Homepreschool and Beyond

*Relationship *Routine *Readiness *Reading Aloud

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  • A Balanced Approach:

    Homepreschool and Beyond will give parents the knowledge they need to find “balance” for their family. Find out what young children need to know—and how to teach it. Gain the confidence you need to relax and enjoy those precious preschool years—and beyond.

    “Susan Lemons gives you the blueprint…”

    • 26 Chapters
    • Covers all areas of development
    • Covers all areas of curriculum
    • For a ages 2-8
    • Developmentally appropriate
    • Literature based
    • Spiritual and character building emphasis

Archive for the ‘Challenge to Parents’ Category

The Basics Of Homepreschool: Starting Early? Curriculum, Methods and More

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on September 3, 2014


How to Start Children Early—Curriculum, Methods, etc:

First of all, I have to make it clear that starting homepreschool–a deliberate, set-aside time to help our preschoolers learn–does not mean it is time to start formal academics. Study after study have shown that the current push-down in curriculum just doesn’t work. No study has shown any benefit at all to learning to read at age five or younger, versus learning to read at age 6, 7, or older—and in fact, studies have shown that children who learn to read later not only learn to read more quickly and easily than other children do, but they do better academically throughout their entire lives. This is because they spent their early years learning and doing real things instead of concentrating solely on formal academics.

Preschoolers should spend lots of time being read to, playing with science, taking nature walks, doing art, listening to music, singing, and playing, playing, playing! All these activities boost thinking skills, creativity, and vocabulary, and THAT benefits them throughout their whole lives. (This is true, meaningful learning for preschoolers. See the tab, “Goals of Homepreschool” and “Goals for the Balanced Mom” for more.)

Preschoolers don’t need “curriculum” as we’ve come to think of it, either. For preschoolers, life itself is the curriculum. Preschoolers can learn about science—plants, animals, weather; social studies—communities and community helpers; art; music; pre-reading skills; social skills; sport/physical skills; speech/language skills and pre-math skills—all through having parents who talk to them, read aloud to them, play with them, and provide real life experiences for them. (Don’t make the mistake of concentrating only on formal academics and “readiness” skills, when there is so much more that preschoolers can and should learn! See my tab on “Readiness” and “The Truth: Early Academics” for more, including links to research on the subject.)

How to Get Started

The best way to start homepreschooling is not by running out and buying workbooks for your preschooler, as I stated above. Workbooks are not developmentally appropriate for most preschoolers. Instead, start by establishing a simple daily routine for that includes a story time, art, music, and so on. If you want to, you can decide ahead of time what you’d like to read to your children about—choose themes or units, and then run to the library and find all the picture books you can about the subject. Then, simply read, read, read. If and when you can, throw in activities that go along with what you are learning about. For instance, when you do a farm unit, visit the grocery store and talk about how and where things grow; buy some whipping cream and shake it up to make butter. When you learn about zoo animals, visit a zoo. When you learn about community helpers, visit the police station and the airport, and so on. There are many “homepreschool” co-ops and homeschool support groups that offer these types of activities or “field trips”. (See my archives on unit studies for more.)

Methods: The Importance of Reading Aloud, Conversation, and Playing with Our Children

Reading aloud is the single most important thing parents can do to help their children learn, no matter their age. When you read to your child, you are teaching more than just the content of the book. You are teaching them about language, letters and print—that letters make sounds, and sounds make letters; you are also teaching them that we read from top to bottom and left to right. You are teaching them about grammar, vocabulary, and rhyme. You are growing their attention span, speech skills and more. {For more, see my tab, “Reading Aloud” and the archives on reading aloud and book lists.}

Conversation is vitally important to learning. Conversations always include the skills of listening, and then responding, which is different from just “talking at” our children. We can use conversations to build relationships with our children, to teach our children, and to facilitate their learning

Playing With Our Children:

It is important to watch our children’s play AND play with them. By watching their play, we can detect new behavior problems and nip them in the bud; we can discern their emotional state, and help them where needed; we can take advantage of teachable moments, and we can learn about their health (observing children’s play/behavior allows us to catch illnesses early.) Best of all, playing with our children builds close relationships and is tons of fun! {See my article, “Why Preschoolers Need to Play” for more, including links to research about the importance of play.}

Next time: Important Skills to Develop, Fun and Games!

© 2010, 2011, 2014 Susan Lemons all rights reserved. Portions of this post are taken from or similar to passages in Homepreschool and Beyond, used by permission of the author. Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.

Posted in Academics for Four Year Olds, Academics for Preschoolers, Challenge to Parents, Curriculum, Early Academics, Getting Started, Homepreschool, Homeschool Preschool, Homeschool/homepreschool, Kindergarten Readiness, Readiness, Reading Aloud, Routines | Leave a Comment »

Helping Our Children Grow Close Relationships with God: A Reality Check, and a Suggested Book List

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on August 28, 2014


This next section of my three part series is going to be the toughest to stomach, but it is the most important. If you only read one part of this series, I hope you will read this part. Much of this I was already planning to post. In fact, the Lord has been convicting me to post it somewhere for a long time. It’s hard to do, because a lot of it is personal.

First of all, I want you to know that I understand that the information in this series, “Helping Our Children Grow Close Relationships with God,” can be overwhelming. My blog can be overwhelming, and my book too, unless you approach it with the right attitude. You need to know that all the things I’ve listed in the previous posts of this series (and in my book) are ideas…lofty goals to work towards. So take the ideas I’ve shared as ideas, only. You get to choose which ideas will work in your home, with your children, and when. But don’t try to do them all (at least, not all at once!) You don’t have to do them all. You probably can’t do them all. And (here’s the important part): Even if you could do all these things, there is no guarantee that your children will grow up to have the close, personal relationship with God that you hope they will. The hard truth is, every child has free will, and can choose to live for the Lord—or choose not to. Many loving, Christian parents, who thought they did all the “right things”, including myself, have learned this the hard way, and had their hearts broken. I say this not to discourage you, but to give you a hard dose of reality. I feel I can share these things because they’ve happened to ME.

My first child has rejected the faith and is living in a way that is not pleasing to God. My daughter is living for the Lord (praise God!), but now differs from us doctrinally on a few points. And, if you met my youngest boys, you would know without a doubt that either my husband and I are imperfect parents (true), or my that my boys haven’t fully submitted themselves to God (yet!) They are not easy kids, and they never have been. They both have “flashes” that show me what Godly men they might grow up to become, but their behavior in-between those flashes, especially the way they get along treat each other, isn’t always pleasant. But we struggle along, anyway, doing the best we can, praying for them, teaching them, and never, ever, giving up.

I still believe that homeschooling is the most Biblical way to educate children, and I still believe that it is the educational choice that is the most likely to produce the results we are hoping for (children who grow up to be Christians.) But those beliefs are tempered with the reality of the fact that there are “no guarantees.” It is our responsibility to do the best we can, but we must leave the results to God. If we have taught our children about the Lord from the time they are young, we can then claim the promises in God’s Word (the principles of sowing and reaping, the scriptures He gives us regarding our children, and so on.) HERE is a site lists many of the promises that parents can claim for their children, and HERE is another great site—scroll down for an awesome list of Bible promises regarding our children.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned over the years—things that the Lord has laid on my heart to share:

About our kids:
-Remember that God has given your children a free will. As the old saying goes, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” We can share the Lord with our children their whole lives without result. Some children choose not to submit themselves to God. Others say they have, but their behavior shows that they are not regenerated (not new creations/not living for the Lord as they should.) Others still may out and out reject the truth we try so hard to instill into them. Pray that your children would have soft hearts towards the voice of the Lord, and would come to salvation at an early age. Pray that they would be able to discern truth from lies. Ask the Lord to open their spiritual understanding.

-Remember that your children are watching you. Set a good example for them. Rebellious children will look for any weaknesses or inconsistencies in your life, and use them to justify their own sin. They will see you as a hypocrite, and call you on it. “Do as I say, not as I do” doesn’t cut it. Try to live what you teach, so that this doesn’t happen. Ask the Lord to change you, grow you, a help you become more like Jesus.

-Remember that we can’t be our children’s Holy Spirit. It’s not our job. You can’t convict your children of sin, or of their need of God, and so on, anyway. Only the Holy Spirit can do that!! We can communicate our beliefs, thoughts, and personal conviction to them, but it is ultimately up to the Holy Spirit to deal with them. Pray that your children would be sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit, and that they would be doers of the Word, not hearers only.


About us (parents):

-Be careful not to make your children or your family an idol. Whatever you esteem, value, or think about the most becomes an idol. Don’t get so caught up in the lives of your children that you neglect your own spiritual life.

-Beware of parental pride: If you find yourself looking around at other parents whose kids are struggling or whose children have turned away from the Lord, and you are assuming that yours won’t, because “you’ve done everything right…everything you are supposed to….even homeschooled them”…then be careful. Pride is a sin. Pride is not pleasing to God. God says that He opposed the proud. You can be assured that if you are prideful about your children, at some time or another you WILL be slapped down…probably by own your children’s own behavior.

-Be careful about your attitude towards other parents who are having struggles with their kids. Don’t assume that they are doing everything wrong, or that they must be “messed-up” or “bad parents.” In short, don’t judge them. Don’t shoot the wounded. For all you know, they have poured their hearts and souls into their children, only to see them do the exact opposite of all they had been taught. Instead of feeling superior or judging them, pray for them. Pray for their children to return to the Lord. Love on them, and encourage them.

That’s it for the “reality check” for now. Think about these things, and examine yourself: Do any of these cautions apply to you? Do you have any attitudes to change? I will share some more specific things that are on my heart at a later date (Important Things to Teach Your Older Children–kind of a “spiritual lessons from the Mother of a Prodigal” type of post.) I’ll also share some important links at the end of this post. But for now, let’s go back to the “how” we can help our children learn about the Lord.

Remember that if we do all that we can do to teach our children about the Lord, we can rely on the promises of God regarding our children!!

Below is a list of the Bible story books and picture books that we have enjoyed. I’ve listed them by approximate age of usage.

Bible Storybooks

We started reading Bible story books to our children when they were very young. We try to be careful to choose Bible story books that don’t “add” to the Bible—guessing what Jesus must have thought or felt, for example. The usual progression of books in our house has been something like this:

1-2 years: Read-Aloud Bible Stories, Volumes 1-4, by Ella K. Lindvall

2-3 years: The above, plus The Beginner’s Bible, by Karyn Henley

3-4 years: The above, plus My Bible Friends, by Etta H. Degering (5 volumes)

Happy Day Books (available most Bible bookstores)

4-5 years: The Golden Children’s Bible
Arch Bible Books (available at most Bible bookstores)
Egermier’s Bible Story Book, by Elsie E. Egermier (this one is another favorite.)

5+ years: The above, plus The Child’s Story Bible, by Catherine F. Vos (This book is beautifully written. I like that it explains the orgins of Satan. It also covers more of the new testament than most Bible story books do.)

6+ years: The Bible, itself. You can find a listing of all the major Bible stories to read straight from the Bible, Old Testament HERE and New Testament HERE.

Of course, every family has its own favorites, and every child is ready to move up to the “more advanced book” in his or her own time. If your children have a Bible storybook that they really love, it’s OK to stick with it longer! The important thing is to get your children to know and love the stories and concepts in the Word. Read from a Bible storybook daily, and discuss the stories. Explain, in the simplest terms you can, what the stories teach us. Be sure to teach your children that these “story books”, unlike their other “story books,” really happened; they are TRUE.
To help our children understand some of the more difficult Biblical concepts, we also use specialized storybooks that strive to explain them as simply as possible (Devotional books):

My very favorite devotional for little ones (three and four year olds) is Stepping Stones to Bigger Faith for Little People: A Collection of Family Devotions, by Joyce Herzog. Just right for preschoolers, this is a sweet book that explains difficult concepts such as forgiveness, the blood of the lamb, living without fear, growing in holiness, and lots more, in a way that young children can understand.

Big Thoughts for Little Thinkers, by Joey Allen (titles include “The Scripture”, “The Mission”, “The Trinity” and “The Gospel”.

Little Lessons for Little Learners
, by Patricia Richardson Mattozzi (titles include “Angels”, “Heaven”, and “Prayer”.

Leading Little Ones To God, a devotional that explains the main Biblical themes, by Marian M. Schooland 4-5+

The Story of The Lord’s Prayer, The Story of Ten Commandments, by Patricia A. Pingry

Three in One, a Picture of God, by Joanne Marxhausen

Tell Me a Story: Treasures for Eternity, and others by Max Lucado 5+

Comfort for a Child’s Heart: The 23rd Psalm and Bible Promises, By David and Helen Haidle (This is a favorite of ours, one that we will read several different times throughout childhood. It is beautifully illustrated, beautifully written, and shares important truths.)

Here are some of our favorites for older children:

Dangerous Journey: The Story of Pilgrim’s Progress, by Oliver Hunkin (8 years and up.)

Kingdom Tales, by David and Karen Mains (grades 3-8.)

The Young Peacemaker: Teaching Students to Respond to Conflict in God’s Way, by Corlette Sande (fourth grade and up.)

Making Brothers and Sisters Best Friends, by Sarah, Harold, and Stephen Mally (Sixth grade and up.)

Battlefield of the Mind for Kids, by Joyce Meyers (a favorite of ours; fourth or fifth grade and up; a very important book!)
Discover 4 Yourself Inductive Bible Studies for Kids, by Kay Arthur ( I would say third or fourth grade through seventh or eighth.)

