Tag Archive for homeschooling

A Parenting Gem from Charlotte Mason, That Nearly Every Other Parenting Book Missed

I’m re-reading Home Education by Charlotte Mason and I stumbled upon this nugget of mothering goodness that stayed with me for months and wanted to share it, as I don’t recall ever reading it explained this way anywhere else.

(And let’s be honest, you’ve seen my bookshelves! I’ve spent hundreds of dollars on parenting and education books.)

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Charlotte Mason, as you might recall, was an educator in England during late 1800’s, known for her compassionate heart for the plight of children and her keen observations about what made them tick.

She knew how to win their hearts, and understood the difference between being lectured to and being fully educated.

In volume 1 part 3, Entitled “Offending the Children,” she talks about a code of ethics for dealing with children, taken from the gospels:

It is summed up in three commandments, and all three have a negative character, as if the chief thing required of grown-up people is that they should do no sort of injury to the children: Take heed that ye offend not––despise not––hinder not––one of these little ones.

She opens by telling the story of a mother who thinks it’s “funny” to get a reaction out of her baby by saying “Naughty Baby” just to watch the way the child’s face drops and her countenance changes. In short, teasing the baby by saying something untrue. She notes that the baby’s face changes because her little conscience is working and she’s aware of right and wrong. Then she asks how this child could grow up into someone who couldn’t care less about doing right?

She contends that is because of the inconsistency of the mother and her example of not loving virtue.

By slow degrees, here a little and there a little, as all that is good or bad in character comes to pass. ‘Naughty!’ says the mother, again, when a little hand is thrust into the sugar bowl; and when a pair of roguish eyes seek hers furtively, to measure, as they do unerringly, how far the little pilferer may go. It is very amusing; the mother ‘cannot help laughing’; and the little trespass is allowed to pass: and, what the poor mother has not thought of, an offence, a cause of stumbling, has been cast into the path of her two-year-old child. He has learned already that which is ‘naughty’ may yet be done with some impunity, and he goes on improving his knowledge.”

 

She contrasts this behavior with that of the “law compelled” mother–one who upholds virtue as a standard for all in the house, including herself and doesn’t allow herself to rule her children from a place of convenience, selfishness, moodiness, or whim.

This mother believes it’s her DUTY to live under the very laws she upholds as beautiful and right to her children. AND, conversely, to parent any other way, especially to parent on your whim or moods, it to train your child to live selfishly and hate virtue.

She explains that children are born into the world with a sense of justice. They recognize injustice when they’re called “bad boy” or “naughty girl” when they weren’t truly bad.

Children know and learn quickly that sometimes the only truth they have to get around is mom’s bad mood or dad’s tired hour to get what they want. They are trained to manipulate when parental whims are the prevailing law in the home and God’s law, or virtue and right and wrong is nothing.

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A mother who “does not offend or hinder a child” is one who consistently calls good good and evil evil.

She teaches the child that they both have a duty to God and to truth.

Therefore, she doesn’t laugh or overlook when the child throws a fit or hits another child, or steals cookies before dinner, even if she’s in an upbeat, silly mood and doesn’t feel like dealing with it.

And when the mother is aggravated or tired or stretched to her limits, she refuses to come down hard on the kids for little offenses, as though she’s the only consideration in the house and she’s above the law of God. She has a duty to love virtue and live virtue, and well, unjust anger doesn’t fit into that rubric.

I think many times we parent to our own whims. We know the right things to do, yes, but we don’t love virtue enough to do the hard things, and consequently, our children don’t love virtue either. It becomes a big game of pushing limits, testing mom and dad, or seeing how far we can go to the edge without getting in trouble.

Charlotte Mason, in Home Education says,

The child has learned to believe that he has nothing to overcome but his mother’s disinclination; if she choose to let him do this and that, there is no reason why she should not;

On watching a mother who lives by whims, not principle or law:

if his mother does what she chooses, of course he will do what he chooses, if he can; and henceforward the child’s life becomes an endless struggle to get his own way; a struggle in which a parent is pretty sure to be worsted, having many things to think of, while the child sticks persistently to the thing which has his fancy for the moment.

After describing the battle of wills that will surely result from self-centered living in parenting, she asks where it all stems from:

In this: that the mother began with no sufficient sense of duty; she thought herself free to allow and disallow, to say and unsay, at pleasure, as if the child were hers to do what she liked with. The child has never discovered a background of must behind his mother’s decisions; he does not know that she must not let him break his sister’s playthings, gorge himself with cake, spoil the pleasure of other people, because these things are not rightLet the child perceive that his parents are law-compelled as well as he, that they simply cannot allow him to do the things which have been forbidden, and he submits with the sweet meekness which belongs to his age.

In short, the child needs to know that his mother

“is not to be moved from a resolution on any question of right and wrong.”

I have done a lot of parenting and I’ve seen a lot of parenting and I know how easy it is to parent out of “convenience” for mom.

“Stop fighting.”–This house is so loud I can’t hear myself think.

“Do your chores.”–I don’t want to have to remind you and I want the work done.

When it all comes back to us as the center, and we forget virtue all together, we are woe-fully off of our goal of parenting to the glory of God.

Virtuous parenting looks up to the will of the Lord. It insists that we all live for God’s desires. Parents can’t live as though they are above God’s law. They don’t get a pass. They must not shirk their duty to live a life worthy of imitating.  To do so is to imitate another thing entirely.

In a Christian home, the standard must be God’s Word. What does God say about a matter? How would he have us act and react?  We don’t “seek our own” because we are not our own.

It’s worth working through Part 3 of Home Education if you want to read more about this. I found it very helpful.

For further reading on CM’s method’s, you might enjoy A Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola. Her blog is also enjoyable and refreshing.

Fall Planning: Carve out time to live your true calling.

Whenever I talk to younger moms, the same question always comes up in one form or another: How am I supposed to get everything done?!

