Author Archives: faithfulscholars.2014

Dylexia, A Gift

We always have several gifted children in our family.  I consider dyslexia a gift, and am a recovering dyslexic myself.  At lease one of our children has this same gift, another is gifted with a processing disorder, and a third is gifted with developmental delays.  The rest are Run of the Mill Every Day Children.  We home school because God has called us in that direction, and what we have come to find out, is that it is the very best environment for our children.  It has given them the ability to work through and mature into their gifts at the proper pace.  We have done the testings, evaluations, therapies, etc.  They have their place certainly.  But, viewing these diagnosis as one would a hang nail makes all the difference in our world.  We can do our part to worry that little thing into infection, or we can guide toward toward slow and steady healing.  Parent(s), your approach will make all the difference in the world.  We could not find and follow the proper pace in a certified professional setting.  Therapy, aides, practice are not something we do once or twice a week at someone’s office (although we have certainly utilized these amazing opportunities and learned so much from them), these are things that we weave into our lives.

That being said, our home school platform is academic in nature, but our focus is to strengthen our character.  Through character we do our best each week rather than focus on an accumulation of worksheet pages or textbook completion.  Each child, no matter their giftedness, is at a different level in every subject.  That does not preclude our ability to expect each child to produce and participate to their best ability.  When I evaluate students who are said to be unable or incapable it has always boiled down to one of two things.  The parent is expecting too much or the parent is allowing the child to convince them that their lack of effort is connected to their lack of ability.

We love our children, we don’t want them to struggle.  But God does not promise us that His blessings are sweet pleasures.  Our children with all of their abilities and lack there ofs are blessings through and through.  How will we guide them?  To feel as though God made a mistake?  To feel sorry for the extra work it will take to achieve their best- which will be different than another persons best?  Or, to persevere and walk the course provided for them?  What other way is there?   Lay down that struggle of finding a cure, of finding the quickest way around.  The only way to achieve that end is to walk through this calling.  Create in your child a sense of wonder at the extra time God spent making them.  How many people are just like the normal Joe?  Praise God, you have a gift.  Praise God, you have a purpose beyond yourself.  Praise God,He has equipped you.  How often have you come through an ordeal to think, “I would never have wished to go through that, hope it never happens again, but am soooooo thankful that I went through X, Y, Z.”?  Walk through.   Nourish with peace.  Pace with prayer.

We created an academic focused Writer’s Circle (and beyond) so that all children could have a place of success as long as they were willing to work to their best ability.  Consider doing the same for your children.  If you are in our area please join us (ages 6-15).  In the past 6 years we have never had a child drop out because it was too difficult.  We have had a very few choose to leave because they were unwilling to put forth the effort.  Our expectations are individualized to each student as is ‘homeschool’.    We always have a mix of students who are brilliant mixed with gifted students.  It is inexplicable why it works so well, but the outcome each year amazes us again and again and again.  It is just something about Writer’s Circle.  I truly can’t explain it, it just is how we are.  I don’t have any formula or plan aside from what is previously stated.  Somehow, this combination of student abilities, teacher/parent expectations, and focus on kindness and hard work brings out the best in our students, gets them excited to bring forth their best.

The One Thing

There is not time each day for more than One Thing.  I know, we homeschooling mamas thrive on our super powers of accomplishing above and beyond.  That is not what I am talking about.  The One Thing is your most important objective for the day.  It is done well, completed well, and brings soul satisfaction.

There are many side jobs and yay-I-finally-got-to-that jobs and those that shove their way into our days, but the One Thing must be your focus from the moment you put your feet on the floor and, if you live life fully and freely, should be rather constant yet ever changing.  Organized chaos, if you will.

That sounds like something you would not wish to touch with a long stick, but if we honestly observe living fully in any manner the bookends are rigidity and bedlam.  Organized chaos is allowing life to flow while setting ‘shipping channel’ that guide you safely toward your destination while allowing the freedom of movement, shifting, living a full yet relaxed life.  Let me note that by ‘relaxed’ I do not mean that you will have time to sit around eating bon bons; simply that you will allow yourself to lay down your stress of being perfect.

Back to The One Thing.  It takes dedicated focus to discern and decide what that will be each day.  As homeschoolers most of us immediately conclude that it must be lessons.  What if it were not?  What if lessons were sometimes The One Thing and sometimes not?

Catch your breath.  I am not advocating anything less than the ideal home education that fits your family.  What I am suggesting is that lessons not reign supreme at the cost of all else.  Sometimes they can be the side job that is completed but not the one that you made certain was fully attended to and completed to full satisfaction.  Lessons were simply accomplished while you focused on a friend in need, a birthday girl, chores, a dedicated job, neighbors, adventure.

Remember the Bible story of Mary and Martha?  Who made the better choice?  It was so counter-intuitive.  So counter-cultural.  And yet, it was the proper One Thing for that moment.  Accomplishment, worksheet worship, textbook consumption often overshadow and rob our joys that proffer themselves along the way.  They gently nudge our hearts.  Do you trust that in choosing a non-traditional day of learning has value?   All of life should be learning.  All of learning has value.  Trust that your wisdom to discern between a wasted day and a different day when your One Thing does not leave that mentally satisfying paper trail and allow the joy of releasing your plan of what must be each day to what might be each day.

For our family, we homeschool year ’round which allows us to ebb and flow with our days.  Three days a week our One Thing is lessons leaving two days each week to shift our One Thing out of my controlling hands.  Boy, I do love controlling my universe, but it is not always good for marriage, children, family, personal stress, rest, joy, learning, etc.

  • Be open to adventure and opportunity as they knock.  Our children will learn so much about being flexible, laying down anxiety, embracing life in all it’s colors and glory.
  • Be open to not knowing or planning all of your days.  Begin talking about possible adventures with your spouse, children, friends and see what comes forth–and go with it.
  • Know that what needs to get done will get done.  You will no more allow your child’s education to fall by the wayside than you would allow them to swim in the deep end of a pool without knowing how to swim or being at their side.  It’s not the homeschool way- it would be that far side of the curve–bedlam.  Nobody signs on for that.
  • Be open to change from within.  End each day with praise and start each day with possibility releasing your day into His hands for His glory.
  • Rest and know that you are enough with no need to move mountains in a day.  They will move one shovel full at a time as you take pleasure in your days with focus on embracing fully that One Thing.

Home School Gone Main Stream

Home School being main stream seems counter intuitive and even counter cultural but it is true.  There are more homeschoolers across the nation than private schoolers!  There are so many choices in curriculum, co ops, programs, on line classes, dual enrollment, etc that beginning this journey has become mind boggling.  I am so thankful that it was laid upon my heart to create Faithful Scholars into a realized vision of educating, empowering, and encouraging home schoolers through workshops, newsletters, Face Book Live events, one on one support, and more rather than requiring that you fit into my perceived box of what schooling at home is and is not or simply beginning your legal paper trail.  That being said, I am not knocking those groups as they are the perfect fit for many who find comfort in being told what and how to navigate through the freedom of homeschool or must run their school on a very tight budget.  However, I am thankful that Faithful Scholars grooves to the beat of a different drummer that enables us (my amazing, supportive Better Half and children, incredible office staff, and a top notch IT Team) to serve you beyond the norm.

Becoming main stream has given pause for reflection and I realize that we are so richly woven with threads of integrated primary roles – spouse, parent, and teacher that onlookers are drawn to discover what it is that gives us our joy, edge, vitality.  Call it what you will, but it is appealing and noticed from a distance.  In our undertaking to educate at home, we have have laid ourselves down to be devastated by His grace and will, and found that in doing so, we unexpectedly discover that we are covered by that very same grace.  Becoming aware of this option of being rescued from another person’s schedules, expectations, deliberations, and demands we find that those seemingly secure interactions pale in comparison to our integrated life of family, learning, and play.

Each day is alive with the possibilities, the expectations, of revelation, new, challenges and joys.  Our beings respond with praise and rejoicing in our everyday comings and goings whether we know this or not.  Taking this organic movement into the main lanes of educational options.  Our lives are compelling and mysterious.  People see us coming from a long way off and wonder.  Stopping in their tracks to observe our exchanges with our spouse, children and others, contemplating what has caused us to laugh with pure delight!  Ultimately deciding that they too want the brilliant, kind, curious outlook that they witness….and they come to ask hoping discover a deep well of love, patience, expectation and are drawn one step closer.  You may be tired, lacking your normal patience, yearning for a few more minutes of sleep, feeling burdened by lessons left incomplete, but before all of this, and in spite of all of this, you embody the peace, contentment, and joy that others seek!