Finally: Conversations and Daily Life

Biblical concepts should be a natural part of daily conversations. If we are aware of the presence of the Lord in our daily lives, we should share this awareness with our children. Simple comments like those below are key to bringing our children into an awareness of the power of God, how to please God, how important prayer is, and so on. Talk to your children about spiritual matters on a daily basis!

“Aren’t you glad God made kittens for us to love?”

“It makes Jesus happy when you share.”

“There’s a fire truck! While we pull over and let it pass, let’s pray for the
Fire Fighters, and for whoever might have been hurt in the fire or accident they are headed to.”

“What does the Bible say about lying? Is lying pleasing to God?”

“Grandma called, and she isn’t feeling good today. Let’s stop what we are doing and pray for her right now.”

“Before we leave on our trip, let’s pray and ask God to help us have a safe trip and a fun time.” (This is a tradition at our house; we never leave on a trip without praying first.)

I hope this series of posts has been helpful and encouraging to you. As I said, I will be sharing more of my thoughts shortly. In the meantime, may the Lord bless you and yours!!
~Susan

PLEASE take the time to read the articles below. They are so important!!

Exposing the Seven Major Blindspots of Homeschoolers, by Reb Bradley

Christian Child Training Versus Free-Will by Barbara Frank.

© 2010, 2014 Susan Lemons all rights reserved. Portions of this post were taken from Homepreschool and Beyond, used with permission.

Posted in Book Lists, Challenge to Parents, Elementary School, Family Life, Holiness, Homepreschool, Homeschool, Homeschool Preschool, Homeschool/homepreschool, Homeschooling, Picture Books, Reading Aloud, Spiritual Matters, Teaching Bible | Leave a Comment »

Helping Our Children Grow Close Relationships with God, Part Two

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on August 20, 2014


In my last post, I shared that two primary ways we teach our children about God are through example, and through teaching. In this post, I will share some specific thoughts/ideas about HOW to do it:

Through Example: The hardest part of parenting, I believe, is disciplining ourselves to be who we need to be, so that we are good examples for our children. (Self-control. Why does it always have to come back to that? SIGH.) In my book, Homepreschool and Beyond, I call this “teaching through parenting:”

The best definition of good parenting I’ve ever heard is from Anne Ortland, who says, “Successful parenting means: One, becoming what you should be. And two, staying close enough to the children that it will rub off.” She challenges us further by asking, “What will you become, in order that your offspring may turn out to be great human beings for God?”

We need to admit that we can’t be good examples in our own strength. We have to rely on the Holy Spirit to lead us, guide us, and help us. So we can’t be good examples for our children unless we abide in Christ. One resource that has helped me tremendously in this area is the Christian classic, Practicing the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence. You can even get it for FREE on your Kindle! In this book, Brother Lawrence talks about how, no matter what he is doing, a part of him can be (no, IS) in the presence of God, and how the presence of God changes everything! It even makes doing the dishes a blessing. When we are conscious of the fact that we are continually in His presence, it changes how we talk to people, react to people (often with prayer instead of anger), and most importantly, how we think. One idea that can help us with this is to set some type of alarm (on a watch, perhaps?) for every 15 or 30 minutes, just to remind us to think about God and the fact that He is with us. Then, we can pray and thank Him for that.

Another resource that has been very helpful to me is, The Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Myers. The battle is in our minds, and learning about how to control our thoughts and spiritual warfare is very helpful. Her books on habits are helpful, too (replace the bad with the good!)

It is certain that the Lord is calling us to (greater) holiness. The Lord Jesus Christ wants true disciples who follow His example. No compromise. No shades of grey. No syncretism (mixing Christianity with contradictory beliefs or actions.) Are you willing to give up whatever has been holding you back from living the kind of life you should? Whatever part of YOU that you aren’t willing to totally give to God? What do you need to give up/change/start doing/surrender and submit to God in order to live in holiness?

Through Teaching:
The Word of God: Our children need to be saturated in the Word of God. In order to do this, we also need to be saturated in the Word. This is the only way to grow, to Abide in the Lord, and His Word. To do this, obviously, we need to spend time in God’s Word daily. It is easy to let this go in favor of extra sleep, more time to work, or simply being too busy. But I’ve discovered the hard way that when I don’t spend the time I need to spend in the Word (and in prayer and worship), several things happen: I’m not abiding in the Lord as well as I should be, so I start to be crabby, selfish, depressed, and…well…carnal. The old man starts to win out. OR, I begin to feel spiritually “off”, or even find myself in spiritual oppression/warfare. Satan loves to attack us when we’re down, and when we don’t spend time in the Word, we’re down…we have opened ourselves up to attack. Don’t give the devil an opportunity!!

Another point: If we aren’t in the Word, it is really difficult for us to answer our children’s questions about the Word, God, salvation, etc. We need to be growing ever stronger and more mature in the Lord, so that we can answer our children’s questions about God!!

I have to admit, this is still something that I am working on. I’m in the Word almost every day now…I still have occasional days when I slip up. I try to do my devotional times first thing in the morning. I highly recommend the “Lord” series by Kay Arthur. Buy the CD’s or MP3’s that go with them, or join a group study. I’ve especially enjoyed Lord, Heal My Hurts, Lord, is it Warfare? Teach Me to Stand, and Lord, I Want to Know You.

Another way to help our children (and ourselves) abide in the Word is by memorizing it. We use Simply Charlotte Mason’s method for memorizing scripture. I simply read the scriptures to them over and over, and they join in as they can. Sometimes I break the scriptures up into short phrases for them to repeat, or I’ll let them fill in every other word of verses that they know fairly well. I don’t care as much about memorizing the references right now as I do memorizing the verses themselves. You can also use scripture memory songs to help you memorize (you can make up your own, or find some on Amazon.)

As for what to memorize: When your children are very young, start with simple, short verses like these:
Psalms 119:105; Psalms 118:1, Psalm 147:1. You could also start with scripture memory books, designed just for preschoolers, and memorize one Bible verse for each letter of the alphabet. Scripture Memory Fellowship offers a nice one designed especially for two and three year-olds (along with lots of other topical booklets with Bible verses to memorize, for all ages,) or you can print up your own memory verse cards for FREE from Homeschool Creations. Another option that is especially good for 4-6 year olds is Susan Hunt’s book, My A, B, C Bible Verses: Hiding God’s Word in Little Hearts. This book has a devotional and a memory verse for each letter (if I remember correctly, I had to self-edit a little of the devotionals to align them with our doctrinal beliefs, so you might want to pre-read the devotions before reading them to your kids.) This book contains slightly longer verses, for kids who have already had some experience with memory work.

As your children get older, move them up to longer verses, such as Psalms 34:13; James 1:19-20; Phil. 2:14; Romans 12:21; Psalms 56:3-4; Proverbs 20:11. Once your children reach second or third grade, you can also memorize the books of the Bible, the twenty-third Psalm, Psalm 100, the Apostle’s Creed, or even whole chapters of the Bible. Psalms and Ephesians are especially good for this.

Daily “Bible” time:
A daily devotional time with your children is an important component of teaching your children Biblical concepts, as is praying together, taking our children to church regularly, and simply talking to our children about spiritual matters.

Some families have their devotionals together first thing in the morning; others at night. If possible, dads should lead the devotions (in our home, Dad is going to start reading the chapter of Proverbs that corresponds to the day of the week every night.) Young children need spiritual input from both their mothers and their fathers. A daily devotional does not have to be long; for preschoolers, 10-20 minutes is more than enough. This is what we do: We start by gathering in a comfortable place, such as a living or family room with a comfy couch. When our children were young, we’d start by singing active Sunday School-type songs, to get the wiggles out. Next, we’d sing a hymn or two. We concentrate on one or two hymns at a time, and start with just learning the first verse and the chorus. Hymns are important because they are filled with scripture (they can help with memorization) and doctrine. They are a spiritual heritage that I don’t want my children to miss out on, even though our church does “modern” worship almost exclusively. If you learn the hymns, the Lord will bring them into your mind to help, comfort, and encourage you when you are down…IF you know them. (NOTE: You can also buy more “modern” versions of hymns, sung by many of the popular contemporary Christian singers, if you want to. We have CD’s of hymns done by Amy Grant, for example.) We also sing some of the praise songs that we hear on the radio (we like K-LOVE) or that we sing in church. After this, we work on our Bible memory work, and finally, we read together. What we read depends on our children’s ages, listening abilities, and spiritual understanding. When our children were little, we’d read a short Bible story. As they get older, we move up to longer stories, and later, we read both stories and devotional books. Finally, we move up to reading the Bible itself.

Next post: What to read for daily devotions, final tips about teaching Bible, and things we must not overlook.

© 2010, 2014 Susan Lemons all rights reserved. Portions of this post were taken from Homepreschool and Beyond, used with permission.

Posted in Challenge to Parents, Family Fun, Homepreschool, Homeschool/homepreschool, Homeschooling, Parenting, Relationships, Spiritual Matters, Teaching Bible | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Helping Our Children Grow Close Relationships with God

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on August 18, 2014


Building relationships is our most important job as parents. As I stated in my previous post on relationships,

“Developing relationships is the most important part of any homepreschool/homeschool. We must help our children grow strong, loving relationships—first with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and next within our families. Many of us say that this is our priority, but in truth, it is not. If helping our children develop a close relationship with God was really our priority, it would be reflected in the amount of time we spend reading Bible stories to our children, memorizing the Word with them, praying with them (and for them), and worshiping together. (Discipleship.)
…I’m sad to say that we too often neglect what is most important (building strong relationships) in favor of other priorities (early academics, our own interests, etc.)
We must take the time to “make the main thing the main thing”, and teach our children about the Lord while they are young.”
(Excerpt from Homepreschool and Beyond, used with permission.)

It used to be, back in the “early days” of our homeschooling (1990’s), almost all homeschoolers were Christians, and almost all were homeschooling primarily for religious reasons. It was almost a foregone conclusion. Not so any more. Homeschooling has become more acceptable, more “mainstream”, and the movement has become very diverse (which is a good thing.) Even Christian homeschooling families often start homeschooling with other priorities in mind (academics, as a reaction to problems in public schools, family issues, developmental/learning issues, and more.) But whenever I meet a Christian homeschooler, I always try to encourage them to redirect their focus, and “make the main thing the main thing.” And the “main thing” is always God.

The main reason we choose to homeschool is NOT because of curriculum problems in the public schools, common core, bullies, learning issues, or any of the PLETHORIA of reasons that many families become initially interested in homeschooling (even though these are all great reasons to homeschool.) We homeschool for eternity. Our most important goals are related to helping our children grow strong, personal relationships with God. So how do we do that? First, I will present some challenging questions for you to ponder, and then, some specific goals and examples of “how” we do it.

There are two main ways we can help our children develop close, personal relationships with God: Through example and through purposeful teaching.

*Through example: This is the hardest, but perhaps the most important way to help our children grow close relationships with God. The importance of parental example cannot be overemphasized. “Do as I say, but not as I do” just doesn’t cut it. We need to become aware of the fact that we are teaching our children all the time, whether or not we are aware of it. What have you been teaching today?
Questions to ask yourself: Do your children see you studying God’s Word consistently? Do they see you praying? Is your first course of action in case of emergency prayer? Have you ever stopped what you are doing and prayed when an ambulance or fire truck streaks by with its lights flashing? Do you pray together regularly as a family? Do you spend time praying for your children and their future spouses?
Do you attend church regularly, and take your children with you? Do your children see you giving yourself over to worship, and enjoying it?
Do you serve others in love?
And, hardest of all, do you live out the fruits of the spirit in your home-in your life? Is it obvious to others that you are a new creation in Christ? Are you growing in holiness? Does in show in your speech (what you say and don’t say), and in what you watch (or don’t watch) on television? In short, are you growing as a Christian?

*Through teaching: Do you dedicate the time you should to teaching your children about the Lord, or is teaching them their colors or learning the alphabet more important? Yes, those things are important, at the proper time. But have they become more important than God is in your home? Which do you devote more time to?
Does the topic of “God” come up in casual conversation in your house? Do you have a daily devotional/Bible reading time with your children as part of your homeschool? Do you encourage your children, once they can read, to start the habit of having their own devotions daily?
How are your daily devotions going? Do you skip them in favor of getting breakfast made or the laundry started?
Do you teach your children to memorize scripture? Do you memorize scripture?

Think on these challenging questions, and hang on for part two and three in a few days.

© 2010, 2014 Susan Lemons all rights reserved. Portions of this post were taken from Homepreschool and Beyond, used with permission.

Posted in Challenge to Parents, Holiness, Homeschool Preschool, Homeschool/homepreschool, Homeschooling, Parenting, Spiritual Matters | Leave a Comment »

Adult Peer Pressure and the Homeschooling Parent

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on July 6, 2014


Have you ever considered how much peer pressure homeschooling parents have to endure? First there is the objections of friends and families when we decide to homeschool/homepreschool our kids. Then there is the unrelenting comparisons and academic competition (a lot of it, developmentally inappropriate, due to the curriculum “push down” that has been happening over the last twenty or thirty years of so.)

