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Homeschool -

Archive for the ‘Homeschool’ Category

Homeschooling: Where do you teach?

Duet of Sisters

Duet of Sisters

Where do you teach? Do you have a schoolroom and a blackboard?

While the thought of a room full of old-fashioned school desks, a huge globe, and a big green chalkboard at first appealed to me, the reality is that children learn best in a natural setting, and Mama needs easy kitchen access.  Therefore, school happens wherever it works best.  That generally means that bodies are strewn across sofa cushions and floor pillows during readings, surrounding the kitchen table for experiments, and spread throughout the house for quiet reading time, writing, or other tasks that require focus.  You will often find us exploring and observing outside, dissecting around the kitchen island, researching on the computer, listening to recordings in the van, learning via the (gasp) television, erupting things in the yard…you name it!

Our most memorable lessons are almost always away from home, and almost always under Daddy’s tutelage.  The coffee and sugar plantations in Hawaii led to Hannah’s fabulous report on the state.  Our cross-country travels and national park visits offer unparalleled history and science lessons.  Nature hikes are always a favorite, and far more memorable than reading from a book.  (Mind you, this book addict has nothing against books!)  Everywhere we go we find lessons and teachers. When people find out we are homeschoolers with an interest in learning about their areas of expertise, they are generally more than willing to give us our own personal teaching sessions.  Just last month, while camping in the mountains, we received our own personal lizard lesson (complete with a chuck walla attack on Marissa) from an Americorp volunteer on his day off. Similar experiences have educated us on locks, farm animals, fossils, and more.

Math on a tricycle.

Math on a tricycle.

School is wherever the learning is, and the learning is wherever we are.  We are always learning. Our home is set up as a natural learning environment. Each room has an inviting and comfortable reading corner. Quality books (no Disney, thank you!) line shelves, sit atop night stands and along windowsills, and are mounded on the floor patiently awaiting a stellar deal on some used shelving. Nature guides are in easy reach to help us identify whatever strange creature makes its way into the sight of the curious. Collections of rocks, pine cones, acorns, and other accents of nature are dotted throughout the house, brought in by enthusiastic little hands. Reference books and art supplies are always at the ready. A map for imaginary exploration resides on the breakfast table under a clear table cloth. The kitchen with its limitless possibilities is off limits to nobody, no matter how small the hands. Computer programs are legitimately educational. The piano and guitar are always buzzing, and there is no shortage of quality music for discerning young ears. Books and prints of fine art are readily available for anyone to admire, critique, or discuss. Foreign language materials are available for the curious. Building materials of all sorts occupy the play spaces, waiting for young imaginations to bring them to life. Most importantly, there are enough Bibles for all hands save the smallest who is quite enthusiastic about the sound of ripping paper.

Learning on the go!

Learning on the go!

This is not to say that we do not have regular lessons, assignments, and table work as well as individual and group teaching sessions.  While traditional study methods have their place, true learning and indeed the most effective education is not reserved for the scheduled school hours. Given the right opportunity and guidance, as well as a parent willing to step out of the way at times, a child will learn, and learn well. In fact, wiser homeschoolers than I have noticed this same phenomenon: the children seem to learn better what remains untaught. It is not the teaching that spells success for the homeschooled child; rather it is the learning. Learning, like living, can take place anywhere!

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Small Ears, Big Fears

The small boy

The small boy

I was listening intently to my eight-year-old narrate the history of Corrie Ten Boom. Unbeknownst to me, a pair of three-year-old ears was also quite caught up in the story. The narrator explained in detail what I shall merely summarize: Corrie Ten Boom was arrested for hiding Jews in her house.

The gasp beside me attracted my attention. I turned and looked into a pair of big brown eyes, wide open. At the conclusion of the narration, the small listener dared not move. He merely whispered with barely audible trepidation, “Mommy…don’t we have juice in our house?”

Someday, when he is nearer to a man, I will tell him about the horrors of mankind and the agony one man can inflict on others. For now, however, I will maintain that childish sweetness just a little bit longer and offer up a prayer of gratitude that, for the moment at least, America is a free country, and we need not worry about harboring Jews–or juice–in our homes.

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Homeschooling: Is it legal?

The most often asked question–right after the socialization issue–is whether or not homeschooling is legal.  I am not sure why or when people began to think that their children belong to the state.  When Christ said “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s,” he did not mean your children.  At the time of this writing, America is still a relatively free country, and parents are entitled to homeschool their own children in all fifty states.  That is not to say that some states have not tried to ultra-regulate homeschoolers or tried to make homeschoolong illegal (California’s recent debacle as case in point).   Through the efforts of homeschool warriors throughout the country, homeschooling is still a legal option, and some of the less restrictive states have little to no regulation. 

