have, how they would learn best, and how that would work together with my teaching style to develop strong American Christians. And just because I may do a lot of things like a traditional teacher does not mean we operate just like a school. We enjoy our home education and celebrate our unique way of learning.

I need not put myself on the scale to see how I measure up to other home educators. There is a specific bent that God gave me, which happens to look very much like a school teacher. I enjoy detailed planning. Our pencil sharpener is one of those ones like I remember from school that is screwed into the wall and I love using it. School supplies make me giddy and I enjoy standing at the dry wipe board and pointing to the map from time to time.

There is nothing more liberating than realizing you are okay just as you are, “schooly” or not. To me, that’s the beauty of home education. I am done comparing my kids and my lessons and my teaching style. 

I am off to get my inner school teacher a hot cocoa and a comfy chair–so she can get busy with those lesson plans.

The rewards of notebooks

Notebooks are not a new idea. Many of the founding fathers kept notebooks of their lessons and discoveries. What is so special about notebooks, as opposed to, say, workbooks? I say a lot.

Production. A notebook is not simply a container of a child’s work. It is a tool for learning and self-government. It requires the child to be a producer of education and not a consumer of information. The child is an active part of the learning process.

Developing character. Notebooks are also a tool for character development and an excellent education. These traits include stewardship, diligence, patience, perseverance, faithfulness and satisfaction.

Self-education. The child must learn how to learn, and a notebook will do that. These notebooks are filled with their own thoughts and reasoning. I encourage my children to take ownership of their ideas. When they are comforatable with that concept it will be easy for them to take on more of their own education

Scholarship. The child must write and produce their own work, as opposed to consuming a workbook. They are required to write down their own thoughts and ideas and to do it well. Neatness counts! Standards are a good thing. Children like to know what is expected of them, and notebook standards give them a goal and parameters, which also foster scholarship.

Reasoning. It requires thinking, and sometimes a lot of it, to produce and to learn. I know my kids sometimes act like their brain froze up when they are required to use their “reasoning muscles.” But I also have noticed that my 4th grader has come a long way and doesn’t shut down like she used to. She wrestles hard sometimes to reason out an answer. That is encouraging and wouldn’t happen if I were not using a notebook.

Reference. Hopefully your notebook will be filled with things, especially as they get into the upper grades, that will help them in other subjects and other areas of interest. I know one young lady who came home for a break from college and went to find her French notebook. She said it was to help her in her college class because some of the material was already there, giving her an edge. Another young lady I know has made notebooking such a lifestyle that even though she is out of high school she still makes notebooks for her interests. When she went on a missions trip she created a notebook her whole team could use as a reference, with maps, history and more on the country they were visiting.

Mastery. We are not slaves to the notebook, but masters. It is our tool to use as best fits us. It will help strengthen our weaknesses and highlight our strengths. And also a notebook helps us to master a particular subject.

Individuality. Of course notebooks are an expression of our unique thoughts and are our own intellectual property. My children love to peruse their notebooks from time to time and appreciate all the hard work they have done. They enjoy reflecting on projects and lessons they enjoyed, and also to remind me of things they weren’t crazy about. Some families keep electronic notebooks, some keep more like a scrapbook. There are lots of ways to express your individuality and education. Notebooks don’t simply have to be filled with written papers. You can include CD’s of audio, DVD’s of movies you make, printouts, foldouts and pockets, photos, art of all kinds, the list is really endless. Celebrate your family’e education, don’t just endure it.

Individuality of subjects

The first Biblical principle we study, and the overarching principle as well, is “God’s Principle of Individuality.” This principle can be seen everywhere, and we focus on seeing it in the subjects.

If God cares about individuality, then if we study the subjects individually we are enjoying the distinctiveness of each subject. There is a rich history, diverse vocabulary and important principles that each subject contains. A goal of learning with the Biblical Principle Approach is not fact mastery but subject mastery (through principles).

We are not discussing facts but principles, so multiple grades are able to learn together. There is no need for complicated lesson plans for each child. A little modification and all your children can learn at the same time.

How can we understand the unique vocabulary and rudiments of a subject if they are all lumped together? Each subject has its own language and foundation. It is important for children to learn these in order to master the subject.

When you understand the rudiments of a subject, along with its vocabulary, you are able to see how the subjects naturally overlap and fit together. There are common principles that bring the subjects in harmony and bring a richer appreciation of all the subjects.

For more reading on the subject, these two PDF handouts are available for download.

Selected Quotes Concerning the Individuality of Subjects

My personal notes concerning unit studies vs. individuality of subjects

I have nothing against unit studies per se, I just prefer a distinct subject methodology with natural subject integration. What I mean is I do not rally around a topic but around the principle of a subject. I may pick a certain topic that several subjects will naturally fit into but I do not try to contrive lessons to fit a topic.

Once or twice a year I will do a study on a subject and the subjects will naturally integrate, such as a study on Bach (which we are starting this week). HisStory, geography, literature, English and music are all naturally covered as we read through the book, adding to our enjoyment and understanding of the life and times (and character) of Bach. The subjects add to our understanding of cause and effect, of the things that made Bach who he was. They are not disjointed facts but parts of the whole under the principle of individuality. We see how, where, with whom and when he lived contributed to his character. Along with this study we continue our math, Bible and science separately.

The subjects are beautiful and unique. I don’t want my children to miss out on the treasures that each subject contains. 

I hope this post will spark some conversation regarding the topic.  I will begin over the next several weeks to go over each of the individual subjects, beginning with history. Our Thursday chat will also correspond to the weekly subject.

No small thing

Adding more to my recent post, I have a few more thoughts to share. God is really into small things. Singular things. Individual things. Really.

He started with one Earth. He placed one man and one woman in one garden. Sin came through one and atonement by One. Salvation is a decision made one at a time. Faith also is singular. He is three in One (unity with diversity). God is excited about the number one. To God, one is a very big number.

Mother Teresa once said, “There are no great things, only small things with great love.” Small is good. Loving your own little family is enough, when done with love and not resentment that you could have done more or been more “if only…”

I don’t think Mrs. Washington knew what her son would become, but I believe she put her all into his training. I am not sure the mothers of George Mueller, Christopher Columbus or Moses really knew they were destined for great things. I believe they were simply raising their children to the best of their ability. Our children may not go on to so such outwardly great things as these men, but they can be as great in character, nonetheless. A man may not be in the position to birth a nation, but he can be of equal character.

Also Ms. Dang defines Christianity as “the power of Christ at work in the life of the individual.” When we understand all we are responsible for is our little works, we are free to do those works. And when they are added together, they result in a great work. America will not be restored with a massive revival, it will be restored by thousands of families training their children in their own homes. And together we will accomplish what we seem to look to great leaders to do. The nation must change one family at a time.

Be not weary in well-doing. Hang in there and do your small works with great love. Loving people is no small thing. For in the end there is great reward, here on earth and in the life to come. And when God is in it, a small thing is really not so smalll after all.