Decisions, decisions…

Two days until we start our new school year! I am peacefully happy about how this is working out for us. In our homeschool we follow the calendar of the private school my daughters attend. They start on Thursday, so guess what. So do we.

My 7yo son has bugged me since Christmas break to homeschool him again. Once we decided to do just that he has never looked back. He hasn’t wavered or questioned his choice once, even when we registered the girls for school and went shopping for school supplies. I am so impressed with his quiet confidence in his choice.

Unlike him, I spend too much time rehashing and questioning and second guessing most every important choice I make. I don’t just let the decision hang out there, small and vulnerable. After I toss it out I quickly reel it back in, clutching it,  frantically searching for any perceived flaw. Upon closer inspection I deem it unworthy and toss it onto the heap with the rest of the changed decisions. Then I make another decision and start the process over again.

Those little decisions never reach maturity. They never see the light of day. I hang onto the familiar, even when it’s not in my (or my family’s) best interest. I pray Jack’s unknowing example will help me be braver as the months go on and that some of my wee decisions will have the chance to turn into great things.

Let your “Yes,” be “Yes,” and your “No,” “No…” James 5:12 NKJV

Homeschooling is a bit like nursing

Since I have started working again I have noticed there are a few correlations between what I do now and home educating.

  1. Individual attention. I have two patients and so I am able to concentrate only on them.
  2. Specialization. It takes a special skill set to work as an ICU RN. It also takes a special skill set to homeschool.
  3. Continuing education. You are always learning as a nurse and as a home educator. If you aren’t learning in either role then something’s wrong.
  4. Critical thinking. You must constantly evaluate test results and assessments, put clues together and think three steps ahead.
  5. Caring for the whole person. As a nurse I don’t just care for a person medically. I also care for their spiritual well-being and their soul as well. As a home educator the same is definitely true.
  6. The little things matter. What I do–or don’t do– can make a BIG difference. And little changes in my patient can mean big things down the road. Noticing subtle changes in your children can also make a big difference down the road.
  7. Caring for the vulnerable. It is my responsibility to care for those who cannot care for themselves. They are counting on me to know what to do and how to do it. I also have to teach them things they need to know until they are well enough to take care of themselves. I feel it is my responsibility to not just make sure they are still alive when I go home, but that they are well cared for, that I do all I can to make their lives better.
  8. You can’t do it alone. No man is an island. We aren’t created to be isolated. Teamwork is important, even within families. Don’t be a martyr or a victim. I need help turning, double checking and sometimes just reinforcing my gut feeling when dealing with patients. Home educators can’t be lone rangers. You cannot be everything your children need all by yourself.
  9. They aren’t with us very long. My patients move out of ICU ASAP. That’s a good thing and as long as they are in my unit I want to make sure they are well cared for. Our children aren’t with us long either. Before you know they seem to move from toddlerhood to high school!
  10. You have to love it. You’ll burn out. You won’t do a good job. Those whose care you are charged with will resent you. You can make silly mistakes because your heart isn’t in it.

They are both critically important roles, and both extremely rewarding as well. When done right, they make a difference in the lives of the individuals in our care.

The weight of the world on tiny shoulders

As I watch my children growing up in this chaotic world, I am a little stunned about something. It seems that the adults have put all the “hope” for the future on the shoulders of people who don’t even shave yet. When I surf the kiddie cable channels I am amazed at the steady stream of so-called news and environmental propaganda aimed at children. The message is “you can save the world.” Um, isn’t that a lot of pressure to put on a child who probably doesn’t have all their permanent teeth yet?

Why not let children be children? With the availability of media today it is easy for a child to learn about with local murder statistics on a TV at a local restaurant, terrorism plots during talk radio news breaks or read about child molestation cases in the newspaper stand. I think where our children are concerned the children’s song is a great rule of thumb: “Oh be careful little eyes what you see…”

I do not encourage my children to “save the planet” or expose them to unfettered input of the latest worldwide catastrophes or other disasters. (Of course age does make a difference.) I do not keep my children from all news but I do filter what they know because it is my responsibility to keep them safe, and to me that includes emotional safety. I cannot in good conscience fill their heads with the myriad of troubles in today’s world. They do not have the perspective or the frame of reference to process the information they receive. They are egocentric by nature, so it is easy to make everything their fault or to distort their relationship to it.

Children shouldn’t have to look out for their parents; parents look out for the children. The Message 2 Cor. 12:14

As I Christian parent it is up to me to keep drawing my children to God, to nurture that special relationship. If I allow them to repeatedly dwell on the problems in the world their eyes are not on the solution, but the problem. They are not looking to God. They are only filled with anxiety and dismal foreboding.

