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 ‘Encouragement’ Category

What To Do When You’re Off to a Rough Start

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on October 10, 2014


Note: This is a classic post that originally appeared on my Home School Enrichment blog several years back. I’ve updated it, hoping it will encourage you. 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. If this is your first year of homeschooling, you are probably finding that out.

Another thing you may be learning is the pain of 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, and of course, a house that is always perfectly clean and beautifully decorated. 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, and the bravery/grace to be able to follow it.

-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. So we can’t give up!!

-Feel behind? Ask yourself, “Behind WHO?” Remember that the public schools expect too much of young children, and not enough of older children. A realistic goal is 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 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? (I admit, I’m still working on that one.)

-Re-examine your thinking processes. Are you “thinking like a homeschooler” or a public-schooler? Are you trying to bring the public school into your home? (I will be posting about “thinking like a homeschooler” soon.)

-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, so 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 (it’s too hot to do anything outside in much of the country, anyway.) During the early years of schooling (K-3), we follow a four day week; Fridays are set aside for catch-up work, park days, field trips, library time, art, messy projects, nature walks, games, life skills, catch up work, and so on (we often can count Fridays as school days, too.)

-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. Take the phone off the hook if you need to, or turn off the ringer. Set your cell phone to silent.

-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 burn 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. Give yourself grace! Count the days you have already done as “practice”– time to break into your school routine, and get the “kinks” out. Then, start over. That’s right, start over from right where you are, only adding the necessary adjustments.

-Get support: Do you have the support that you need to homeschool? If you haven’t connected with a Christian homeschool support group first, do so right away! Connecting with a Christian support group and participating in the activities/supportive meetings they offer can make the difference between homeschool success and burn-out or giving up. It can even make the difference between sanity and insanity!!

-Finally, remember that whenever God calls us to do something, He always gives us the knowledge, strength and abilities we need to complete the task. Don’t let a rough start make you reconsider your decision to homeschool…don’t give up. Just start over! Implement some of the changes I’ve suggested, and hang in there. It does get easier. It really does, I promise.

© 2010, 2014 Susan Lemons all rights reserved. Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.

Posted in Elementary School, Encouragement, Getting Started, Homepreschool, Homepreschool and Beyond, Homeschool, Homeschooling, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | 1 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 »

Preschool at Home: You Can Do It! (Easy Ways to Help Your Child Learn at Home)

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on March 6, 2012


I often receive phone calls and emails from parents who are excited about homepreschooling.  Many ask me how they should get started, or what curriculum they should use. The truth is, homepreschooling is not something parents suddenly “start”…every parent who has preschool-aged children is already homepreschooling!  After all, you taught your children to talk, didn’t you? And who held your baby’s hands while he was learning to walk?  You did, of course.  You are already a teacher, and already the facilitator of your children’s natural growth and development.

Parents nowadays have been programmed to think that they cannot possibly teach their own children.  The so called “experts” have encouraged them to think that they are not “qualified” or smart enough to homeschool—even at the preschool level!  But parents needn’t worry that they are not “qualified” to teach their own preschoolers at home.  The truth is, you are the expert when it comes to your own children.  No one knows and loves your children as you do.  As a homepreschooling parent, you can assess your child’s interests and readiness, and then carefully move them ahead–without pushing them.  No “preschool” can provide the amount of attention you can…and no “preschool” can individualize your child’s curriculum to fit your child’s own learning styles and interests as you can.

After all, it is God’s design that children be loved and raised by families, not institutions. Within a family, children grow strong, secure emotional attachments, which are vital to healthy personality development. Within a family, children are able to grow close relationships with people of all ages, including their own siblings. Within a family, children receive individualized attention, and children’s speech and vocabulary is enhanced by 50-100 times more individualized responses than they would receive in an institutional preschool (source:  Moore’s Home Grown Kids.) Within a family, children’s character is molded, and their hearts are gently drawn to God.

Homepreschool doesn’t have to be hard or expensive.  The best thing you can provide for your preschooler is your time and attention.  Your children will never need anything or anyone as much as they need you!  Most of what your children need to learn can be taught simply though good parenting.

Here are some simple, developmentally appropriate things that all parents can do to help their children learn.  Good parents do these things instinctively, but it is always good to be reminded about them:

1.  Provide your child with a stimulating home environment, rich in books, music, and open-ended play activities that grow with your child as he does: Play dough, blocks, cars, dolls, puzzles and so on. As your child gets older, have art materials available for your child to use anytime: Paper, crayons, felt-tipped pens, scissors and glue.

2.  Give your children lots of free time for creative play. Play is greatly under-valued in our society. Through play children release stress, get exercise, get a handle on their emotions, and learn skills vital to their academic growth.  Give your children time to play outside every day, weather permitting. If you can, provide a swing set, tricycle, balls and other outside toys; pets to love and care for, gardens to tend, and so on.  Inside play should play should be “creative” or “dramatic” play, as much as possible.