Is your homeschool (OR homepreschool) being held hostage by the expectations of others? Sometimes it sure feels that way. This is the question Heidi St. John tackles in this wonderful article I just discovered. I really needed this article today. I sometimes feel I’m “held hostage” to the expectations of the next few years…we are starting junior high again next fall. Lots more writing and heavy “academics” are expected. What about you? One thing this article says is that we should be free NOT to do preschool. Hmm. I always enjoyed the preschool years, and it was always fun to me. But how has it been for you?

Do you feel you have to “prove” yourself, and the value of homeschooling, to your extended family? Does that take away your joy? Does planning activity after activity wear you out? Do you feel pressured academically about preschool and Kindergarten? Please. Don’t. Go. There. You have so many years ahead of you. It will all be covered, in time.

Do you have young children, and yet are already worried about “how in the world will I teach Algebra?” Don’t. Go. There. God will provide a way!! It’s OK to let your little ones be little, and enjoy them at the age they are at right now. It’s OK to let them spend the day playing. Please, DO. I would much rather see parents swing the pendulum towards “no preschool” than swing it towards an academic-type homepreschool: Worksheets, two or three years of “alphabet” type activities and so on are not what preschoolers need! Remember, they will pick up those preschool “facts” (A,B,C’s, numbers, colors, shapes, and so on) simply through good parenting, if you trust them to do so. And if they haven’t learned all their “preschool” facts before Kindergarten, then teach them to them in Kindergarten! Remember, as homeschoolers, we don’t have to make our preschoolers “ready” for Kindergarten. Instead, we can make our Kindergarten ready for them!

Remember not to overlook the forest for the trees. Remember WHY you are homeschooling/homepreschooling. I hope that it is for spiritual reasons.

What is really most important at this age? The 4R’s: Relationship, Routine, Readiness, and Reading aloud. Throw in lots of play, art, and music and you’ve got it covered. Really. Trust me on this!! If you need a refresher, please revisit my tabs (above), and explore the articles on “readiness” in the archives. You also might want to take a moment to read the “Goals for the Balanced Mom”. But for now, PLEASE take a moment to read this fantastic article (linked above). Think about it, and pray about it. Then ask God what priorities HE would ask of you for this year. What should your children be learning this year? How should you teach it (what methods should you use?) Ask for a bold vision, and then when it is given, don’t be afraid to obey God and follow his vision…no matter what that vision may be. It may have to do with academics. It may have nothing to do with academics. Most likely, it will have to do with building relationships with God and family, teaching morals and character, learning to love those basic Bible stories, being consistent and intentional, growing your patience, spending more time in the Word and in prayer as a family, and so on.
Hugs! ~~Susan

Posted in Challenge to Parents, Deciding to Homeschool or Hompreschool, Early Academics, Elementary School, Encouragement, Homepreschool, Homeschool, Homeschool Preschool, Homeschooling, Kindergarten Readiness, Parenting, Spiritual Matters, Uncategorized, Vision | Leave a Comment »

Homeschool in Freedom: Breaking All the Rules, Part Two

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on February 20, 2012


-There is no rule that says that you must involve your child in every out-of-the-home activity available so that your child is properly “socialized.” While some such activities are enjoyable and recommended, remember to find the balance: After all, you have to be home to homeschool! Only participate in activities that provide positive socialization, and those that do not wear you (or your children) out. Remember that the home is the primary place for teaching manners and proper socialization; in reality, your children need little more.

-There is no rule that says that you have to do fifteen different subjects in one day. That is how many subjects some curriculum suppliers offer: Bible, math, reading, phonics, grammar, writing, handwriting, spelling, vocabulary, history, health, science, art, music, and foreign language. Alternate your lessons by day of the week, by unit, or by semester so that you are teaching either science OR history, spelling OR vocabulary, grammar OR writing, science OR health, but never everything in the same day. (Read my post “How Many Subjects Do We Need to Teach, Anyway?” HERE.)

As for grammar: Grammar  can be saved until your child is reading well (till phonics is done, or even later.)

-There is no rule that says you have to do school Monday-Friday, August through May. Many homeschoolers use a year round plan, taking their vacations off-season, starting school early or “late”, and so on. If you want to do a four day week, you can. If you want to do school on Saturday, that’s OK. It’s also OK to count your vacation days as “school” days if you are doing something educational (visiting a state park, museum, etc…field trip!)

-There is no rule that says that you have to start school at eight o’clock. Not all of us are morning people; many of us do our best work in the afternoons.  Oh—by the way—it really is OK to homeschool in your pajamas.

-There is no rule that says that you have to use textbooks. Often, especially in the early grades, the same material can be covered in a much more interesting way by reading aloud real books to your children. Remember, ANYTHING we use to help our children learn is “curriculum”, including real books, videos, games, activities and even un-planned, real life experiences.

-There is no rule that says you shouldn’t use textbooks, either. As a dear friend reminded me recently–textbooks are not intrinsically evil! Textbooks are merely tools that parents use to help their children learn.

A few words of advice: If you do choose to go the textbook route, don’t turn too much of it over to your kids to do independently. Make sure you follow-up on every lesson immediately, and discuss the lessons with your children— even when they can read them independently. Additionally, make sure that textbooks aren’t your children’s ONLY reading. Continue to read good literature aloud to them, even when they learn how to read themselves; and once they learn to read, make sure they read LOTS on their own, too. (This is so important!) Plan time for those “electives”, which are more than  “optional extras”—subjects like art, music, and PE are vitally important for normal development, and tons of fun, too. Additionally, give your children the time they need to explore their own interests (academic and otherwise.)

Personally, I tend to use real books almost exclusively during the early years (pre-K-First grade, at least), but I slowly edge a little more towards textbooks as my children get older. We usually end up using a “mix” including (an abundance of) real books, and some textbooks, too.

-There is no rule that says that you have to use a textbook—or any other book, for that matter—in the “traditional” way. Textbooks make great “spines”, to which you can add living books and real-life activities. Together, they make a great whole.

Books don’t have to be used as a whole—feel free to skim them, read only applicable passages out of them, and so on.

It’s always a great idea to set out a “library box” or “book basket” to encourage your children’s interests in reading, and/or supplement their curriculum.

-There is no rule that says you have to finish the entire book/text in a year’s time:  most public schools don’t; they simply drop them at the end of the year, potentially leaving out large chunks of learning. We don’t have to do that. We can pick up where we left off the next school year, or even extend our school year and continue working through them until we are done.

If your child is struggling with a new concept, slow down. Feel free to supplement lessons or repeat them until your child masters the concept and is ready to move on. Homemade games are awesome teaching tools to help your children memorize their math facts, practice handling money, or  practice phonics/reading.

NOTE: Most textbooks, especially math texts, include a review section at the beginning of each year. If your children need it, use it. If they know the material and are ready to move ahead, let them. Curriculum is a tool, not a slave-driver.

-There is no rule that says that all your teaching materials or textbooks must all be the same grade level. One of our greatest blessings as homeschoolers is the ability to individualized our curriculum and methods to fit each child. That may mean that your child is “in” the third grade, but is using a fourth grade language arts text, a second grade math text, and a third grade science text. That’s OK! Remember that mastery is the goal. Also remember that you will have a year or two’s wiggle room come high school, when many kids do only two or three years of math and science. You can use those years (or the junior high years, which are often review anyway) to “catch up”.  (NOTE: Find out what your state law says, though. Some states require yearly testing/grade level achievement. Find out what your leeway is. If necessary, hold your child back a grade. You can always bump them back up again, later.)

-There is no rule that says that you have to purchase your entire curriculum from one supplier. Most homeschoolers are “eclectic”, mixing and matching curriculums/suppliers to find what fits their children and their teaching style.

-There is no rule that says that you have to do every activity that the teacher’s manual suggests. Remember that most curriculums, especially textbooks, are written for classroom use and thus must contain “busy work” for the children who finish their work early as well as extra work for children who are struggling. DO ONLY THE WORK THAT WILL BENEFIT YOUR CHILD; don’t feel obligated to do it all! That’s a sure recipe for burn-out.

-There is no rule that says that you have to use the teacher’s manual, if it is no help to you. I rarely  buy teacher’s manuals at all until after the third grade or so—and even then, they are often used as an occasional reference, only (my exception: math.)

-There is no rule that says that you must give your child tests—and if you do, remember that you should only give tests if you believe they will be a help to your child (or you.) Homeschooling parents who are involved in their children’s learning usually know if their children know the material or not. Other than spelling tests, we give very few tests until after the fourth grade.

I do think it is a good idea to make sure that children begin to learn how to take tests by 5th or 6th grade, so that they are “in practice” for standardized tests, if they are required. Additionally, I believe it is important for junior and senior high kids to practice taking tests and doing the questions at the end of chapters, so that they are prepared for college (used to using/finding information in textbooks and used to writing the answers as well as preparing for tests.)

-There is no rule that says that if you do give your child tests, they have to be written. First tests, especially, can be given orally, in a game format, or whatever other creative way that appeals to you.

-There is no rule that says that school should take five to six hours every day. In fact, if you are taking that long, it’s probably too long. Short lessons are best.  Remember that homeschooling is more efficient that public school—we can get twice as much done in half the time.

On average, plan for 10-15 minutes per academic subject–per day– per grade—MAXIMUM. For example: Kindergardeners and first graders spend 10-15 minutes per subject; second graders spend twenty to twenty-five minutes, and so on, until you get to around forty to forty-five minutes per subject—then stay there. Yes, the public school’s class periods are longer—but they waste so much time settling kids down, taking roll, and handing out/collecting papers that they are lucky if they get 30 minutes of actual teaching time in each class.

Exceptions: If your children are older (junior high/high school)—and even then, I’d be sure they got breaks every 4o-45 minutes or so.

NOTE: I do allow my children more time when they are doing work on their own initiative, or when it is something hands-on or for fun (art projects they don’t want to stop, when I am reading an exciting book to them and the kids are begging to hear more, and so on.)

-There is no rule that says that your children must have homework: Most homeschoolers don’t. They get their work done during school time, or save it for another day.

-There is no rule that says that you have to pre-plan your lessons: I plan at the beginning of the year or the beginning of a unit/topic. Once we start, we just “do what comes next” and write it down later. This gives me leeway to adjust what we are doing if it isn’t working, to take extra time to master a hard subject or to explore a subject we are enjoying, or allow for sick days. I keep “journal-style” lessons, writing down what we do after the fact. (I do know which books we are reading next, etc.)

-There is no rule that says that you can’t include non-traditional subjects, or that you have to cover the traditional subjects in a traditional way: It’s OK to count chores as “life-skills”, baking as “home-ec”, and outside play time as “PE”. In fact, I recommend it. Remember that anything educational that you do, no matter the time of day or day of the week, is part of your homeschool’s curriculum and therefore should be counted as “school”.  Homeschoolers are always in school!! If you’ll count all the educational things you do on a day to day basis, you’ll be amazed.

-There is no rule that says that your preschooler has to know all his alphabet and numbers before starting Kindergarten. What else is Kindergarten for?! Kindergarten is the best time to cement those preschool “facts” and begin a slightly longer, more disciplined daily routine. Remember, we don’t have to make our children ready for Kindergarten—we can make Kindergarten ready for them.

-There is no rule that says that your child has to learn to read in Kindergarten—or even first grade. Learning to read, like learning to walk or swim, is very much a developmental task and should be approached on an individual basis–depending on readiness. (See my previous post , the tab on readiness, and the archives on “readiness” for more.)

-There’s no rule that says that you have to teach state history in the fourth grade (we did it together, when the kids were in grades 3 and 5) or do a science fair project in the fifth grade (unless you think it would benefit your kids.)

-There’s no rule that says that you have to teach your kids what the scope and sequence says you should for history or science, or that you can’t teach your children the things they want to learn, instead. In fact, some of the best learning happens when we give our kids the lead. (Scope and sequences are pretty arbitrary when it comes to history and science topics. Does it really matter which year you teach your children about the states, or insects, for example? Nope. Cover it whenever you think your kids will get the most out of it.)

No matter your chosen homeschooling method, I think it’s a great idea to take some time off once in a while and let your children choose their topics (often called the “delight-directed” approach.) If your child has a topic she loves, encourage her to take some time to pursue it. Feel free to take off on a “rabbit trail” once in a while and explore topics of interest when they come up without feeling guilty. Many times these topics will lead your child to learn more (about every subject) than you ever dreamed. Sometimes these topics lead children towards their future career paths.

************************************

Many times, homeschooling parents discover that they have to break free from the “public school” mentality and its rules in order to give their children the best and most efficient education they can. Just like their kids, they need time to “detox” and eliminate the “public school” mentality. Don’t be afraid to re-examine the rules or “step out of the box.”  Remember that YOU are in charge of your child’s education. You get to make (most of) the “rules”, so don’t worry if you are “breaking” them or adjusting them to fit your needs. The ability we have to individualised our materials and methods is one of our greatest strength as homeschoolers. Don’t be afraid to use it.

© 2012 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.  Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.

Posted in Challenge to Parents, Education, Elementary School, Encouragement, Homepreschool, Homeschool, homeschool methods, Homeschool Preschool, Homeschool/homepreschool | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

How Do You Measure Success (In Homeschool/Homepreschool)

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on February 4, 2012


(Note: This is a previous post that I updated.)

This morning I wrote  a submission for a blog that asked the question, “what makes your home learning method unique?”  The question had three parts to it:

1) What makes your method unique—how does it differ from mainstream, curriculum-based methods?  (Using the 4R’s as the  foundation to all I do.)