The Praise Habit

This is the time of year where I (try to) back down on office work and bettering and bettering and order those ‘real’ items in my life that are neglected during the wonderfully busy Helping Times that bookend my year with Faithful Scholars–  helping families get started, advising on curriculum options according to the unique goals of each family, paperwork for intake, building individual transcripts, creating diploma’s, and all that brings me joy in serving and helping our incredible members each year.  All that to say, I can’t believe that I am getting on here to blog on the sunny and beautiful November morning rather than feeling content with our every other Friday afternoon Face Book Live sessions!  –but am thrilled to find myself here with you all!

What has brought me here is one of my favorite books titles The Praise Habit by the quirky, out of the box theologian by the name of David Crowder.  No wonder he draws me deeply into wonder.  Refreshing!!  This morning I was in the midst of contemplating whether I allow myself to be “engulfed and covered by God’s embrace” by seeking ways of placing myself in the path of “this embrace.”  Of course I don’t—I was built to serve.  At any rate, that has been my motto, and if you are a homeschooling parent, I am pretty sure this is in your top three thoughts.  In fact, how would I even put myself in the path of God’s embrace without feeling like a whiny baby?  I’m not sure, but I am going to contemplate this and see what comes.  Would you join me?  Does it not sound amazing to be engulfed, embraced, and covered by His love?!

“The spiritual life is first of all a life.  It is not merely something to be known and studied, it is to be lived.”  – Thomas Merton

 

Advanced Learners

This year we are doing first grade, but the public school would have him starting Kindergarten.  He is just too advanced to hold back.

Don’t hold him back academically, but I would encourage you to keep him in the proper grade for his ‘future self’.  Don’t dumb down his work.  Many K’s are doing 1st-grade work, but come 3rd or 4th (or sometimes 9th) it becomes too difficult and they totally lose their self-worth as being ‘so smart’.

Label him the proper grade per age (we do this for kids who are behind grade level as well).

Teach at the level he is (above, at, behind grade level).

Tell him what a hard worker he is (but not that he is ‘so smart’)

Understand that he is and will continue to ‘play’ school until age 7, 8, or 9.  Be a fun playmate!

When it becomes real and no longer play is when you want to make sure there are no emotional wobbles due to labels or how proud you are reflecting your advanced student.

Never keep him at full speed/challenged/at potential, but rather move forward as he sets the tone with precept upon precept and concept upon concept.  Imagine if your husband said, “You are such a great wife that I expect you to work at your very best Top Notch day in and day out.”  Exhausting.  Overwhelming.  Draining.

Usually, a child will continue to be ahead in some subjects and fall behind in others as the years go along.  This is perfectly fine.  Completing all subjects of a specific grade level does not give validation or credence to work accomplished.  A year of math is a year of math even if only a portion of the textbook was covered.  You will complete the rest of it next year (or over the summer if you school year ‘round- such a lovely and relaxing approach to schooling!)

We have always made age 6 our K year.  My husband teaches in a college prep high school with tons of really bright kids who have been pushed ahead.  They are able to compete in the classroom, but not on the playing field or leadership as their bodies and emotions are still at the proper age.  And, it’s nice to graduate a man who is a bit more mature in age and wisdom than his peers…and we have loved having the extra year with them.

Impact of our Differently Gifted Children

A Note to Parents of Special-Needs Children by Maura Roan McKeegan

Earlier this month, in a story called “What I Saw on Respect Life Sunday,” I wrote about witnessing the love between parents and their special-needs children at Mass. This past weekend, by God’s grace, I had the privilege once again to see this kind of love in action when I sat at Mass in the pew behind my friend Marybeth and her daughter, Emily, who is autistic.

I have written before about Marybeth and Emily, and about the experience of being at Mass with them. The love between this mother and daughter has taken my breath away for years, ever since Emily was a little girl. Now an older teen, Emily still brightens every room with her childlike spirit, and renders me awestruck with her heartfelt devotion to the Mass.

When this Mass began, Marybeth and Emily opened the missalette, and together they followed along with the readings and prayers, Marybeth pointing to their place on the page, for the rest of the Mass. They found all the songs in the hymnal (hearing Emily belt out the name “Jesus” made me feel like I had a front-row seat to a worship session in heaven). When she recognized familiar Scripture verses and liturgical prayers, Emily recited them ardently along with the lector, deacon, or priest.

Over the years I’ve known her, Emily’s enthusiasm for every word and prayer of the Mass has never waned. Neither has the outward expression of the love between Marybeth and Emily waned; the way Marybeth puts her arm around Emily, and Emily leans into her mother’s shoulder—the back-and-forth of holding hands, rubbing backs, and touching heads—is a dance whose choreography hints of the divine.

Though I’ve seen this before, it always feels new, and so for the second time this month, the love between a parent and a special-needs child at Mass brought me to tears.

Afterwards, I was thinking about Marybeth and Emily; about the families I described in my previous article; about the other parents I know who have special-needs children; and about the grace that overflows in their presence. And I wondered—do these people know how much their witness means?

In case they don’t, I want to write this for them.

To the dear parents of special-needs children: We see you. (I am going to use the word “we,” because I know there are more people than just myself who feel the same way.)

We see the way you care for your child, the look of love in your tired eyes, and the gentle touch of your weary hand. We may not see you during the hours and hours you spend tending to your child’s needs in your home, when no one is watching. We don’t see you get up in the middle of the night, or do the same difficult things day after day after day. We can only imagine how much strength you need.

But we do see you when you bring your child out in public. Sometimes it is an enormous task for you to bring your sweet child somewhere, whether it’s because of how much effort it takes just to get from one place to another or because of how worried you are that your child will make noise in a quiet place. (We understand why it might make you self-conscious, but the noise your child makes doesn’t bother us a bit —in fact, to us, it sounds like heaven’s song.)

We see you, and we are so grateful. If you didn’t bring your child, we wouldn’t have the chance to witness your kind of love. A love that gives when more giving doesn’t seem possible. A love that emanates when your child smiles, talks, laughs, makes noise, and even when he gets upset, needy, and agitated. A love that reminds us that Christ loves us when we smile, talk, laugh, make too much noise, and even when we get upset, needy, and agitated.

If you didn’t bring your child out among us, we wouldn’t get to see this living picture of the love of God.

And yes, we know you aren’t perfect, and there are times when you don’t love perfectly. (We’re in the same boat.) That inspires us, too, because you keep going even when it’s hard, even when you don’t feel like you’re doing a good job, even when you don’t know if what you’re doing is really helping. Discouragement is part of love, too, when we’re human and want to love better and can’t seem to get it right no matter how hard we try. Don’t think for a minute that your feelings of failure from time to time make you less of a parent. They make you more of a parent. They prove how hard you’re trying to do a good job. If you weren’t trying, you wouldn’t feel like you’ve failed.

You’ve succeeded in what matters most: you have been faithful to the call to love and take care of your child, God’s child. And all of us who see that are blessed.

We also know that you’re not doing this for recognition, and that an onlooker’s expression of gratitude doesn’t hold a candle to the blessings you receive simply from being the parent of your extraordinary child. But everyone can use encouragement sometimes, and we want you to know that the work of your life does not go unnoticed.

May God grant you renewed strength as you drink from the stream of the Living Water. We also pray that, when you need help, you will feel comfortable enough to reach out to us, and that we will be able to support you as the Body of Christ.

Your child is beautiful; the way you care for your child is beautiful; and it is an honor and a privilege for us to bear witness to that love. In your example, the words of Jesus resound: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you (John 15:12).”

Growing Alongside our Young Adults

Dear Friends,

As I wrote to a friend this morning, the email touched on so many tender spots that many of us face but few of us share.   If you are not yet at this point in growing up, please do not be disheartened.  The journey has been full of warm fuzzies, incredible highs, inexplicable joys, and many moments where I just knew that we had the world by the tail and were doing it all well.

Life is life, and just like when you share something difficult with a friend (or a stranger) to discover that they are or have dealt with the same issue- this is one of those areas.   I take heart that struggle simply means that God is not done with me yet!!

Life does just keep winding around and about.  We thought it was difficult with all of those little ones running about leaving us sleep deprived and on the go.

It just continues but the stressors and problems come from deeper places within requiring more of us which can only be found by digging deep within our own souls.  It is tough!!!!  And I am a step behind where you are, so it is obviously simply going to keep on and on.   My anchor that brings balance is vulnerability given over to Christ.  That willingness for pie in the face wed to trust that God will turn it all for His good if I but stay the course seeing only one footstep ahead.