3.  Have your children work alongside you. Children need to learn to work with cheerful attitudes. Working is almost like play to the young child; they are practicing/pretending about their future adult roles. Teach them how to work while they are young and willing. Working together should be a bonding experience for you and your child, and an important learning experience for your preschooler.

4.  Try to make all “learning” fun at first.  As much as possible, let all “academic” learning take the form of games and play. If your child resists, back off for a while. It is much easier on both of you to wait for readiness and teach something in ten minutes than it is to spend ten hours (or days!) trying to teach the same skill before your child is developmentally ready.

5.  Read, sing and talk, then read, sing and talk some more!!  Help your child grow his vocabulary and base of knowledge about the world through conversation, lots of reading aloud and singing together. This is the true heart of homepreschooling.

6.  Provide your child with the opportunity to succeed by giving plenty of practice with new skills and concepts learned–through repetition.  We may become tired of hearing favorite books or songs over and over, or practicing jumping off the steps over and over–but preschoolers don’t!  Repetition strengthens and reinforces learning.

7.  Limit passive entertainment. Even “educational” television or computer games can’t match interaction with real people or real objects when it comes to learning. Most children spend more time watching television or playing computer games than they spend sleeping—much less playing!  Too much passive entertainment can be harmful to young children’s development. Commonly observed effects of too much television or computer time include over-stimulation, shortened attention span, and a reduction in active playtime. Don’t let the television replace real life experiences, play, reading aloud and conversations in the life of your family.

8. Introduce your child to the best in art, literature and music. Art and music are more than just “extras” your child can do without; they are vital to healthy, normal, early childhood development. Enjoying literature of all kinds with your children lays the foundation for literacy. (Several chapters of Homepreschooll and Beyond are devoted to these topics.)

9. Explore the real world together. Visit the grocery store: Purchase new foods to try, and talk about where they are grown/how they are made. Visit your local state and National Parks; explore the streams, mountains and beaches, taking time to wade in the streams, toss rocks in the water, and look for wildlife. Visit your local fire station, police station, train station, and airport. Plant a garden in your own backyard. Work, play and experiment together, and talk about everything you do.

10. Remember that your children are learning all the time, whether you are aware of it or not.  Homepreschooling parents simply take advantage of this fact, and choose to embrace a lifestyle of learning–consciously deciding to take advantage of those “teachable” moments. Life itself is the very best curriculum for preschoolers.

        You CAN provide everything your children need for early learning. Your children will never need anyone or anything more than they need you. Let them have the love, time, and attention of their own parents. That’s all they really need.

*This is a compilation of excerpts from: Homepreschool and Beyond: A Comprehensive Guide to Early Home Education, by Susan Lemons, used with permission.  Much of the material in this book was originally printed in Home School Enrichment Magazine, and is re-used with permission. You can read the complete article, What Your Preschooler Really Needs, HERE.

© 2010, 2012 Susan Lemons all rights reserved. Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.

Posted in Deciding to Homeschool or Hompreschool, Encouragement, Family Life, Getting Started, Homepreschool, Homeschool Preschool, Mothering, Parenting, preschool at home | Tagged: , , , , , | 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.

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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 »

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 Importance of Keeping Traditions

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on December 17, 2011


This post contains a partial outline/overview of the introductory section of the chapter on “Holidays and Traditions” in Homepreschool and Beyond. 

Remember, we have only ONE WEEK to make sure that all of our traditions/fun baking and craft ideas get done this year. Can you believe it?!

Christians need to reclaim the territory of our spiritual heritage. The onus lies on us, as Christian parents, to entrust our children with the true significance of these special occasions. Our celebrations must be distinctive, for the sake of our children and of a Christ-less world.

        -Ann Hibbard, Family Celebrations: Meeting Christ in Your Holidays and Special Occasions

We are a very “tradition-based” family come Christmas time. We tend to do the same activities in pretty much the same way every year. I think we all know that traditions are important (especially for little children), but have you ever taken the time to think about why?

-Traditions are about “the main thing”: building relationships. “Traditions help us strengthen our relationship to God, our families, and our children. They help us remember what is truly important.”

-Traditions provide security: In today’s world, children need to know that life at home continues pretty much the same as always. As much as possible, our homes should be havens from the troubled world around us. This is important to children of all ages.

-Traditions are part of our family identity and culture; they reveal who we are, where we belong, what is important to us, and what is unique about us.

-Traditions provide continuity between the generations, and they are a source of family memories and stories.

-A year is a long time for preschoolers, who depend on holidays to make sense of the passage of time. The book, Over and Over by Charlotte Zontolow  is a great book to help preschoolers understand the order of the seasons and the holidays (we skip over the two pages about Halloween.)

Product Details

-Traditions allow us to make Bible stories and the history of our country come alive

– Traditions are FUN!!