There are threats to the future of homeschooling and parental rights both within our country and in the world, as the United Nations has shown.  Homeschoolers on average score higher on all forms of testing than do public school children and are now being highly sought after by colleges and employers due to their work ethic, self-direction, and critical thinking abilities. Nevertheless, some in the political arena fight against homeschooling as a threat to the education agenda of the federal government, while the uninformed among us support anti-homeschooling decisions based on misinformation or a single case study. While homeschooling is legal now, its future is uncertain.  We must work to maintain this and other parental freedoms.  The threat to homeschooling is only a precursor, reflecting the threat to the rights of parents in other arenas.

To learn about the homeschool legislation in your own state and to stay abreast of the legal battles of homeschoolers, visit the Home School Legal Defense Association. In the meantime, pray for the longevity of freedom and the parents’ rights to raise their own children.

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Homeschooling: Whom and who?

Of the numerous questions we receive concerning homeschooling, the majority fall into one of two categories: the rationale behind our choice with its inevitable consequences (basically the why) and the logistics (the who, what, where, when and how).  It’s always easier to list facts and schedules than to present a thesis putting the abstract on paper, so I will answer the logistics questions first!  I do, at times, take the path of least resistance.  Welcome to that path!

Whom do we homeschool?

Little Learner

Little Learner

Legally in our state all children between the ages of 7 and 17 are required to be educated in some appropriate manner.  Some states require education from ages 6 to 18.  That means that any of you could keep your children home until they are of age and not have to say anything to anybody…except maybe to your mother-in-law.  With those guidelines, we are officially homeschooling our three oldest children, ages 12, 10, and 8.

Any homeschool parent will tell you that the age guidelines are for the government alone.  Out where the rubber meets the road, or the graphite meets the paper, age is just a number of candles on a cake.   Every moment of every day of each child’s life is a teachable moment, and that begins immediately, not at five, not at seven, not at ten. 

Learning is everywhere!

Learning is everywhere!

While I hesitantly state that I am not a proponent of early education, I must offer an explanation.  I am not a proponent of placing a wiggly three- or four-year-old boy in a chair with a pencil and forcing him to write his name five times.  I am in favor of giving a wiggly three- or four-year-old boy a set of paints, empty peanut cans to paint, a little name-writing assistance, and a purposeful object lesson in sorting Legos into cans.  I am also in favor of writing in the sand with sticks, making letters out of rocks or cookie dough (particularly cookie dough), and hitting the pavement with colored chalk.  A child can and will learn many things in the first ten years of his life.  Few of those lessons require a child to be confined unnaturally to a chair with his small hands wrapped around a pencil…although some (including two of my own) thrive on the chair/desk/pencil routine.  Similarly, I believe that tear-wrenching reading lessons for a young child, whose mind is simply not yet developed enough to grasp the concept, are a waste of time and an extinguishing of the joy of learning.  (This from a mother whose “late” reader was reading at age five.)  When they are ready, they will grasp it without tears.  At around age twelve the late readers and the early readers even out.  That said, I am a huge believer in reading quality, and often complex, literature to very small (and very tall) children.  Early math can be learned just as well (better, in fact) counting stairs or subtracting M&Ms as it can doing worksheets.  A bit of a confession: I am a huge fan of subtraction with M&Ms. 

That said, we homeschool all our children, the oldest three officially, the oldest four with self-constructed (self as in Mama, not self as in child) educational plans, and the youngest two with activities designated to enrich their learning experiences and prepare them for their academic futures.  (That is educator gobbledy-gook for keeping them out of trouble while the rest of us “do history.”)  You teach your children, too, whatever their ages, whether or not you realize it.

Who does the teaching?

A lot of our older children’s work is done independently with parental supervision.  I am the main teacher responsible for curriculum selection, teaching, supervision, follow-up, scheduling, record-keeping, and (the perpetual attempt to achieve some level of) organization.  Daddy is the king of field trips and spontaneous learning.  He also serves as the resident expert on religion, science, and history, due to his insatiable appetite for knowledge and his enviable ability to not only remember what he learns, but to process it critically and thoughtfully within the context of a Christian worldview.  ”Ask Daddy” is this mother’s life-saving expression.

What qualifies us to teach?

Neither of us has a teaching degree.  Legally this is not an issue in our state.  In practice this is also not an issue.  In fact, many excellent classroom teachers find it initially difficult to look beyond their teacher-training to see how real life learning can take place at home in a far more effective manner than through contrived lessons.  They are often tempted to recreate the school within the home, something that removes many of the benefits of homeschooling. Children with a certified parent at home do no better than those with a good ol’ fashioned Mama with a love of learning, a few worn out library cards, and spare change for fines.