You are such a steady daughter for your dad, mother for you children, and I am certainly hoping that transfers to your husband as well.  Can’t imagine it does not, but sometimes that is too tender a place to keep open when being ripped open from all other angles.  By ripped open, I do not mean in a negative manner although it certainly is not pleasant.  I mean like an infection needing to be opened in order to heal.  We were so careful to raise our children differently, spiritually, tenderly.  Yet, somehow, those seedlings of self will, our over powering wills, our lack of wills, –all of that- dropped in there and come forth at some time.  Walking alongside these growing adults is one of the toughest things I have yet to do.  Trying to give them knowledge and wisdom for them to take or leave knowing that it would/could make all the difference between a wise or a foolish decision.  And yet, in the end it comes down to what it always comes down to.  Faith.  Faith that being open and vulnerable is the only way to ever experience the opposite feelings of fullness and joy.  Faith that we are His daughters and sons and His love and plans far surpass our own.  Faith that Jesus never showed up against a lily-white back drop.  Faith that I have/am giving my all and will be gifted the strength (stubbornness) to continue one moment at a time regardless of full hearts, broken hearts, aching hearts, jubilant hearts.

Have courage!

Dual Enrollment in South Carolina: Remain Calm and Don’t Panic

Maybe this wasn’t the case for you, but I always knew my eldest would start college early and from home. However, for the past year and a half I’ve struggled to find the right option for my student. Thinking it would ease my administrative burden and provide opportunities for dual enrollment, I enrolled him in a South Carolina online based public school from home. He excelled and finished his 10th grade year strong.

For the past year I have labored researching local schools that offered online courses. My son is 15 and not ready to drive to college on his own. What was I to do? Our local offerings were bleak; too far, too shady, or very few online class options. The internet based school he was enrolled in was of no help at all, the emails resulting in answers like ‘check with your local community college’. I was left wondering if I had misunderstood the role of a high school advisor…?? Eventually, my emails and phone calls were sucked into the black hole of non-response. Our advisor was no longer with the school, but of course, no one told us that. I was finally able to speak with another administrator and this is the plan she came up with.

  • 3 college courses through F-D Tech
  • 2 courses through their online public school due to testing requirements (no college credit and unnecessary)
  • 1 elective

I began to widen my search, realizing that our son should have access to any public college offering online schooling in South Carolina, I searched farther and farther out.  I found Florence-Darlington Technical College in Florence, SC. Florence-Darlington offers a complete online associates degree and dual enrollment for public OR homeschool students. Success! What could be better?! Well, I’ll tell you, they are easy to work with, answer emails and actually will return your call!

Since one 15 wk college course is equal to 1 year of high school study, our student only needs to take 3 classes per semester to complete his 11th grade year. Bringing him back under our homeschool association means that the hobbies he enjoys now, theater, fencing and guitar, will count towards his required electives. So, what does his schedule look like now?

  • 3 college courses online this fall and 3 spring of 2019 through Florence-Darlington
  • receives elective credit for his current activities

This is about  half the workload of keeping him in the online school, and half the time investment.

Once the lottery pays for half, his tuition will be around $900 a semester plus books. It’s an affordable college option and makes the most of his two remaining high school years, while keeping the grade keeping burden off of me. They also offer summer courses and intensives, which we will use next year as needed.

I hope our little journey and research can be helpful for others in our situation and provide a clear path forward. It’s not too late to register for fall classes! Consider contacting Florence-Darlington today and getting the ball rolling towards making the most of these last two years of high-school, while keeping them home, and keeping it simple!

-Anita Moree

Fort Mill, SC

Summer Days that Count as School

Each summer Faithful Scholars answers questions as to which/whether days can count toward school– CC practicum/camp, music camp, mechanics camp, car trips, vacations based around historical stops, etc.  YES!!!  You can, and should, count them.  Value and give credit to all learning achieved toward the goal of raising lifelong learners.  To learn and have it discounted due to being officially on break is silly.  One more beauty of homeschool!

At preset we have a reading contest going on.  Toss in some math, look at the science gleaned through explore and discover, and have a discussion on current events at dinner.  Viola!  School without the typical pressure of school.  That being said, my children are older so while we count these days, we always go over our 180 in order to accomplish/complete all of the traditional knowledge that we wish to ingest during the year.  When they were younger we simply and joyfully counted the days and focused on 3.5 day weeks of school and lots of adventure, friend, service time.

Our best days are spent learning as we play and playing as we learn.  It gets to the point of thinking that we ought not count them because no blood, sweat, or tears were shed much less paper trail created.  For children under the age of 7, learning IS play.  When your sweet little one wants more school work it is because it is fun to ‘play school’.  Obviously it makes mama super happy, it is time together, and every child wants more of that sorta game.  My children used to play being a student while doing their schoolwork, being siblings, cleaning their rooms…..  Huh???!!  It is all a fun and games in their incredibly alive imaginations as long as we cultivate those precious ethereal ‘lands’ to remain intact.

The younger your child is, the easier it feels to count days.  Face it, everything experienced, discovered, practiced, and explored is learning.  Add in some formal math and daily reading and you are golden.   Math and reading comprehension are the pillars to all learning.  If your child can do these subjects well, they can self-teach all other subjects.

To feel comfy in counting your summer-learning, renew your association membership as soon as your year ends.  Perhaps you don’t feel that you are doing enough to count every day, but certainly some come along that make you think, “THIS is certainly school-worthy.”  Trust your instinct.  You are equipped with a brain to reason and a spirit of honor.

Middle and high school grades become a bit more formal with longer days as you present more complex concepts and spend the time digging, practicing, mastering.  However, those days of “THIS is certainly school-worthy.” still come about— and you can trust yourself!

Homeschooling parents are some of the most honest and honorable people that I have ever come across.  We would rather err on the side of fault than take something that we did not fully earn, deserve, or understand.  Continue to reason.  Continue to honor.  Continue to trust.

9th Grade Q and A (CC Related)

 Mom:  I have purchased the official  high school binder to keep all of M’s records organized. I have  your helpful list (from previous support email) printed and highlighted in the front. etc…  Last night I reread through all of the info concerning high school on the Faithful Scholars website. Thank you so much for being so thorough in the information you give us.

Faithful Scholars:  Great job doing your homework.  We have a lot of information on our pages and appreciate when you sweet mamas give it a read.

Mom:  I have the four year plan I sent you last summer. THANK YOU again!   The task before me is to write out course descriptions  and determine my grading rubrics for each course.

Faithful Scholars:  Don’t go overboard.  First check the textbook publishing site to see if they have done the work for you.  If so, cut/paste and celebrate.  If not, don’t go overboard.  Just hit the highlights with an aim of 2-4 sentences per subject.

Mom:  M be a CC Challenge I student this year as a 9th grader.  I printed the sample transcript for a CC student that you provided. I was anticipating Honors credit for some of the courses he will take this year. My understanding is that CC structures their program to be Honors level work.  I am a little confused as to whether these Challenge courses would have to have additional assignments that extend the scope, sequence, and rigor of the subject material already required. ?

Faithful Scholars:  CC courses are created to be honors with the additional projects being built in or availalbe through your classes.  Make sure to understand that Honors means reading every page, doing every assignment, question, quiz, text, project, etc- 100% of everything.

For CC this typically evens out as the top 1/3 of each class is able to claim honors on at least some of their coursework, but like all students, being super strong in all subjects is not a typcial reality.   That means that even if M ends up in the top 1/3 of the class over all, you must consider/assign honors class by class according to his (100%) completion of all work.  The grade he earns is not relevant.  Be more conservative in freshman year and add on a few more each year as M chooses to work to that level.

Mom:  Are there any Challenge I courses that are considered not core subjects that need prior approval for the Honors level?

Faithful Scholars:  Non-core/non-academic courses such as foreign language, debate, drama, music, art, public speaking, and such are rarely assigned honors weight.  The exceptions being when the student is winning awards- and even then it depends upon what subject area.

There are places and ways to highlight the incredible non-academic achievements of our high schoolers, but it is not necessarily on the transcript/GPA.

How ‘weight’ is assigned is ALL about how college intake personel will ‘read’ each transcript.   With too many honors in all subjects it can read as point grubbing or GPA bumping IF NOT supported by stellar standardized test scores, awards, and other supporting information.