If you’ve had kids for more than two minutes, you know that, despite our best efforts, unpredictability and busy-ness is the name of the game. And the more kids you have, the busier you are.  P.S. Nobody ever told me that the teen/college years were going to be the busiest of my life! (Someone should write about that! Really, now.)

If you’ve read here for any length of time you know that I can commiserate with the crazy-busy life. With a large family, my plate is full.

And full is good, but an over-flowing plate is not so good. Overflowing plates look a lot like forgetting appointments, unplanned dinners, haphazard ministry, and a disorganized home.

So, my advice to the younger moms and the advice I give to myself is this: plan and prioritize to avoid frustration and save your sanity. Then start with the needful things.

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Sally Clarkson, in Own Your Life, says,

“From the moment we take our first breaths, our days are numbered, so how we live matters. The decisions we make—the important ones and, yes, the mundane ones too—they all matter. Everyday decisions add up to form the life we live and the legacy we leave behind.” Own Your Life

I sit down every fall with my priorities sheet and pray over and eliminate any area that is wearing me down or where I’ve over extended myself.

“Someone has said that if you do not plan your life, someone else will. How true! Every woman should try to manage her own life and priorities with the help of the Lord. If you do not, more organized people will eagerly help fill your day and try to control your destiny.” The Christian Homemaker’s Handbook, pg. 269

The negative results of unmanaged, haphazard lives are:

  • “Unmanaged lives reveal personal weaknesses.”
  • “Unmanaged lives are influenced by dominant people.”
  • “Unmanaged lives surrender to the demands of all emergencies.”
  • “Unmanaged lives get involved in activities that gain public acclaim and are not necessarily important. ” CHH, pg 270

 

In The Life Ready Woman,Thriving in a Do-It-All World,  the authors give “Life Long Decision-Making Principles” that I found very helpful:

  1. There is a time for everything.
  2. Your core callings never go away.
  3. A choice for one thing is a choice against another.
  4. Make choices appropriate to your season.

This is such practical advice!

I don’t want to live with regrets, so I re-evaluate my season of life, pencil in the “non-negotiables”, those things that only I can do for my immediate family, then I add the things I’m called to do and passionate about, whether it’s ministry of some sort, hospitality, blogging, or encouraging women one-on-one, then add any extras that I might hold loosely, like local events, classes I’m interested in, or sites I’d like to visit.

In Teaching from Rest, Sarah MacKenzie wisely warns us to simplify our schedule:

“If God expected you to get thirty-six hours’ worth of work done in a day, He would have given you thirty-six hours to do it. If you have more to do than time to do it, the simple fact is this: Some of what you are doing isn’t on His agenda for you.”

“Take a hard look at the 168 hours in your week. Now consider nonnegotiables: sleep, eat, shower, pray. Plug in meal preparation, rest and church on Sunday, and enough wind-down time at the end of each day to ensure a good night’s sleep. See what’s left? You don’t get any more than that, sister.” pg 38,39 Teaching From Rest

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So, as you plan your fall, remember that you want to embrace His agenda for you. If you are married, are you scheduling time to love and befriend your husband as a priority? Do you have margin in your life to assist him if he needs it?  Make his life special?

If you are a SAHM, be all there. Be an overachiever in your own home. Don’t shortchange your immediate family by buying into the lie that anything and everything outside the home matters more than what you are doing inside your four walls. Rock those babies. You are the only one who can. Comfort your children. Don’t despise work that is unseen. Be content living a life that looks different than others if God has called you to stay home. Plan to use your home to minister to others. Invite others in. Meet one on one for Bible study or encouragement with a younger mom. Use your home for gospel ministry.

Older moms who are running teens here, there, and everywhere, or who are trying to stay connected to married children, don’t forget that little things are still big to kids of every age. Show interest. Schedule time to write a letter or make that phone call. Plan one-on-one time with your teen because this is the time they need it most. Be as connected as they want to be. Show them you have all the time in the world for them.

Moms who work outside the home, be a stickler when it comes to adding extracurricular commitments. You can’t do it all and thrive. Decide which activities feed your soul and which are adding frustration. I recently read that it’s more important for a child to learn to cook than to learn soccer. I think there’s some wisdom to that somewhere. 😉

As you plan, pray that God’s kingdom would come to fruition in your little home as you plan your daily tasks. Ask Him for grace to do what’s right, to love what must be done, and for a heart to follow hard after Him as He guides and leads you.

Are you planning for fall? What tools are you using? What do you need to cut (or add!) in order to live the life God has called you to? Feel free to share in the comments.

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Ideas for Every Day Art

Do you feel unqualified to teach your child the arts?

You’re not alone.

Whenever the topic of art comes up in homeschool circles, those who classify themselves as “non-artsy” shrug their shoulders in defeat, assuming they could never teach their kids art. They say things like, “I can barely draw a stick figure.” or “I couldn’t carry a tune if it had a handle attached to it”.

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There’s good news for you in the non-arsty camp. Art is so broad that you are probably already creating art but without thinking much about it.

  • Maybe you aren’t a maestro, but have you ever gathered flowers from around your yard to arrange a centerpiece for your table simply for others to enjoy? Floral design is an art.
  • Do you send handwritten notes with flowing script, sealed with pretty stickers, intended to make the recipient smile? Writing and penmanship are both arts.
  • Do you enjoy kneading bread dough and find it therapeutic and beautiful as you shape loaves for dinner? Baking is a delicious art.

The truth is that a creating art starts with art appreciation. It’s a lifestyle and and an atmosphere which stops to take notice and savor beautiful things. Raising an aspiring artist is easier than you might think but there’s one rule: You have to step out of your comfort zone and try it.