Here is a list of some of the traditions we are going to keep this year:

-Christmas ornaments/decorating the tree:
Every year each child gets a new Christmas ornament. I write the child’s name and the date on the bottom of it with a Sharpie pen. We try to choose ornaments that reflect something memorable that happened that year. For instance, the year they learn to ride a bike, their ornament might have a Santa riding a bike; the year they got a new pet, an ornament with a cat or dog on it, etc. In addition, each child has his/her own ornament box. When the time comes to decorate the tree, each child takes great joy in looking over his/her own special ornaments, and remembering the past years (and past Christmases). Other tree-trimming traditions: Listening to Amy Grant’s Christmas Album; taking pictures of each family member putting their first ornament on the tree; eating pizza; and later in the evening, putting in a Christmas movie (usually It’s a Wonderful Life.)

-Baking and decorating sugar cookies (a messy proposition, usually involving tons of icing and sprinkles.)

-Making daddy popcorn balls and beef jerky (another messy proposition.)

-Reading TONS of Christmas books

-We have a special Christmas book we read each night in December, called The Advent Calendar Pop-Up Book, by Meryl Doney.  Each flap reveals a little more of the Christmas story. (There is one sentence I edit for accuracy).   Although it is out of print, it’s still easy to find on Amazon or E-Bay.

Advent Calendar/Pop-Up

-Attending our church’s Christmas Eve service.

-Making a cake on Christmas Eve, and singing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus on Christmas day.

-This year, we’re making tons of Christmas art: The boys have already been busy painting resin ornaments and Santas. In addition, I hope to get them involved in more painting, metal art, puff art, shrinky dinks, felt ornaments, paper ornaments, and more! Here are links to some of my favorite, inspirational ideas:

Kid’s Crafts from Martha Stewart 

Family Fun Magazine

Activity Village

The Artful Parent

-Traditional crafts for older kids: Orange Pomanders 

Metal garden lanterns or candle lanterns

-Inspirations for mommy-crafts:

Better Homes and Gardens: Embroidery stitches (how-to)

Better Homes and Gardens, decorating with pinecones (and pinecone crafts)

Have fun!

~Susan

This post contains excerpts from the book,Homepreschool and Beyond”; used with permission.  © 2010, 2011 Susan Lemons all rights reserved. Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.

Posted in Art, Crafts, Encouragement, Family Fun, Family Life, Holidays | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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 »

More About the Charlotte Mason Approach (for preschool through high school!)

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on August 7, 2011


If you are trying to wrap your head around the Charlotte Mason approach—if you’d like to begin using her approach in your homepreschool/homeschool, then you might appreciate the following links and ideas:

To help you get started, I would like to encourage you to feel free to start with two or three ideas that you can apply now. Although CM “purists” might protest, I suggest “gleaning” or “picking and choosing” only the portions of the CM method (or any method) that will work for
your family
. After all, curriculum and methods are simply TOOLS for us to use as we see fit. Few homeschoolers fall entirely into one camp; most are
eclectic in nature, using a little from here and a little from there to make a unique whole. I myself am a “unit study/ Charlotte Mason/Ruth Beechick/literature- approach” type of homeschool mom. I use elements of each of these approaches in our homeschool (you can find out which methods you gravitate towards by taking THIS SURVEY—scroll down to the second page.)

I take the best parts of these approaches—the parts that work for our family—and make my own custom “approach.” Personally, I can’t imagine CM’s basic ideas failing anyone. They add depth and beauty to your curriculum, to your home…to your life! Remember, if you are overwhelmed by CM’s ideas/own writing, start with just two or three key elements and try implementing them in your homeschool. I think that when you do, you’ll be hooked and ready to try more.

Here are some more details about several different CM elements that are important yet easy to add to your homepreschool/homeschool:

 *Work to train/develop proper habits in your family. So much of our life is habit! According to Laying Down the Rails, developing habits is like laying down ruts for a wagon, or tracks for a train…they make the path easier. CM herself says, “The mother devotes herself to
the formation of one habit at a time, doing no more than keep watch over those already formed. If she be appalled by the thought of overmuch labour, let her limit the number of good habits she will lay herself out to form. The child who starts life with, say, twenty good habits, begins with a certain capital which he will lay out to endless profit as the years go on.” 
Examples of important habits: Obedience, truthfulness, self-control, patience, temperance, orderliness, and so on.

Links having to do with habit training:

FREE e-book on habits

Habit training tips

*Give your children the opportunity to spend lots of time outside. The heart of nature study begins with spending time outside. To quote CM: …the chief function of the child––his business in the world during the first six or seven years of his life––is to find out all he can,
about whatever comes under his notice, by means of his five senses; that he has an insatiable appetite for knowledge got in this way; and that, therefore, the endeavor of his parents should be to put him in the way of making acquaintance freely with Nature and natural objects…”

   Charlotte suggests spending as much time outside as possible, even eating outside, when weather permits. You can extend your children’s learning by allowing them to start nature collections (help them label what they can) by exploring new natural environments together, and by reading books about what you see and find. (See my posts on nature study: Part 1  Part 2  Part 3  Part 4.)