Faithful Scholars researches thoroughly before offering guidance in areas that we do not understand.  Behind our answers are many college registrars and a team of college prep private school guidance counselors with 100+ years combined experience and vase college connections.  Our goal is to build the best transcript for each of our uniquely qualified students.  None of our students will ever reveive anything less than a uniquely built transcript highlighted their strength, balancing their academics, and reading favorable at first blush (first brief-reading).

Mom:  We were considering Honors level work for some of the courses this year, but  not all.

Faithful Scholars:  Very reasonable and authentic.  This is the norm among most high school students, traditional and non-traditional, and what the colleges like to see.

Keep in mind that Honors is not assigned because the child worked super hard but rather because of 100% completion of work (and, if not an honors crafted text or course, an additional 30 hour project).

Mom:  Some of  CC Challenge I  moms plan to meet soon to discuss honors, rubrics and grading practices for these students.  Are there any words of advice that you can think of to give us?

Faithful Scholars:  1.  Always ask your accountability association what their practices are before moving forward based upon another mom’s “I heard…”- unless she heard it from her association and you belong to the same association.  Still, you may want to double check as there are many opinions and practices out there even from association to association.

2. Our lawyer encourages our families to work within the full breadth of the SC Home School Law.  It is extremely broad.  An example would be the recent debate over the need to take history and science each high school year even thought graduation requirements state less than 4 credits in these subject areas.  Some associations would adamently state that you must in order to fulfill the law (that you agree to follow when choosing to homeschool).

Faithful Scholars will challenge you to find a day in your life that you did not teach/learn history and science?  It is impossible.  Sweetly, our law does not state the number of hours, the requirement of texts/books, or the need for these ‘teachings’ to be formal.  That is not to say that you can count daily living/learning as credit (I know you unschoolers understand what I mean because all of your dailing living learning is purposeful–here we are talking about non-purposeful learning that simply can’t be avoided unless you game your day away, listen to nothing, talk to no one, etc).

3.  An ultimate source of wonderful information when selecting course work are your (student’s) college(s) of choice.  Each college is a little different.  —  Have your student call.  It is great practice for them and the colleges absolutely love it!

4.  Begin taking the PSAT, ACT, SAT early, decide which one suits your child best, and take them several times.  Prep classes are worth the money.  Spend the extra to get the questions missed as this will help pinpoint areas in need of further study, test taking skills honing, and/or rusty areas.  Many libraries have wonderful standardized prep programs, so begin there and allow your tax dollars to work for you.

5.  Consider at least one dual credit course to acclimate your student to learning from a professor that may not care a lick beyond his/her research, signing up for classes, getting around a campus, organizing their time, showing up to class, etc.  It is a great pre-view to college.

Mom:  I am a little confused about Saxon Math and how it translates into the more recognizable course names  once you move past Algebra 2.

Faithful Scholars:  Typically parents will not .5 credit of geometry alongside 1 credit of Algebra 1 and 2.  If your student is not a strong math student and needs to move slower, that is possible by breaking Algebra into Albebra 1a and 1b.  At the end of 2 years you wuold count .5 credit of geometry.  Then Algebra 2a and 2b with a .5 credit of Geometry.

Other math options for non-math minded students are Business Math, Consumer Math, Finance, Accounting, and so on.

Think more akin to a private school student than a public school student.  We do not have to follow their course requirements nor their course order.

 

Going Slow is Sometimes Like Medicine

Ponder the last time you spent a day or an hour or a moment purposely going slow. A mom wrote the above title to me the other day after she had watched a box turtle meander along and fireflies dance. These are reasons to homeschool, right?

How is it that we get caught up in completing one more task, creating one more organized space, engineering one more functioning schedule, and then decide that now that we have a well oiled machine, er schedule, er family/school unit, we should add MORE!! We could achieve more if we put our children on a yellow bus, yet we chose a path less traveled. One with lots of lovely bends in the road bringing who knows what or who around the curve. Do we make and take the time to embrace those lovely surprises or do we groan as they come along knowing that they either must be ignored, avoided, or allowed to topple our proverbial apple cart?

A homeschool life is such a wonderful journey. Not always amazing in ways that warm the cockles of our hearts, but amazing the ways that life is amazing–BECAUSE of its continuous ups and downs. You may be one that makes every attempt to straighten out the road so as to avoid unexpected surprises or you may be one that zooms down the road so focused and fast that the unexpected surprises simply blur into the past. Or are you one to round the corner, see a slow turtle, and allow it to stop you in your tracks for many moments of goodness, beauty, and truth?

After all, you were probably NOT drawn to homeschool for the exacting nature and pace requiring drill sergeant-like attention to detail, pace, and accomplishment. Quite the opposite. We innately recognize that we are fully equipped to lead, guide, and teach our children towards Truth. In that we study Beauty. Through this we find Goodness.

How was your year? Can you remember the times that you watched the turtles plod and the fireflies dance? If you are like me, you know that you did take a few of those moments, but can’t recall doing it as much as you would like. For my part, my morning cuppa will be spent on my backyard deck or wandering about my yard or peeking at my sleeping children. Dishes can wait, the house will always need a tidy up, and business hours need not be done away with simply because a laptop can travel far too easily.

Grass is Greener

The grass is always greener when seen from a distance.  My fellow homeschoolers all have it together while I still flop and flounder.  Or am I just looking at things from the wrong angle?  My side view shows beautiful lush green.  Step into the middle of that ‘grass’ and suddenly, as you look directly down and about, you see the bare patches and realize that much of the green is made up of weeds.    Perspective is a grand thing, but can only be attained if we get outside of our own safe world of opinions and judgements.

Once we realize this phenomenon, do we give others grace?  Or do we continue to berate ourselves as not having it all together because of X, Y, Z which ‘they’ obviously have and you do not have?  Let’s lay down our defenses and focus on the work at hand.  Then, when you look up, you will find yourself shoulder to shoulder with a friend helping to decide how best to improve or utilize your bare spots and weeds.

High School???!!!

The thought of teaching a high schooler at home can be daunting unless it has naturally occurred year by year as a committed K-12 homeschooling family or it is a situation of getting your high schooler out of a bad situation in traditional school.  Even then it jangles ones nerves all over.  That being said, most amazing things cause this core reaction… the first time you saw the person you were to marry….saying, “I do!” and learning the day by day lessons of marriage… finding out you were going to be a parent,,,, holding a tiny precious baby knowing that you also held full responsibility….. and on and on it continues.  This feeling is nothing new, it just is right before you which causes it to seem larger than life.  Once you take a step onto the actual path things take their place, work begins, and, like all wonder filled things, you go at it moment by moment, lesson by lesson, day by day until 4 years have miraculously gone by, books full of memories surround you, and your child continues growing up.

Curriculum is a Tool, Not a Goal

As we excitedly plan out our learning and lessons for next year it strikes me how the butterfly-joy welling up from within is based on the journey rather than thoughts of the completion of another year.  It feels like running into a dear friend who has been out of town for a while.

In the beginning, I thought it was about getting through a long list of requirements year by year.  The concept of being able to fall into a lesson of intrigue and remain there for as long as we wished is foreign- feeling somehow that it must be wrong, illegal, something.

After years of following my heart instinct, experiences have confirmed, in multiple ways due to various and sundry children’s testing, attending school, going to college, etc. that this method works.  But, it still feels confusing to educate in such a non-traditional manner.

We use books- many books but rarely follow one all the way through as we don’t believe that gives a worldview from which to platform discussions.  We learn how to learn traditionally because that is the world we live in.  However, day to day lessons are fluid, aimed at my children’s future selves, built toward their interests and gifts.  Rarely are two days alike.

There is rhythm to each day, there is sequence to our lessons, there is beauty as well as tears, and there is trepidation that I’m missing something, I’m doing it wrong, I’m fooling myself.  God is giggling right now as He whispers in my hear, “Katie, my beloved, that is faith.  Trust.”

Harmony- She is Illusive

Finding harmony based upon routine is one of a homeschoolers core daily struggles.  Even for those of us who are determined to maintain a fluid day, there must be some order.  When do the children wake, what lessons are the big slimy toads and need swallowing first, who needs what nutrition at what time in order to balance out minds and moods, do I answer the phone or pretend not to listen to the voice leaving a message, do I check emails or call it multi tasking as I take a potty break, and on and on.  So, fluid is wonderful, we strive for it, but what gives us the most harmony is doing as we ought to do based upon what routines we have put into place.  To let these go for a day, much less a week, means having to push start a solidly build iron caboose all over again.  Obviously we don’t relish that idea, so why not put it off for one more day, and one more day, and disharmony arrives without us even noticing.

