Our Fourth Homeschool Year Begins

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The other day I took the kids to the pool and an acquaintance asked if they start school soon. I knew that question implied that she thought they attend the local public school system. So I replied, “We homeschool, so we start whenever we want. But yes, we started Monday.”

Boy Starts Third Grade

Our son starts third grade.

She said, “Oh, cool. You homeschool. Is this your first year?” I said, “No, it is our fourth.” She said something positive about it again.  Continue reading »

I never know with people if they are positive just to be nice or if they really mean it. And I am aware that homeschooling can be done poorly. Teachers in public and private schools have shared with me that some homeschooling parents do not do anything with their children. After a few years, they put them in the school system and the teachers have to deal with the results of a bad homeschool.

Homeschooling can be done in many ways. There’s a homeschool flavor for everyone. But not teaching your children how to read, write, and do basic math is not acceptable. And money should not even factor in. Public schools ask for money at every turn of the semester, but they fail to produce results.

I have shared here several times about free homeschooling curriculum or inexpensive homeschool curriculum. The library is a treasure trove of living books which homeschoolers should prefer anyway over dry textbooks.

Girl Starts First Grade

Our daughter starts first grade.

Homeschooling does not have to take all your energy and time, either. When children are small, they can only do phonics for 10-15 minutes at a time. As they get older, they require less and less supervision from mom. Sure, it’s a commitment, but it does not have to overwhelm you because it is so efficient.

Homeschool schedules are flexible because you don’t depend on a committee to make changes. Also, because you want to give your children the power to make decisions to an extent, especially as they grow older and develop preferences.

So I encourage you to start your new homeschooling year with courage. Set your goals and write them down. Research shows written goals get accomplished more often than those we only think about.


Are They Homeschooled?

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A few weeks ago, my children attended Science Camp in Sevierville. The teachers were either community college professors or public school teachers. It was a good experience, though not perfect. Nothing and nobody is perfect, right?

Dracula's Castle Bran Castle

Bran Castle in Romania, a.k.a. Dracula’s Castle, which we visited in April, when it was not crowded.

On the last day of class, one of the teachers was quizzing my children’s group verbally. She would tell them a definition and they would have to guess the name of that scientific concept. It’s a game called “I Have… Who Has…”  Continue reading »

Most children were quiet or got the wrong answers. Once my kids understood the rules of the game, their bank of knowledge kicked in and got most answers right. The teacher caught on to this and, half way through the game, asked a colleague standing nearby, “These two know a lot. Are they homeschooled?”

It put a smile on my face. I was far enough away from the scene to not be part of the class experience, but close enough to hear and see what was going on. My children replied that yes, they are homeschooled and everybody just moved on.

But that statement from a public school teacher spoke volumes. She sees public school children every day. She knows what their capabilities are. When she sees somebody who knows “a lot” she immediately wonders if they are homeschooled. She knows public school children don’t know as much.

FYI, this particular card game was designed for Grades 2-3 and my children are entering first and third grade respectively. My son’s science scores on the standardized test he takes every year have always been through the roof, so I should not be surprised.

It’s ironic that science being my least favorite subject has somehow become our strongest. Is that what happens when you don’t know what you are doing? I think so. You end up researching and finding the best curriculum and field trips, better than in the subjects you enjoy naturally. You figure you got those. But for science, boy, you have to really work hard. And it shows.

What is your experience? Have you struggled to teach one subject only to find out your children really excel in that arena?


Story of the World, Vol. 1, Chapter 10

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We studied Ancient China, chapter 10 of The Story of the World Volume 1 mostly in the car. I knew the Story of the World CDs would come in handy. The kids enjoyed the story of the silk worms. They had no idea about how silk is made. I feel so privileged – all over again – to be the one introducing them to such facts about the world.

They did their mapwork. My daughter colored the page with Chin and his dad, but my son put it off. Again, I do not insist on coloring if he does not want to.