Expose your children to the best in literature, art, and music: 

*Read lots of “living” books. Expand your read aloud time! My goal is to read aloud to our children at least four times a day: 1) During Bible time,

2) During circle time, 3) After lunch/before nap, and 4) Before bed.

Even if you decide that the CM method isn’t for you, keep the read aloud time! The time you spend together with your children (and discussing what you’ve read) is the heart of the homeschooling lifestyle.

*Listen to classical music, and enjoy “folk” music together (“folk” music: Traditional American children’s music such as “You Are My Sunshine”, “Row Your Boat”, “On Top of Old Smokey”, etc.) CM encourages “composer study”, but the aim of composer study, in my opinion, is not only to get to know the composers, but to get to recognize, know, and love the composer’s music. Even young children can learn to name classical pieces like the “Flight of the Bumblebee” or recognize portions of “Peter and the Wolf.” Older children can begin to learn to identify the composer, too. And while CM referred to classical music, I like to expose my children to many different types of music—choral music, show-tunes, bluegrass, and “new” classical-type music (such as John Williams), American folksongs (lots of singing here), etc.  I want my children to develop an “ear” for music and LOVE music! So the best place to start is simply listening to good music and playing with music (rhythm instruments, singing, chanting, etc)—for enjoyment. Later, as children get older, they can begin more serious composer study and formal music lessons.

*Provide your children with a multitude of different, open-ended art/craft activities and expose your children to the work of the masters. Even preschoolers enjoy looking at fine art!  Look at and talk about famous art pieces with your young children…talk about the medium used, the use of light in the picture, etc. Open-ended art/craft experiences are important for many reasons; they provide an opportunity for children to express themselves and their emotions; they build attentiveness and patience in children; they build eye-hand coordination, muscle strength and small muscle control; they teach science (color mixing, light and shadow), language (talking about art/describing pictures), math (shapes/spatial skills), and art itself (art
appreciation; art skills and art terms such as “perspective”, “shadow”, “color wash”, etc.)

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

   By bringing these few elements into your homepreschool/homeschool, you will be giving your children a tremendous advantage. Perhaps consistently using a few of CM’s ideas will inspire you to investigate her philosophy further, or add other CM elements to your day. If so, great! If not, you and your children will still benefit from these ideas. Along with Bible training, I consider them to be at the heart of successful homeschooling.

~Susan

Helpful CM Links:

Charlotte Mason Help

Penny Gardner’s site

Be sure to download the FREE e-books about the CM approach at Simply Charlotte Mason. Also: Check out Simply Charlotte Mason’s take on making the transition to a CM approach…I like the simple way it is laid out here—but I must emphasize that there is no right or wrong way to use the CM approach; feel free to pick and choose the elements that work for you. Personally, my “basics” are the ones I listed above (they are different than Simply Charlotte Mason’s.) Also, I use more of a “literature approach” than a pure CM approach.

Catherine Levinson’s site, “Charlotte Mason Education”

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

Posted in Art, Charlotte Mason, Charlotte Mason Approach, Crafts, Encouragement, Family Life, Homepreschool, Homeschool, homeschool methods, Homeschool Preschool, Methods, Music, Nature Study, Reading Aloud | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

How to Teach Your Children to Write (Handwriting, revisited)

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on July 13, 2011


Note: It has recently come to my attention that one of my most popular posts, “How to Teach Your Children to Write”, has broken links in it. Therefore, I have revised my post, added new links and more information. I hope you enjoy it.

      Are you thinking about teaching your preschooler/Kindergartener how to write?  Before trying to teach writing, make sure your children have had lots of experience with art–felt tipped pens, crayons, colored pencils, cut and paste, play dough, water colors, collage, stencils–all of it.  This helps children develop small muscle strength and control, as well as eye-hand coordination.  They should have had plenty of experience with manipulative toys as well:  Puzzles, Legos, pattern blocks, etc.

     Be sure your children are developmentally ready before you start “formal” lessons.  Most children won’t learn to write until they are 4-5 years of age.  That being said, it is important to remember that age is not always the best indicator of readiness; instead, watch for these signals: Interest (asking to be taught), natural or spontaneous learning (copying letters/numbers spontaneously onto their art), asking you about letters and their meaning, etc.  Additionally, your child should be able to draw a detailed picture of himself, with at least a head, body, arms, fingers, legs, feet, hair, eyes, nose, and mouth (the more detail the better.) Note:  If your child is younger but  has all the readiness signs, you’ll have to decide if s/he is ready or not; after all, you are the “expert” on your own child!  If you think s/he might be ready, start with some “trial” lessons, but watch carefully for frustration and keep lessons short.  If you have any doubts, it’s better to wait.