Keeping motivated for our own chores, expectations, meaningful work etc. is only the beginning.  On top of this we must guide and encouargae our children in this same area- this same area that we so often stutter-start, falter, and fail in.  It is a constant seeking.  One that is most often just illusive enough to erringly convince us that it is unattainable.  —And then we grasp it; hold it for a few precious moments; become exhausted in the maintenance it requires; lighten our grasp– and out ‘she’ goes to be sought once again.  It is in the journey that we grow, not in the reaching of the destination.  That is the wonderful thing.  Enjoy the journey.

 

But…What do Colleges Prefer?

 

by Ashley Brookshire, Regional Director of Admissions for the West Coast

It’s a question I hear often – mostly from families at college fairs who are frantically trying to absorb every available nugget of information available to them in the tight time frame of the event: “But… what do colleges prefer?”

“My daughter has the opportunity to take classes at our local community college this summer or do an internship – which one do colleges prefer?”

“My son is thinking about going on a mission trip or finding a job for the summer – which one is better?”

“I can either stay with band or debate for my senior year, but not both. What should I do?”

Students, and parents, are hoping for a concrete answer – a guaranteed road map to get in to the college of their choice. If an admission counselor says it, then it must be truth, and should be followed to a “t” (trust me, we wish we had that kind of all-knowing power!). But if you’re reading this in hopes of gaining a paint-by-numbers insight into the college admission process, I’m afraid you’re going to be terribly disappointed.

The better question to ask is “why do we ask students to supply an activity record with their application?” Is it to count the number of hours you spent volunteering at a local hospital? Do we tally the number of times you were elected into an officer position for a club at school? No, on both counts.

We are looking at three things: your experiences, the talents you possess, and the skill sets that you’ve developed throughout your high school career. These three items help us gauge your fit and potential impact on our campus.

Experiences

Your experiences inform your beliefs, passions, and ambitions, and ultimately, this is what we want you to bring to our community. What types of opportunities did you opt into (or in some cases, stumble into by chance) and how did they differ from your initial expectations? Have you stepped into a club, trip, or commitment that was outside of your comfort zone? The beauty of a college campus is its ability to offer a more robust list of experiences than most high schools can provide. What experiences are you bringing to the table? I’m not just talking about the stamps in your passport. When we look at your application, we want to see the behaviors that make you open to experience life with new people, places, and activities.

Talents

A talent is an innate ability to do something, whereas a skill set is learned and developed. Many of the families I speak with seem to focus on talents, but in the admission process, skills sets are equally as insightful (more on that in a moment). I haven’t been a powerful force in a music classroom since learning to play the recorder in 5th grade. I can appreciate that some people have inherent abilities that I do not. If you have talent in art, music, dance, athletics, or public speaking, then you’re likely drawn to these types of activities. What students usually overlook is that you determine how your talents are utilized and ultimately captured on your application. Are you part of a club, company, or team that allows you to hone your craft? Have you created opportunities for others to engage in this activity? From an admission perspective, we’re not looking to fill a class of individuals who were born with special talents. We are looking for students who are motivated to share their unique talents in impactful ways.

Skill Sets

Skills, on the other hand, are developed. They are practiced, trained, and learned. These can be hard skills (programming, marketing, or painting) or soft skills (networking, time management, perseverance). Sometimes students apply so much effort to developing a skill set that it appears as a natural talent to others, leaving them unaware of the work going on behind the scenes. The skills you’ve cultivated by balancing your time outside of the classroom and working with others will make you a powerful member during the many group projects you’ll work on in college. Enrolling in a summer academic program or college course will sharpen your academic prowess and allow you to accelerate your coursework in college. The leadership skills you’ve gained as a club officer at your high school will embolden you to step into pivotal roles in one of the hundreds of organizations that contribute to our campus culture. As a volunteer, you’ve stayed mindful of those around you and connected more personally to your community. All of these experiences, talents, and skills bring positive value to a college campus, yet all cannot be pursued at the same time. Even in the summer, there are a limited number of hours in the day.

The Answer

So, back to the original question: “which (insert activity here) do colleges prefer?” We prefer that you use your time intentionally in whichever way you feel best engages your interests, utilizes your talents, and allows you to grow as an individual. These are the types of students who will join a college community and thrive both inside and outside the classroom. At the end of the day, we want to enroll a well-rounded freshman class. This is quite different than every student in our class being well-rounded. It means that, as a whole, our class is filled with philanthropists and athletes, musicians and researchers, leaders and employees, and their collective experiences, talents, and skills create dynamic, thought-provoking interactions on our campus. But before you schedule every free moment of your summer, remember: summer should bring reprieve with it. Enjoy the additional time in your day – days are longer and summer doesn’t normally hold the same time commitments as the school year. Take a deep breath, celebrate your achievements over the course of the last year, and catch up on that book or tv series that you set aside during the school year. After all, senior year and college application season is just around the corner.

 

 

Considering Homeschooling- education vs. being educated

Homeschool is about creating a culture of education, daily devotion to curiosity, and practice of diligence toward discipline.  It is more about character and less about the completion of, or in some situations, the ‘experience’ of, material.  Homeschoolers use books to grow our children in the areas of faith and diligence.  An incredible academic education is almost a lovely side effect of teaching at home.

Consider the fact that one must be educated in order to truly understand, practice, and defend their faith.  To be diligent and kind one must understand the parameters and purposes of such acts; why they ought to be grown from within; why they desperately need to be practiced each day.  These acts are caught rather than taught.  Following goals of completing a book simply for the sake of checking off a subject in order to progress to the next book will be hard pressed to lead a child to faith and character.  Reverse that order and it is such a lovely and common sense approach for a person to use books, any books, to grow our children in stature AND education.

“The goal of education should not be the completion of a book, but, rather, the lighting of a fire.”  Some famous sage made this statement ages ago.  Wish I could remember their name for you, but I think those brain cells shrunk with baby #4 or was it #5?

When we school at home we have the time to model for our children.  We have daily pressure to walk what we talk rather than the need to preach into the void of time between school, practice, homework, and sleep.  We unlimited opportunities to socialize and learn alongside other children/parents with the same end goals rather than a wave in a carpool line and a hope that your child is no longer hanging out with (insert nemesis name here).  There is no need to undo 8+ hours of gunk build up in order to get back to an open and teachable attitude.  Instead, we must work on ourselves in order to know when to lead, guide, encourage, respect/love, chastise, or challenge.

Homeschooling mamas have such a desire to get to Heaven that we daily open ourselves up to sanctification through educating our children.    When we school at home, we have the time to educate our child in a lasting manner that considers and encompasses their whole life rather than simply preparing them for college.  Education should be a lifelong quest.  Modern education stops between the ages of 18 and 24 with nary a book to be opened again.  Once they head out your door, the time for imparting faith, character, and kindness is over.  However, if they have been encouraged to find joy in learning, satisfaction in doing hard things, respect/love in following their curiosity, they are well prepared to learn anything they would like in college and beyond.

God can redeem all things,  Please do not read into this that I am discounting His power.  I rely on His power as mine falls so far short- and I seek this homeschool quest daily with a couple of decades of experience.

I can think of nothing more worthy of my weekdays than practicing and speaking consistent love into the hearts and minds of my girl-women, and practicing and speaking consistent respect into the hearts and mind of my boy-men– using books as one of my main mediums.  Our whole house becomes a part of our Culture of Education, lessons are taught and caught all day long no matter the location, the book, or the time.  It is who we are- people who are curious- people who learn- people who master- people who share with others.

Our whole house becomes a part of our Culture of Education, lessons are taught and caught all day long no matter the location, the book, or the time.  It is who we are- curious people, learners, masters, givers, etc.  As if there could be nothing better:  We share this gifted journey with a community of like- minded people who we can truly get to know during hours of socialization while we guide our children toward the common goal of educating the whole child.   Those who understand the difference between an education as something to worship vs. being educated in order to live fully as God intends for each and every one of us.

My prayer for this blippy blog is that you might haver a better understanding of the difference between an education as your end goal vs. education as a lifelong pursuit to live fully in communion with others- as God intends for each and every one of us- loving our neighbors as ourselves.

Have Your Standards Dropped?

As the year went along did your standards go along with it?  ….You may be a homeschooling mama if….. you are an idealist who cannot maintain her ideals because there are so many of them!

