Homeschool Conviction

HomeschoolConvictionI recently had one of those moments of epiphany.  It was like a a huge bomb just went in my brain and I finally understood something I have spent years trying wrap my brain around.  The light bulb over my head was shining brighter than the sun.  It finally occurred to me why I find it hard to relate to or even whole-heartedly fit into so many homeschooling circles… including with some in the very group that I founded and have lead as president for over two years. I assumed it was something about me or my personality that made things not quite right.

Then a couple of weeks ago I was reading the latest edition of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine when I ran across an article by Familyman Todd Wilson.  I love reading his articles even if they are geared towards men.  His straight forward, humorous style, is captivating.  He “gets” this whole homeschooling thing.  You might recognize some of his hilarious homeschooling cartoons from around the web.  Like this one.. which fits me to the letter!…

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In his latest article called Dad-Conviction Todd shares an experience his wife had recently.  Because the family travels often for their ministry she had never been too involved in their local homeschool community or co-ops.  She found herself in a time in her life where she wanted to make some connections with local moms who also homeschool.  Off to different homeschool gatherings and events she went, children in tow.  They all came home smiling and reported back to Dad to that they had a great time and that they met some really wonderful people.  In the end, mom confessed  that she didn’t feel quite as over the moon about these new homeschoolers she was meeting as she wanted to be.  Something was just a bit off to her.  She shared with her husband…

“The thing is, they don’t homeschool for the same reasons or convictions that we do.  They seem to homeschool because it’s better than what they experienced in the school system, or out of convenience, or lack of money (for private schools). They homeschool one kid but not the others.  If they think the school is an okay option next year for whatever reason they’ll just switch and do that instead.”

He goes on to say that she perceives most homeschoolers she meets as homeschooling not out of conviction or a calling from God but because it’s the easier thing to do for now.  She worries that when the hard days come (and they will) “the modern day homeschooler will just look for another option to ease the pain.”

Oh my goodness I nearly jumped out of my seat!  I feel exactly like Todd Wilson’s wife!  My family has a deep conviction for homeschooling and it doesn’t seem like many other homeschool families feel the same way.  In a world where I already feel different because of our educational choice I can feel alienated even among those who have made a similar choice.  To talk with other women who don’t carry the same convictions, especially when things get bumpy, can actually be very discouraging.  I recently started such a conversation, or I should say I tried to, and the whole thing spiraled into a discussion about who was planning to send which child into what school next year. And all of the women were congratulating each other for this because they viewed the moms putting their kids in school as doing the hard yet brave thing.  NO! I was screaming inside! Sticking it out and doing what God has called you to do instead of taking the easy way out is the hard and brave thing! I was so disheartened.  It was certainly not the lift-up I personally hoped to find.  I found myself sitting in silence because to say anything to the contrary would have not have been the polite thing to do.

My family’s beliefs about education were born from my own experience as a public school teacher and our own study of scripture.  I saw first hand how absolutely inadequate the modern traditional school system is.  And I write those words with trepidation because I don’t want to seem as if I’m saying anything derogatory about my absolutely phenomenal friends and family still working in the traditional school trenches doing the very best they possibly can.  The fact of the matter is even with the most talented of teachers no school can provide the kind of learning environment that I think every child on this planet deserves.  One that is centered on God’s word, in the context of family, and full of individualization. In fact I do not believe traditional, institutionalized schooling was even God’s plan for children. Over the next month I plan to blog more about what I believe is God’s model for educating children and what I view as the ultimate model of education (an ideal I strive to meet yet will likely always fall short of).

Until then… convicted homeschool moms I’m praying for you that you can find the encouragement you need to run this marathon of educating your own children at home.  And I also pray for the homeschool community as a whole.  I fear if ever we face scrutiny or downright persecution from whatever powers that may be that we all find the strength to stick it out and now be blown away.

