Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Homeschooling With Grace

Hi, friends! I know it has been a while since I have posted on homeschooling. We had quite an eventful summer, with a move to a new home, etc...but so far, our schooling this year has gone wonderfully. Wonderfully, yet not without it's bumps and bruises, schedule changes here and there, and a couple curriculum changes at semester. Yet, through these times, I have learned the value of one particular word - grace.

I believe that as homeschooling parents, we tend to put more pressure on ourselves than most parents about our child's education, and that pressure overflows to our children. Primarily, because we care. That is the reason we chose to home school in the first place. But also because we feel that we have to prove to the world that our choice was right. We have to show that our child's abilities are above average, their social skills are unmatched and they show the utmost responsibility in their work and home tasks. Only then do we feel that we are justified in our choice to home school.

This is wrong! This tears apart the very fabric of your homeschooling environment. We, nor our children, can live up to the expectation of perfection. No public or private school family does either! We need to build a homeschooling environment around grace. Grace for our children and grace for ourselves.

First, we need to depend on the grace that Christ has given to us. 2 Corinthians 12:9 says, "But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me." Amen!

Secondly, share that grace with our children. They will never be perfect. Our job as parents is not to form perfect children, but to equip our children with the tools necessary to live in this world! When they are having a bad day, stop what you are doing, give them a hug (maybe a piece of chocolate) and sit down and discuss a strategy together to overcome whatever obstacle you are facing. Forget about the clock, or the checklist, or the grade and focus on what is most important and that is your child and whether they are learning and growing. We should focus more on teaching them to seek knowledge and love learning, so that they will continue to do so long after they are out from under our watchful eye, instead of focusing so much on lesson plans and memorization tools.

Lastly, apply that salve of grace to yourself. I don't know about all of you, but I feel that I should be doing everything any other parent does in a day, plus home school all day long, plus work alongside my husband in youth ministry. Some days I feel like melting into the sofa by 4:00 in the afternoon. Some days I don't want to get out of bed. Those days, I need to let myself be less-than-perfect. I need to relax and focus on the important things in my life. Sometimes I just need to get away and blast some of my favorite music and paint something. Or read a book (not school or church related). I need to enjoy who I was made to be and stop trying to be who everyone else is.

This could very easily be taken as a post to encourage you to lazily live through life without direction, purpose, or drive. I do not believe that this is what we are called to do. I believe we each should live to the best of our abilities to impact the lives of our children and the world around us. I think the importance of our child's education should be second only to their biblical foundations in our homeschooling quests. Just don't forget to have grace.

Today, we were burned out. We were unhappy. We had no drive.  We cried.
I applied grace. We ate chocolate. We took a walk. We snuggled.
The dishes sat. The math sat.
Tomorrow, we begin again with a refreshed spirit.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Going Out With A Bang

I have recently been using ideas from a book called Turbocharged! 100 Simple Secrets to Successful Preschool Ministry in order to find fresh ideas to use in our "Littlest People" group of kids at church.

You may be thinking, "So? My kids aren't in preschool." Neither are mine. But I have found little golden nuggets hidden among those pages that are universal to all children, not just preschoolers.
Last week I wrote about trying to beat that Summer Itch, and I realized that some of these ideas can be useful for adding a little change to your possibly boring or dry end-of-year lesson planning. They are great ways to tune in to your child's learning style as well.

Word Play - story telling, word games, creative writing

Logical exploration - discover how something works (take it apart!), collect things, puzzles

Get Physical - dance, act it out, active games

Make some music - use music with lyrics to support your idea, play classical in the background as you work, sing a rhyme or song to help you learn a set of information (states, presidents, grammar rules)

Make it beautiful - paint a picture, color, do a maze

Tune in to Nature - find a "live one," cut pics out of magazines, use hands on, touchable displays

Voice it - allow them to re-teach the idea to you or a sibling or other family member, let them write and recite a poem about it.

Leave them alone - give them some reflective questions and a quiet corner

Get techy - Find games they can play on the computer or electronic devise where they can "play" and learn at the same time!