     Remember—there’s no rule that says you must teach your children to write their letters in alphabetical order; most parents start by teaching their children how to write their names.  A good way to get started is with sandpaper letters.  You can help your child use his/her pointer finger to trace the letter, using correct formation (i.e. to make an ‘h’, start at the top and go down, up on the same line, and then around.)  You can make your own sandpaper letters with medium grade sandpaper, scissors you don’t care about (they’ll be dull when you are done), and Sharpie pens (it might take two or more.) Here is what you do: Cut the sandpaper into 3×5 or smaller rectangles (playing card size is good). Next, use the Sharpies to write the matching upper and lower case letters on each card (Aa; Bb, etc.)  Idea: Cut one longer strip, and write your child’s name on it. That way, your child can learn to trace the letters of his name easily. And remember, your child  should learn to write his/her name with the first letter capitalized all the other letters in lower case!

     More sensory experiences:  For other sensory experiences, you can write letters and numbers in cornmeal, salt, or better yet, Jell-o powder (have your child lick his/her finger, form the letter, and then lick her finger again as a reward.  Obviously, kids with sugar/dye sensitivities or children with dirty hands should skip this one!)

     Before trying to write letters on regular paper, make sure your child knows how to hold a pencil correctly. Ideally, s/he should have already learned proper pencil grip through art experiences. Some kids struggle with this, and benefit from pencil grips (I personally like the “crossover grips” and “Pencil Grips by the Pencil Grip Inc.” best.)  You can also see (and try) various pencil grips at your local school supply store. Learn more about the proper grip (called the “tripod hold”) HERE.  You can read more about holding a pencil, along with suggested activities meant to strengthen fingers and wrists HERE.

Children also need a comfortable chair so they can sit up straight (your child might need a booster seat or child sized table and chairs for this.) For ideal handwriting posture, children’s feet should be supported, not dangling. An office chair that is adjustable also works well for this, too, and will grow along with your child.)

     When it’s time to teach handwriting, it’s a good idea to learn some “tricks of the trade”.  Sing, Spell, Read, and Write, the curriculum we’ve used with all four of our children (with great success), includes scripted lessons that show you how to teach your child to write, letter by letter (in the Off We Go workbook).  If you feel lost and don’t know how to teach writing (and phonics), you really need this curriculum! Alternately, you can order just the Off We Go workbook (which is what we used for Kindergarten–we turned it into an alphabet book).  Call 1 800 321 8322 to  order directly from the publisher, or order in online HERE (publisher) or HERE.

Other Tips: Sit down by your child and watch your children carefully while they are beginning to write, even guiding their hands if necessary.  Say the phrases you learned (or make up your own) while they write. I used to say: “First little ‘c’, then little ‘a’.”  “First little ‘c’, then little ‘d'”, etc.  It’s important to insure that letters are formed correctly.  Bad habits are easy to develop but hard to break.  It might not seem very important right now how your child forms the letters if they are written neatly, but when you begin to teach cursive, you’ll quickly find out otherwise.  Properly formed letters lead quickly and easily into cursive, but bad habits (such as starting an “n” at the bottom instead of the top) mean extra strokes…writing that takes longer than necessary, and re-learning the correct letter formation when learning cursive (third or fourth grade.)

You don’t have to buy a separate  “curriculum” for handwriting unless you want to; if you do, please save it for Kindergarten or even First Grade.  (Note:  Before you purchase a separate handwriting program, take a look at your phonics program and see how much writing it requires.  It might be all you need.) Personal recomendations:   Explode the Code’s Get Ready for the Code(perfect for Kindergarten);  Christian Liberty Press Handwriting or Handwriting Without Tears. For teaching cursive, check out Cheerful Cursive (they also make Happy Handwriting, but I haven’t seen it.)

Once your children have learned how to consistently form their letters correctly, handwriting practice is easy. You can use a handwriting curriculum, or just use spelling and vocabuary words as well as copy work for practice. In fact, any writing they do counts as practice.  Simple Bible verses make wonderful copy work, especially the Psalms and Proverbs.

      About paper:  You might want to head down to your local school supply store and buy some nice, lined, handwriting paper.  I personally hate Kindergarten-sized paper; I think the huge spaces make it harder for little ones.  Imagine, little hands that can barely make straight lines being made to make those super long lines!   We started our children with 2nd grade paper (or thereabouts), and stayed with it for a couple of years.  Also, if you can buy smooth, heavy paper, it’s better than thin, rough paper (see links below).

Finally, remember to keep your first lessons short and fun–no longer than 5 minutes or so.  If your child is resistant, back off for a few months before you try again.  Remember, waiting for readiness makes the difference between months of forced lessons with lots of tears, and fewer lessons done cheerfully.

     Paper resources:  Miller’s Pads and Paper sells quality lined paper; Target and Amazon sells Composition books that contain bright, smooth, lined “story paper” (blank on the top half for drawing pictures; lined on the bottom for writing.)  They also carry”Redi Space” paper to help children space their letters, and “Mead See and Feel Learn to Letter” which has raised  lines.  It’s nice quality paper, especially for the price!