My Must Read Books for 2016

download (1)I’m making a list of books I am DETERMINE to read in 2016!  Truthfully I’m going through my Kindle and sharing with you the back log of books I have there.  Though I read quite lot I buy even more!  Yes books to me are like shoes or purses to some women.  Oh I take that back, I’ve always had a thing for a pretty purse.  Here are the books at the top of my reading list for 2016. If you’d like to check them out in the Amazon store just click on the cover photo.  I may update this post sometime in the year as finish these up and add more to my ever growing “To-Be Read” pile.

*This post contains affiliate links

Christian Reads

 Spritual Leadership by Henry & Richard Blackaby.  I’ve only just started this book and I have to say the very first pages have me thinking about leadership and the leaders I know.  In my life I am a mom and that makes me a leader for my children.  I also lead a fairly decent sized co-op and I assist my husband in his ministry.  So this goes definitely goes on my list.

 Alone with God by John MacArthur.  I have a thing for books about prayer. If I can make a confession here I would say that sometimes I wonder if I should spend my time actually praying instead of reading about prayer… however this book promises encouragement for my alone time with God and I know that I can definitely use that.

 This year my husband and I will celebrate 15 years of marriage.  It’s been quite a wonderful ride though we’ve had our fair share of hardship and difficulties.  I’m looking forward to the next 15 years and hopefully doing things even better.

 I started this devotional at the first of the year.  So far I’m truly enjoying it.  This author has a true gift for what she writes.  The reviews on this one are phenomenal.  So I agree with them.

Homeschooling

 I’ve read this one before.  I need to read it again.  Yes it is that good! I’m not sure a book needs any more explanation. The title sort of says it all!

 I’ve been following a Facebook group this author created.  She has some very good advice.  I’d love to get for my children to get some college credits out of the way as highschoolers.  Time to start planning!

 This book will be another reread for me as well.  I try to read this one every year.  It keeps my brain in focus when I think about WHY we homeschool.  It’s something of a homeschooling “bible” for me.

 This is considered to be a classic homeschooling text.  I’ve read other books by John Holt and I admire his courage.  His voice as a former public school teacher (like myself) and his boldness to declare everything he sees wrong in traditional education.  It has been said every homeschooler should read this one and I probably will agree.


 I’d like to see our homeschool become a little less structured.  My children don’t always have the confidence to research their interests on their own.  Maybe we can change that this year.

 

 Check this one out?  I only just noticed this while hunting down the links to the other books I’m sharing with you!  I am struggling with inspiring my children to read really great books.  The seem to love JUNK!  They love it if I read great books aloud to them but they don’t choose them on their own.  I wonder if this will help.  Yep, it’s hitting my must read list!

Homemaker/Mother

 I love absolutely everything I’ve ever read by Sally Clarkson.  This book actually won’t be released until February but I didn’t even hesitate to hit the preorder button. I’m really hoping to bring even more warmth, love, and joy to our home this year.  All of Sally’s books have helped me shape our home.  I’m sure this one will too.

 Another classic I’ve been meaning to read for some time. This could have fallen under homeschool as well.

 Another Sally Clarkson book I know!  But her books so inspire me.  I read her Ministry of Motherhood and it totally changed my view of myself as a Stay at Home Mom.  I wonder what impact this book will have.

  One thing I’d like to change in the new year is how busy and over-committed I tend to be.  I’m really hoping this book can give me some insight into how to say yes only the the very best things in life and then, of course how to say NO at the right times.

I’m going to stop with my list here.  There are so many more I could add.  The world is just full of so many fantastic books that I’ll never get to them all!  This is a great start for 2016!

Care to share any books YOU plan to read? Click below to see what other Review Crew members are planning to read this year!

Our Must Read Books for 2016 {Dad & Mum's Book Stand}

Review: Drawing Around the World: USA from Brookdale House

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My boys have a thing for geography.  I’m not sure what exactly draws them to it but they love learning all about the states, where they are, and interesting facts about them.  They gobble up that information like crazy. Memorizing it all can be a bigger challeng.  When the opportunity to review Drawing Around the World: USA  from Brookdale House came up I thought we could have a lot of fun with it.  I was right! This simple and straightforward geography program presents the states and facts about them all through drawing.  For this review we were provided with a nearly 300 page digital download of the program to print and use.