There isn't much time left of this school year. Go out with a bang so they are begging to start again in fall. Remember, it's not about making them learn a set of information, it is about teaching them to learn and to love it!

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Summer Itch

It's that time of year. The sun starts shining in through the windows in the morning. The birds start singing and the flowers spring up. The weather gets warm enough to not have a coat when you go out. Chicks are hatching and lambs are running around the fields. Soon to follow the allergies kick in and right behind it you get - the summer itch.

We've all had it. We long to be outside playing in the sunshine instead of inside doing multiplication. The kids begin to take 2 hours on a page that should have only taken them 20 minutes. Instead of jumping, giggling, racing to get out their next subject, they are groaning, slumping and dragging to get out their book. You feel like pulling out your hair and can't figure out why they can't remember an answer that they have gotten right all year long. And if you aren't sure if you've got it yet, then here is a sure sign - you begin to use bribes.

The exciting this is that when the summer itch sets in, it means that summer is getting close! The best thing for me is to take Easter Break (which we just had) and refocus. If you are struggling with the Summer Itch, here are a few things that I suggest:

1) Get a new view. Change your location. Do you usually do school in the "school room?" Move to the kitchen table. Already at the kitchen table? Consider tv trays in the living room. Sometimes just a change of scenery can give a fresh outlook to an old routine.

2) Change up the schedule. If you are like me then this is like pulling teeth. But sometimes just switching up the order you do things can give a new momentum to your day. Usually start with Math? Go with Art today! Begin the day with reading? Try History for a change.

3) Take it outside. As the weather warms up, there is nothing better than to cure the Summer Itch with a small dose of sunshine. Take out a blanket and do your lesson "picnic-style."

4) Give Vision. Let your kids know how close they are! We only have 5 weeks of school. I printed out the assignment for these last weeks in check-list style so that after completing each day they can see how close they are coming to summer vacation!

5) Add a touch of something new. Read a book aloud. Have you read this year's award winners? Give that a try. Take a nature walk. One of my favorite sites for outdoor activities can be found on their fb page: https://www.facebook.com/naturedetectives. Do an end of the year project to reinforce what you have learned in science or history.

We are so close to the end of another year! Be proud and excited!
1 Corinthians 9:24
"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize."

Finish strong, my friend!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Celebrate the Small Stuff

I am so excited to begin this second half of the school year. Yes, I was a little burnt out come Christmas, but now I am ready to go.  I want to keep to my pledge to make this the best school year ever!

Here are a few little things that I am doing to keep going:

1) Take breaks...lots of them. BREATHE.

2) Pray....lots.

3) Smile...lots.

4) Go outside. I know for me this is the hardest time of year to get outdoors because I hate being cold. But do it anyway. It gives your body fresh air, your mind something new to observe, and those kids open range to play and feel the energy flow through them that only nature provides.

5) Celebrate the small stuff. Find those awkward holidays and do something special for them. For example -- last week was the Grimm Brothers Birthday. We read Grimm stories during reading, even one in Spanish for Spanish class, and had a late night watching Grimm-based Disney movies. It was so much fun! Who says learning can't be fun??

Today is National Bird Day. So we made feeders out of oranges. There is always ways to brighten your day and give you the needed motivation. Sometimes you just have to look and be creative!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Sleep - Is It Really Necessary?

4:10 am - Son climbs into bed, steals covers and curls knees up into my back, which was already keeping me up hurting.

4:35 am - Random rooster dropped off at our house for butchering begins crowing (loudly), seemingly on our porch.

4:40 am - Husband gets up because rooster is waking him and goes outside (not sure why), then returns complaining of the child in the middle of our bed.

4:55 am - stare at the clock because it is useless to try at this point.

4:59:50 am - stop the alarm before it re-wakes husband and son. Get up and try to have my Bible study and computer time before the kids wake up. Shower, laundry, morning chores and breakfast before school begins...