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I wish people viewed art, music, and poetry (and every pursuit of crafting beautiful things) as integral to the whole person, instead of extra-curricular. Art should be considered the webbing on which all other academic disciplines attach themselves. History relates to art because it’s the story of people and people make art. Math, because design is orderly and universal truths are needed to create rhythm and sequence, etc…

Christians often view art as superfluous, like something you can enjoy when your real work is done. Taking time to create art is seen as a “hobby.” I think Protestants have gotten this wrong for so long that it has affected the quality of work produced by Christians when years ago, some of the most influential artist were Christians.  I for one have seen my fill of cheesy “Christian” movies that lacked excellence and were, frankly, poorly made art.

“What is the place of art in the Christian life? Is art- especially the fine arts- simply a way to bring worldliness in through the back door? What about sculpture or drama, music or painting? Do these have any place in the Christian life? Shouldn’t a Christian focus his gaze steadily on “religious things” alone and forget about art and culture?

As evangelical Christians, we have tended to relegate art to the very fringe of life. The rest of human life we feel is more important.

Despite our constant talk about the lordship of Christ, we have narrowed its scope to a very small area of reality. We have misunderstood the concept of the lordship of Christ over the whole man and the whole of the universe and have not taken to us the riches that the Bible gives us for ourselves, for our lives, and for our culture.

The lordship of Christ over the whole of life means that there are no platonic areas in Christianity, no dichotomy or hierarchy between the body and the soul. God made the body as well as the soul, and redemption is for the whole man.” ~Francis Schaeffer

I’m going to share ways we encouraged art in our home. But I’m really excited to share YOUR thoughts below about how you incorporated art inexpensively and consistently into the home. Thank you so much for contributing!!

Ideas for Every Day Art

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Music::

There are so many ways to enjoy music.

  • Pandora, Spotify, and classical radio are free and allow you access to the greatest composers of all time.
  • When children are young, allow them to make their own music. Bells, rhythm sticks, piano, glockenspiel, pots and pans are all ways to let them enter into music making as they listen to the composer.
  • Sing with your children! Teach them folk songs and hymns. Can there be anything sweeter than “Infant Praises” in the ears of God?
  • If you have access to instruments, let your children play them.
  • Attend free concerts in your community.

Ambleside Online has a composer study rotation, which is a painless way to immerse your kids into their work. We would choose one composer a month and mainline on listening to their work during dinner and free time.

Artwork::

  • Start cheap. Crayons, watercolors, washable markers, chalk, pens, pencils, modeling clay, scissors, and good sized paper are all you need to begin with your children.
  • Spend more as you progress. Eventually buy better art supplies as your budget allows. For the serious art student I recommend Windsor Newton Watercolors, Arches watercolor paper, Prismacolor colored pencils, Tombow Dual Brush Markers.
  • As you work, talk about the process. You might point out that the red paint appears purple when you smear it over the blue. Or that the paint gets runny the more water you add. Or find out what happens when you mix blue and orange. Or as you are out and about, ask “How do you think we could paint clouds like those right there?” “What colors would you mix to get that spring green color?”
  • There are YouTube videos galore on painting, drawing, pastels, etc. When our kids were young, we enjoyed the Draw Right Now series, especially books 2 and 5. For older students, look into  Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.

Don’t criticize your child’s artwork. Pretty please, just don’t. I once watched as a mother hovered over her 4-year-old as she painted, telling her that she was making “that tree wrong” and it should be “that color” and the child was shutting down, unsure of herself.  Not very “inspiring” conditions for a young artist.

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Consider anything your child shares with you as a gift. Ask questions if you like. But in the moment, criticism is not helpful.

Ambleside Online has a Art Schedule that is similar to the composer schedule. You study one artist per month or term. If you have a color printer, you can print them off and stick them on your fridge. If not, set each artists work as a screen saver so your child gets familiar with the feel/style simply by exposure. Let your child try to “copy” the masterpieces.

Boston has the MFA. Your city might have an art museum as well. Many libraries display the work of local artists, as well.

 

Poetry::

My mother loved poetry and would sometimes read it to us at night. We memorized poetry in school, and learned to love the flow of words and the way the language sounded.

If your poetry skills are shaky, or your reading aloud skills are sub-par, consider listening to poetry online. Less is more. One poem enjoyed for a few days is a delightful way to help them appreciate it.

There are so many beautiful poetry books for children:

A Child’s Garden Of Verses. (This edition is OOP but you can get it used for about $5 and the illustrations are lovely.)

Some poetry is easier than others. If you don’t know where to start, try the work of Christina Rossetti or A.A. Milne.

Many songs are just poetry put to music. Hymns can be sung, then spoken articulately.  Folk songs can be spoken and clapped so they notice meter and rhythm.

Handwriting::

I guess penmanship isn’t taught in school anymore, but in the Beals home, penmanship was practiced. Handwriting has a personality. When you see someone’s handwriting, it says something about them. They were in a hurry when they wrote this. They were relaxed and happy as they penned this. They were all business here.

Sending mail via the USPS may be outdated, but there’s something special about getting a handwritten note in the mail in an impersonal world. There are so many occasions to write. Sending a  get well or a “thinking of you” is a gift to the recipient. I love getting a card from my grandmother with her proper, gorgeous script. Sometimes she affixes stickers to the envelope. Usually there is a recipe tucked in or most recently, a recipe for canning blueberry jam.

When my kids were younger, we used handwriting time to copy verses for older people who were shut in at a nursing home. We’d deliver the verse and hang it on their bulletin board to add some color and cheer to their room.

Rebekah especially loves calligraphy and you can see some of her work here.

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Photography::

The world of digital photography makes practicing this skill inexpensive and non-threatening. Don’t like it? Delete!

Kids can learn the ins and outs of DSLR via YouTube or library book and practice away fairly inexpensively.

Handiwork::

There are so many useful crafts that it’s hard to know where to begin. Basket making, jewelry making, woodworking, needlework, beginning sewing with felt, needle felting, flower arranging, card making, ceramics, pottery, etc. are all areas where creativity can flourish.