2) Why did you choose this path?  (Brief answer:  Because I believe in a balanced, whole-child approach that makes the main thing the main thing–versus methods that concentrate almost exclusively on one area of child development—usually academics.)

3)  How do you measure success?

Number one and number two were self-evident and easy for me to answer.  The last question, “how do you measure success?” was way more difficult.  Here is my (final) answer:

Like most other homeschool moms, I write out yearly goals for my children,  However, the real measure of success is not as simple as a completed math program or a high test score.  Instead, I ask myself the following questions:

About Relationship:

-Am I keeping relationships at the center of our home and our homeschool/homepreschool? Do I prioritize my time to reflect the fact that relationships (with God and with family) are the main thing?!

-Are my children growing in their relationship with the Lord? (Knowledge, understanding, wisdom, character, holiness?)

-Do my children want to please God?

-Do my children hunger after God’s presence/God’s Word?

-Is our parent/child relationship strong and growing?  Do we really talk to each other (conversation–a back and forth proposition?)

-Are the relationships between siblings/extended families strong and growing?

-Do I spend time playing with my children (entering into their world?)

-Do I make the time for relationship-building activities?

About Routine:

-Is our daily routine helping our days run more smoothly?

-Has our routine helped us develop helpful habits?

-Can my children depend on the security of “what comes next?”

-Does my routine include short lessons alternated with play breaks?

-Have I included the “fun stuff” (art, music, nature walks, play, PE etc) in our plan, so they are not overlooked?

-Do my children have plenty of free time for creative play and outside play?

About Readiness:

-Am I watching my children for signs of readiness before introducing something new (interest/curiosity, developing abilities, natural/independent learning?)

-Do I decide what to teach my children strictly according to someone else’s list or timetable (scope and sequence–“what’s expected,” age-by-age), or do I let my children’s own maturity/abilities/interests guide me?

-Do I follow my children’s lead when teaching something new—keeping lessons short and fun (game-based) and stopping if my children express frustration/disinterest?  (Note: Balance this with the knowledge that as children grow older and their abilities increase, they will have to learn some things that they may not want to learn or may not be interested in.  After all, who asks to learn long division?)

About Reading Aloud: 

-Do we spend lots of time reading aloud and discussing what we read/have learned?

-Do we read a variety of different types of books aloud (depending on age:  picture books, storybooks, biographies, poetry, historical fiction, non-fiction, etc?)

-Do we have a variety of different types of books available in our home for our children to choose from/read/browse through independently?

-When I read aloud to my children, do I take my time and enjoy it, too? Do I use expression (making silly sounds and different voices/accents as appropriate) or do I speed through, just to “get it done?”  In short–do I make it special?

About Academic Goals: 

-Are my children achieving reasonable (developmentally appropriate) learning goals, bearing in mind that the abilities of normal children vary greatly from child to child?

-Am I challenging my children without pushing them?

-Do I remember that most people expect far too much of young children, and not nearly enough of older children?  Have I adjusted our expectations/learning styles/curriculum accordingly?

I could share lots of other things that I want my children to achieve—spiritual skills/knowledge, physical skills, skills related to specific learning/academic areas, life skills, etc….and as I stated, I do make yearly, detailed lists of these items for each child.  But as I thought about how I really measure success, I realized that the main measure of my success as a homeschooling mom continues to be centered around the 4R’s.  It seems to me that when the 4R’s are kept in mind, the rest falls into place naturally.  With the 4R’s as a foundation, the needs of the whole child are addressed (including academics.)

Yes, I definitely believe there is more to measuring homepreschool/homeschool success than simply measuring what our children “know” academically (ABC’s, 1, 2, 3’s, test scores, etc.)  True, test scores are important, but they aren’t “the main thing.”

Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.  Matt. 6:32

Live the 4R’s!

~Susan

© 2010, 2012 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

Posted in Challenge to Parents, Family Life, Goals, Mothering, Spiritual Matters | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Goals and New Year’s Resolutions

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on January 5, 2012


Happy New Year! Can you believe it is 2012? I can’t believe how fast 2011 went. Why do the years seem to go faster the older you get?

This is the time of year when many of us reassess our lives and our homeschools, making changes and setting new goals. How are things going for you? I have to admit, I seem to be making the same type of “resolutions” the last several years…I think I have a problem!!

While I’ve been contemplating this and re-working my goals, the Lord has laid something on my heart. We always examine the goals that we think are the “big things” in our lives—the main things–and rightly so. But what about all those little things?! Sometimes those little things add up to really big things—or they are important components of the “big” things.

As always, I think about relationships first. I’ve been considering how much little time I really spend on them. We all know we can never spend enough time with the Lord (reading/studying His Word, praying, etc.) Along the same lines—I’ve also been considering how I model prayer for my kids. I want our prayer time to go way deeper than it has before. And now that my boys are getting bigger, I want to encourage them to pray more on their own, as well as practice/become more comfortable praying aloud—even in front of people outside of our family.

When it comes to my relationship with my kids: I want to be sure that I don’t live only for peace and quiet, or rules, or routines; yes, those things are important, but relationship if MORE important. So I’m asking myself if I’m taking the time to do those little things that communicate my love and availability to my kids. Am I taking the time to build our relationships? Am I doing those “little” things, like:

-Am I giving the boys plenty of (appropriate) loving touch (cuddling, hugs, ruffling hair, rubbing shoulders, patting their backs at night, etc)

-Do I really listen to them, or do I tune them out and say “uh-huh,” without really paying attention?

-Do I call to them across the house, or get up and attend to their needs? (OUCH—I’m SO guilty of this one!)

-Do I do little things to let them know that they are loved/that I’m thinking of them? Things like buying them their favorite yogurt, making their favorite meal/treat, and so on?

-Do I praise their good behavior, naming the character trait they are modeling (obedience, patience, diligence, self-control, etc?)

-Do I take the time to play with them? Play games with them? Get silly with them?

-Am I making time for the “fun stuff” in our homeschool? (We did lots of “fun stuff” over our Christmas break—I want to keep the trend going!)

I know there’s one thing I have been overlooking: Time outside—exercise—otherwise known as PE. All kids need it, but when it comes to pre-hormonal boys….well, let’s just say it becomes a necessity. No matter how I feel, I’ve got to take the time to go outside with the boys and make SURE they spend at least an hour playing hard, be it in free play or in specific skill areas. I’m thinking about putting together a PE post…would that be helpful to any of you?

Finally, I’m going to re-read my tab, “Goals for the Balanced Mom.” I know I have lots of new subscribers, so I’d like to encourage you to take the time to read it, too, if you haven’t already. It talks about those “main things” all children need, no matter their age. By keeping our goals in mind, and remembering those little things that make up our larger goals, we can break our goals into “do-able” bits that we all can accomplish.

Posted in Challenge to Parents, Encouragement, Family Life, Goals, Homepreschool, Homeschool, Homeschool Preschool, Homeschooling, Mothering, Parenting, Relationships, Spiritual Matters | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

The Stuff That Dreams are Made Of

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on November 29, 2011


~This was first published in our local support group’s newsletter back in 2007. I hope you enjoy it.

Have you ever had one of those vivid, crazy dreams that you’ll never forget?  I had the craziest dream ever last week.  It was so strange that the first time I told my husband about it, he thought I must have made it up!

I dreamt I was a contestant on a game show that was a cross between “Deal or no Deal” and “Jeopardy”.  I traded a new car for a 50/50 chance to win a house.  But not just any house– this was Charleston Heston’s own house!  It was a huge two-story mansion with hardwood floors, tons of marble and granite, a dream kitchen, a floor to ceiling fireplace in the living room, and a huge master bedroom with a fireplace and a balcony that overlooked the backyard.  This house sat on acreage, and came complete with a waterfall that emptied into a pristine pool, a cranberry bog, and a quarter size train circling the property.

But what crazy dream is complete without a dream come true?  I won the house!  My whole family got to meet Mr. Heston as he was busy packing up his house so we could move in.  He liked us so well that he gave us some memorabilia from the “Ten Commandments”.  The only bummer:  We had to move toNew Jersey.  I remember I was terrified of what their homeschool laws might be!  (I later found out that they are better than ours).

All of us have dreams.  Sometimes we remember our dreams, and sometimes we only have a vague idea of what our dreams really were.  Many times we try to apply some kind of meaning or message to our dreams, especially when they are as detailed and realistic as mine was. Many times a message does seem clear.

I’ve thought about dreams a lot lately- not just my own crazy dream, but also the whole idea of dreams in general. And as I was thinking about my dream, the Lord seemed to lay on my heart some thoughts about dreams that could apply to all of our lives today.

When our children are young and we begin our homeschool journey, we have so many dreams.  Dreams about what homeschooling will be like; dreams about what kind of mothers we will be.  Dreams about the memories we want to give our children, and dreams about what our children will be like when they grow up. Many times our dreams are unrealistic—pie in the sky daydreams that could never be.

At first, everyone tells us to relax about our dreams, and rightly so; after all, we have twelve whole years to bring our dreams to fruition—and twelve years seem like an eternity at first. But as the years slip by, we quickly fall into a routine– each year bringing its own share of joys, sorrows and challenges. Many dreams are forgotten or set aside, as we struggle daily to “get it all done”. But this year is different for me. This year I have a senior.

Having a senior has changed my perspective on everything. The senior year is a time of endings and beginnings-looking back and looking ahead. And looking back has given me some insights about what I want for our youngest two, now ages 6 and 3.

First of all, I’ve decided that I’m going to write down my dreams for my children-the realistic ones, anyway. I’m going to write down short and long range goals, and re-read them frequently to make sure I’m sticking with the plan.

After I write down those goals, I’m going to make sure to “make the main thing the main thing”.  If our main goal is really homeschooling with eternity in mind, then we will be sure to put character training and spiritual matters first.  I won’t let my own insecurities about grade levels or “getting it done” keep me from seeking the Lord first! I’m going to trust that He will add “all those other things” that I tend to stress about–and in His own time.  I’m going to trust Him to give me the wisdom, patience and confidence to back off when I need to, as well as to know when to dig in my heels. I’m praying for that ever-elusive “balance” in all things.

Lastly, I’ve decided that I’m going to worry less and enjoy more.  I want to make sure to do all the fun stuff I plan to do, and yet so often don’t accomplish. This holiday season especially, we are going to take the time to be relaxed, read daily Advent devotions, bake multiple batches of cookies, get messy with glitter, cut and paste those Christmas trees and stars, read those books (over and over, probably), play those games and generally just enjoy each other and the season.

I’ve discovered just how quickly the years fly by. Looking back, I can’t say I have any regrets about which math curriculum we chose, or how many phonics pages we finished daily.  I do have regrets though, about pushing too hard on the academics during the early years—often at the expense of those fun things that act not only as learning experiences, but also as relationship builders. It’s the music, art, reading and singing together that make our holidays special-and not just our holidays, but our “every-days” as well.  And yet these are the things we often consider to be “extra” or “unnecessary”, especially when compared to getting our academics done.  That’s sad.

Let’s take the time to do those “extras”.  Let’s make them happen for our children this year. Those “extras” make the memories we will most cherish in the future.  Those “extras” are the stuff that dreams are made of.  And only we can make those dreams come true for our children-not only at Christmas time, but every day.

  Special Books to Share With Your Children This Christmas (in no particular order):

Arch” Christmas books (available at Bible bookstores)

The Legend of the Candy Cane (Walburg)

An Orange for Frankie (Polacco)

The Polar Express (Allsburg)

Apple Tree Christmas (Noble)

The Twelve Days of Christmas (Haidle)

Why Christmas Trees Aren’t Perfect (Schneider)

Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree (Barry)

A Letter to Santa Claus (Weninger/Moller)

The Light of Christmas (Evans)

Deck the Stable (Eastwick)

An Early American Christmas (dePaola)

The Tale of the Three Trees (Hunt)

Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus (Church)

© 2007, 2011 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.  Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.

Posted in Book Lists, Challenge to Parents, Encouragement, Family Life, Holidays, Homepreschool, Homeschool, Picture Books | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Training Your Children for Christ: Steps to Effective Parenting

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on October 22, 2011


 Excerpts from “Love, Marriage, and Home”, by William Booth (founder of the Salvation 

      “There are certain things that parents must do indeed, that only parents can do if their children are to become true servants of God. I don’t want to hide the fact that what I’m setting before you will not be gained without considerable difficulty, carefulness and work. However, nothing truly good or great is ever accomplished without trouble. I am certain that for every intense hour and patient effort this work demands, parents will be abundantly repaid if they succeed.

Things Parents Should Do

     First, there are some things that must be done if you want to reach the great goal in the training of children-for them to love and serve God with a pure heart. You must keep you goal constantly before your mind. Look it in the fact and determine to accomplish it. Don’t let the seductive charms of the world or the temptations of the devil or the promptings of ease and pleasure turn you aside. Ah, Fathers and Mothers, you must make up your minds to do it or die.

Be a holy example. Create and confirm in the hearts of your children the assurance that you yourself are what you want them to become. Practice the same unselfish love and righteousness you ask of them.  Without this, you will never accomplish the goals you have set your heart on.

Teach your children what real Christianity is. Make them understand it. Make them admire it. Explain it as soon as they can take it in. Base your teaching on the principles and examples of the Bible, especially in the life and death of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the examples of His disciples, but don’t limit it to them.