The year begins, you have your curriculum set, your daily master plan laid out, and your energy reserves on high.  This is going to be the best year ever!  I mean EVER!  THIS is the year for perfect penmanship.  Day one is a wake up call to tune of ‘nobody wants to do school’.  To be honest, neither do you.  Perhaps this is day two or three at your home, but at some point the rosy bloom fades as we (children, mom, dad) realize a root word of home school indicates entry into trenches of hard work.

How can this be with such incredible lesson plans, wonderful academic groups, stellar social outings?  Standards begin to slip with a lesson here and there under the daily duress caused by a little one waking with The Grumpies and derailing the day.  (*on my best days I remember to send this child back to their room immediately as this attitude illness is highly contagious)  We convinced ourselves that a once a week lesson in insert nemesis subject here is adequate and/or will be caught up on during insert holiday/weekend here. (*on my best days I remember to eat the slimy toad first)  Somehow said slimy toad does not make it back to the A List.

Fast forward a few months and the What-Did-I-Forget-This-Year joins the What-Did-I-Forget-This-Day going to sleep review.  …Never caught up in that subject ….forgot to add in this subject… did we cover enough in those subjects?  Realizing we dropped some subjects altogether we ask how and when this could have happened?  Looking back you find that your last check date was JANUARY THIRD???!!!!  Were we even doing school that near to Christmas?  Well, it is my handwriting, so we must have been unless another alien abduction occurred.

Is recovery possible?  Happily, the answer is yes–if you want to, if you summer-school, if you realize the subject was a much-needed-basic as opposed to a fun-sounding-filler.  What’s up with all these hyphens?!  If your subject of concern falls within the first catagory, the good news is that you can focus deeply on this area over the summer.  This includes high schoolers.  If you fall into the latter category, realize that some of what you placed on your child’s lesson plan was temporal busy work that you saw as ‘fun’ (worksheet worship) rather than eternal expansion that is often seen as ‘play’ (explore/discover/create).   In either case, you can lay down your guilt, and know that you will be wiser in planning and executing next year.  You have given your best and realized that, as always, you fell short of perfection.

You may be a homeschooling mama if…..you want Heaven so badly you are willing to submit to daily sanctification applied through your children.

 

End of Year Fizzles

What leads to burn out at this time of year? How can we instead be encouraged, or at least enjoy a motivated push toward the finish line? We have had lovely Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks, perhaps a Winter Break and a Spring Break, yet April and May are the times that, while life renews within and without, our home schooling days feel heavy. It did not used to be like this. We could complete our year focused on finishing well and spend the summer mulling over what worked, what we loved, and begin building our home school dreams & plans for the next year. April and May were times of wrapping up this year. It was a time of digging in and remaining attentive.

For those of you who know what next year will look like (and do not direct a program) you know what I am talking about. It is wonderful. For those who don’t it seems the final quarter of homeschooling becomes a burden rather than a joy and you begin wondering many less than positive things about yourself, your sanity, your children, their ability, and on and on. You must not go there. You must realize that it is the result of modern homeschooling. I love homeschooling in community, but it does come with a price. I feel the price is worth it, but would that I could discover a route that avoided springtime burnout.

My theory is that due to the many programs that require early registration our purpose of completing the current year well is derailed. Families are pressured to examine next year’s options while knowing that this year still needs tweaks. We spend hours mulling over the pros & cons, discussing the ifs & thens, we pray, we stress, we gnash, we groan, and, ultimately, we are driven mad to decide what is best for the future while the present is pending. — AND we recognize that our homeschool needs change day by day making it likely that a whole lifetime of change may occur between signing up now and beginning classes in the fall.

Handling these decisions while maintain the stamina of your current post-February-homeschool-groove that-probably-took-a-while-to-find-after-the-holidays is overwhelming. What is the solution? Perhaps we can approach our years two at a time. Plot a plan to include options we are drawn to, plot this year, and plot what might occur this year that would lead you toward another program for next year. Perhaps we could schedule it into our To-Discuss-During-Holiday-Travel time. By placing this decision making process into a time of rest and removing it from our time of work it may deflate the pressure that leads to spring quarter homeschool burn out.

With that decision out of the way and no suffocating feeling that we must make up lost time, we can take a Spring break or two focused on planting new seeds outside or new ideas within. We can close the history book early and decide that a road trip to a historic monument would better suit our euphoric sunny moods. We can observe the building of a nest rather than the ticking of a clock. We can focus on the present, on the season, on the beauty that is school at home.

Academic Worship vs. Child Centered Learning

The MAIN THING is not the main lesson nor the main book although we get caught up in ever progressing while within we innately understand that our books are simply springboards toward faith and character. Homeschooling is a phenomenon of immense beauty which ever teeters on the brink of going awry through one of two extremes. The over diligent-if-you-can-accomplish-that-in-15-minutes-then-we-should-do-more-lessons vs the easily distracted get-the-kids-started-while-I-begin-x,y,z-and-they-are-quiet-so-I’ll-squeeze-in-a,b,c-as-well. I totally know where I fall as I type to you all.

In step the Lovelies of homeschool: Faith and Character. This could be re-stated as the understanding/trusting that what is spoken by a parent will come to pass (diligence), or what is required by a parent will be asked for (fortitude). No matter how we term our main goals, they are faith and character. The child must have faith in the parent; in the parents modeling; in the parent’s consistency that his/her word is meant when spoken; in the parent’s ability to love strongly; in the parents commitment. You stand in for God at this time. If your child can trust you, who they can see, how much greater will they be able to trust God? And vice versa. When this comes to pass, character is one of the visible facets exhibited much like feeling a lovely breeze on your face is a visible facet of wind. It is how we know that what we are doing is working -however slowly. Be encouraged, it is working if you see even the smallest of indicators at home or in public.

You may be caught up in frantically completing your books at this time of year. Sstressed to the point of wishing you could just stay in bed. Leading the family in a stress-fest feeding (off the guilt you choose to carry in your heart) frenzy. Take heart, lay down the guild, and focus on ONE thing that you can change—Yourself. You will wonder at how quickly and one change will positively affect those around you.
You probably got caught up in feeling that completing the book is more important than the manner in which it is completed. Easily and often fallen for, and such a heady rush when achieved. Finding balance is key. Completing books is not bad as long as it is approached with the child’s well being and true education at the center. If you hear yourself giving reasons for your stress that include a lot of ‘I’ statements, you may be caught up in the vision the world has for your home school rather than what God has called you to (work in your children and family).

How to turn this bus around? You have stopped, taken heart, laid down the guilt, and focused on what you can change, right? Once that is set in order look at your child:
Are they slow because they process slower or are dyslexic? Then slow down your pace and complete what you can with mastery and enjoyment. Focus on their diligence. Check for completeness of work. Test (or discuss) for mastery of small amounts at a time. This will build with so much ‘righting’ itself (seemingly on it’s own) between the ages of 13-20. Sadly so many write the child off by that time. GREAT BOOK: The Gift of Dyslexia
Do they work slowly because they understand that their schooling is not that important to you as is seen through your lack of checking their work, following through on your threats, or even making sure they are doing their work at all? If so, create a plan that has you sitting at the table with them while they work, or move them to where you work, or move as your chores move you. It is very similar to the 24/7-attach-the-puppy-to-you-training that works so well. Just because they are older and can work independently, they need to know that your set boundaries mean something. If you want their Wordly Wise answers to be in complete sentences, you must check often enough to keep the lines clear. This is me right here that I am talking about, and let me tell you how well and how quickly this turn around works. I am amazed at how much love this speaks to my children. Between you and me, they become gushy and mushy little and big darlings. Additionally we all have more time to work and delve into afternoon projects. What lovely side effects! GREAT BOOK: Created for Work
Are their hearts hardened toward your teaching? Making you feel like that awful nagging gong? Try focusing on the child’s needs rather than the book’s pages. We are so quick to believe what the world tells us: (think nasally announcer voice) “The farther you go academically and the faster you get there the more of the world will be open to you.” It is true that more doors will be open to your child, but God has just one that they need walk through, and that is a given that it will be open to them- I am talking earthly doors here since we are talking present tense, in the ditches, working-day reality. They will need to have a soft heart to hear it’s Resident whisper, “That is the door.” Regain their heart, rebuild a trusting relationship based upon something other than one page after another. They can learn at any time. Once they leave your house character will come at a far greater price. Boys want respect. Girls want love. Are you able to respect your sons choice to ignore his schoolwork and sneak gaming time? If you put it in those words he may listen to the words that follow about how successful men are not those who shirk their duty. Then walk away. Can you love your daughters inner beauty even when she chooses coverings which to hide behind? Are you able to tell her how loveable her giggling with a friend is, and how that will make some lucky man joy-filled to wake to each day? Start small. It will grow. You may think you ave nothing to work with. It is there. God is way bigger than we give Him credit for when we are in a rut seeing no way out. GREAT BOOK: Mothers and Sons

If you have a situation that is crushing your joy of teaching reach out and let’s chat ideas and options. Homeschooling is an incredible gift-journey to be able to choose, but it is not the easy road. That being said, we should rarely find ourselves gnashing our teeth and wanting to throw out the baby with the bath water. You might be a homeschooling mama if you are resilient, introspective, and willing to grow regardless personal cost.