Reader Advice::

I asked my readers to share how they’ve encouraged art in their homes. Here are a few responses.

I think that it has to be something that is a part of your everyday life, and not something you perceive as an extra. That can be as simple as: taking your children even when their infants to free outdoor concert, having the radio on at home playing music all different kinds, playing CDs, or MP3s, or DVDs! Anything with music in it. That might mean that the first concert you can only stay 10 minutes or so, that will get better over time. The same is true with drawing or painting, it’s not something you introduce as extra, there are crayons and paper is laying around everywhere and whenever they are bored or need downtime that’s what you do. I think if you don’t perceive the arts of something extra and the children won’t either, it will absolutely be a part of their lives. Give me children can also play percussion instruments and that’s fun to do the kind of family drum circle even when they’re just infants! Pots and pans work doesn’t have to be anything fancy.” Beth MacLeod Largent
“I give my kids beginning piano lessons. Even if you’re not a virtuoso, it’s easy to do the beginner stuff. I highly recommended Alfred’s “Music for Little Mozarts” series. You can move through the lessons faster than a weekly lesson with an outside teacher and save 1+ year’s worth of tutiton. They have a music appreciation aspect to the series as well where you can purchase a cd and book. My kids love it. They dance and learn beginning singing. We also do the art lessons included in our homeschool curriculum. (My Father’s World). I always tell my kids that learning art and music makes their brain stronger and think better.” Charity Harley
 “We have had a dedicated “art room” as long as I can remember, and the kids are free to create during their downtime. We talk about an artist once in a while, and display his/her works on the walls. I play piano and sing for them while they play or do art projects, and they sing along. I introduce them to classic and traditional songs, literature, art, poetry on a regular basis. The library has been a great resource for finding books, music, etc. Youtube videos have served us well. The Virtual Art Instructor has also been an amazing tool for learning visual arts. My kids also are in classical ballet and tap classes. Our education is heavy in the arts because my kids are extremely creative, and their creativity spills over into all other subjects. Their education is much more interesting and though provoking because of the arts.” Andrea Hanson

We started our young kids with just crayons and playdoh to give them a chance to create. And that morphed into preschool art like tearing paper to create collages and using beans or pasta to make things. I also rely on a few resources for project ideas – Before Five in a Row is a preschool curriculum that incorporates art and also Five in a Row for the older ages. Lots of good intros into artistic elements but in a welcoming way. Also a blog I like that gives good step-by-step instruction is Art Projects for Kids (http://artprojectsforkids.org/) – a lot of fun and simple projects using supplies at home. We also do nature studies and use field guides and nature books for ideas on drawing and using watercolors. For music and art appreciation, we check out books from the library about artists and composers (some good picture books are available) and listen to music online (allowing us to study some instruments). None of these have been expensive but have given them a good intro if it’s something they want to continue exploring Oh and we bought an inexpensive keyboard so our kids could take basic piano lessons and they’ve enjoyed it so far, even if it’s not something they are passionate about.” Kim Pina

 “Hubs and I are both musicians, and our oldest (7) is in piano lessons. One inexpensive thing we’ve done to introduce all of them is simply to follow our local orchestra(s) on facebook. There are LOADS of free opportunities sponsored by local businesses and such. My favorite is that we got to be in the audience for a live interview with Itzhak Perlman and to watch him play a solo in a piece with 70 young violinists from the area. Tickets for his performance with the city orchestra the night before were upwards of $140 each. Watching him play with local students was free! Just one or two songs, but still… I’m less “up” on visual arts. We’ve done some crafts, pointed out design in architecture, woodworking in old buildings, etc., but not much else. I’m filling that gap next year, though, with homeschool group art appreciation classes at our local art museum. It’ll be $450 total for all my kids for 10 classes, which I consider to be a good investment. It’s a well-known museum and classes will be grouped by age and taught by actual art educators. I’m pretty excited about it.” Tiffany Dujinski
“Homeschooling has been a great blessing. It has enabled us many opportunities. Here are a few “out of the box” things that I have used to incorporate art into our family…playing the piano for them just after they climbed into bed. They all have taken piano lessons and two of them like to write and play their own pieces.
I also incorporated color and creativity into lunch and dinner preparation. Fruit trays and vegetable trays lend themselves to lots of color and texture.
I also talked about loving others through our presentation of the food. It says that we took the time to prepare for them and it’s healthy!
Playing classical music in the background has given them a love for classical. It is their go to music. I have taught homeschool classes…we made cloth hand puppets (incorporating sewing) and then we developed a puppet skit (incorporating creative writing). I taught a drama class by pulling out some of the parables and then assigning different parts to act out. I have also spent time doing my own art and inviting them to join me and I have shared my art supplies. This is huge! Basically, I have shared what I love with them and they have in turn encouraged me in what I love to do.” Karen Todd
“We always had music playing in our home. Consequently, our older son is an amazing singer and can play any instrument. We used to take trips to Museums, many are free on certain days, and the boys would bring along their sketchbooks and pencils. They would choose a piece and try to copy it. My younger son loves to sketch and draw. We also used to sculpt and paint at home. We made pictures for people and crafts for holidays. My kids appreciated hand made visuals of any kind and still make, draw, and write their own cards. They learned to appreciate the arts because their own creations and talents were so valued.” Amy Engelberger
For our family it started vey locally, art exhibits in our town. To meet & speak with the artists while viewing their work made it more real than textbook study, though that was to come as well. Artists are very generous people willing to encourage even the youngest budding artist.  Sharon Gensmer
 “I think it’s a lot like raising readers – fill your home with books, read to them, and spend time reading yourself. If you fill your home with music or art, do music or art with them, and enjoy it yourself, they’ll likely develop an appreciation for it, too. Music is part of the fabric of our family’s life, so our children’s appreciation has grown naturally. The other arts require more effort on our part, b/c my husband and I have not developed a strong interest in them ourselves. For music, we take them to every free classical concert we can, and we regularly enjoy music from our classical library and WCRB. Our enjoyment of classical radio has actually morphed into a fun game we often play at dinner – when an unfamiliar piece comes on, we first attempt to identify the period it comes from; then we venture guesses on composers from that era based on what we hear (a baroque piece featuring horns, for instance, will typically yield at least one Handel guess). With that simple game, our children are effortlessly learning the periods of classical music, the major composers of each period, the unique “sound” of the composers, and the key pieces an educated person should be familiar with, based on how frequently they are played on the radio (Beethoven Eroica, anyone?). This has been a real treat for us, b/c now we have kids putting on classical music while they eat breakfast! Jenny Noel
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Thoughts on being scared to death of homeschooling, and thoughts on the thoroughly educated child

I’m entering my 17th year of homeschooling.