You must make following Christ a part of your everyday life. Your children must feel that you are as religious at home as in the meetings, on Mondays and on Sundays, in your work as on your knees. Without always talking to them about it, your faith in God should be the atmosphere of the house, so in that atmosphere they can “live and move and have their being (Acts 17:28).”

All I can say is…wow. Convicting, isn’t it? This is the cry of my heart right now. Is it yours?

Click HERE to read Booth’s complete book on family life (note:  I have not read the other pages linked to this site, and cannot vouch for their content.)  I’m sure a little browsing online will produce more.
of Booth’s works, since they are now in public domain; not easy reading, but definitely worth the time.

I suppose if I analyize it carefully, I would have to qualify this quote with a few of my own points:

-First of all, I believe that we can’t “make” our children understand Christianity; that is the role of the Holy Spirit. But we can and should teach them about it, and do our best to live it out before them day by day.

-Because of free will, I spend alot of time talking to my boys about their choices (along with their consequences)–especially the consequences of sin (sin hurts our relationship with God; sin always hurts us; sin always hurts others. When we step out from under the protective umbrella of God’s will, we are unprotected and there will be consequences.) I also teach them how to repent–it’s more than saying “I’m sorry.” There are three steps: 1) ask God for forgiveness, 2) ask anyone we offended for forgiveness by saying, “I’m sorry I (be specific about what you did), it was (wrong, hurtful, etc), will you forgive me?”, and 3) then turn away from our sin (which often means doing the opposite.)

-I also believe that praying for our children and blessing them is vitally important to sucessful parenting. Pray with your spouse, and if you can, find a prayer partner: A close friend who will pray with you and for you and your family regularly.

~Susan

Posted in Challenge to Parents, Encouragement, Family Life, Goals, Mothering, Spiritual Matters | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Making Storytime Special

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on October 10, 2011


 (Classic repost, updated.)     

       Many years ago I had an experience I’ll never forget.  While visiting a friend’s house–a mother of preschoolers–I observed the following: Her little one brought her a book, and trundled onto her lap so that she could be read to. My friend pulled her up onto her lap, and started reading to her…but this was no ordinary story. It was the fastest story I’ve ever heard! There was no expression, nor any discussion of the book or its pictures. She read it as quickly as she could, just to get it over with. 

       I hope this wasn’t the usual way stories went at her house. I understand that she did have company, and she wanted to placate her child so that we could continue our visit. But the whole thing made me sad. It’s something I’ve never forgotten.

       Reading aloud should be a special time of bonding between parent and child. It should never be viewed only as an obligation—something to be rushed through at break-neck speed. Story time should be enjoyed…relished. 

       There are so many ways to make story time special. They are all simple, and so much fun!  Here are a few ideas:

 -Take your time and enjoy the story. Read a little more slowly than you think you need to. Enunciate your words clearly; your children copy your speech.

-Read with expression, and get into character: whisper, shout, growl, squeal, and make animal sounds as appropriate. Make male voices sound low, and female voices higher. Make each character as unique as you can–my boys love it when I add a southern accent for Hank the Cowdog.

-Encourage your children to chime in when there is a familiar or repetitive phrases.

-Pause at the end of phrases, to see if your child can fill in any missing words.   

-Try reading in new places:  How about a picnic read aloud time?  You can have a picnic indoors or out.  Maybe your little girls would enjoy a “tea time” reading. Read in different rooms, in your bed, in front of the fireplace, during bathtime, and so on. We love to read while snuggling on the couch, under a fluffy blanket.

-Try including pets or “loveys” (favorite blankets or stuffed animals) in your reading time.

-Extend your read-aloud time by acting out nursery rhymes and favorite stories, and watch your children’s play for signs that your read-aloud time is sinking-in: You’ll know you’ve found a gem of a book when your children include the book in their pretend-play spontaneously.

-Talk about the story:  Speculate: What might happen next? What could the character have done differently? Notice the details in the pictures, as they relate to the story. Ask your child to describe the characters:  What kind of dog is Harry? (A black dog with white spots.)  What is the one thing he doesn’t like?  (He doesn’t like taking a bath. These details are from one of our favorite books,  Harry the Dirty Dog, by Gene Zion.)

-Notice details in each book’s art: How are the pictures made? Are they drawn, painted, colored, or collaged (what is the medium used?) Notice the artist’s use of color and light as well.

-Have your child tell the story, or part of it, back to you (narration.) 

-Give your child a “print-rich” environment.  Keep books at your child’s eye-level, to encourage them to investigate books themselves—or pick out books that they would like to hear. We used plastic rain gutters to make bookshelves right by our boy’s beds and provided them with reading lamps to encourage them to read in bed.

-Choose books that are about topics that are of special interest to your children. Consider turning books/storytime into a daily or weekly unit study or “theme” by reading about one main topic at a time, and by adding fun activities/art projects/dramatic play, etc that enhances the reading experience.

-Communicate to your children that books are important to you.  Let your children see you reading books. Share books that you loved as a child with your children.

-Buy books as presents; give books as rewards (books are only rewards if they are GOOD books. Check out my archives for “book lists” and my post on  “Choosing and Finding Classic Picture Books”.)

-(For older children): Read a book, and then watch a movie based on the book.  How are they different? Which is better? Why?   

-Something we do: Quote special sentences/passages from favorite books (and movies) when appropriate. Ask your children if they remember which books the sayings are from, which character said it, how he said it, and so on.

      Don’t just read to your children—make reading special!

© 2010/2011 Susan Lemons all rights reserved. 

Posted in Book Lists, Challenge to Parents, circle time, Elementary School, Encouragement, Family Fun, Family Life, Homepreschool, Homeschool, homeschool methods, Homeschool Preschool, Homeschooling, Mothering, Parenting, Picture Books, preschool at home, Reading Aloud | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Off to a Rough Start? Advice for Parents of Young Learners (pre-K-grade 3)

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on October 2, 2011


   Note:  This is a classic re-post that orginally appeared on my Home School Enrichment blog several years back.  Thanks HSE, for giving permission for me to re-post it!

  
     Have you been thinking: “Here it is, only October, and I already feel like a failure as a homeschooling Mom?” I feel a little like that right now, too.

      It seems as though September was nothing but one interruption after another.  We had one child struggling with an ongoing illness, along with all the requisite doctor appointments; we had unwelcome guests in our house—two mice—which meant traps, then cleaning and sterilizing; we ALL got miserable colds, and finally, we finished off the month with our annual off-season vacation.

     Not enough school has been completed!  I already feel “behind”.  My plans have been set aside, and my vision for the first month of the school did NOT come true. 

     What should you do if your year has started like ours? First of all, and especially if you are new to homeschooling: Realize that “some days are like that.” Actually, some months are like that. I always tell new homeschoolers that the hardest part of homeschooling is not the academics—it’s life. It’s dealing with interruptions, illness, errands and laundry. This is a normal part of homeschooling that we all must learn to deal with.   

     Another important thing to remember is that there is nothing as hard to deal with as unrealized expectations.  They can be heartbreaking. Many homeschoolers, especially new ones, envision the “perfect homeschool”: Cheerful, obedient children who love to learn; a patient, totally organized Mom whose lessons plans are legendary and always completed. It’s hard when our dreams don’t match up with reality.
 
     So what should you do if your year is off to a rough start?  Here are some ideas:

-Pray and ask the Lord to renew your enthusiasm about homeschooling. Ask the Lord to give you HIS vision for your homeschool.

-Take an eternal perspective: Remember that this time at home with your children is just a “blink” compared to eternity. We want our children taught in the way that most benefits their eternity—and that is homeschooling. 

-Feel behind? Ask yourself, “Behind WHO?” Remember that the public schools expect too much of young children, and not enough of older children. The goal should be steady progress (slow and steady wins the race.) Preschoolers and Kindergarteners need time to build a foundation of basic knowledge about the world, and a wide vocabulary before they are introduced to formal academics.

-Re-examine your expectations. Are they appropriate? Often new homeschoolers spend TOO much time daily, and expect TOO much from their children—especially YOUNG children. 

-Re-examine the readiness issue: Has what you’ve been expecting of your young learner been inappropriate?  Is your child resistant? If so, perhaps you need to back off a little.  

-Re-examine your routine. Is it appropriate? Does it include plenty of breaks, and time for younger students to play? Do your children have regular bedtimes, and a set time to wake up? Do you? Do you get up and dressed BEFORE your children do?

-Consider shortening your lessons, doing more work orally, and generally “lightening” your load. Charlotte Mason says that short lessons actually build children’s attention spans.  After all, it is better to have your child fully engaged and paying attention for a short lesson, than having him squirmy and inattentive for a long lesson. We want our children to look forward to school; we want to keep them begging for more.

 -Consider changing to a year round schedule. A year round schedule allows you to take time off when you need to. You can take time off for family emergencies, illnesses or cleaning days without worry. We take off extra time around the holidays in exchange for schooling part of the summer (when it’s too hot to do much in central California, anyway.) During the early years of schooling (K-3), we follow a four day week, and only three days include an academic emphasis; one day is used for park days, field trips, library time, art, messy projects, nature walks, games, life skills, catch up work, etc.

-Make homeschooling your priority. Schedule everything you can around it. Don’t let the phone or appointments take you away from school time, unless it is absolutely unavoidable.

-If you haven’t already, take the time to write down the reasons you decided to homeschool in the first place–as well as some basic goals. That way, when you have a tough day (or week), you can re-read them and remind yourself that those reasons haven’t changed.  You’ll probably see that your important goals are being met, as well. (These are usually spiritual or behavioral in nature.)

-Plan time for the fun stuff: I know this doesn’t make sense if you feel “behind”; our tendency is to double the school work instead.  Resist that temptation or you and your child will quickly become frustrated and burnt out.  Instead, plan the time you need to enjoy art and music with your children.  Art and music are more than just “extra” subjects; they teach skills vital for young children.  Furthermore, they lighten the mood in your home, make learning fun, and give you and your children the opportunity to feel successful.

-Start over:  If you are new to homeschooling and feel as if September has been a bust, give yourself a chance to start over.  Count the days you have done as “practice”, or time to break into your school routine, and then start over.  That’s right, start over from right where you are, only adding the necessary adjustments. 

-Finally, remember that whenever God calls us to do something, He will give us the strengths and the abilities we need to complete it.  Don’t let a rough start make you reconsider your decision to homeschool…don’t give up.  Implement some of the changes I’ve suggested, and hang in there.  It does get easier.

Live the 4R’s!

    ~Susan

© 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.  Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.

Posted in Academics for Four Year Olds, Academics for Preschoolers, Challenge to Parents, Curriculum, Early Academics, Education, Elementary School, Encouragement, Family Life, Getting Started, Homepreschool, Homeschool Preschool, Homeschooling, preschool at home, preschool curriculum, Readiness | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Parable of the Public Poolers

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on August 9, 2011


By Jonathan Lewis

NOTE: This article was originally published in the Jul/Aug 2011 issue of Home School Enrichment Magazine and is used with (gracious) permission.

Once upon a time, in a place called America, someone had an idea. It was a bold plan—one that would alter the very social fabric of the nation. It wasn’t long before word of the idea began to spread, and many people thought it was simply marvelous. In due time, after enough support had been generated,the plan was put into action.

At first glance, the plan seemed simple enough. Its proponents said it would be fair, free, and effective for all. The plan was this: to construct government-funded public pools in every community across the land. “Every child deserves a positive swimming experience,” the plan’s proponents argued. “Only the government can truly accomplish this through our new public pool system.”

The plan had its detractors, but in the end, it went forward, and soon virtually every city and town in America had its own government-funded public pool. All the children in the community spent their days at the pool under the supervision of the state-certified lifeguards.

At first the pools seemed wholesome enough. True, there were those who said it wasn’t the government’s business to operate a pool system, but most people seemed satisfied. Things went along smoothly, and within a few generations, the government pools were entrenched in the public mind as a necessary and helpful part of society. They were as much a fixture as baseball, Mom, and apple pie.

In the course of time, however, things began to go wrong. It was observed that the pools weren’t as safe as they had once been. In fact, not only were
they not safe, they were becoming downright dangerous—even deadly. Somehow, the public pools all across the land had become infested with man-eating sharks. Children were returning home scarred and maimed. Many were even being devoured alive.

It was at this point that a handful of parents across the nation became alarmed. They decided not to send their children away to the shark-infested public pools any longer. Instead, they would keep their children at home and supervise them in their own pools. In time, this new movement came to be known as homepooling.

In days gone by, homepooling had been common practice in America. But with the introduction of the government pool system, homepooling had become increasingly rare. It may seem shocking, but homepooling had even been outlawed in some states! Certainly America had wandered far from her ideals of freedom and liberty when parents were no longer able to direct their own children’s pooling.

The pioneers of homepooling were greeted with much skepticism. Most parents were complacent, content to ignore the safety hazards of the public pools. In the meantime, conditions continued to worsen, with more and more children being devoured by the sharks. Statistics reported that up to 85% of the children who went swimming at the public pool were being injured or eaten alive.

As a result, the new homepooling movement began to grow. And it was observed that not only were homepooled children surviving, they were thriving. Researchers began to take notice, and it was discovered that homepoolers performed far above their public-pooled peers on standardized swimming tests. Homepooling was beginning to be vindicated as a valid option.