13 The people brought children to Jesus, hoping he might touch them. 14 The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus was irate and let them know it: “Don’t push these children away. Don’t ever get between them and me. These children are at the very center of life in the kingdom. 15 Mark this: Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.” 16 Then, gathering the children up in his arms, he laid his hands of blessing on them.               The Message Mark 10:13-16

We talk about our responsibility to the planet as God’s stewards and to our fellow man. We are filled with compassion kept in perspective by scripture and prayer. We, as parents, must be careful to keep our children from taking on too much pressure and responsibility before they are adults. Childhood is a time for wonder, for exploration and for learning, not for saving the world. There’s plenty of time for that when they are grown.

18 Place these words on your hearts. Get them deep inside you. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder. 19 Teach them to your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning until you fall into bed at night.                               The Message Deut. 11:18, 19

Making the first school day of the year special

image courtesy jonathangarcia

First day of school is an exciting day for any kid who’s heading off to school in a building. New supplies, new clothes–it’s all so fresh and brimming with potential. There’s not reason home educators can’t make the day one to remember. Even if you educate your children year round, chances are there is a date on the calendar that you can point to as the start of the next school year. Here are some things I’ve done to mark the occasion with style.

  • I make a special breakfast. My children love crepes so that’s usually the choice.
  • There’s a new outfit. It’s fun to have something new to wear, even though we don’t invest in a whole wardrobe at one time.
  • When it’s school time there’s fun music playing. I make it a big deal that it’s time for the new school year.
  • I wrap all their new school supplies in wrapping paper so it looks like Christmas. After they open them they put their supplies where  they go. I love to start the year with new crayons, pencils and glue sticks. It makes it seem new and special.
  • We take pictures of them all together and alone.
  • We allow them to bring a friend to school–dolls, etc. Usually we don’t want these distractions, but the first day is special, after all.
  • We don’t do a lot of schooly things on this day. We set up our notebooks, talk a bit about expectations for the new year and talk about how they want to grow in learning.
  • We have started making time capsule books (will offer directions in the next post). In a few years we will also be able to open one each year. Right now we are only making them. They are so excited! You can make a time capsule from an oatmeal box or shoebox.

School days are fun. It’s one of the only “jobs’ you’ll ever have that has a start and a finish each year, that has such satisfation and a way to start fresh on a regular basis. I hope you’ll make the first day special and convey to your children the idea that learning is important and worthy of celebration.

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!

Raising good cooks: part three

There are few things more frustrating to me than trying to cook something without the right tools. Just like in carpentry, you need the right tool of the right job. I don’t mean a lot of fussy gadgets to clutter your kitchen, but the basic tools necessary to create almost anything you want to make in the kitchen.

There is a skill to setting up a good kitchen. With ten basic categories you can have a well-prepared kitchen that will be ready for any dish you want to prepare.

cookware. Quality cookware is a must. And knowing when to use what pan is a skill in itself. A basic set with a saute pan, a skillet, a stock pot and a couple of sauce pans will get you going.

cookbooks. Two basic, complete books are really all you need.

Foil, plastic wrap and parchment paper. Having the right tool makes cooking so much easier.

utensils. Whisks, slotted spoons, colanders, spatulas, a non-porous cutting board and ladles make cooking so much easier.

bakeware. It is hard to bake without a few basic pans and baking dishes. Two round cake pans, a sheet cake pan and an 8X8 square pans are three to start with. An maybe a glass dish for casseroles.

measuring tools. It’s impossible to cook accurately without quality measuring sups and spoons.

storage containers. You need somewhere to keep your leftovers so you aren’t storing food in your serving dishes or cookware.

mixing bowls. It’s hard to mix a cake in a cereal bowl. Three sizes are adequate.

electric tools. A mixer and blender are almost indispensable. Others you may want to invest in include a microwave, a food processor, a crock pot and a toaster oven.

rags, oven mitts and towels. You can’t get hot food out of the oven without one. And you need rags for cleaning too.

Next stop: stocking the pantry.

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.

Reasoning with young children (part 3)

In the final part of this series I wanted to end with some practical application, because that’s what I enjoy.