If you’ve read here for more than two minutes you know I favor the Charlotte Mason method, have an artsy/crafty bent, emphasize music and poetry, read a lot, and tend to be rather eclectic.

What you might not know is that I feel totally unqualified to do this job.

I’m not musical. I was an average student. I didn’t like to read. I’ve not mastered higher math or science, so how could I ever teach it!?

(I am artsy and that’s about it.)

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I’ve always known that I could not give my children the kind of education they need.

This has been the cause of a lot of fear in my life. I love my kids and didn’t want them to suffer because their mom was a bumbling idiot who thought she could do a better job than an actual teacher. I’ve always realized that if I messed this homeschool gig up, my kids would be the one to suffer in the long run. No pressure there.

I decided early on that the best course of action would be to attend a local homeschooling conference. For me, it was overwhelming and seemed to confirm what I already knew–“I’m not cut out for this.” Walking the aisles, eyes scanning the mounds of curriculum (too many choices!) I literally feel dizzy.  I was afraid that someone might try to strike up a conversation with me about what curriculum I’ve been using, and recognize me as the homeschooling fraud of a mom that I felt like.

I didn’t benefit from a homeschooling conference, but I did greatly benefit from an experienced lady at our local support group, Debbie. She listened and gave feedback. She encouraged me although she had a gazillion other things to do. She talked to me about all of the different ways people homeschool. She just gave me courage.

As I took each step, I also learned another truth: God had gone before me and was there to help me each step of the way. He was walking my homeschooling journey with me. He knew before the foundations of the earth that I’d be doing this job that I felt totally unqualified to do and that half the time I thought I’d lose my sanity performing. (You’re with your kids 24/7, ya’ll. That can be oh-so-good and bad.)

When I asked for guidance, He gave it. When I seemed lost, He helped me find my way through the advice of a friend or by information on the internet.

I learned that knowing my own limits as a teacher and understanding my personality mattered tremendously because I couldn’t be someone who I was not. And learning the personality of each child was crucial to understanding their learning style.

I devoured For the Children’s Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School and A Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on The Gentle Art of Learning and Educating the WholeHearted Child  and realized that I was drawn mostly to the Charlotte Mason method.

I connected with Charlotte Mason’s respectful ideas about children:

  • that they are not creatures to be molded/created but were already born a person;
  • that adults should not abuse power or use fear/manipulation to make a child learn; (all I can think about is Mr. Gradgrind in Dickens’ Hard Times!)
  • that the mind of a child thrives on quality knowledge.

I appreciated that she taught that children should be kept clean, taught good manners, never demeaned (this during Victorian England when children were to be seen and not heard).

In short, children are capable and deserve respect. You don’t teach them how to learn—they already have that capacity. You provide excellent resources.

I realized that I don’t have to be an expert on anything to read my children excellent books and to expose them to the lofty ideas and beautiful language of people more intelligent than I.

I try to lead a “beautiful life” (cultured) with my kids. Much of this comes by adding music, art, literature, and details to our surroundings during the day. For instance, I might add flowers or a candle to our school room. I display the artwork of one or two artists per month on my fridge to familiarize them with that artist’s style. We read the poetry of one or two famous poets per month.We bake and craft.  We take nature walks to enjoy the creation. We have tea and cookies in the late afternoon in the fall/winter. We enjoy local produce and do seasonal excursions. These are all things that anyone can do. I’m trying to raise kids who notice and appreciate little things because education is more than taking in information.

To be truly educated, you have to care about how you fit into the grand scheme of life. Knowledge has to change you for the better and move you to action. You have to appreciate beauty simply for the love of it. You have to be curious about the inner workings of that concept you don’t quite grasp.

A truly educated person cannot be indifferent to the suffering of others no matter how “insignificant” they are on the social scale. I don’t care how much my kids know book-wise if it doesn’t cause them to be better neighbors. 

I think as a society we’re satisfied with a shoddy definition of education. As moms, we have to make sure that we don’t confuse taking in information with being educated or advancing through school with understanding knowledge.

We need to see our kids as whole people–education being a small part of who they are.

They need to know that they were created for a relationship with God and that outside of that relationship, nothing else makes sense. Their minds need to be informed and infused with the mind of Christ.

As I enter another year, I am confronted yet again with my own lack: lack of expertise, energy, and knowledge. And I know that though homeschooling can be lonely, I am not alone; God has gone before me and will be with me (and you!) as we start this new year.

 

 

 

{*post contains Amazon affiliate links at no cost to you. }

 

DIY Spring Bird’s Nest Tutorial

Even though we still have two feet of snow on the ground, I’m working on decorating my house for spring. Today my goal was to finish decorating my mantle.

I made this bird’s nest for the mantle and thought I’d share how I made it. It’s kind of a no-brainer, but if you are not crafty, maybe this will help you to try your own. I just LOVE bird’s nests in general, so this is one of the sweetest crafts in my opinion.

DIY bird's nest

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You need two grapevine wreaths, one bigger and one smaller. The smaller one should fit inside the larger one. I found these at the Dollar Tree.