In an average community in America lived a woman named Mary. She and her husband had both been raised in the public pool system, though it wasn’t as bad when they were growing up as it was today. Now, Mary herself was a young mother of three children whom she was accustomed to sending to the public pool. Every morning she would get her children out of bed, feed them a hasty breakfast, then rush them out the door to catch the pool bus. All her neighbors did the same thing. It was just how life in America worked. Then one day, she met a homepooling family at her church. She was impressed! The children were polite, respectful, and were all excellent swimmers. Mary had heard of homepooling, but had never met a family that actually did it. She realized she needed to give the matter some attention.

One day, as she was researching homepooling, her 8-year-old son arrived home on the pool bus. As she saw him limping into the house, Mary knew something was wrong. Upon inspection, she noticed he had deep wounds on his legs—a narrow escape from a shark. That settled it for Mary and her husband. They notified the public pool superintendent that their children would no longer be coming to the pool—they were going to begin homepooling right away.

It wasn’t long before Mary became a staunch advocate of homepooling. She loved having her children at home with her. She was glad that she no longer had to fear the constant menace of the sharks at the public pool. Her children were safe at home where they belonged.

With all the blessings homepooling had brought into her family’s life, Mary expected all her friends to be excited about it too. She was sure they would
begin homepooling when she told them how wonderful it was. But instead of excitement, she was greeted with indifference by many, and even with hostility by some.

One friend at church told her, “You’re overprotecting your kids. How are they going to handle the sharks out in the adult world if they don’t learn how
to deal with them now?”

Another responded with a more spiritual sounding argument. “My kids are being salt and light out in the public pools. If all the Christians
pull their kids out of the pools, who will reach the other kids?”

Mary didn’t think that argument made very much sense. If her kids were being eaten alive, they certainly weren’t going to be reaching many others.

Yet another mom told her, “The pools in our town aren’t like the pools in the bigger cities. They have sharks and stingrays and alligators there. Ours
aren’t like that. We have a great pool system here.”

Mary soon discovered that very few people were willing to admit that the local pools had problems. “We have an above-average lifeguard-to-swimmer
ratio,” another church friend said. “Plus, some of the lifeguards are even Christians.”

Great, Mary thought to herself. They can pray for your kids while they’re getting eaten up by the sharks.

As she tried to spread the word about homepooling, Mary was astonished at the indifference she saw all around her. Children were being maimed, injured, and even killed every day, yet so many seemed unconcerned. As she continued talking to others, Mary couldn’t believe the excuses people were using. If it had been a spiritual issue instead of mere physical safety, she was sure they wouldn’t use these same arguments. After all, if the public pools had been harming children spiritually—if they were causing kids to walk away from their faith, leave church behind, or rebel against their parents—surely they would see the significance and would begin homepooling. As it was, too many parents were ignoring the issue altogether. After all, it was just a matter of their kids’ physical well-being, and apparently that was easy for many parents to ignore.

“Look,” one friend said, “if I wanted to start homepooling, I’d have to quit my job, and you know we can’t get by on just one income. It isn’t practical in the modern world. Maybe homepooling worked back in the pioneer days, but it just won’t work now—not for us.”

Mary was startled that her friend would put finances above her children’s safety. After all, this other family wasn’t destitute. They had a reasonably nice home, two cars, and plenty of extras such as cable TV, a couple of cell phones, Internet hookup, and more. Wouldn’t it have been worth sacrificing part of their lifestyle to protect their kids?

One friend was bluntly honest. “Oh,” she said, “I just wouldn’t have the patience to homepool my kids! I think it’s great that you can do it, but it just wouldn’t work for me. I’d probably kill them the first day,” she laughed.

Never mind what the sharks are probably doing, Mary thought to herself.

She was surprised at how many people were worried about socialization. “How will my kids have friends if I homepool them? I don’t want them to be social misfits,” explained one.

“Homepooling doesn’t mean your kids won’t have friends,” Mary answered. “It just means you can have more control over who your kids are with. Plus,” she added, “you won’t have to worry about all the sharks and other problems that are in the public pool.”

“That’s just like you homepoolers,” her friend retorted. “You’ve got such a ‘holier-than-thou’ attitude. You think everyone should homepool, and you have to start criticizing the public pool every chance you get. I think I know what’s best for my kids.”

Mary didn’t see how close encounters with sharks every day could be best for any kids, but she knew better than to try to reason with her friend now.

Others were concerned about their kids missing out on the opportunities afforded by the government pool system. “My son really loves the diving board at the public pool,” Mary’s neighbor said. “I couldn’t provide that for him at home.”

Others were afraid of teaching advanced swimming techniques. “I never did very well at swimming myself,” one friend confessed. “I just don’t think I could teach my daughter some of the advanced things she wants to learn.”

Mary could relate to this one. She still felt a little intimidated sometimes too. But she knew there were answers. “There’s lots of great curriculum out there that will help you—books and DVDs and all kinds of things. Lots of other people are doing it, so I’m sure you can too!”

Her friend wasn’t convinced. “Well, maybe. I don’t know. We’ll see how things go.”

As she looked around, Mary was saddened. How could her friends not realize that their kids were more important than their careers, social standing, personal free time, and all the other things that prevented them from homepooling?

Time went by. Her friends at church had been insisting for years that their kids would be fine in the public pool system. But now that the kids were getting older, they didn’t look like they were doing well. Lots of them had already become casualties of the sharks and had disappeared from the church pews. Many others walked with a limp from injuries sustained in close encounters. “It’s just a phase,” some said. “All teenagers go through this. There’s nothing we can do. We just have to believe that everything will work out fine in the end.”

“It’s tough to raise kids in today’s world,” others said. “There’s only so much you can do.”

You could have done something years ago, Mary thought. You could have done something before the sharks got to your kids.

But if Mary was grieved by those who rejected homepooling altogether, she was even more grieved by the behavior of some homepoolers. She couldn’t believe it, but some of her homepooling friends were actually putting sharks right in their own backyard pools. “We can’t get by with this,” Mary protested. “Our kids aren’t immune to injury just because we’re homepooling! We can’t bring the same influences that are out in the public pools into our homepools and expect everything to be fine. A shark is a shark. It doesn’t matter if it’s in the public pool or in the homepool—it’s still going to hurt your kids!”

Some who had begun well decided to quit homepooling and started sending their kids back to the public pool. They seemed to have forgotten why they started homepooling in the first place. Mary couldn’t understand it. She knew she was going to keep homepooling all the way through to the finish.

Mary saw the cost of sending her kids back to the public pool. Yes, there were times when homepooling was difficult and taxed her patience. But what was that compared to the heartbreak of seeing her children come home from the public pool with ugly wounds and scars—or worse, perhaps seeing the day when they wouldn’t come home at all? Yes, there were times she wished she could go back to her old job, make more money, and have a more luxurious lifestyle. But what were the luxuries of this life worth in comparison to the blessing of knowing her kids were safe and happy at home?

Mary knew she was unnoticed by the world. She knew she might forever miss out on the acclaim and praise of man. She knew she would probably never achieve success as our world defines it. Many said she was wasting her life. But Mary didn’t care. How could she? Wasn’t it worth any sacrifice to raise her children for the glory of God? Wasn’t it worth any cost to see them reach adulthood whole, happy, and vibrant? Yes. A thousand times yes.

Jonathan Lewis, 28, is a homeschool graduate, and glad of it! Together with his parents and older brother, he helped start Home School Enrichment Magazine in late 2002, and currently serves as Editor. As a passionate advocate of home education, he writes and speaks from his perspective as a graduate, encouraging parents that homeschooling really does work! If you would be interested in having him speak to your group (or to contact him for any other reason), drop him a note at jonathan @ homeschoolenrichment.com

Posted in Challenge to Parents, Deciding to Homeschool or Hompreschool, Encouragement, Homeschooling, Parenting, Spiritual Matters, Thinking About Homeschooling? | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Importance of Responsible Parenting

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on July 27, 2011


Does this describe you? I never really thought about it before, but I am a: “Helmet, life-vest and hat wearing, sunscreen using, hand-holding, cross walk-walking, stair-rail grabbing, ‘obey the rules kids!’” kind of mom. You know the type; the kind of mom who gets nervous whenever crowds, strangers, traffic, water or heights are involved. The kind of mom who rides the amusement park rides with her kids (with her hand firmly across their laps) AND/OR the type of mom who begs her husband, otherwise known in the family as “Dad,” to accompany the children on the rides until Dad finally intervenes and MAKES her let their ten-year old ride the roller coaster alone–“but only as long as you stay in line with him,” she insists…so there she stands, watching and praying the whole time. Yup. That’s me. My husband even said to Josh, “Obey the rules and hang on tight, Buddy, because if you get hurt, Momma is going to blame ME” (he survived, by the way….)

But what I’ve noticed in other families really worries me. Last week we traveled to beautiful Yosemite, and this week we are camping in the Redwoods above Santa Cruz, CA. Camping gives you a unique opportunity to “people-watch”, or more accurately in my case, “family-watch.” Have you ever taken the time to watch other families, or observe how other parents interact with their children? I’ve done a lot of that lately, and I must say: while many parents are “doing what they are supposed to be doing” safety/parenting-wise, it seems like many more are not. This week I’ve seen parents who think that letting their children sit or even walk on the edge of a rock wall just above a hundred foot drop is fun, who think barriers and warning signs should be ignored, who let their children sit where they shouldn’t sit on the bus (or walk around on the bus while its going), and who let their very young children (around 2 and 4 years) wade into cold, swift-flowing rivers that could drag them away as fast as you can blink (while they relax on a rock twenty feet away….do they really think they could get to them fast enough?)  What are these people thinking?!

Sometimes I think it is a miracle more children aren’t hurt….or kidnapped… (Our home neighborhood is full of unsupervised children of all ages roaming around at will)….sometimes I think it’s a miracle that ANY child makes it to adulthood at all!

I do try to find a balance of some sort my cautiousness and not become a total “helicopter” mom, but it is hard to find a reasonable balance nowadays when so many dangers abound. Only my husband keeps me from going completely overboard (sometimes I think he’s goes too far the other direction).

In addition to doing my job to keep my children safe,  (and hopefully instilling good habits in them),  I try to  train my children to be sensible, to obey the rules (even when I’m not around to enforce them), and of course, as necessity demands nowadays, I teach my boys about “stranger danger,” potential “child lures” and so on (minus the details of what might happen.)

Challenge: If you have “backed off” as far as safety rules or cautiousness is concerned, or if you’ve just gotten TIRED, as often happens, and stopped being diligent, please reconsider! It only takes a split second for a child to get hurt, lost, or worse.  I think it comes with the territory as “mom” to try to protect our kids, and make sure that they:

-Wear their bicycle helmets, even if they are riding “just for a minute.”

-Wear their life vests, especially when boating, swimming in the ocean or other places where there might be strong currents or unexpected drop-offs. And when my kids swim in friend’s swimming pools, I swim, too, or sit right on the edge of the pool and actually watch them! Personal story: My mom did the same, even when told by other moms that I would “be fine” and that “the older kids will watch Susan.” Thank-goodness my mom listened to her heart and refused to go into the house with the other moms, even though it was a very shallow pool….I’m sure she felt vindicated when she pulled me up from the bottom of the pool a few minutes later. The older kids didn’t even notice.

-Wear sunscreen: My mom passed away from Melanoma (skin cancer), so we are pretty strict about sunscreen.

-Wear hats: Hats do a lot to protect children from sunburn, and they also help protect their eyes. If the sun is bright to you, it’s bright to your kids! We trained all our children to leave their hats on when they were tiny babies. I simply kept putting that hat back on their little heads, and said, “NO” whenever they managed to pull their hats off. (I was determined, and I outlasted them.) Personal pet peeve: Parents who put babies in strollers or car seats and let the sun shine right in their eyes without concern (or even awareness.)

-Hand-holding: Yeah, I’m the mean mom who makes her boys hang on to a grown-up’s hand when crossing streets, in crowds, strange places, near the edge of cliffs, etc.

-Cross walks: Whenever cross walks are available, we use them. Not only is this a safety issue, but it’s the law.

-I tell my kids to “obey the rules!” I teach them that grown-ups don’t make rules to be mean or to spoil their fun, but to keep them safe. Additionally, when we obey the rules, we encourage others to obey them, too; we are setting a good example to others. The first step in this teaching my kids these safety rules is obeying the rules myself! I would hate to be the person who disobeyed a rule in front of a child…and then the child felt it was OK to disobey the rule, too, resulting in an accident.

What do you think? Are you a “helmet, life-vest and hat wearing, sunscreen using, hand-holding, cross walk-walking, stair-rail grabbing, “obey the rules kids!” kind of mom, too?!

~Susan (temporarily from Felton, CA)

© 2011 Susan Lemons all rights reserved. Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.

Posted in Challenge to Parents, Family Life, Family Rules, Manners, Parenting | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

Preschool at Home for Gifted Children

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on June 5, 2011


NOTE: I hate the word “average”, because all children are blessed and gifted in their own ways! I just can’t think of another word to replace it…

         My advice to parents of gifted children is basically the same as my advice for parents of “average” children. These are the things I recommend:

-Provide a rich, stimulating but calm home environment. Follow the general guidelines for homepreschooling, emphasizing the 4 R’s (see tabs); remember, routine is especially important for emotionally sensitive, easily over-stimulated children.

-Provide lots of opportunities for hands-on exploration, including nature walks, simple science experiments, “field trips”, etc to make learning “real” to preschoolers.

