Category Archives: elementary

When it Goes Wrong

We have all felt moments When it Goes Right.  Deep in our hearts things click- satisfaction, calm, rest, joy, peace all come together in a satisfying sigh of right-ness.  It is attainable.  It is what keeps us seeking the ideal by bettering ourselves and our children/families one day at a time through teaching at home, practicing what we learn, and mastering what we practice.  It is what causes people to comment on our children.  If you are like us, you get tired of hearing how ‘lucky’ you are and one day become bold enough to reply, “This is not luck, it is bloody hard work in action.”  With a sweet smile, of course!

What about the other moments, those that might dominate our days- When it Goes Wrong.  As homeschoolers we bravely and daily place ourselves to be confronted with the reality of our shortcomings.  Our need for growth.  One of my favorite realizations was that we are so eager to enter Heaven that we choose go through the fires of sanctification daily rather than baby step our way there during weekends/holiday (growth) moments scattering fire to get us through to a peace filled, quiet house Monday.  Who does this?!  Really!  If given the choice, using your brain rather than your soul, everyone would choose quiet days, clean homes, adult conversation.  But you did not- we do not….

…..and things go wrong constantly.  Well, not before the sweet little feet hit the floor each morning.  As I type I struggle with myself over waking the children or taking (stealing) another 30 minutes of quiet time to get my heart-thoughts on to paper.  In releasing myself from carrying guilt all day, I must simply make a clear and concrete decision rather than ‘just a few minutes more.’  They will remain in blessed Dream Land for 30 more minutes!  My timer is set.  My resolve is made.  My guilt laid down.  That, at least, is one thing that will not Go Wrong today.

Other things will go wrong- certainly.  I don’t expect them, prepare for them, nor look for them, but I am not surprised when they pop into our lives.  They have become just another welcomed moment in my day.   One that shows me where I can self improve as a wife, mother, teacher, friend.  Knowing that my days can Go Right places the times when it Goes Wrong in just the right light.  His Light that assures me that I can do better.  I can change.  I can try again to model the actions I desire to impart to my family/children through this journey of home education.  Things that Go Wrong are simply signs that we, ourselves, need to re-direct our thoughts, energies, and efforts.  The children will, most assuredly, eventually, follow.

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.

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.

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.

 

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.

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.

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.