© 2010, 2011 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

Posted in Curriculum, Elementary School, Encouragement | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

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 »

Advice From Peggy

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on April 10, 2011


        A dear friend of mine passed away a few days ago, straight into the arms of Jesus. She was a Godly woman, beloved of many, and a mentor to hundreds (if not thousands) of homeschoolers–including me. We had a special “sisterhood” since we had both already lost our moms, and continued to miss them terribly.

        Peggy was a woman of vision who served the homeschooling community since 1993 as a support group founder/leader, private school administrator (in CA homeschoolers are private schoolers, so many form their own schools–in some states these are called “umbrella schools”– which provide services for/oversee the work of homeschoolers), and mentor.   Peggy was a gifted teacher, as many blessed homeschool graduates can attest; she especially loved to share her love of science (she was an archeologist/creation scientist who loved to share her fossils.)  But perhaps two of Peggy’s greatest gifts were the gifts of love and encouragement.

        Whenever any of us “moms” were discouraged, she was the “go to” person. We were guaranteed encouragement and a hearty hug…and she always seemed to know just what to say (perhaps because she had already successfully homeschooled her own four children all the way through high school, so she knew what we were going through.) I can remember several times when I was upset about something that was going on with my kids—when I was worried about their behavior, or worried that they weren’t learning enough. She gave me some great advice, which I will now pass along to you. I remember her hugging me and saying, “Now listen, sweetie. Your kids are going to be just fine. You are teaching them about the Lord, and that is the most important thing. If we can teach our children to know and love the Lord, how to read and write well, how to do basic math, and how to do research (so that they can look up anything else they want to learn–fill in any “gaps”), then what else do they need? We’ve given them all the necessary tools to succeed—to become anything the Lord calls them to be.” That advice always comforted me. It really makes homeschooling seem “doable”, doesn’t it? 

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

Posted in Encouragement, Homeschooling, Parenting | Tagged: , , | 1 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 »

Not Enough Time: Really Being There for our Kids

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on July 23, 2010


     Classic Re-post:  This was first posted on my Homeschool Enrichment blog two years ago–and again when this blog was new.  I thought it was worth reviving.  My next post will be on our curriculum plans for next year.)

     As homeschooling moms, we devote virtually all our time and energy to our homes and families.  They are our very lives.  So if anyone dares to suggest that we aren’t doing enough, we naturally feel defensive or insulted.  I received such an “insult” recently, from my own seven year old.  My own son! (Whine, whine.)  He said (speaking for himself and his little brother,)  “You don’t spend enough time with us.”  

     My initial response: “WHAT?!  Not enough time with you?  What do you mean?  I’m with you everyday, all day.  I spend LOTS of time with you.  I take care of you, cook for you, read to you, do school with you…”  

     “That’s just it, Mommy,”  he answered.  We spend TOO much time doing school.  We want to do other things with you.” 

     “Other things?”  I probed.  “What kinds of other things?” 

     “Oh, you know…FUN things.  Things like playing outside with us, playing more games with us, doing more art, teaching us to cook…FUN STUFF!” 

     At first I was cross about this.  How could he say I don’t spend enough time with them?  Haven’t I devoted my whole life to these kids?! (More whining.)  And as for school time…we only spend around two hours a day.  How could that be too much? 

     Then I started thinking:  He’s just a little boy. He wants a relationship with me; that’s a good thing!  He needs me to be there for him not only physically, but emotionally.  Why can’t I put more effort into our relationship?  Why can’t I spend some time doing the “fun stuff”? 

     I realized that lots of times, if I was honest with myself, I would have to admit that while I am at home physically, I am not there emotionally.  Haven’t you all done this too?  Emotionally, you’re somewhere else.  Your mind is not with your children at all.  When they talk to you, you aren’t paying attention, but you mumble “uh-huh” anyway without really listening.  You are too busy doing housework, watching the news, cooking dinner, or even planning the next day’s school work to listen.  Any “conversations” are very one-sided. 

     Our children need more than that.  They need us to be fully engaged with them all the time.  They need us to put an effort into our relationship.  They need us to take time to do the fun stuff.  The fun stuff builds relationships and happy memories. 

     That is why I have decided to put some extra effort into my relationship with my kids.  Not because our relationships are bad, but because I want to see if they could be better. 

     Here are the things I have decided to do.   I challenge you to do them, too: 

     I am going to be more conscious of where my attention really is, making sure I am with my children both emotionally and physically.  I will take the time to have meaningful conversations with them, even if the conversation is just about their latest “Lego” creation.  They need to know I care.

     I’m going to make school more fun.  We will play more games, do more art, do some cooking and other hands-on activities.  I know that these are important parts of learning for young children, but I’ve let life get in the way of them recently.  No more.