-Provide quality, traditional toys that encourage creative thinking (Dr. Drew’s BlocksCiti Blocks, Tegu magnetic blocksDuplos, pattern blocks and cards  etc.)  When they get older, switch to Legos , Magnetix and Geomags, etc. Timberdoodle and Hearthsong carry good selections of creative, educational toys and puzzles for children of all ages and abilities.

-Introduce your preschooler to the best in art and music (looking, listening and doing.)

-Keep the amount of “seat work” short and sweet, even for gifted children. Better yet, let it be child-initiated only until age 4-5, depending on the abilities of your children. Remember that writing skills often lag behind verbal skills, so be patient.

– If your child is truly advanced academically, consider trying learning games and Montessori-style (hands-on) learning experiences to replace seat-work, or at least to supplement it.

-Consider yourself a “facilitator” of your child’s learning. Provide your children with the materials they need to learn independently.  

-When you do start formally “teaching” your preschooler, remember that you don’t have to teach the things that s/he already knows, even if your child is several grade levels above his/her age level. BUT…. you may want to check and make sure s/he has fully mastered concepts (phonics, etc) before moving on.  Fill in any holes, and then let them move ahead.

-Be careful to find the balance between encouraging/facilitating advanced abilities and pushing, which often results in burnout.

-Even if your child is several grade levels ahead of his/her peers, remember that it doesn’t automatically follow that you should treat him/her like an older child in every way, or that you should get frustrated if s/he doesn’t want to keep advancing academically at the moment. He’s already ahead!! Relax and enjoy the journey; learning may come in spurts.

-Remember that some preschoolers have the tendency to temporarily SLOW DOWN/almost stop practicing other skills while new skills are emerging. They seem to concentrate on one major skill at a time. Just think of babies; many previously verbal babies will become less talkative while learning to walk. Once they master walking, the babbling picks up again to its previous level. Some preschoolers tend to be like this, too, concentrating on one skill at a time. The new skill seems to consume their every thought. Even so, be sure to contact your pediatrician immediately if your child SUDDENLY loses skills altogether, dramatically regresses, or if your heart tells you “something’s wrong.”

-Encourage curiosity and a love of learning.

-Allow lots of time for creative play.

-Continue to read aloud, even to readers.

Remember that:

-Preschoolers can learn more than just those traditional “academic” facts (colors, letters, numbers, learning to read, math) we associate with the early years.  In fact, all preschoolers, included gifted preschoolers, can learn a lot about science/nature, people and how they live (or lived in the past), holidays and traditions, art, music, poetry, love of literature, and so much more. Work on building that simple base of knowledge about the world, and the vocabulary to go with it. This is done through conversation, real-life experiences, and reading aloud.

-Remember that building vocabulary is vital for young readers; it is necessary for reading comprehension.Reading has no value to your child if he/she doesn’t understand what he reads.

-Preschoolers are capable of memorizing many facts. Many parents make the mistake of thinking this means their children are gifted. This may or may not be so. Truly gifted children differ from “average” children because they tend to understand the meaning of the facts they memorize (and often how to use those facts). Remember that knowing the facts (alphabet, letter sounds, numbers) doesn’t automatically mean children are ready for the next step. Be careful not to push your child too far ahead.

-Follow his/her lead. The goal is not to push our preschoolers, but not to hold them back, either. One of the marks of a truly gifted child, in my opinion, is that they will not allow themselves to be held back. They will push and push to learn, and often teach themselves to read, do math, etc. They will spend a lot of their free time pursuing academics. Our job is to facilitate this learning/exploration without demanding that they sit down and do hours of work sheets, just because they can.

-If your child is begging to be taught to read and you’re sure s/he is ready, go ahead and try a few short, play-based lessons. If your child enjoys the lessons and seems capable of learning to read, let him. But if your child resists or is disinterested, back off.

-Remember that there is no proven academic advantage to learning to read early, or having an academically based preschool/Kindergarten. To the contrary, studies have shown that children who are provided with a play/exploration-based preschool/Kindergarten actually do better academically throughout their lives. 

Advice for Parents of Young Readers

-If your child has taught himself to read, be sure he doesn’t strain his eyes by reading for too long at a time. Give him/her frequent breaks to look away at the horizon. This can help prevent nearsightedness.

-Make sure the books you allow your child to read are not only appropriate to his/her reading ability, but to his/her social/emotional/spiritual maturity; double-check the content. Early readers should start by reading picture books, and then move up to longer picture books and short chapter books that focus on animals and family life. The goal should be to avoid mature content (too intense, scary, or complex.) See my “book list” category for ideas, as well as chapter 7 in Homepreschool and Beyond.   

        Finally, I’d like to remind parents of gifted children that:

-Sadly, parents of “average” children often feel threatened by gifted children. So when you share with other parents about your child, be sensitive to the fact that some of them might feel that you are bragging or implying that their child should have the same abilities as yours…even if that is not your intent. Bear this in mind and try to be especially tactful and understanding of others.

-Don’t assume that ALL your children will be gifted in the same areas/ways

-Don’t assume that because your child is gifted, everything will come easily to him/her. As I stated in my previous post, some children are gifted in only one area; others are gifted in one or more areas but have learning problems in others, and so on. Each child is unique and so the variations are endless.

-Don’t assume that because your child is advanced now, s/he will always be advanced.

-Be sure to teach your children that their abilities and talents are a gift from God. Remind your children hat God has a plan for their lives.

-Especially gifted children may have tendencies towards arguing with adults or correcting them. Each family will have to deal with this in their own way (it may be a discipline issue.)

-Remember that academics are only a small part of life. Relationships (with God and family) are the most important thing in the life of your child; keep them the main thing.  Don’t “overlook the forest for the trees.” Don’t concentrate so much on academics that you over look activities that are important/developmentally appropriate for your child’s age. Even gifted preschoolers need lots of time to play and explore, make messy art, sing, do finger plays, dress-up, play games, etc, etc. See “Goals of Homepreschool” for more.  

~Susan

© 2011 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.  Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.

 

Posted in Academics for Four Year Olds, Academics for Preschoolers, Challenge to Parents, Early Academics, Family Life, Gifted Preschoolers, Homepreschool, Homepreschool and Beyond, Homeschool, Homeschool Preschool, Homeschooling, Kindergarten Readiness, preschool at home, Readiness | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Mother’s Day Smiles/Resources for Moms

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on May 9, 2011


          

        Happy Mother’s Day!  Have you ever noticed how God makes something beautiful out of our difficult situations?  He did that for me today…you see, for the past eight years, Mother’s Day has been melancholy for me; it makes me miss my mom all the more (she passed away from cancer). PLUS, my husband had to work today, and two of my children were sick (some type of flu? I sure hope #3 doesn’t end up sick tomorrow!) and so we had to stay home from church.

        But even on days like today, the Lord offers us encouragement. Just like the flowers growing alongside the road, God can turn something that is unusually stark and ugly into something beautiful. Here is what made my day beautiful today…

        This is a poem that my 10-year-old made up for me: “Mom, I love you all the time, I love you when you are happy, I love you when you are sad, I love you all the day and night. Thank-you for teaching me, being the best mom in the world; Everyday, every-night, you are the best, Clean out of sight.” So sweet, huh?

        More encouragement via the television: As I said, I didn’t get to go to church today, but I did get to watch a great sermon on raising children by Dr. Charles Stanley. If you’ve never listened to him before, you’re in for a treat.

        I was encouraged that he emphasized a lot of the same things I do, such as building relationships (spending time) and conversations (he especially talks about listening). He also shares that we should discipline our children based on the desire to protect them (protecting our children is a good thing, contrary to popular belief.) He said that our society and our educational system (public schools) are ENEMIES to our children.

        He lists eleven things we should teach our children–and best of all, he mentioned a couple of “catch phrases” to add to my repertoire.  Here are a few of my favorite points:

-Spending time with our children is an investment in their eternity.

-Teach your children that the most important thing in their lives is their personal relationship with God. (Make the main thing the main thing!)

-Teach them to be in the Word.

-Teach them to “Obey God, and leave the consequences to Him.”

-Teach your children that they are accountable to God.

-Teach them that God has a plan for their life.

-Catch phrase: “Look your best, do your best, be your best.”

        You can watch the video of the entire message and download notes HERE. It’s worth the time. 

        Another treat for you: Ann Voscamp of A Holy Experience posted 3 Guideposts that can Radically Change Parenting (printables). 

        Finally, perhaps you are feeling down today, too.  Perhaps you are missing your mother, like I am, or perhaps your children are difficult to handle, your nerves are on edge, and you’ve started to wonder if deliberate, Christian parenting is worth the effort.  Maybe you’ve been having health problems or problems of some other kind, and you wonder if homeschooling is worth all the time and effort. If this describes you,  I hope you’ll remember with me that Galatians 6:9 says “Let us not become in weary doing good, for at the proper time we will reap the harvest if we do not give up.”   And do you remember the words to this old hymn? “Something beautiful. Something good. All my confusion, He understood. All I had to offer Him is broken-ness and strife–but He made something…beautiful…of my life.” 

        Thank-goodness “God uses broken pots.” All of us are broken in one way or another. Some of us might feel close to giving up. But God can make something beautiful out of our struggles. Our weakness highlights His strength, and encourages us (and others.)

        If you are struggling, comment on this post and I will pray for you (or, better yet, we can pray for each other!) Hang in there, stay in the Word, and keep on doing what God has called you to do. He promises that we will reap the harvest if we don’t give up. 

    O.K., O.K., so this isn’t the rules to double solitaire…they are coming soon, don’t worry!  ~Susan

© 2011 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.  Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.

Posted in Challenge to Parents, Discipline, Encouragement, Family Life, Mothering, Parenting, Relationships, Spiritual Matters | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

More About Family Games/Playing Games with Preschoolers

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on May 7, 2011


        Is your family a game-playing family? Our family loves to play games. In fact, some of my favorite childhood memories involve games, because games are a wonderful way of building relationships (watching movies…not so much.)  I can remember playing games with my mother when I was young, and playing hours-long Monopoly games with my brothers. The first games we learned to play were Parcheesi, checkers, Uno, and Booby Trap;  when we got older, we played Scrabble, Rummy-Z (a tile-rummy game; look on E-Bay), Yatzee and various card games.  Most of all, I remember our “holiday” games. There was another family that we were very close to; we spent almost all our holidays together. Traditionally, we would play games after dinner.  Most often we would play Tripoli (a combination of Poker, Michigan Rummy and Hearts) or Rummy-Z, although we dabbled with other games, as well. We would laugh at how seriously our friends took the rules, and looked suspiciously at anyone who had to “look at the box” (the directions ofTripoli were printed on the lid, and explained which hands were the best during poker.) There were almost always peanuts on the table, and chips and dip nearby.

        The key to game-playing is, dare I say it? Starting early (gasp…) I feel the same way about music, too…listening to and participating in music play from an early age is key to develop an “ear” for music/musical skill, just as watching others play/enjoy games from an early age helps children become interested in games, learn the rules of games, etc (as long as you keep it FUN and developmentally appropriate.) Our children grew up watching us play games, sitting on our laps to “help” us play games, etc. It was an important day for them when they graduated to sitting next to mom or dad, playing on their own hands!

        In my book, I list a ton of games/learning games for preschoolers—some home-made, some store bought. Some are “learning” games that teach specific skills, others are more generic. I can’t share all the game ideas that are in my book, but I can list some of our favorite, “generic”, family games. I’ve listed them (approximately) by age. Since game playing is another developmental skill, be sure to check the recommended ages and use your own discernment. We found that our children could often play the games at least a year younger than recommended on the box (especially with help) but your children might be different.

First Card Games (age 4 and up, with help)

Go Fish, Uno, Tutti Fruiti (this game is not made anymore; watch for it at yard sales or on Amazon and E-Bay. It was from Discovery Toys.

Other First Games

Uno Moo, Memory, Toss-A-Cross, Hi Ho Cherry-O, Candyland, Chutes and Ladders

Next Step Card Games (in approximate order of easiest to hardest; age 5 with help, age 6+ independent play):

Slamwhich OR Slap, War, Casino, Four Kings in a Corner, Uno Attack

Other Next Step Games:

Twister, Sorry, Parcheesi or Chinese Checkers (basically different takes on the same games); Blockus; Checkers (begin to learn, anyway; a fun variation is to play it with different colored Goldfish crackers or small cookies; eat what you jump!), Monopoly Junior, Jenga,Sum Swamp, Connect Four

Harder Card Games (for older kids/adults):

Golf , Solitaire, Double Solitaire (I’ll share our special rules in the next post), Racko, Pit (loud, fast, and fun! Great for a crowd of older kids, teens and adults); Skip Bo, Poker, Uno Flash, Simple Rummy Games (various)

Other Types of Harder Games:

Chess, Mancala, Monopoly, Apples to Apples Junior/Apples to Apples, Up Words, Scrabble, Banana Grams…

        There are so many more!  We have several new games we’re dying to try out: Five Crowns, Swap, Phase 10, Monopoly Deal, Rage….fun, fun, FUN! 

        If your family has never been a “game playing” family, I’d like to encourage you to try. Set aside a special “game night”; serve an easy, favorite meal (pizza, barbeque, etc) and then spend an hour (or two!) playing games.  You will be building relationships, building memories, and helping your children build thinking skills. Give it a try; you won’t regret it.

