How To Keep Things Going Over the Summer...

Summer is here. Since most of us spent our childhood years attending a public or private school, summer really meant summer BREAK. No school. No homework. No schedule. Right? But then September would roll around and we suddenly realized, sitting in our plastic school chairs, that the term "summer slide" was a real thing. Perhaps if we were too young to realize it, our teachers certainly did!

So, what is a homeschooling family to do? We all feel torn between wanting to give our children a much needed break and feeling concerned about losing the academic ground we worked so hard to gain. Well, I believe we can do both. So, here are some great ideas to keep things going over the summer:

1. Have a short morning session where everyone covers a little math and reading. If you live in an area where the heat and humidity are an issue, do your session in the afternoon when it is too hot to go outside. 

2. Allow kids be outdoors exploring. Give them magnifying glasses, jars for catching creepy crawlies, nature journals and butterfly nets. Teach them how to look up information about what they catch and have them draw/write about it in their journals.

3. Get to the beach! Play in the sand, visit the tide pools, collect shells, make memories.

4. Work in the garden together. The lessons here are endless, really. Let each of the kids have a raised bed or a container to plant and maintain, send them on a quest to collect unwanted caterpillar or snails. (last year the horn worms on our tomatoes endlessly entertained my children.)

5. Go on an evening walk and see what you can find. All kinds of interesting critters come out around dusk. 

6. Have a quiet hour in the afternoon (typically after the kids have had plenty of outdoor activity) set aside for reading. 

7. Visit the library. Often. Many libraries have summer reading programs to motivate kids to read. Enroll the kids and make it a point to come back at least once a week. 

8. Take a vacation or a stay-cation. Just explore a new place together.

9. Get outside with the littles and blow bubbles, paint on easels, do sidewalk chalk, get the wading pool out, read in the shade of a tree, jump on the trampoline (yes, you too, mom :)

10. Get a book about astronomy and lay on a blanket under the stars. See which constellations you can make out, read about them together.

Now, its your turn. What do you do over the summer to avoid the infamous summer slide? Let's hear it!

 

 

 

Wonderfully (and individually) Made...

So, it's been a little while...ok, a long while since I visited here. Life...you know, the cleaning, training, teaching, never-ending laundry or dishes, laughing, ever-exhausting kind of life that we are living? Sometimes, it takes every second of our time and that's where I've been. However, I've been thinking about you all (or y'all as my southern friends would say) and this blog. A few years back, I wrote an article for an online homeschooling magazine. As a young homeschooling mom, I was learning how different each of my children were and how they expressed and absorbed the world around them so differently. 

There is a beautiful design to the minds of our children. Every square inch of them has been intricately woven by the hands of God. Just like Psalm 139 says " For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother's womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made...my frame was not hidden from You when I was made in secret and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth" (NASB). Does that amaze you? Down to the very depths of their being, our children bear the fingerprints of God in a unique way. There are no cookie-cutter children , just as there are no cookie-cutter adults.  No child is exactly like another and as homeschoolers, we can't afford to miss this. 

Children are "designed" to reach certain developmental milestones at different ages. Every parent would tell you that trying to potty-train a nine month old would be a lost cause. Little babies don't have the physical or developmental ability to learn this skill. However, wait two or three years and success is much more likely because, of course, the child now has the cognitive and physical abilities to succeed. So, why don't we realize that this same concept applies to the reaching of academic milestones? When it comes to reading many educators, today, say that children should be reading by age 5, or even before! However, if we looked inside the brain of a child, specifically boys, we would see that many of them are not ready to read until the age of eight or nine. In our family, we've had children teach themselves to read before they turned four and others that were still struggling readers at ten.

No matter how hard we try to teach, encourage, plead or demand that our children learn a certain concept, if they are not developmentally ready then we are fighting a losing battle. A battle that will only end in frustration and tears and damage to our child's confidence , ultimately hindering later attempts to teach the same concept. Yet, if we wait until  our child is ready to learn, even if that means putting a concept off for several months then we will be much more likely to help our child succeed. 

The developing brain of a young child is astonishing. So much is accomplished and solidified in their minds during those early years. A hallmark in the cognitive development of a young child is the absence of abstract thinking. This means that while young children can understand the alphabet, numbers in sequence or musical notes, they often have great difficulty understanding and expressing ideas such as love, justice or honor. So, for the young child this means, presenting concepts in a concrete manner. Eventually your child will be able to think and reason abstractly, but early on they need concrete teaching that gradually moves to the abstract.To give you an example, in teaching my son addition I began by using everyday tasks such as  sorting laundry. Our conversation would go something like this" Daniel, I have two white shirts in this basket and I need those other two over there. If you put them in this basket, how many shirts will we have?"  It gave him a purpose for learning...and isn't that what we're trying to do? We're trying to teach our children to love learning and show them that it has a purpose! Well, we continued using math in everyday activities until my son seemed more confident. Then we began more formal lessons using manipulatives such as blocks or counters or lego men or skittles (whatever works, right?!). Soon he mastered the ability to show me what two plus two or four plus one looked like with blocks and eventually he no longer needed the manipulatives. He understood what each part of the equation represented because of all the concrete learning that had preceded it. 

As a homeschooling mom of six, I have seen this work over and over. I even use concrete learning activities with my older children when they seem to be struggling with a particular concept. Using concrete activities in teaching applies to all subjects. This is the beauty of homeschooling...we can teach writing by making grocery lists or writing letters, we can teach history by creating native american drums or teach science in the creek that runs through our backyard. Each of our children are developing uniquely, reaching their developmental milestones on their own timetables. We can't rush that. It is the beauty of how God created them...how He created all of us. If we can embrace this and teach in a way where they have a purpose for learning we will surely bless and enrich their lives. 