Imagine the classical music playing in the background as you gather your little chicks for a day of lessons. As you finish your opening prayer your little cherub-faced angel is looking up at you longingly for some words of inspiration. You pontificate as your child sits at your feet, enraptured by your wisdom. Yea, right. Let’s get real…

Reasoning with yound children is a little like swimming for the first time. It’s scary but you can’t wait to do it again. You don’t have all the answers (who does??) and you don’t feel fully prepared (you probably never will, honey). The phone rings, the littlest ones get into stuff they shouldn’t and you sometimes have a bad day. How do you manage to carve out some time to reason with your kids?

  1. Reasoning takes place anywhere, anytime. It can be with a simple discussion about grasshoppers or a memory verse from church. Next time your little one asks you a question, I challenge you to ask them some questions back. See if they can answer their own question, at a basic level.
  2. Also you must pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to make you instant in season and out of season. Kids come up with conversations at the strangest times and you would hate to miss out on a wonderful opportunity.
  3. Build time to reason into your daily plans. Don’t fill up with facts and activities and leave no time to ponder things. Give them time to respond with their own thoughts, even if they must take a day to do it. Let them think and get back to you. But don’t forget to get back to it!
  4. Get rid of notebooks with fill-in-the-blank answers. They will never learn to reason that way. Ask your own open-ended questions. When they are young it is very easy to do.
  5. Take time, as you can, to prepare beforehand. I know this can be a struggle sometimes but when you read the lesson ahead and write some points out to reason together it will boost your confidence and you will be more porductive.
  6. Keep your Bible and 1828 dictionary close. They will be invauable to your family as you reason together.

Reasoning with young children (part 2)

Another benefit of reasoning from God’s Word with young children is that it really takes the pressure off me. I have one job to do, and it is up to God and my child to do the rest.

Mustard_treeMy job is simply that of planting seeds. I am to make sure my children have the rudiments, the seeds of every subject. It is not my job to freak out about how they will ever learn all they need to know to “make it in the real world.” No child, no matter how “well educated,” learns everything before they reach the magic age of 18. That’s what living is for, to continue learning and growing.

This quote may help you, as it has me:

When we teach the principles of God’s Word, the rudiments or “bare grain” of any subject, we do not know how the individual will mature or how the body of wisdom and knowledge implanted will be expressed by future generations. But, we are assured if we teach whole, complete principles, and “sow” them in the good ground of a diligent student, that these seeds—will produce fruit ofeter their own kind, and God will give them a body—and identity and individuality—that pleases Him. Careful sowing, watering and weeding cultivated the Truth sown. (A Guide to American Christian Education p. 127)

I do not know what my children will need when they are grown. I don’t even know what I will need tomorrow. But with prayerful preparation, diligence and faithfulness I know I can prepare my children as God would have me to. And that preparation includes reasoning with them from the time they are very young.

It is important to allow your children to reason. These are their property, their own thoughts that they have discovered. When they discover that ability your school time will never be the same. When my children are able to reason, however simple it is, I make a point to remind then that that thought belongs to them. I didn’t gove it to them, they did it on their own. Intellectual property is a powerful force. Any insight they gain through reasoning for themselves can never be taken from them. This will strengthen their faith and their ability to reason affectively with others as they grow up.

Reasoning with young children (part 1)

There is a philosophy of education that takes the perspective that reasoning is for older children. Younger children are to be filled with facts and enticed to learn with interesting topics and presentation. I don’t happen to agree.

On the surface, this sounds reasonable enough. How on earth can you reason when you have nothing to reason with? You need a certain amount of knowledge to be able to reason, to think things through. So what about reasoning with a second grader? A kindergartener? Is that even possible? I exhuberantly shout YES!!

Mustard SeedsThe beautiful thing about reasoning from God’s Word is that it is God’s Word. It is alive and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword. It is not head knowledge. It speaks to the heart, to the spirit.  A child can hear the voice of God, just as adults can.

In A Guide to American Christian Education, Mr. Rose discusses the seed principle, that is, when you use the Principle Approach you plant the seeds of the whole subject in principles, notdisseminating facts in an evolutionary, fact-based method. You can see in the salvation message that a child and a full-grown adult hear the same Gospel, feel the tugging of the same Holy Spirit and receive the same salvation. It is only the expansion of the idea that is different. It is the same with math, science, HisStory or English. When you are reasoning those subjects from God’s Word then your child, even a young child, can reason at a rudimentary level. The principles are planted and God can grow them into mature plants for His glory.

The most powerful thing I can really say is that I do it every day in my own home. I know that I would have missed out on some wonderful discussions with my children if I had simply been filling their minds with facts and fun. Since we are looking for principles and reasoning together, I cannot imagine doing anything else. And it gets better each year, because they are able to reason deeper and we can take the discussion into uncharted waters. God is good!