Using the larger grapevine wreath as the top of the nest and the smaller one as the bottom, wire the two wreaths together. Then form a bottom of the nest by weaving the wire like a basket. It’s okay if it’s a mess. It will all be covered. You want the basic shape of a nest or a bowl. Wire it to death if you have to to get the rounded shape.

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Next, I used a glue gun to add moss to the outside. I found the moss ribbon at Jo-Ann’s Fabric for $3.99. I pulled the moss so that it looked loose and sparse and not “ribbonny.” I wanted it to look natural.

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After I line the outside with green moss, I added some to the inside of the nest. I then stuffed the bottom with a good sized handful of Spanish Moss, also from the Dollar Tree.
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After the basic nest is done, you can pretty it up by hot gluing small flowers, berries, or leaves around the perimeter.

Finished DIY Grapevine Birds Nest

Finished DIY Grapevine Birds Nest

I filled mine with five little eggs (for my 5 kids). The eggs were also at Jo-Ann’s. Other years, I’ve used the nest as a candy dish, placing a shallow dish inside and filling it with Cadbury Mini Eggs, which look adorable. I’ve also filled them with yellow Peeps for Easter.
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Here’s the finished mantle. I used things I had around the house: an old Ball Jar filled with moss, one of my favorite antiques, a signed Wallace Nutting print entitled “The Coming Out of Rose”, some galvanized buckets filled with greens and a few natural elements from some potpourri I had around the house. I hope this inspires you to try your own nest. Send me pics if you make one!
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Hey, What Are You Looking At?

It’s that time of year.

We began our homeschool year this week and as I evaluate where each child is, the old tendency to compare surprises my heart yet again. Comparison is always a cruel tormentor:

Maybe we should have done that curriculum all along. Why is she struggling with these math facts? Did I use the wrong method? Did I not spend enough time with this child laying foundations? 

Panic creeps in as we compare our “right now” to some dreamed up version of what life must be like in the Joneses house.

The snare of compare. (pdf here)

Sometimes I wonder if the Lord feels like calling to me, HEY, What are you looking at?! Get your eyes back on Me!

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Where He Leads me, I will follow.

Do you ever feel this way? Maybe you don’t homeschool, but do you wonder if you should perhaps be feeding your kids all organic food, or decorating your home like so and so, or maybe you should try the child raising techniques that the Joneses seem so enthusiastic about?

It’s easier to follow other people’s methods than to follow the Lord.

It’s easier to take our cues from flesh and blood, from what can be seen and measured, from the confident homeschooling mom who seems to know just what she’s doing, than it is to walk by faith.

There are no glaring advertisements when you walk by faith. No printed confirmation tickets to where this ride is going to take you. No money back guarantees if you didn’t enjoy the ride.

But the just shall live by faith. Even in matters of child raising and education.

When we look to Him and set our gaze on His Word, peace ensues.

The comparison ceases as we step-step-step gently in the path He’s provided for us.

The glorious truth is that Jesus will lead us if we are willing to follow.

And although it’s fine to ask for help and wisdom from seasoned women who have had great results, we have the promise of generously, “liberally” given wisdom, to anyone who asks in faith.

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

I know from experience that it’s easier to hop on Google than it is to sit and pray.

I know it’s easier to talk to a friend than to pray.

It’s easier to try to do more and be more in the pursuit of excellence, but what God wants is your faith, and with that faith, He’ll perform for you. Do you believe this? Do you believe that God can take your humble efforts offered up in faith and multiply them and make them powerful for His kingdom?

When our eyes are gazing on Jesus, we can be confident that He’ll guide us through prayer and His Word.

I will let you in on a little secret: Jesus can answer your child raising questions. I can testify to this many times over. I can remember needing practical life wisdom for several issues with our kids. I would pray and ask the Lord to make His will clear and let us know how to deal with this child. I remember kneeling by the side of my sleeping stubborn toddler’s bed. I was to the point of a near break down after a particularly bad day, and I begged God to send me answers. I can tell you that He always did either through a book, or wisdom from an older woman. And once I prayed about it and left it with the Lord, I was in “wait and see” mode. I was expecting answers, and He never disappointed. We have an open ended invitation to ask God for wisdom any time we lack it. It’s one of our BEST resources. God loves your kids more than you do, after all!

My encouragement for you is to follow God on the path He has prepared for you. Keep your eyes on Him. Your life, home, ministry, and family dynamics may look totally different than mine. God has made us all unique, and He’s leading us, by His grace, to the end He has planned for us. Our job is to trust Him, obey His word, live a life of holiness and FOLLOW.

Don’t try to make your path match the Joneses. Follow Jesus.

 

 

In Praise of the Pensive Child

One of the best ways to validate your children is to accept them for who they are.

There is a huge tendency to push our kids into what we love or what is currently pushed by society. Peter has often said that “what you praise, you produce.” For instance, a school that is constantly praising and showcasing sports and promoting their athletes will produce more athletes, because children want to please and mankind grasps for mutual admiration.

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In the Christian home, if we praise virtues like thankfulness and faithfulness, versus “outcomes” like straight A’s, we’d be more apt to have hard workers and less apt to produce kids who’ll obsess or even cheat for the A.

Although this post is not theological, I believe that God has given us gifts and talents–we were fearfully and wonderfully made by a Creator– and to stifle that gift in a child defies the God who gave it and is extremely cruel.

The world needs a variety of personalities to make it interesting. Imagine a world where everyone was a visionary, a conqueror, a leader, an entrepreneur, a pusher-to-the-topper, a warrior. Certainly we need these, but we also need the beauty created by poets, writers, painters, philosophers, and musicians. We need to value those who stop to think really long and hard about a topic and research it rather than just spouting off the first thing that comes into their head, because we need more depth and truth seeking in a world stretched thin with information.

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The world needs the pensive child.

In a blaring, media-filled, message- saturated, lights blazing, get-your-moment- in-the-spotlight-and-be-famous Kardashian world, we need to encourage the pensive child.