        Is your family a game playing family? Do you have any games to recommend? I’d love to hear your comments.

         Next post: Rules for Double Solitaire

© 2011 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.  Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.

Posted in Challenge to Parents, Encouragement, Family Fun, Games, Parenting, Play, Relationships | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Some Goodies for You

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on March 20, 2011


A new review of Homepreschool and Beyond from Homeschool Hangout

A new article I wrote for Design Your Homeschool:  Are You Giving Your Preschooler “Mommy Leftovers”?    Do you ever worry that you aren’t “doing enough” for/with your preschooler?  Many Moms feel they are giving their children “mommy leftovers”–especially moms who are homeschooling their older children but have preschoolers, too.  Give yourself the quiz and see if you are giving your preschoolers the leftovers.  If you have been, why not commit to giving your preschooler an hour a day of mommy time–“homepreschool”?  After all, we schedule, plan and work with our older children everday…can’t we give our preschoolers a little time?  Don’t they deserve it?

A link for you:  10 Point Manifesto For Joyful Parenting by Ann Voskamp

Coming in a day or two:  A new post on methods…this time, on aspects of  the “Creative Curriculum,”  specifically, on learning centers.

© 2011 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.  Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.

Posted in Challenge to Parents, Mothering, Parenting, Reviews of Homepreschool and Beyond | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

New Year’s Resolutions/Planning for a New Homeschool Year

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on December 31, 2010


         Sorry I haven’t posted for so long; I’ve been busy enjoying the season with my children.  We had a wonderful Christmas, and hope that you did, too!  This is the first year that my daughter has had her own money to spend, and she really enjoyed spoiling us all—especially me.

       I really can’t believe that Christmas is over, and that it’s time to start thinking about New Year’s Resolutions/our plans for a new year of homeschooling.  Do you re-examine your school plan this time of year, while you are thinking about your other resolutions?  Your family life?  Your spiritual life?  We do.  Below are some of the questions I have been considering. 

     Let me make it clear:  I am not posting this list so that I can beat you over the head with it.  Rather, I am beating myself over the head with quite a few of the questions.  I do hope some of them will make you think….they sure make me think!!  I believe that every Mom can think of several areas that need attention/improvement. 

Philippians 3:12-14 says, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.  (NIV)

     Here are the questions I’ve been asking myself:

-Am I walking in the Spirit, or in the flesh?  This question is top of my list, because I think it is the most important (along with examining our relationships—see below.)  I think this question is at the heart of everything that happens in our home. 

     Our Pastor has started a series entitled, “Living in the Covenant in the New Year” and it has already been a blessing to me.  I appreciated it so much because Pastor explained our new life in Christ versus “the old man” in a way that even my boys could understand.  (I’ve been trying to explain it to them for years!)

      I hope you’ll take the time to listen to the message linked above.  Also, consider reading the book, “Practicing the Presence of God”, by Brother Lawrence.  You can read it online for FREE.  It is life-changing…living a perpetual prayer life. 

     Here are the rest of my questions I’m asking myself:

-Am I spending enough time in the Word? 

-Am I spending enough time in prayer?  Specifically, am I praying for my children enough?  Am I consistently praying for their future spouses, as well?

-Am I speaking (AND thinking) blessings over my children, or curses?  When my children come to tell me something, do I act as if they are merely an interruption, or do I listen with care and respect (in other words, do my actions communicate to my children that they are a blessing?)

-Also, what do my children think of themselves?  What do they say about themselves?  I want to be aware of this since our perceptions become our reality…we can “curse” ourselves (as well as our children) with negative self-fulfilling prophecies (“You’re so stubborn”…”Why are you having such a tough time with this?”, <child> “I can’t read!” VERSUS “You are very determined, and you have lots of stick-to-itiveness,” “You’re so clever…I know you can do this!” or  <child> “I can read!  I know I can do it!”)

-Do I control my tongue?  Am I teaching my children to control theirs?

-Am I teaching my children the importance of controlling their thoughts?

-How is my mothering?  Am I doing the things I know I need to do for/with my children mentally/physically/spiritually?  What about discipline-wise? 

-Has my attitude been what it should be?  Do I set a good example to my children?  How are my children’s attitudes doing?  Towards discipline?  Towards school?  How can I help them improve and grow?

-How is my tone of voice?  Am I gentle with my children?  Compassionate?

-Is there enough follow-thru to provide accountability when it comes to obedience, attitude, chores, school, etc?  (This is one I really need to work on—as well as total consistency.)

-How is the culture of our home?  Have I become lax in regards to what I let my children watch on TV—or how long I let them watch? (Yes.)   Have I become lax with our computer rules? 

-What is the character of our home?  Is there peace in our home? 

-What is working/not working for us school-wise?  This is a good time of year to revisit your curriculum and make changes as necessary.

-Is my home conducive to learning?  Are art supplies easily at hand?  Are there lots of different types of books available for my children to choose from freely?  Is my “school area” organized and ready to go?  (In other words, is our home an enriching environment?)

-Am I providing enough creative play/outside play time for my children?

-Am I planning time for the “fun stuff”–and getting it done?  (Not nearly enough!)

     And, of course, most importantly, I ask myself about the 4R’s:

 -Relationships:  How are our family’s relationships with God going?  What is our spiritual temperature?  Are we sick, or healthy?   Are we, as a family and as individuals, growing in the Lord?  What do we need to change?  Are we putting off the “old man”, and becoming new creatures? 

     Am I taking the time I need to grow relationships within our family?  Am I teaching/helping my children grow their relationships with others in the family?  Am I making time to play with my children? Do we laugh together, play games together, etc (do we take time for relationship builders?) 

     Do I provide each child with enough cuddle time?  What about hugs/affectionate touch throughout the day (ruffling the hair, rubbing the shoulders, etc) to communicate my love to them?  

    Here is a Spiritual Growth Assessment from Lifeway that might be helpful to you.   

-Routines:  How are our routines working?  Do we need to make any changes, or simply work on being more consistent?  How well am I managing my time?  Am I teaching my children to manage theirs?

 –Readiness:  What are we doing too much of/not enough of?  Are there subjects/areas where we are falling short—areas where the curriculum needs to be beefed up?  (Am I providing the learning activities/opportunities that my children are ready for?)

     Alternately, am I trying to do too much?  Am I pushing my children too hard?  Am I frustrating myself and my children with inappropriate expectations?  Remember that with young children, it is important to wait for signs of ability, interest, and spontaneous learning before trying to instruct our children in academic subjects.  If you have a preschooler, remind yourself that you don’t have to work your child to death getting him “ready for Kindergarten.”  Instead, you can make your homeschool ready for your Kindergartener. 

      If you have a Kindergartener, give him a relaxed, traditional Kindergarten experience and ease into seatwork/the 3R’s only as they are ready (and never forget how much they learn through real life, hands-on experiences, conversation, and through being read to!)

-Reading aloud:  Am I spending enough time reading aloud to my children—no matter their age?  We need to continue building up our read aloud time.  One goal I have set for myself is getting my boys ready for bed earlier, so that we have more time to read before bedtime.  We are in the middle of two series:  My husband and I are taking turns reading Hank the Cowdog to the boys, and my daughter has just started reading the Chronicles of Narnia to them (this is in addition to the reading we do for homeschool.)

     All these questions boil down to three main questions:  1) Am I walking in the Spirit (and receiving His power to help me do what I know I should do),  2) Am I a balanced Mom?,  and  3) Am I making the main thing the main thing–in my personal life and my home life?

     I will prayerfully consider each of these questions over the next couple of days, and write out some goals in response to them.  What about you?  What questions have you been asking yourself?  Are you making any New Year resolutions this year?

~Blessings,

           Susan

© 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.  Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.

Posted in Challenge to Parents, Elementary School, Encouragement, Family Life, Goals, Homepreschool, Homeschooling, Mothering, Parenting, Spiritual Matters, The 4 R's, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

More About Routines: Why They are Important

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on November 19, 2010


        When Jolanthe from Homeschool Creations wrote a review of my book, Homepreschool and Beyond, she asked her readers to check out my blog and then post on her blog as an entry to win the book.  They could choose between naming some of the articles that originally inspired me to write the book (see the tab, “my articles”), OR share which of the 4R’s (relationship, routine, readiness, and reading aloud) they needed the most help with.  Here is the breakdown of the replies about the 4R’s: 

 50–Routines

17–Reading Aloud

14—Readiness

9—Relationships

         As you can see, routines won hands-down.  Many of the mothers stated that they needed help with their routines; some even wondered if routines are really necessary.  In response, I’ve decided to write a couple of  posts that will answer these concerns (I will also write a post about the second most chosen of the 4R’s: Reading Aloud.)  Anyway, here is the first post—“More About Routines.”

         I know from experience that routines can be hard. Routines involve self-discipline…they just aren’t going to happen by themselves!  We’re starting our 18th year of homeschooling now, and we have tweaked our routines more times than I can count.  Our routines have changed due to my husband’s work days and hours, the ages of our children, our health, the time of year (in summer we play in the morning and do school in the afternoon, for instance), and more.   You’d think that after 17 years I’d have it all together by now, but I don’t…especially in regards to my homemaking routines right now.  In fact, writing this post has been convicting to me–I know what I need to do, but making myself do it on a consistent basis is another thing.  So don’t be discouraged—you’re certainly not alone.  Read on, and know that I’m working on this with you.  Be sure to check back again soon to read the next post on this topic, “establishing routines that will work for you”. 

What are Routines?

        I want you to know that when I talk about routines, I’m NOT talking about a down-to-the-minute “schedule” that becomes a burden or a slave driver to your family.  You don’t have to rush through your day, trying to meet artificial deadlines every fifteen minutes or half-hour. What I’m talking about simply a sense of “what comes next.”  Perhaps a good term to remember is a “relaxed routine.”

        A relaxed routine doesn’t mean that you don’t have any goals, though; as with everything, there is a need to find a balance.  For us, this has meant that meal times, snack time, naptimes and bedtimes are kept as consistent as possible—you might think of them as the “skeleton” of your routine.  The rest of the routine, however, is much more flexible.  I like to allow enough time to follow my children’s lead within the routine—so if the children get caught up in their play, or want to paint 4 pictures during art time, or feel like doing 3 math lessons (yes, this has happened at our house), it’s OK.  We might have to shorten the next activity, but that doesn’t throw the rest of the day into chaos. 

        It’s a good idea to have some basic goals for different times of the day—for instance, “we should have our breakfast, chores, family worship time, circle time, a preschool activity (art OR cooking experience OR science activity OR game-time OR manipulatives OR planned/creative play), snack time, and outside play time finished before 11:30 so that we can eat lunch at 12:00”.  Another one might be, “we should finish lunch, get washed up/brush teeth, and be ready for our read aloud time by 1:00 so that the preschoolers can be napping by 1:30.” 

        There are several different types of routines that you might want to put into place:  Morning routines, mealtime routines, bedtime routines, and school routines….some parents prefer to think of them separately this way, while others think in terms of the whole day’s routine.  We do a bit of both.  Additionally, I plan cleaning routines and personal routines as well.  I call our cleaning routines “standard operating procedures” or SOP for the kids.  (“Did you finish the kitchen SOP?”)

Why Are Routines Important?

        Now let’s address the question, “Why are routines important?” And, “Are routines even necessary?” 

        I believe that routines are not only necessary, but vitally important.

        Routines help children in many different ways.  One of the most important things that routines provide for children is emotional security.  Children—especially young children—derive security from that sense of “what comes next.”  This security helps children learn to trust that their parents will take care of them, and this trust enhances the parent-child bond.   This security/trust/bond is especially important to grow and maintain during the baby/toddler years…but of course, it should be a continuing part of life, all life-long, for every child. 

        Routines help children stay on an even keel emotionally, and will prevent emotional meltdowns.  This will save your sanity.  It helps your children behave better and makes your home a more peaceful and happy place to be.  Conversely:  Children who aren’t on a regular routine are often over-tired, hungry, irritable and stressed.

        Without a daily routine there could be important activities that you overlook on a day-to-day basis—even things like personal hygiene (brushing teeth, baths, etc), as well as important activities such as reading aloud, time spent with each child, etc. 

        Routines help children grow helpful habits that will benefit them the rest of their lives.  Good habits help us do the things we should do with little thought or effort.  Habits involve not only the “big picture” of our daily routine in general, but all those little things that make up our daily routine as well (personal hygiene, picking up toys, etc.)

        I believe that our very character, attitudes and manners are affected by the habits we learn (or don’t learn) as children.  Charlotte Mason wrote, “the habits of the child produce the character of the man . . .every day, every hour, the parents are either passively or actively forming those habits in their children upon which, more than upon anything else, future character and conduct depend.”

        Once a good habit is learned, little mental effort is involved in the task at hand…it’s just something we do.  It requires little thought and practically no effort.  You might say that we work on “autopilot.”  This is more help than you can imagine.  As Charlotte Mason says, “A mother who takes pains to endow her children with habits secures for herself smooth and easy days; while she who lets their habits take care of themselves has a weary life of endless friction with the children.” 

        Finally, routines help young children grow their self-confidence and independence.  Once children are secure in their routines, they’ll know when its time to brush their teeth, get dressed, and so on—and they’ll be confident and ready to try those activities independently.    

        Next post:  Developing Your Own Daily Routines

 © 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.  Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.

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