Brookdale House is a provider of Charlotte Mason homeschool method resources.  They mix fun and learning into every lesson making learning easy.  Repitition is often key. They have programs to help teach children in a variety of subjects including writing, grammar, Bible, history and others.

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The lessons in Drawing Around the World: USA are short and incorporate drawing to help the child learn all about the 50 states plus Washington DC.  This program is designed for grades 4-12.  These lessons take just a few minutes each day and it doesn’t take long before the children can actually draw the states from memory.  This amazed me!  I once watched a show about states and the host challenged adults to draw states as he named them.  Most people couldn’t even begin to do that.  But my kids can now! The method depends on daily repetition and drawing the states many times over.

The children draw, write, and research information about each state.  There are website suggestions to help you find the needed information and facts that really made this whole study more interesting.  The program takes 27 weeks to finish if you are working at it 4 days per week.  The children draw maps by hand as well.  In the beginning they start with a blank U.S. map and fill in just one state. As the weeks go on they draw more states until the entire map is full.  Afer the first day I explained this to my children.  Neither of my boys believed that they would ever be able to do the whole map.  They can’t yet but we are certainly heading in that direction.  When we finish the program they will be able to draw all of the states and include the capitals.

You can see some sample pages here…. Sample Pages

I love how simply everything is put together.  Every week we followed the same lesson plan:

On Day 1:  Children learn about the new state or states recording basic information and drawing the state and capital on the map.  Previously learned states are also drawn out again.  I thought this might get tedious for them but I haven’t heard ny complaint yet.

On Day 2: On day two the child draws the new state and capital again as well as the previous states.  My guys challenged themselves to complete better more accurate drawings each time. 

On Day 3: Same as Day 2.  This is where the repition comes in.

On Day 4: Write down the names of the states and their capitals from this and other weeks and then draw them all on a U.S. map.  This is done from memory.

That is all there is to it.  The learning happens day by day.  Both of my 3rd and 5th graders used this program with ease.  They worked together and had a lot of fun comparing their drawings and giggling at the differences.

We learned a lot of fun information during this study.  Yes I said WE!  I learned too, as I often do.  The information about the various inventions and discoveries made in each of the states is just fantastic.  A lot of states surprised me.  One of the first things we learned is the fact that 99% of all blueberries in this country are produced in Maine.  I’ve never associated Maine and blueberries before but there you have it.  I just enjoy facts like those and so do my children.

Overall

This program is great!  It’s fun, easy, and the children (and mom) learn a ton!  You can’t go wrong!

 Brookdale House Review
 

Crew Disclaimer

What Are We REALLY Striving for Here?: Day 2 Back to Homeschool

Homeschooling!  Why on earth do we do this?  I mean, I pay so much in taxes to pay for the schools (as do my neighbors whether they have children or not) that it seems foolish in some ways to not take advantage of the education being offered just a couple of streets away from my home.  I was public schooled.  My husband spent part of his school years in public school.  We both turned out pretty well if you ask me.  Why take on the burden educating my children myself?  Why give up a sweet income I’d make if I were still teaching myself.  Why all of the sacrifice?

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I’ll be honest.  This summer I had moments where I decided I couldn’t, I just WOULDN’T continue homeschooling.  If I say something like to that any of my friends I think they may faint.  The fact of the matter is any normal mother get’s tired.  I’m a normal mother.  I was feeling worn out, totally exhausted, and completely overwhelmed.  I had been neglecting my own health.  I was tired of living on a limited income.  I was tired of keeping all of the balls in the air that make this homeschooling thing work.  It felt so EASY to think about just sending them to school.  I had my husband so convinced I was done he even began poking around on our town’s board of education website to find out how to enroll them.

That’s when I realized I had to get back to focusing on WHY on earth I do this?