We read some of the books recommended. My local library did not carry these particular titles, but they got them for us in about a week through the inter-library loan program. Meanwhile, the children’s librarian brought us similar books which they did have. One of them actually had the same title as the one recommended by Susan Wise Bauer, i.e. “Ancient China,” and it made it confusing later on as I was returning both titles.  Continue reading »

But we sorted it out and moved on from it. My librarians are very relaxed and if we make a mistake or they make a mistake, they take it all in stride. I appreciate such a working partner.

I chose not to make pictograms or Ming dynasty bowls. My kids have been playing with clay a bit too much lately on other projects and I am tired of cleaning up after art projects. It’s my classroom and my prerogative. I give you permission to do the same when you get tired of cleaning, in case you needed to get permission from somebody.

We are totally behind in our history curriculum. This is school week 15 for us and we should study at least chapter 15 in Story of the World Volume 1 this week. Oh well. This is a good challenge for me: figure out how to get history done. It’s all about priorities and planning, of course.

The temptation for any homeschool mom is to wonder if  kids finish things better in a classroom environment. Here’s the short answer: they don’t. And now, for the long answer…

I have recently spoken with a teacher who told me the older the kids get, the less they get done in class. “If you wait for 15 kids to get their math books out, you can spend 15 minutes… That’s why we give them homework. Because we can’t finish the lesson in the class.”

It was like a boost in the arm mid-year when I heard that. January and February can be dreary months for a homeschooling mom, you know. In fact, Susan Wise Bauer says that February is burnout month and we are a few days away from February. So I choose to relax, take each day as it comes, do my work and even if I don’t get everything done, I go to bed with a positive spirit.

Homeschooling feels like a privilege to me. When I look back on the time I get to spend with my children, nobody can take that away from me. And, if things get dreary in winter, I can always look forward to next year. I have already ordered some second grade curriculum for my son. I can’t believe I just typed that. My son, in the second grade? Yup! It will be here before I know it. No time to mope around!


Thoughtful Thursday Week 1 – Stop Learning

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Last year, I published a series of weekly devotional posts for homeschooling moms called Mom Monday. Fifty-two weeks later, it is time for a new series. A new series for a new year. Introducing Thoughtful Thursday, a collection of essays about homeschooling and how it forces everybody to think outside the box. In some cases, it forces people to think. Period.

It’s sad, I know, but some people go through life without thinking, simply accepting the status quo, just believing everything that is handed down to them by the previous generation, and feeling scared and challenged when someone comes along doing a new thing.

Thoughtful Thursday Week 1 - Stop learning

When I started this blog, I knew I was going to focus on homeschooling. I also knew that homeschooling touches so many aspects of our lives – because it is a lifestyle – that it inevitably brings about some basic questions about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Which is why a personal friend unfriended me on Facebook and declared herself “highly offended” by one of my posts on socialization, for instance. She chooses to put her children in public school and once told me, “I believe in public school.”  Continue reading »

Well, I believe in God. And when God called me to homeschool my kids, I listened. I wish I could say that I accepted the calling right away. As some of you may know, it was a struggle and I bothered quite a few homeschooling moms online with my questions. But, finally, the Holy Spirit prevailed and I surrendered.

Homeschooling brings about a revolution of ideas and concepts which people take for granted. Revolutions aren’t pretty. People get hurt.

Warren Buffet is quoted to say that “simple is not always easy.” While homeschooling is a simple concept to grasp – parents taking responsibility for their children’s education – it is not easy to accept and execute.

Which is why I love homeschooled kids doing TED talks, like Logan LaPlante or Jacob Barnett. They fly in the face of traditional school options and prove school psychologists wrong. Take, for instance, Jacob Barnett’s case. He was diagnosed with autism and his parents were told he would never speak or amount to much. A few years later, he taught himself advanced math in two weeks so he could sit in this one particular calculus class.

One day, when a particular theorem bothered him, he started working on it obsessively. His mom brought a Princeton professor to look at his calculations and try to prove him wrong. The professor told his mom, “Your son is right in everything he put forth.”

In a nutshell, his talk encourages us to do three things, in this order:

1. Stop learning

2. Start thinking

3. Start creating

We will look at these three steps for the first three weeks of Thoughtful Thursdays. This first week is an invitation to stop learning. That’s right. This home educator is asking you to stop learning.

