Sunday, January 29, 2012

On Books and Blogs

Sorry.  I haven't blogged in ages.  I've been spending time reading some nurturing homeschool books and praying for wisdom about how (or if!) we should change some things.  I've discovered I've been trying to fill my children's minds like buckets.  Instead, I think my job is to kindle a fire for learning.  I'm not completely sure how to carry that out yet, but I still have some reading to do.  (Upon re-reading that, I think that if I could do both things, we could make soup.)

One author, Dr. Raymond Moore, explains that homeschooling should be more like Rolls Royce craftsmanship rather than a Yugo being put together on an assembly line.  (I'm really glad I saw that episode of How It's Made now.)  He doesn't completely cut out curriculum though.  Here's a quote:
"True homeschooling is tutorial, handmade, customized to each child...a balance between systematic structure where needed and a great deal of freedom for youngsters to explore.  Your curriculum should be tailored to your child and provide him much more time to pursue his interests than your workbooks."
He also says there should be a balance between study, work, and service.  I like that.  Too often I think we're so busy getting the bookwork done that there isn't time to help out at the Humane Society.  All of my kids want to volunteer there again.  I need to make that happen, even though I loathe coming home with all that cat hair all over my clothes.  It's almost like I've got my own coat of fur.  Oh well.  "It's for the children."

I have been blogging, btw.  I simply haven't been blogging here.  We've got a blog (is there a synonym for blog?) for the families in our homeschool musical.  The kids all have demo CD's with which they can practice the songs, but if the song has parts (soprano-alto or soprano-alto-tenor), then it's really hard to hear the middle and lower parts.  So, I make videos of me playing each part on our keyboard at home and post them on the blog.

The next song we're working on is dog-gone difficult.  It's fast.  It's in three parts.  And it has a ton of accidentals.  I've spent most of this weekend working on these videos.  It's crazy.  I get to the point where I can play the part perfectly a few times in a row.  Then...I turn on the camera to record...and I keep messing up.  *sigh*  Here's a video of "Take 47" or so.

Oy.  It reminds me of this:

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Homeschool Pharisee

We've been about two weeks behind in our schooling for some time.  We took an unexpected week off in late October to attend a missionary conference in MN, and then we didn't get much schoolwork done over Thanksgiving while we were visiting my in-laws in MD.  Add to that a couple of sick days, and you can easily see why we're beginning week 15 instead of 17 or 18 (out of 36).

This morning, during my quiet time, I was asking for wisdom about this very thing.  God is so good.  He does give generously without finding fault!  He reminded me that my standard in homeschooling (as well as everything else, of course) is Him!  And one place where His standard for educating my children can be found is in Deuteronomy 6:5-7.

"And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  And these words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart; and you shall teach them diligently  to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up."

Another area of obeying God's standard for home education is submitting to the governing authorities (Romans 13:1).  For me, that means teaching 875 hours and incorporating six certain subjects.  (Thankfully, Wisconsin keeps things fairly simple.  Your "governing authorities" could be different than mine.)

So why...why have I done this to my children?

This is Jeffrey's binder.  See, I'm a planner, which I think is a good thing.  But instead of using this binder as a guideline, it has become our master.  And to top it off, Emma and Lydia have their own binders.  So, I've had three binder-masters!  Hmmm...come to think of it, the word "binder" has a double meaning here.  It keeps all of the pages in there nicely, but it has also bound us--chained us--to crossing everything off.  Slavery to the binder is not a good thing.  Having a plan?  Yes, that's good.  I'm glad I took the time to fill all of this stuff in.  However, I think I put too much in there.  I've got busywork and completely unnecessary things in there.  And worse yet, we get so busy trying to catch up that we don't enjoy any of it anymore!  Once we get everything checked off for the school day, our mind set is like this, "Whew!  Good!  School is done for today."  And that's not true.  (See Deut. 6:5-7 above.)  Because I think we're done, I don't even look for teachable moments.  I'm too tired and frustrated.  Besides, I've got supper to make, housework to do, kids to bathe....  My day is one big "To Do" list, and I'm sick of it.  But the good news is:

*Drum roll*


I am following the governing authorities perfectly.  My children are learning for at least five hours per day in more than six subjects.  Any feelings of being behind have only come from me--from that binder to which I've enslaved us.  See, I've taken God's standard and added to it the things which would make us look good.  Uh-huh.  Homeschool Pharisee.  That's me.  And just like a Pharisee, I've been frustrated with my kids--and with myself--for not being able to keep up with the impossible.  Along with that, I've sacrificed much relational time with my children for the sake of ritualistic "stuff and fluff".  We're going to make some changes around here.