  • I do it because I believe the family should be the center of a child’s world.  Sending them to school makes school the center.  Schools are not healthy for anyone.
  • I do it because I believe God should be at the center of a child’s education.  God is not allowed in schools.  I don’t believe Christian schools can provide the kind of discipleship that I can walking every day with my children and serving on their more on-on-one guide through life.
  • I do it because I believe it is unhealthy for children to be surrounded by other children for hours on end day in and day. Children have not learned to be mature and upright.  Children need positive role models like their parents and carefully chosen adults.
  • I do it because I don’t believe a person can get a truly great education that is as wide as it is deep by sitting inside one building, perhaps even one room, day in and day out.
  • I do it because I value the sibling relationship and I believe schools often sever that bond.
  • I do it because I believe children need to be protected and I don’t believe schools protect children.
  • I do it because  someday soon as I launch them into the world I will know that I did absolutely positively EVERYTHING I could do to raise them to bring glory to God.  In the end I have to trust in Him to make it all work.  Please do not get me wrong.  I raising my children this way does not mean they will always walk closely with God.  Homeschooling isn’t a magic bullet.  I will rest easy knowing I did the best I could.
  • I do it because God has called me to do it.

There will come a day when I am once again worn out.  When school will sound like the easy path.  You’ll hit that day too.  Write day your list of why’s and put it some place where you can get to it easily.  Then on those days read it!  Read it out loud! SHOUT if you need to.  Never let go of the why’s.

 

To the New Homeschoolers Out There (and Veterans Too): Day 1 Back to Homeschool

Please click here to see all of the posts in my 5 day series: Back to Homeschool!

Summer is winding down.  A “new” school year is coming upon us.  In many parts of the country traditional schools have already started and my Facebook newsfeed already shows me that lots of my homeschool friends from around the country have started a new year too.  In our family we generally homeschool year round though we do so more gently in the summer.  We like the routine and the slower pace it affords us during the busier seasons so we keep up with the basics.

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I want so desperately to hang on to summer this year.  My children are growing so fast.  Fall means both of my boys will turn another year old. My oldest will turn 10.  His days of endless pretend play, fort building, and the fun and silliness of childhood are numbered.  The teen age years are barreling down the pike.  I only have 8 more years to be his homeschool mom and then I have to launch him into the world.  The last 10 have flown buy so I know the next 8 will too.  Wasn’t he just a baby in my arms?

To all the new homeschool moms and the veterans too… these are precious days that we’ve been blessed. Despite the chaos and stress that homeschool often brings I want to savor the good moments.  So to you I say…. Start the new year very very slow and let summer live on a while longer. All of the museums, parks, libraries, beaches will be emptying out. Now is the time to go enjoy them. So do it. Take out a stack of library books and read them aloud. Fill up the car, pop in an audio drama and hit the road to some further away field trip. Talk, laugh, draw, paint, and make messes. Add in just one thing, maybe some math, just a few days a week. Slowly slowly slowly build on that. If homeschooling is new to you then understand that it is a new way of living. It will take time to figure it out. New or veteran, give yourself and your kids and ocean full of grace.  Remember, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for both you and your children.

Just the other day I sat with a mom who is just starting down this homeschool journey.  We both realized that the world will look different as a homeschooler and that it’ll take some time to unlearn the old traditional school ways.  Later I got to thinking about some veteran homeschool moms we know (including me sometimes).  We get so caught up in getting it all in and getting it all done.  Life feels rushed where we go go go. No time to really stop, pause and observe. Sometimes we move through life, adventures, and experiences, and even our lesson plans too quickly. Once we’ve done something we have the attitude of “been there seen it.” To me that is just skimming through life and learning.  I want to dive deep! You must make time for that. It will take a long time for a new homeschool mom and her children too see the potential and down shift.  To realize how much an outing, a book, a field trip, or sometimes even a friend has to offer. These things are NOT meant to be skimmed over but to be soaked up.  We veterans likely already know but lots of us need a swift kick to remember and take advantage.  

When my kids grow up they won’t think much about our grammar curriculum we did, or the math pages we do. Important stuff yes! I want them to learn that too. But what will really really make a difference in their lives are the experiences we had together and the relationships we built between ourselves and our loved ones.  If I ask my kiddos to name the top 5 things they loved about homeschool the last year they will list slow days with friends at the park, long days on some of our craziest homeschool adventures, the stories we shared either aloud or on CD as we crisscrossed the state in our van, and the times we visited and revisited and revisited again our favorite museums.  Those experiences provided the most learning, had the greatest impact, and brought us close to one another.  I can’t wait for another year full of them!