You all are doing something amazing. Changing the world one child at a time. It is unbelievable what solid jobs you are doing in building a nation of faith filled, character filled men and women. Oh, and, the nice side effect, they are educated beyond their peers and able to self govern which allows an outward focus for serving others. Thank you for the gift of serving your family!

…..You might be a homeschooling mama if it is 9:45 and you are just thinking about waking your children… (this is one of my ways of avoiding letting them see me distracted from my main goal of raising them. grins and giggles forever!

High School Readiness & Gaps

In answer to the common question, “How will I know I am covering “enough” with my soon-to-be 8th grader to prepare him for high school level courses?”

You never will.  Makes me grin each time I type this as I can envision the ‘thanks for nothing’ expression it must elicit.

If your student will return to public school you will need him prepared in math & reading comprehension, competent in gleaning material from texts, able to fill in a bubble with the stroke of a #2 pencil, stand in line, raise his hand, request a bathroom pass in twelve different languages,………….okay, I’m getting a bit silly.

Make certain your child is math confident.  Go back and insure that all upper level math building blocks are sturdy and steady.  (decimals, fractions, theories, etc).  Strengthen reading comprehension through re-reading and narrating short stories, classics, favorite books.  Use a strong program such as IEW or Lost Tools of Writing to assure that a well planned, well stated composition can be created if given a topic.

If your student has a strong foundation in these three basics, he/she will be able to learn any subject matter no matter how difficult or foreign.  Science and History are required subjects, so please don’t forget to include them in your days.  But the base three for a lifetime of success in learning anything from how to put together a bike to how to solve the worlds problems are math, reading comprehension, and writing.

Another spin off to this is the issue of ‘gaps’.  Not the super fantastic immune strengthening diet that is helping frantic moms across the world regain health over illness, just the simple empty spaces that feel, in an academic sense, as though they ought to be filled.

Every single student has gaps even if they attend the most stellar institution this world has to offer and switch to another.  There will be gaps.  From traditional school to traditional school, there are gaps- yes, even if they are all teaching The Core.  From home school to traditional school, there will be gaps.  Gaps just can’t be helped.

As long as the gaps are not in the above 3 mentioned areas (math, reading comprehension, writing) your student will be just fine and be caught up within a matter of weeks.  -even in computers and foreign language when placed with students who have had experience for 8 years and yours has none.  It’s a phenomenon for sure, but it’s real.

Summer School aka Year ‘Round Schooling aka Relaxing

With summer swiftly arriving and calling us out of doors it is a joyful release to know that the required 180 day academic year is (almost) over.  But, if you are like us and enjoy the ‘anchorage’ of daily worthwhile accomplishment, it is also a time of continuation and exploration.

We will continue our math and reading- Possibly some journaling, and we will take on an area of interest or weakness.   The groaning and gnashing of teeth will be short lived if you just take to heart that your home culture is one of real life which means that while our job requirements may change, they do not stop, and rarely take more than a short lived break.  It is who we are.  It is what we do.

Last summer we worked on Latin.  This summer we will focus on art and handwriting (a form of art in my way of thinking).  And don’t forget the math and reading.  You know that science will, literally, creep in, and history will be present in many of the books read as well as be a daily dinner (table) discussion.  Viola!  Year ‘Round Schooling.  Simpler than you thought?  Precept upon precept.  Our goal is the love of learning for the sake of understanding The Word as well as an accumulation of knowledge and ability.  Our accumulated work/textbooks no longer bring joy past their completion and blessed laying down.  Not that they are not valid stepping stones.  But, they are not the spark that ignites the spirit of joyful curiosity within.

Don’t Label Your Student ‘Smart’

So often in emails I can hear the sweet love of homeschooling and all that you get to do in a day. It tickles me to be even a tiny part of that! A common occurrence in the elementary years is well state by this mom- in the positive and well intention-ed manner of all the goodness that is a homeschooling mom. It is evident that these parents are doing a great job- and are loving doing it!

“We are “starting” 2nd grade this year, even though technically we “should” be starting 1st grade if we were following the public school birthday schedule. This upcoming year is our 3rd year homeschooling. We don’t plan to put our daughter in public or private school, but if we were to consider it, how would that work? If we show work that she completed 1st grade last year, would that count?”

Our opinion is that you should keep children in the grade their age states. This is NOT to say that you should teach her only at this level! The reasons we encourage this are: Going forward easy breezy is smooth sailing when they are little, but often a wall is hit and then the child has panic and confusion over ‘losing’ her smarts, not being able to over achieve as pleases their parent(s) –self mis giving over why it had been so easy and fun to thrill mom/dad with braininess and now the subject seems difficult. Who am I if I’m not super smart? How can mom/dad still be thrilled with me when I’m not smart? I’m gonna lose my pedestal!

Now, we know that is not how we approach or feel, but a child does not and these unspoken worries can eat a child up, cause them to freeze academically, turn away from enjoying learning, and so on. No matter what we say, it is what has been said and the reactions they have seen and conversations overheard that stick in their heart’s memory. Don’t feel terrible if this is you. We see this on a regular basis and we see these families make corrections and move forward happily. But, after much hard work toward changing everyone’s approach, views, and verbage.

So, stick to grade level, teach at academic level without acclaim or proclaim, tell you daughter what a ‘hard worker’ she is, avoid using terms like, ‘you are so smart’, ‘you are an artists’, etc. Expect that throughout her academic career she will zoom ahead and lag behind in any/all subjects. Just take today for what it is and approach tomorrow for what it will bring. No need to title, label, or proclaim.

YOU Are Your Special Needs Specialist

Special needs students require the same credits as above but with a longer time limit and lower rate of achievement expectation.  We set goals for our daughter, focus on her self organizing, self starting, self pacing for her academics.  Her electives are predominantly focused on life skills, character development, nutrition, and health.  Her math is not high school math, but it is math.  Her other books are high school level and she will complete many of her 9th grade courses this summer –taking a full 365 days to complete 180 days of work.

We expect her high school work to be completed in 5+ years at which point she will graduate with a SC High School Certificate or a SC High School Diploma with Exceptions.  Those exceptions being that she will most likely never take a formal SAT/ACT style test, or be eligible to enter college without beginning with remedial courses.  Since my God is far larger than our greatest visions/plans we will never put  a cap on what our daughter can do, but this day she will move forward in all areas of growth and we will walk with her on this road.

In hindsight we realize that a traditional school would have offered her many specialized approaches and therapies that may have moved her ahead in her abilities far quicker than we have.  It would also have taught her what she could not do.  By being homeschooled, correcting her speech, OT, PT, etc needs we moved slower in accomplishing the same goals, but she has no idea that she cannot do certain things.  We don’t believe that she cannot do anything if the desire is planted in her heart and it is from God.

Note- we did partake of the special services offered through the public schools but were quickly dissatisfied with their short sessions, even shorter shared sessions, immense paperwork, and taking more time to stop our day, travel to/from, and get back into a groove for sometimes only 15 minutes of therapy.  There were days that she received the full allotted time of 45 minutes and the less used therapies like OT were incredible, but the overbooked and overworked therapies like speech were ineffective.  So, we did the homeschool thing- became therapists, learned what she needed, how to provide for and meet those needs, and built it in as a part of our daily routine–all day long, every day and not just for a short time once or twice a week.  Her improvement was steady….and continues to be steady with some leaps and some rests along the way.