     Finally, we are going to do “Christmas in July”.  Why should all the major fun and messy projects be saved till Christmas, when we are too busy to enjoy them?  This year, we are going to take time this month to do some of the projects I’ve been putting off.  I’m going to spread the fun around.  We’re going to paint, and bake, and make presents.   

     Let’s get out there and play, create, and converse with our children.  Let’s build relationships and happy memories.  Want to join me? 

  -Notes to my “remember mind”:  Make the main thing the main thing.  Be there emotionally.  Build relationships.  Stop whining before it spreads to the kids.

– Notes to my “Un-remember mind::  Forget the guilt over past projects that were left undone, and move on to the next thing.

© 2008, 2009, 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

Posted in Challenge to Parents, Elementary School, Encouragement, Family Life, Goals, Homepreschool, Relationships | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Josh’s Remember Mind (Remembering What’s Important; Notebooking)

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on July 18, 2010


      NOTE:  This was originally posted two years ago on my old blog, which was a part of  Homeschool Enrichment Magazine’s website during the time I was their “Early Learning Columnist.”  I thought it was worth reviving…with some changes.

     My seven year old son Joshua has a very unique mind.  He calls it his “remember mind”.   He says that when he really wants to remember something, he puts it in his remember mind.   Once it is there, he will never forget it.  He also has a “un-remember mind”–sort of like a big garbage bin where he permanently dumps things he doesn’t need to remember (or doesn’t want to). 

     If only his “remember mind’ was for real, and not just a figment of his over-active imagination.  If only we could have remember minds, too!   But we can’t even seem to remember the things that are most important to us–such as why we chose to homeschool, what the most important parts of our home life and homeschool truly are, and how greatly the Lord has blessed us.  Day to day life crowds out so many things we should bear in mind everyday—every hour.

     Having a “un-remember mind” would be just as helpful.  By utilizing our “UN-remember” minds, we could live a more joyous life.  We could forget to worry about our constant doubts and questions such as “will our children have gaps?” or “am I doing enough?” or “how can I possibly get it all done?”  Instead, we could concentrate on the here and now—just doing the next thing that needs to be done, and keeping the main thing the main thing. (Forgetting our failures? I suppose that would be too much to ask for…after all, we learn so much through those difficult experiences.) 

     Even though I’ve been a Christian since early childhood, married for 24 years, a mom for twenty years, and a homeschooling mom for 14 years, I still have been unable to train my mind to work like a “remember mind” should.  I often forget the most important things, and worry too much about the things I should forget about.  You’d think I’d have home life and homeschooling down pat by now, but I don’t.  I need a remember mind…and a “un-remember mind”…and I need them fast!

Notes to Help with Your “Remember Mind”:  

     There are things we can do to develop our “remember minds”.  It’s a good idea to start a special notebook (or two) to act as our “remember minds” (Cindy Rushton calls hers a “brain in a binder.”)  Here are some ideas for your notebooks, taken from mine: 

*Write down the reasons you have chosen to homeschool. That way, when you have a difficult day (or week, or month), you can look back on your reasons and be encouraged.

*Write down some short and long term goals for your family. Start with spiritual and character goals. That way, when you get discouraged, you can review your goals.  Usually you’ll find that you are meeting your most important goals.

*Make your own Bible notebook.  I use mine to record important sermon notes, notes from Bible studies, Bible verses that are special to me, encouraging quotes and sayings, and so on.  You can make one for your children, too (ages 9+).

*Make your own prayer notebook.  In it, record who you are praying for, when you started praying for them, and answers received.

*Make a household notebook.  Write down your housekeeping routines, important phone numbers, menu plans, etc.  To get you started, investigate flylady.net.  You can find her notebook suggestions HERE (she calls hers a “control journal.”) You can also find great pages for your control journal/school planning journal at Donna Young’s site.

Wonderful links for journaling/notebooking for moms:

Setting up your Bible journal, from a Holy Experience

Journaling as a spiritual discipline, also from A Holy Experience

 Bible notebooks for children:

Young children can include coloring pages and Bible copywork; older children can use their notebooks very much as adults would.

Great ideas from Squidoo 

Bible Scribe— (to purchase); kids draw and write on these pre-made Bible notebook pages  

More Notebooking pages to buy (or just glean ideas from)

Calvary Bible Coloring pages:  A page to color for every major story in the Bible

Ignite the Fire:  Lists single sentence summaries or titles for each book of the Bible—awesome for children and adults.

For the Inspired Mom:  Tons of links and ideas for making your own “brain in a binder” that will help you organize your homeschool, your home, your goals, and your life. 

    Use these tools to help you make the main thing the main thing!

                        ~Susan

 © 2008, 2009, 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

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Help! I’m Afraid to Homeschool!