 

Review: Exploring Creation Field Trip Journal by Apologia Educational Ministries

Exploring Creation Field Trip Journal Review
If you know anything about my family and our homeschool than you know that we take our field trips seriously!  We LOVE to get out and explore.  I’m a big believer in making school as hands on and adventurous as I possibly can.  Of course I love to record where we’ve been and what we learned.  I didn’t have a perfect system for that so I was excited when I was given the opportunity to review Exploring Creation Field Trip Journal by Apologia Educational Ministries.

What We Received!

This is a very nice quality spiral bound notebook.  It lays flat when opened.  The front and back covers are made from a nice quality laminated stock that will hold up well to lots of handling.  This is a very good thing.  If your field trips are like ours than this thing will get tossed into backpacks, laid on top of coolers, bounced around the van, and thumbed through by lots of little (or not so little) hands.  Even the pages are printed a fine quality thicker stock material.

6224c2ac-a11b-4ef4-8b80-d1e6914d6e59_zpsn5ilbsmsThe notebook is split up into several sections:

  • Preparing for the field trip – this section contains tips for you as the teacher.  What things can you do in the weeks or days leading up to the trip to prepare and therefore get the most from you experience.  How best can you pack for the trip, what can be done on the way to the destination to ensure safety and success.    In this section, for example, they suggest the teacher do a little research about the location/history/topic so that he/she can be at the ready to answer questions and guide the experience.  They have suggestions for students as well.
  • Field trip ideas – here you’ll find two pages of field trip ideas (over 100) segregated by topic.  The suggestions are generic, for example visit a Planetarium under Space/Aviation, in order to make it relevant to just about anyone no matter where you live.
  • CSH_7544Places I’ve Explored – these are pages dedicated to recording the various places your family has explored within your state, country, and the whole world.
  • Field Trip Pages – There are 12 specific trip pages to record details about specific experiences you’ve had on trips that you want to remember.
  • My Special Spot- This is a great place to record seasonal wildlife.  Children can draw or place photographs of what they see.
  • Thoughts and Drawings As I See It – This is sort of a journal/sketchbook section.  Some pages have little prompts like Movement, or Predators & Prey.  Others are totally open ended with no prompt.

Apologia also provides bonus online material that includes virtual feild trip ideas, lists of museums and aquariums, and lots more.  A very very handy resource

How We Used It!

Since we received this journal a couple of months ago we have been on at least four field trips.. no five… wait it might be six! Plus there was supposed to be one other that was postponed.  It is spring time, we’ve been cooked up in the house all winter… it is time to GO GO GO!  We used this journal to record four of those trips.  A couple of them were to places we’ve visited dozens of times (museum passes are a Godsend) so we chose not to record those and instead stick to new or out of the ordinary experiences.CSH_7545

So far we’ve mostly used the pages related to Specific Trips.  Before a trip I did a google search to see if I could come up with a map that I could download.  We taped that into our journal.  Then I attempted to answer the questions as they are laid out.  One asks for an Emergency Contact Plan.  This is always… Call Daddy.  Then I ask the kids what they’d like to see or do at the destination and I record that.  There is a section for recording books we’ve read to prepare for the trip.

After the trip we fill in the last two sections… Story of my day and  Something I never want to forget.  I also print of a photo from the day and include that too.  We’ve also tried to fill in the Places I’ve Explored pages.  Plus, since it is spring we recorded some observations from our yard on the My Special Spot in Spring page.

What Do We Think?