Once thinking starts, the creative process starts. And once you create, you fulfill God’s desire for you, because He made you in His image and He is the Creator.

Unless you forget what you know, you will never be able to advance past the generation that just handed you the knowledge they have. Jacob Barnett gives poignant examples of geniuses like Newton and Einstein following the above three steps. And that’s how science was pushed further. No doubt, Jacob Barnett is a genius. All homeschool kids do not have to be like him or revolutionize science or be interviewed by Glenn Beck.

But there is something to be said about forgetting what we know and looking for a new path. A thoughtful path. A homeschooling path.

I invite you to stop learning, start thinking, and start creating this year. Forget what you know and open yourself up to new thoughts and ideas. Join me here on Thursdays for a thoughtful discussion about what education means.


4 Steps to Homeschool Success

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In life, flexibility is the mother of all things good. In homeschooling, it is do-or-die. Want the dictionary definition for “do-or-die?” Here it is: requiring supreme effort to avoid the dire consequences of failure. As a recovering perfectionist and schedule-oriented person, I feel flexibility does take a supreme effort on my part. But I want to avoid the dire consequences of failure. So, I get flexible.

One of the greatest books a homeschooling newbie can read is Things We Wish We’d Known by Bill and Diana Waring. I am reading it right now. Fifty veteran homeschoolers share lessons from their own mistakes. I don’t know about you, but I sure want to learn from other people’s mistakes. What I get from most stories so far is that flexibility equals homeschool success.

Take this example… This homeschooling family was traveling through South Dakota on a cross-country road trip adventure. The children did not finish their workbook assignments, so the parents did not allow them to see Mount Rushmore. They continued on their not-so-merry way and showed the children who the boss was. Astonished? Yeah, me too.

Mount Rushmore Flexibility Equals Homeschool Success

Mount Rushmore in South Dakota

I would have used that instance to teach grace, i.e. unmerited favor, and remind them of the great gift of eternal life through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. I would say something like, “Grace is a gift from God and we do not deserve it. You children did not finish your workbooks, but we will show you grace and take you to see Mount Rushmore anyway. Grace is what God gives to us through His Son, because He loves us. And we love you. So we show you grace… We will see Mount Rushmore and then you finish your assignment.”

As our first official homeschooling week was drawing to a close, I realized I was already making adjustments to the plans I had so carefully laid out, based on our circumstances (my sister and her family left after spending the summer with us) and my students’ responses (the emotional letdown of saying goodbye took a toll on them; plus, they found it hard to get on a schedule after unschooling for a month).

To help me flex my weak flexibility muscle, I came up with 4 steps:

1. Teach according to the lesson plans you made. You have to start somewhere. A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow. Make a plan and work it, even if you feel it is incomplete because you do not have the time or the expertise to take everything into consideration. As a homeschooling mom in my first year of teaching, I definitely fall in this category.

2. Tinker according to the events of the day. Many things happen in a household that interrupt homeschooling. Some are as banal as a UPS delivery. Others are life-changing like a pregnancy or a death. Take a deep breath (or many) and wait for the moment to re-start where you got interrrupted. Or how about this example? DS says, “I am tired” after reading six three-letter words to me (mud, cud, run, sun, rub, tub). Is he tired or lazy? That’s for me to determine based on what I know about his life in the past 24 hours.

3. Tweak based on the responses of your students. Some nights, my children just don’t sleep well. Or they are just being kids. Or something. They do not cooperate during the morning devotional. No matter what consequences I dangle in front of them, they will not listen. I go to my room to pray and ask for wisdom. They know I do that because I tell them. When I come back, they ask me, “What did Jesus tell you?” and I can see it in their eyes. They have come to their senses. They are ready to obey before I even tell them what the plan is. I learned this technique from one of the best books on parenting I have ever read, Kay Kuzma’s Easy Obedience.

4. Troll back to your lesson plans. Were you too ambitious or too lax? Adjust based on what you learned in the previous steps. Change is the only constant.

So tell me, is flexibility an issue for you? How have you had to adapt and change your plans in your homeschool? Please leave me a comment below.