Why What We Do Really Matters

    Why are we doing what we’re doing? Sometimes being at home can feel like we’re on the hamster wheel of life. Laundry, dishes, meals, teaching, disciplining, cleaning…repeat. Then there is the pressure within society, “How long are you going to do this?” “Are you ever going to get a real job?” (yeah, don’t you hate that one?) or “She’s just a stay-at-home mom.” If we get too close to that rabbit hole, it’s easy to fall into a mind-set of despair and self-pity. Once we’re there, it’s even harder to climb out.

     But the truth is…with every tear you wipe, meal you prepare, correction you give, you are faithfully discipling the next generation of men and women. It may not feel like that, but make no mistake, changing a nation begins in the home. Martin Luther said it this way: “‎What you do in your house is worth as much as if you did it up in heaven for our Lord God. We should accustom ourselves to think of our position and work as sacred and well-pleasing to God, not on account of the position and work, but on account of the word and faith from which the obedience and work flow.” Do you know what the power of a faithful mother can do? It can raise up an Abraham Lincoln, a John Wesley, a Laura Ingalls, A Samuel, a Timothy and so on.

    Look at what God has to stay regarding the raising of children. Deuteronomy 6:4-7 says:  “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. 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.” Not only are we given an incredible model for teaching our children, but we are also given a secret weapon to combat the lies of the world, did you catch it? “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. That’s right, the first step is getting God’s word into our heart. It’s like the instructions the flight attendant gives you on the airplane when she sees you seated next to your children. “Be sure to put your mask on first then place one on your child.” If there’s no oxygen in our lungs, how can we rescue our children? If God’s word does not richly dwell in us then we cannot pass it on to them. Yet, when our hearts overflow with God’s words, there is no stopping the faithful mother in her quest to win her children’s hearts and turn them to Christ. Open your eyes to the sacred moment in the mundane, the holy in humdrum. This is how you are teaching them when you are sitting in your house, walking by the way, lying down and rising up.

          So, the next time your day doesn't go as planned or you say to yourself "why am I am doing what I'm doing?" Remember that God is so pleased with your faithful work to raise up your children. He made you the perfect mother for them and knows the depths of your sacrifice. Leave the days in His hands and watch Him redeem the time. 

 

Could it really be that simple? (homeschooling with younger children)

When we first began homeschooling, I was completely overwhelmed at the sheer number of curriculums in existence. I'm sure many of you would agree that wading through a mountain of curriculums, in hopes of locating that perfect, "guaranteed to make your child successful" set of books is a less than ideal way to spend your time. 

As I grew more and more comfortable in my "homeschooling skin" I began to tire of the endless bells and whistles of every workbook, DVD set, manipulative kit and computer program. Each company claiming that their product was, indeed, the "be all and end all" of homeschooling products. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of great products out there but I began to wonder if it all had to be that difficult. Many of our country's greatest thinkers were educated with little more than a notebook of paper, a writing utensil and a good set of books...sometimes even less. The literacy rate in the United States was higher in the late 1700's than it is today and those parents and children had far fewer resources to work with than we do! There had to be a better answer

So the more I began to read and study and research, I kept coming across the same theme over and over again. Indeed, for our younger children, they need very little in the way of "bells and whistles." In fact, it may even be detrimental to their learning to include these unnecessary items. What they do need, is for us to read to them, engage them and ignite their desire to learn. It sounds outrageous that, in terms of academics, all we need to do is read to them! However, reading to our children does so much more than simply convey a story. It introduces them to new words, in fact, one study found that children who were read to every day were exposed to 1 million more words a year than those children who were not read to consistently. Reading develops their comprehension skills, their listening skills and strengthens their imaginations (something in which many of today's children are sorely lacking). Most importantly, our children will come to love to read. They will hold very dear those times that their faithful mother sat with them sharing these adventures, tragedies, poems, silly stories and so on. If our children love to read, then they will love to learn and that is a gift which they will carry for a lifetime!

Wonderful Books for Littles (ages 0-6)

The Jesus Storybook Bible  by Sally Lloyd Jones

The Little Engine that Could  by Watty Piper

The Story of Ferdinand  by Munro Leaf

Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel  by Virginia Lee Burton

Winnie-the-Pooh   by A.A. Milne

A Child's Garden of Verses  by Robert Louis Stevenson

The Child's Story Bible  by Catherine Vos

Goodnight Moon  by Margret Wise Brown

Anything by Dr. Seuss

The Pokey Little Puppy  by Janet Sebring Lowrey 

Peter Rabbit  by Beatrix Potter

Squirrel Nutkin  by Beatrix Potter

The LIttle House  by Virginia Lee Burton

Welcome...

Welcome to “Hope-Filled Homeschool!” It is my earnest prayer that, here, you will find encouragement, refreshment, joy and most of all…hope. Homeschooling is about so much more than just “school!” With every little correction, lesson or act of affection we are shaping young hearts. We have been given the amazing blessing of training up children for the Lord and our efforts are never in vain though our culture says otherwise. Read these encouraging words from Martin Luther:

“God grants offspring and commands that they be brought up to worship and serve Him. In all the world this is the noblest and most precious work, because to God there can be nothing dearer than the salvation of souls…Most certainly father and mothers are apostles, bishops and priests to their children, for it is they who make them acquainted with the gospel. In short, there is no greater or nobler authority on earth than that of parents over their children, for this authority is both spiritual and temporal.”

So, on the hard days, on the good days and all the days in between, take heart because your faithful, daily work is transforming the next generation.