They’re not seeking spotlights. They may even avoid crowds. They don’t want attention drawn to them and they don’t appreciate being forced to perform by pushy parents.

And please don’t mislabel them as directionless or lazy because they haven’t started the college application process by age 10.

The pensive child is an evaluator of life. She considers her place in this moment of time. She thinks before she speaks, if she ever does.

You see, she’s learned that not everyone appreciates this beauty that she sees, so she stifles her sharing, fearing the labels: “out there” or “weird” or “space-y.”

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In truth, she doesn’t mind quietly enjoying beauty alone or with a special friend, because appreciating beauty and living with eyes wide open has its own rewards: inner contentment and happiness. She may secretly feel badly for those who choose not to see. Those who’ve been consumed by the tyranny of the urgent and of electronic worlds.

She’ll lumber on, steady, intentionally, writing, drawing, observing, painting, composing, practicing.

So moms of the pensive child, readjust your expectations and encourage your child. Don’t equate thoughtful and slow to unmotivated or air-headed. And for heaven’s sake, don’t assume that because your child is not a born “goal maker” or “go getter” that he’ll never amount to anything.

While you may be caught up in the busyness of life, they are busy studying the shapes of clouds and noticing how most of the colors of the spectrum can be seen in a sunset. They are wondering how to translate that exact green of that spring leaf into their painting. They noticed the ripples on the water and wondered how to paint them. They noticed how one ripple affects the entire pond, though only seen for a moment.

They live life differently than you, maybe,

but they feel deeply and appreciate much and stop long enough to wonder. And to wonder is where real education begins. Self- education. 

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Boys, especially, are encouraged away from quiet pursuits. Poetry is seen as effeminate and painting isn’t as manly somehow as sacking someone in football.

Imagine a world without the great painters and musicians of the past. Imagine if Bach’s mother told him to head outside and play with the real boys and discouraged her son from what he was clearly born to do. Just imagine no Bach.

Whatever your child’s bent, when you embrace it, you’re loving that child where he or she is. Not trying to change to fit your ideals. Just loving and nurturing and encouraging.

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That is one of the best ways to really reach the heart of your child. It’s not hard. It’s loving them—not loving who you want them to be or who you think they should be to make you feel validated– but truly loving them.

The pensive child is relational and as a parent, you must, must, must enter their world and relate to them where they are. Show them by listening that  you love their music, that you appreciate that insight or poem. They’re sharing a piece of themselves with you.

If you don’t completely understand your pensive child, ASK them questions about what they are thinking and then just listen. Then appreciate their little insights and tell them so.

 

 

DIY Watercolor Bird Silhouette Art for Kids

I’m teaching a great group of homeschoolers simple watercolor techniques, and today I thought I’d post our next project as a tutorial that you can use for your kids.

Silhouette art is popular right now, and is super easy to create.

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Supply list: 

  • Watercolor paper, 140 lb.
  • Winsor & Newton Cotman Sketchers Pocket Box Set (This set fits in a child’s pocket and is perfect for nature study outings!)
  • Watercolor brushes– a flat wide 1″ brush and a medium fine tipped brush. (buy brushes that are specifically for watercolor and come to a point in the package. If they are blunt topped with NO point, your kids won’t be able to get detail.)
  • water
  • paper towels
  • 8″X10″ bird silhouette of your choice. Check google for bird pictures.

First:

Transfer your bird picture of choice to your watercolor paper.

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If you have graphite paper, you can use that, but for my art kids, we simply rub pencil over the entire backside of our image print out, then trace it. Know what I mean? You are scribbling with pencil all over the back of the bird picture you chose. Then place it on your watercolor paper and trace firmly, transferring the image.  That’s the DIY New England way. :)

Second:

Use your flat paint brush to paint your picture with WATER only.

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Third:

Mix cobalt blue or whatever “sky-ish” blue color you have and a little water and dot in the sky while your paper is still wet. This allows the paint to “spread” and makes the clouds look realistic. Allow to dry completely before continuing. If you are impatient like I am, use a hair dryer to speed up your process.

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Fourth:

Using a smaller brush, mix ultramarine blue or your darkest blue with sepia brown or your darkest brown. Don’t over mix. Allow the colors to separate. Your mixture should not be super watery. You want a dark mixture. Watercolor dries at half strength, so use color that is darker than you think it should be. Fill in your outline and allow to dry. You’re done.

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This can be used for any silhouette, obviously.

You can use the same technique to make this picture with 3-5 year olds, except after you transfer the image on your watercolor paper, you COLOR the silhouette outline with a white crayon. This is called a wax resist. Then, once your silhouette is colored in white, you watercolor the background. Easy peasy art project for your kiddos.

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Watercolor is a wee bit intimidating if you’re not used to the medium but here are a few things to remember about watercolor:

  1. You need to DRY your work between steps or you’ll end up with a hazy soup.
  2. As much as possible, mix only two colors at a time. Anything more gets muddy.
  3. Use the best quality materials you can afford. Investing in a small artist quality palatte, like the Winsor & Newton Cotman Sketchers Pocket Box Set is better than using Crayola Watercolor from Walmart. Your kids will get a much better result.

ENJOY!

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links. Thanks.

Five Questions Every Homeschooling Mom Should Ask Before Choosing Curriculum

We are almost to the end of our homeschool year, and this is NOT the time that I want to be thinking about next years curriculum, but alas, the MassHope Convention is in town and instead of checking out and heading to the beach, I guess responsible mother’s everywhere are talking standardized testing and choosing curriculum. {ahem}

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SOO, in order to not be a total derelict mother, I humbly offer you some things to consider when choosing curriculum each year for your kids.