Does this sound idealistic?  Perhaps.  But consider that the average parent who enjoys spending time with her child will be reading to, working alongside, and exploring the world with her child.  The child will learn naturally through these activities, and will gain a love of learning and an independent approach toward exploration and discovery.  This will carry that child far.  The conscientious parent will instill in the child a working knowledge of how to learn, how to teach himself, and where to go to find information and training when necessary.

A wealth of curriculum choices, authors willing to field questions, co-ops, homeschool support groups, online classes, video classes, and local classes are all options to assist the homeschool parents provide the type of education their children need.  As an example, while I have always worked with my young children in the kitchen where they learn fractions, the basic math functions, and their applications, I found it difficult to break down the math processes for pencil work.  At the advice of a friend across the country, I began using a program called Math-U-See which uses a DVD and manual to teach the teacher how to teach.  Bingo!  Help where I needed it!

Does a teaching parent need a college degree?

In our state, no degree is necessary to teach your own child how to read.  Although my musicman and I both have college degrees, the main way they have served us is to repeatedly remind us how overwhelmed we are by the debt of our educations, and to reenforce our own decision to find a more resourceful and relevant method of educating our children.  Education is key…the method is the question. I have found that very few of my college classes have added to my personal abilities in the kingdom of God, in the workforce, or in service to my family, and those which did were almost all in my preferred area of study.  It is the desire for learning and self-directed discovery that make a successful homeschool parent, not the ordered passing of exams sufficient to gain a few abbreviated capitals behind your name.  Personally, my calculus studies have in no way made it easier to explain long division to my children.  That said, a solid grasp of the basics of the three Rs (ironic educational misnomers) are essential to life and helpful for teaching, but they can be gained alongside your child if they are currently lacking.  I have learned quite a bit alongside my children.  It is a joy and an education that makes sense.

 

 

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Homeschool Q&A

You do what? You homeschool? All of them? How?!

Astronomy Project

Astronomy Project

How, indeed.

Construction
Construction

While some days it is by the grace of God and the skin of our teeth (leaning a little more heavily on the grace than on our dental structures), for the most part, there is more involved to raising and schooling godly children in a 24/7 family environment than just a wing and a prayer…and a prayer…and a prayer.

Building a space station

Building a space station

Although we school year-round, most children in America are heading back to school within the next couple weeks. In honor of the mass engine revving of school buses throughout America, I am devoting the next several entries to answering the vast array of questions people pose to us about homeschooling. If you have a question, please add it to the comment section and I will address it directly. Please do not be afraid of offending us; trust me when I say that we (and most homeschoolers) have heard it all.

I look forward to sharing a glimpse into our schooling lives with you. It would be even better if you were here to participate in the schooling…while folding a pile of laundry on the couch beside you. Perhaps later….

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Flatter me not!

Always honest!

Always honest!

In an ongoing effort to train our children in godly honesty, I dove this week into the topic of false flattery versus worthy compliments. Using real-life examples, I showed my ladies how meaningful a compliment is when it is spoken in truth, but how empty and dishonest flattery is in contrast.

“He who rebukes a man will in the end gain more favor than he who has a flattering tongue.” ~Proverbs 28:23

At the same time, I tackled the issue of building each other up. I explained how constant negativity and harsh words can harm others, but how words of encouragement and honest praise are a blessing to the recipient.

“A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” ~Proverbs 25:11

I encouraged them to guard their tongues, choose their words carefully, and refrain from false flattery. I called on them to make an extra effort to look for opportunities to build each other up.

Words from Mother often lose their potency en route to young brains, and I wondered what effect if any would come of it. Any conscientious parent thrills to see a bit of maturity and compassion in her children. Would they prove to have listened and taken the lesson to heart?

You decide. Read the rest of this entry »

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Evacuation

Six children sit, mesmerized, transported through time. Even the baby senses the moment.

It’s 1940. London. The bombing has stopped…for the time-being.

At the station

At the station

A knock at the door.

“Five minutes.”

“Five minutes?”

Six pairs of bright round eyes stare up at mother while she describes the future in too-short explanations, answering questions, trying to comfort, keeping her face stolid despite the pain ravaging her mother heart.

“You are taking the train. To the country. To a family there. Not safe here. The bombings. The Luftwaffe. The Nazis. No, it’s not forever. Yes, you can bring your doll. No, no, my loves, Mother cannot come. There is only room for the children.” Read the rest of this entry »

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