This is a great quality product.  It is well made, bright and colorful, and chock full of great ideas and pages that will help you get the most out of your field trip experiences.  I think it could be even better though.  As a seasoned homeschooler I don’t feel like I need the Preparing for a Field Trip pages.  These would be great as a web link or download but they don’t need to take up two pages of the Journal.  We personally need way more Specific Trip pages.  12 isn’t nearly enough if you are really an on the go family like we can be at certain times of year.  I could potentially fill those pages in 3-4 months even if we only included NEW places or experiences that were some how novel.  I’d love to see that section seriously beefed up with 3-4 times as many pages.  That way if you are an on the go family like my own, one book could cover a year.  Another family that doesn’t venture out quite as much could keep this book going for a couple of years.

Over all though.  This is a great journal and if you’d like a great place to track your field-trip memories you’ll really enjoy this product.

Exploring Creation Field Trip Journal Review
 

Crew Disclaimer

Real Life Homeschooling: The Mess

Homeschooling is MESSY!  My house is a DISASTER most of the time!  Not only do 6 of us live here but 5 of us work here as well.  ALL.DAY.LONG.  Books!  Oh my goodness the books!  We go to the library and take 100 out at a time.  I haven’t found a basket large enough to store them all.  Even if I did these are children you know.  Books are EVERYWHERE!  Books on the floor, on the table, on the couch, on the stairs, on the kitchen table, on the counters.  If it is a flat surface there are books on it.

When this photo was taken not only was my living in homeschool chaos mode but also being prepped to be painted!

When this photo was taken not only was my living in homeschool chaos mode but also being prepped to be painted!

Or papers… or pencils… or crayons… or art supplies… or some projects…. some creation… a really cool thing my son found outside.  No matter how organized, how many routines and systems I put into place… homeschooling is just a mess.

When I was teaching preschool in the public schools I told all of the parents before the year began… “A messy child at the end of the day means the spent their time learning.”  A messy home at the end of the day means my children spent their day learning.

Someday when they are all gone and living life on their own I will miss it.  Our mess means life and learning are happening right here every day under my roof.  What else can I ask for?

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School Days… Our Current Curriculum Choices 2015

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I thought it might be helpful to do an updated post on our current homeschool curriculum choices!

Math – Teaching Textbooks and Math-U-See Teaching Texbooks is our main curriculum but we add in some Math-U-See for extra practice.

History – Early Explorers from Homeschool In The Woods

Science – Swimming Creatures from Apologia

Language ArtsInstitute for Excellence in Writing We use both their Student Writing Intensive Level A and their new Grammar program.

Spelling – We have a subscription to VocabularySpellingCity that I reviewed here.

Tying – This is FREE and is working well!  Typing.com

That’s the main chunk of it.  I’ll revisit this in about 6 months!  It seems to be ever changing!

That Time I Hit a Slump!

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It’s January! That time of year, every year, when the days are long yet the sun sets early.  When its so cold and the snow makes it such a drag to go out that we stay home probably way too much.  It is the time of year when I look back to September at all of my hopes and plans and I realize we aren’t where I had hoped and I get discouraged.  I seem to ignore all of the side tracked bunny trails we’ve traveled down that were so rich and worth every moment.

Time to reassess and revamp and dive in anew.  Our homeschool has lost some of the hands-on fun that really got us excited about learning.  It has been some time since we’ve done a lapbook or a science experiment.  Why have I let those things slide away?

I know I’m not alone.  A lot of my homeschool moms find themselves in the slump come winter.  Maybe it is time to take a poll and find out what they do to pull themselves out.  What do you do?

Our Sugar Cube Castle! Homeschool Fun!

Sometimes it’s fun to take a peek into the fun projects other homeschooler’s put together so I thought we’d share one of ours.  As a part of our Medieval Studies this year my children were tasked with building their very own Medieval Castle.  In our Bridgeway Class they were instructed to build a castle in any way they wished.  The sky was the limit.  In our Homeschool in the Woods curriculum we were provided with directions for creating one out of sugar cubes.  So that is just what Noah and Ezra did.  It took them 3 days and 13 boxes of sugar cubes… plus two bags of confectioners sugar, some shredded coconut, of course food coloring, and some guidance from Mom and Dad.  In the end my boys had created something to be proud of!  Take a look!

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To see even more up close photos check out the slideshow below.

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