As far as curriculum is involved, I do believe that you can learn no matter what you are using if you want to. There is no magic curriculum. We have used nearly everything under the sun in the past 14 years of homeschooling. My oldest daughter just finished her first year at Bob Jones University and has done extremely well. In fact, she made the Dean’s list. :)

These questions are more “self awareness” questions than curriculum questions, but I think they’ll help you determine what you are looking for.

1. Figure out your personality and find a curriculum that works with it.*

Most likely, you are NOT a teacher by trade, but have found yourself teaching for whatever reason.

Be aware of your own strengths and weaknesses. This is half your battle.

Are you extremely structured, or do you follow a loose schedule?

Are you high strung or laid back?

Will you use real life as a teacher or books only?

Will you be home all day, or do you envision yourself visiting local resources and using hands on learning?

2. Think about your life stage and plan accordingly.

Are you in a time of transition (new baby, illness) or are things status quo?

Do you work from home and have a flexible schedule, or are you working around someone else’s time schedule?

Will sticking to a rigid lesson plan stress you out or give you a sense of security?

Does flexibility motivate you or hinder your performance?

3. Think about your family interests. Your time will be heavily weighted toward these interests and it will affect your school year. 

Expect that you’ll invest more time than other families in these areas and be okay with that.

Then, when you hear that one family grinds their own wheat and makes all their own bread from wheat they grew in their back yard and milled with a mortar and pestle, you will understand that their interests are heavily weighted toward those things and there is no need for guilt or comparison on your part.

Do you all love history or politics? Do you value art and music?

Know your interests and realize that they may change over time as your kids grow and express new interests.

4. Decide what you want from education. Begin with the end in mind.

Do you envision your kids as Harvard Grads?

Are you looking to develop the child as a whole: mind, body, spirit?

For us, we wanted to be sure that our kids did not reflect our current culture. We were appalled by the norms of young society/pop culture and realized that you can’t send them into that for 8 hours a day and have it not effect them.

We wanted our kids to love to read and be life long learners, so our choices reflected our long term goals.

5. Decide what is reasonable.

You cannot do everything, so decide what you can teach well and plan to get help with the rest. Kahn Academy, the internet, DVD’s, tutors, co-ops and other helps are readily available for home schoolers. Don’t feel bad about using them!

This generation has seen a shift in education since the rise of the internet. Today’s education is more about self education than ever before and part of teaching kids to be successful in the modern world is teaching them to know how to use the internet as a resource.

In our day, when you needed to research a topic, you trudged to the library unless you were lucky enough to own an entire set of Encyclopedia Britannica. It is different today. They don’t look to teachers as sources of knowledge like they did in our day. Good teachers teach them where to look. :)

 

I know that this list is incomplete!  :)

Your turn! Please share any other self-awareness questions that you have found helpful when determining what curriculum to choose for your family? Feel free to share in the comments or to link to an article that you have written on the subject.

*Note: Just for clarity and communication between “adjoining nations”:  Hmschlers tend to use the word “curriculum” to mean the actual tool you’ll use to teach a subject that needs to be covered. So when I say I will use what works for us, I mean that I will choose a publisher who teaches the topic in a way that works for us as a family; I do not mean that we will pick and choose what we need to learn w/o regard for state law.  State and local laws DO set the norms for what is to be covered as a whole, which is what public school systems understand the word “curriculum” to mean. Mkay? 😉

Creative Ways to Beat Winter Boredom With Little Ones

Winters can seem L-O-N-G when you are a homeschooling mom of little ones. I think it is because we tend to hunker down and plow through our schoolwork with little to no regard for how long it takes. We all get tired of being inside and of school in general. {yup. I know you think that homeschool mom’s  LOVE teaching, but that is not always so!}

So, here are a few ideas to help you change up your day with your little ones and perhaps help beat those winter blues that we all face before spring.

1. Go out for a snowy walk. Bundle up and just go. Bring a Thermos of  hot chocolate with you if you like. The winter air perks everyone up.

2. Do a winter sport. Go ice skating. If you don’t have any frozen cranberry bogs nearby, then look for a rink that has public skate available. Organize a sledding party and meet up at a great sledding hill. The kids sled, the mom’s talk and sip warm drinks. It is a win-win!

3. Visit the library. We frequent our little town library, but every once in a while we make the trek to a bigger library in our area to see what resources they have available. You’d be amazed what the library offers now.

3. Learn a new hobby yourself. Take up painting, knitting or crocheting. Do something creative. For kids, try Sculpey, beading kits, big bendy pipe cleaners, an airplane model, etc…

4. Have an indoor picnic. Little ones like opening a lunch bag when they are not used to a packed lunch like traditional school kids. Spread out a blanket and let them play.

5. Blow bubbles in a pan. You know that Williams Sonoma three piece cake pan set you got for Christmas? Fill the bottom  pan with 1/4 inch of bubbles and give your kid a straw. Let them blow bubbles in the pan to their hearts content. (I have no idea why they love doing this, but they do. And your WS pan suddenly becomes worth more as a bubble base than as a cake base. Trust me.It is an investment in your sanity. he,he)

6. Cut paper snowflakes and hang them on the windows. Add glitter to them for some extra sparkle.

7. Make a “house” out of cardboard boxes for dolls, or a garage for cars for boys. The kids can cut windows out of them and decorate them with markers.

8. Make cards using pretty paper, fancy edged scissors and pretty pictures from a magazine or old calendar. Send a note to a grandparent, a sick friend, or an nursing home resident.

9. Combine your toy sets. Block, matchboxes, Playmobil, etc…can be more exciting when they are used together. Blocks become the city that the cars drive through. Give the kids your  aprons and let them “cook” with wooden beads, cut up paper and a wooden bowl to play house and make a paper soup. (can you tell I have 4 girls?) In our house, this usually works best under our kitchen table which is covered by a blanket to make a “house.”

10. Visit a museum. Libraries often have passes to local museums to keep costs affordable for all families. I have rarely paid more than $5 per person using a pass.

What other fun things do you do to change up your wintery days?