Does this sound like anyone else's life? This is mine about every single day. If it is not one thing it is another. I never sleep anymore. Is this a typical homeschool mom's life?

It would be ok if I really were Supermom like I pretend to be. But the truth is, I spent yesterday's recess lying flat on the living room floor.

I would encourage you, mama, and myself, to remember the things that we are trying to impart to our children. Wisdom. Patience. Healthy living. Are we being models of this if we are worn out, cranky, lacking energy, and sending them outside at the first sign of a sunny day? I would say "no." And I would also say that I have not always been this way. As the semester wears down into the holiday season, I believe we are all wearing down. So here are some goals to try:

1) Go to bed. I'm not joking. Make sure to go to bed at a decent time, in spite of the fact that this is your only time alone!

2) Eat healthy during the day.

3) Get outside during the day.

4) Choose family holiday activities that involve restfulness - favorite holiday movies, books, coloring Christmas color books

5) Don't push yourself. If I have learned anything over the years it is that I am the only one who cares when things don't get done. Take a break if you need it.

6) Spend time in prayer and study with the one who can truly fill you up with everything you need for this task he has given you.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Filling the Holiday Gaps

I don't know about you, but the curriculum I use (and I wouldn't change it!) is a little lacking in the holiday celebration area.  Looking back on when I was in school as a kid, holidays were the best because there were so many special crafts, activities and stories read during this time of year. Now getting us drowned in Christmas books and stories is no problemo for this literature-addicted mama, but the crafty side of things? Oh, dear.

Now I am sure that some of you are thinking, "Oh, that is my favorite time of year! I have so many ideas I can't do them all." Well, I am jealous of you and happy that you have such ease in this area. I do not.

But I have found a friend. I used to spend a good chunk of my time googling the different holidays and searching out "do-able" activities and crafts for my kiddos. I am determined that they aren't going to miss out because of my lack of creativity! Now, I have Pinterest. It is a creativity-lacking, homeschooling mama's best friend! I have been able to "pin" and reproduce so many ideas this year, that I must say I am proud. I believe my kids are enjoying it as well!

Once I have an idea, I can take it and run with it, putting my own twist and flavor to it. I think it should be called Pinspiration instead of Pinterest! So today I will share with you our latest project, inspired by Pinterest, and encourage you to take a look at Pinterest if you never have (if you were like me and avoided it as long as possible because you just knew you'd get addicted!).

Merry Christmas!

Hand Print Keepsakes


2 cups flour
1/2 cup salt
1/2 cup water (or more to reach doughy consistency)

Roll out dough to about 1/2 inch thick and press child's hand firmly enough to make an impression. Then cut dough around the hand. Use remaining dough to make other shapes and ornaments by hand or with cookie cutters. Arrange on baking sheet. Bake at 220* for approximately an hour or until the ornaments are white and solid to the touch. Allow to cool and paint them as desired! (I used basic acrylic paint)

Make one each year to remember how tiny your little one once was!

"But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart." Luke 2:19

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Busy Bliss

I want to apologize to my readers from this summer. I have not posted a single thing since school began. If you have been reading along, you will know that I promised to make this the best school year ever (Confessions of a Bad Homeschool Mom) and I have given it my all! However, being so preoccupied with our school year, I set aside blogging for a while, then I just wasn't doing it because I was out of the habbit. Then, soccer season hit (I imagine a few moms nodding here). Which brings me to now.

How is it going? Well, I must say that so far (3 weeks from half-way) we are succeeding in having the best homeschool year yet!

Do I like the curriculum we chose? I sure do! And my kids are flourishing! Princess is reading like a pro, adding three digit numbers and carrying, and learning to write the best complete sentences around! Brother Bear is reading! He can read short sound, short sentence books all by himself and is quickly learning the long-vowel words! He is beginning to add (+1) as well!

As we roll into the holidays there are so many fun things to do! I will attempt to do better at sharing, now that we are on a roll! Thanks for reading! I hope your year is the best yet as well!