To be honest, I don't know.  But I'm actually okay with that.  I'm trusting God and asking Him for wisdom.  And really, I'm just so very relieved!  His yoke is easy and His burden is light.  *happy sigh*

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

On Homeschooling, Part 3

Finally, the last of the trilogy!  

Yes, there are many things about homeschooling that are frustrating and time-consuming and plain ol' hard work.  But.  It's totally worth it.  Here are several reasons why I love homeschooling.  (If you don't have time to read the whole thing, then skip to the last bullet point.)
  • I'm a control freak, so I really like choosing our curriculum and deciding what my kids are going to learn--and when they'll learn it.  Teaching subjects from a Biblical worldview is a major component here. 
  • I get to learn, or re-learn, all kinds of cool stuff.  I joke with the kids that I'll go on Jeopardy someday and win tons of money with all of my homeschool teacher knowledge.  (They tell me to try Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader first.  Thanks, kids.)
  • I really know my kids.  I can honestly say that I know what makes them tick.  Because we read a lot of the same books and generally spend so much time together, we have lots of family inside jokes and understandings.  That's fun.  I know their learning styles, so I can choose (or switch to!) curriculum which makes the most sense to them.  And, as the kids get older, we can tailor their school subjects to specific bents and interests.  No cookie-cutter educations here!
  • I really love my kids.  (I'm not saying that parents who send their kids to school don't love them, btw.)  Homeschooling allows me to spend lots of time with them--which, I admit, can be a double-edged sword at times.  You know what I mean.  But, you know how some families struggle to eat together once or twice a week?  Well, I think we average at least a dozen meals all together each week.  (For the most part, the kids eat breakfast as they wake up.  Sometimes Dave eats lunch before or after we do, depending on his schedule.)
  • My kids really know each other--whether they like it or not.  It's important to me they know each other well, because Dave and I won't be around forever.  I figure their adult relationships will be stronger because of this foundation we're laying through homeschooling.
  • Homeschooling provides a top-notch education.  It's tutoring, which is a highly efficient way to teach, but it has the goal of the parent working herself out of a job, academically speaking.  My classroom size is quite small, and each year my students work a little more independently so they can become self-motivated self-learners.
  • Flexibility is freedom!  We can't take vacations during the summer because people come to us (the camp thing).  It's nice to be able to take off whenever Dave's schedule allows.  Being tied to a public or private school calendar would be quite limiting.  We can also be flexible during our schooling, such as: slowing down when the material is tough, catching up in June if we come across some great field trips during the year, and scheduling half-days on Thursdays so we can be in the musical.
  • My kids relate well to people of all ages.  Since they don't spend most of their waking hours with same-age peers, they don't think it's any big deal to converse with someone much older or younger than themselves.  It comes naturally.  They don't even have to think about it.
  • Outside influences are minimized.  I love how my kids aren't caught in the name-brand trap.  (By that I mean they don't think name brands define their worth as human beings.)  A trip to Goodwill is a special treat!  More importantly, we still have our kids' hearts.  They are somewhat influenced by their peers, but Dave and I are still the go-to guys in our children's lives.
  • Finally, the things I love about homeschooling are the things I complained about two posts ago!  Okay, I don't love it while I'm in the midst of the tattling and whining and sighing and yelling, but I'm trying to recognize that every disagreement or annoyance is an opportunity for us (me!) to yield to the Lord--to walk in the Spirit and bear His fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Obviously, this is much easier said than done.  Deep down, I am thankful for the many (oh, so many) chances homeschooling gives us to work on trusting God to supply what we lack in our own flesh.  Homeschooling also makes me trust in God for my future.  I'll write that book someday--if He wants me to.  I also have to trust Him with Samuel.  That doesn't mean I sit back with some laissez-faire attitude about spending time with the boy.  Rather, asking for wisdom has become a no-brainer.  Since I don't have enough time or strength for everything I want to do, I need God's direction for what's most important now.  Today.  This week.  This year.  (I'll write more about this later.)  I guess you could say that, more than anything else, homeschooling teaches me.  It teaches me to die to myself.  To yield to God.  To be more like Christ.