Less is More

Rest easy.  You cannot academically ruin an elementary level student.  I promise!  The most typical mistake is in doing too much academically rather than too little.  These little sponges will soak and soak and soak in the information as they see how pleased it makes you (with them).  And then at some point around 2nd-4th grade they are saturated, may shut down, and lessen or lose their enthusiasm for learning. What happened? It used to be so easy to please you, it used to be so easy to keep up with the work?  Meeting moms expectations and thrilling her with your ‘smarts’ was a breeze, but now it is hard work -and the amount of work has become heavy.  So, mom, keep it light, avoid most of the fluff subjects beyond phonics, read alouds (at, below, above level), and counting.  Really, if you have not opened your curriculum you can send it back or keep it for use here and there.  Avoid worksheet/workbook worship, avoid more than 15-30 minutes of sit down academic work (multiply this per grade up to 5th-7th grade-ish).  Utilize nature, literature, and discussion as much as possible.  Create an environment of learning, a culture of curiosity, within your home rather than a classroom in your kitchen.  Get excited over finding reference books at the thrift stores and build a library of $1 books one at a time.

If you find yourself on the edge or your child lacking zeal for learning, step back and look at what you are doing.  And, don’t allow the student to dictate your day by his/her attitude.  Have few rules but keep them consistently, keep them with love and grace and firm control.  Some ideas of what I mean are: good attitude, kindness toward others, quick obedience (even, and especially, when not getting ones way), attendance to/completion of lessons in a quick, efficient and correct manner.  These foundational stones will return to serve your future years of school, home or traditional, in a manner that will tickle you to your toes.  Lack thereof will create an equal and opposite reaction.  Have no fear.  Adam and Eve homeschooled their children, so did Noah, so did Mary & Joseph.  This is a natural gift that we all have.  Only we have been taught that we are incapable of tapping into it unless we are issued a piece of paper by a professional.  No!  If one man can do it, you can do it.  Pray, read, join a support group, join in groups/activities as you are able, take joy in your child every day, take joy in days that ought to be scrapped of traditional learning and turned into park days or pj days, take joy that you have freedom to teach deeply in the areas that are of importance to your family.  Do not fear that someone will tell you it is inadequate.  No two schools are at the same level, no two students are at the same level.  Your child will learn one subject easily and one not so easily.  Have a child behind in one subject and ahead in one is quite normal.  You need not fit ‘someone’s’ idea of normal, you just need to follow your child’s abilities and learn precept upon precept.  Completing a workbook, text, or curriculum each year does not mean the material has been learned.  It has been covered.  Far better it should be learned.

Okay, so I could ramble on all day as I love this stuff and want each of our Faithful Scholars families to feel empowered and confident in their roles as homeschool teacher and administrator.  I am here to answer whatever question you may have- on topic or off, silly or serious.  Don’t ever think you are the only one experiencing anything- it is a lie.  We all go through much the same experiences and when we share our troubles we find our answers as well as love and grace!

Eager and Early Learners

…Eager and Early Learners

I can remember my husband buying a book on our honeymoon entitled, “Teach Your Baby to Read.”  We had already planned to homeschool our children, when they came, but this was not what I had in mind.  A year later our first child was born and that book sat on the shelves.  Though I was determined not to push reading on my infant daughter, I did assume I would begin teaching her at a relatively early age.  By the time she was eighteen months, we were well into flash cards of letters and phonemes.  At the time it seemed simple—she had an inordinately long attention-span and was not a particularly active child.  She preferred to sit upon my then pregnant belly and spout out letters, shapes, colors, etc.  By the time she was four, she was reading and writing simple sentences.  I, of course, beamed with pride and wished for opportunities whereby people could stumble upon the fact of her genius.   We continued along in this vein and she progressed along schedule.   I couldn’t have been more pleased when she was reading all the Little House on the Prairie books and writing short stories in kindergarten.
So, for several years I pushed her and pushed her to be a prolific reader and writer.  It probably had a lot to do with pride, but it wasn’t just that—I felt a deep responsibility to cultivate her God-given talents.  To be a good steward of her gifts, so to speak.   I pushed her in every area, and as a dutiful eldest child she seemed up to the task.  She strove to please me and everyone around her and to be a model child.  But all was not well.  Our daughter was struggling with emotional issues.  She became a classic worrier and felt she could never quite keep up with the expectations we set on her.   We didn’t see it that clearly at first and thought it had more to do with trauma after the accidental death of our neighbor.  The emotional problems intensified–unwinding into several complicated years of ups and downs;  all the while we were brought to our knees begging the Lord to give us wisdom.  What we eventually saw, through a series of events and with the help of the books by Dr. Raymond and Dorothy Moore, was that she was under immense pressure to perform in every area.  As the eldest of our four children, we expected her to set an example for the rest.  She did this admirably—so admirably in fact that we missed how it was hurting her on the inside.  For a long time we focused on having her memorize relevant scripture—to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.  We were on the right track, but not addressing the whole problem.  The rest of the problem was not in her heart and mind, but in that of her parents.  To put it simply, we were stressing her out.  Unfortunately, we hadn’t really figured this out yet.
It took another year before we truly came to see what we were doing to her.  She began to no longer enjoy reading or writing and could no longer think well.  It seemed, in fact, like she wasn’t learning anything.  We all trudged along while learning slowed down and enjoyment waned.  I can’t say that there was an aha moment when everything came together and suddenly changed for the better.  What I do know is that things are improving for the whole family and it has a lot to do with changes in me.  It’s a daily challenge to trust the Lord more than myself and to believe that He has a plan.
I expect a lot of my kids—I don’t think that will ever change.  I am attempting to find the balance between maintaining high standards while eschewing unreasonable expectations.  It’s difficult to simplify the last ten years of this journey into a few simple paragraphs.   I am still struggling to learn that it is okay to allow kids to advance at their own pace and to not push on them societal norms about academics.  Children who grow up in a home where learning is clearly important will incorporate that ideal into their own.   The problems and their solutions are far more complex than what is written here.  Hopefully though, with the Lord’s help, we are at least on the right track.

A day in the life of …. homeschooling with preschoolers!

…a Homeschool Family with Pre-schoolers

No two school days are exactly alike in our house. With a 7 year old in first grade, a 5 year old in K4 and 3 and 18 month olds underfoot, we adapt each day as needed to get in what we need to while having ample fun and play time. We love field trips and hands-on activities, like trips to the zoo or museum and lots of crafts and art projects, but we also make sure we cover the basics – reading, writing, math, science, history, Bible, Latin. We participate in group educational experiences in programs like Classical Conversations and Monday’s Artists. We take dance, violin and piano lessons. And we do school year-round which means the summer months (when classes are out) look very different from the “school year” months.

On a day where we have no classes outside of the home (a true “home school” day), we get started around 6 AM with morning wake-up snuggles and breakfast. The children play and watch a couple of their favorite shows while everyone is getting going (and mommy is having her coffee). By 9 AM we head down to the classroom and start the little ones playing while my 7 year old starts her workbooks (Explode the Code for language arts and Singapore Math). I help my 5 year old with his reading lessons and answer any questions my 7 year old has afterward, while my 5 year old reads his Bob books to his younger siblings (who are still playing in the floor).

Once my oldest has finished her workbooks, we move onto our Bible story time which I read aloud and we discuss as a group. The younger two often play more than pay attention but that is OK. We work on our Bible memory work – books of the Bible and some verses – before we break for snack time around 10 AM. While the younger 3 children finish their snack and play, my oldest child works on a writing assignment – copy work and writing a friendly letter to a girlfriend which we will mail later. Then as a group we go over our history sentence memory work and timeline cards and I read aloud a story to them that goes along with the lesson. The youngest one usually is still playing. We break for some outside playtime while I make lunch.

After lunch we’ll play a little more and then around 1 PM the little one goes down for her nap. My 3 year old colors or plays quietly while I do science – a lesson and possibly experiment – with the older two and finish up anything we missed in the morning (math for the little one, Latin maybe) but we don’t do every subject everyday either. Then we do an art or craft project where all 3 children can have some fun. I try to tie it into history or science when possible but sometimes we just do whatever they ask for. After art we snuggle up for some read-aloud time – sometimes it is related to something we are studying and sometimes it’s just for fun.

When the baby gets up we all head back outside for playtime for the rest of the day until dad gets home. At dinner the kids recount to dad what we did during the day (which lets me know what really sunk in and what didn’t). My husband says he is getting smarter just by what the kids are teaching him. We enjoy family time and and before bedtime I or my husband reads aloud to our 5 and 3 year olds, and my 7 year old reads aloud to us (or sometimes we read to her). In general I’d say we read a lot, we play a lot and we laugh and snuggle a whole lot. That’s what makes it all worth doing!