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on July 10, 2010


       Troll the blogs and you’ll “meet” many moms who say that they want to homeschool—but they are unsure that they can really do it.  They ask all their friends and family to give them opinions:  “Should I homeschool Johnny?  I think I’d like to, but I don’t know if I can really do it…”  My heart goes out to these Moms, because many of them are genuinely afraid.  They are afraid:

~That they aren’t smart enough

~That they aren’t “educated” enough

~That it will cost too much money

~That they aren’t self-disciplined enough, or patient enough

~That their families will object

~That their children won’t be “normal”. 

~They will ruin their children for life.

        Sometimes fear can be paralyzing.  Let me reassure you; you can do it!  There’s no need to be afraid.

~Do you think you’re not smart enough to homeschool?!  Worried that you’ll need a college degree?  Here’s the truth:  Studies have shown that homeschoolers outscore their government-schooled counterparts, no matter the educational level of their parents.  The individualized attention your children can receive at home makes the difference—as does your love and concern for your children.  You know your children better than anyone else—so who better to teach them? 

         Another thing to consider:  I have several homeschooling friends who are credentialed teachers.  They tell me that their education has NOT helped them homeschool their children.  To the contrary, it has been a hindrance.  They have had to “unlearn” many things…especially their attitudes about education (what it is, how it is to be carried out, and so on.)  Homeschooling is totally different than teaching in a classroom setting.  

       If you have decided to homeschool, but a part of you is still worried that you aren’t smart enough to teach your children, be sure to remember these tips:

*Don’t look at the big picture.  Don’t worry about high school when your children are in Kindergarten.  Instead, plan for one year—or one month—or one unit at a time.  Remember the way to eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.

 *Remember that homeschooling is a team effort.  If you have an area of weakness academically, you can delegate that subject to your spouse, another family member, or a friend; alternately, you could cover it via a co-op class or a computerized curriculum.  We hired an exchange student to tutor my high school aged daughter in foreign language.  I’m proud to say that while she still has lots of vocabulary to learn, she can now read, write, and speak Japanese—something I never could have taught her.

*Remember that you will read along and learn along with your children.  As your children grow older, all you have to do is stay one lesson ahead of them.  Just one lesson ahead.

       Many moms are amazed at all they learn.   You’ll discover history/science again but from a Christian perspective.  You’ll be amazed at how much you learn (and how much you didn’t learn in public school.)   I sometimes brag that my handwriting has improved…and I can figure out fractions now!  Yahoo!  In short, I think you’ll discover that homeschooling will rekindle your love for learning, as well as your children’s.

*Don’t be ashamed to let your children know that you don’t know the answers to everything…no one can know it all.  If you don’t know the answer, be honest about it, and say, “I don’t know…but I know how to find out.  Let’s look-up the answer up together.” 

*Don’t forget that as children grow older, things begin to get easier…they can do more of their school work independently.  Also remember that, as a homeschool mom, you won’t be giving lectures like a classroom teacher; you’ll support their learning via reading aloud, discussion, follow-through, etc. 

*Do you worry that it will cost too much money to homeschool?  Homeschooling doesn’t have to be expensive.  If you want to, you can homeschool using only the internet and a library card.  There are many wonderful resources online such as Project GutenbergAn Old Fashioned Education, the Baldwin Online Children’s Literature Project, Google Books, and more.  Some of the most desirable, “living book” style history texts can be found on these sites (many are being reprinted by Yesterday’s Classics, but you can also find them online for FREE.)  An especially important online freebie is Anna Comstock’s Handbook of Nature Study; you can find free lessons to go with the Handbook of Nature Study HERE.   

       Other ways to save money: I’ve built a huge library over the years…mostly from thrift stores, yard sales, and library sales.  You can, too!  You can often find books, texts, (the few that we use) and other educational supplies at thrift stores, dollar stores, yard sales, and used curriculum sales for pennies on the dollar. 

 ~Are you worried that you won’t be self-disciplined enough to homeschool?  Do you think homeschooling will try your patience?  Well, you’re partially right.  Homeschooling is too hard to do—in your own strength, —and it will try your patience.  But in the power of Christ, all things are possible.  You’ll need to pray a lot, and keep in the Word.  You’ll need to lean on the support of friends, family, and your local homeschool support group.  

       Homeschooling forces us to “grow up”, and do the things we know we need to do.  Sometimes I really struggle with elements of this and I have to admit to myself that 1) I need to grow (oh boy, oh boy do I need to grow);  2) I need to choose to daily surrender to God’s will for me,  3) I need to consciously choose  to be self-disciplined and to have a good attitude about it (so hard!), and that 4) I need to be consistent and develop habits for me and my children that will help us achieve our goals.  The Lord has really been laying this on my heart lately.  After all these years of homeschooling, you’d think I’d have it all together, but nope…I still fail a lot.  But God always gives me the Grace to keep going.  More than that, I need to remember that God does not call us to a task without equipping us for it.

       Sometimes God uses our weakness for His own Glory.  When things are tough—when we struggle—we learn to rely on Him, draw close to Him, and give Him the Glory for pulling us through.  Others can see what God is doing in our lives, and be blessed by it, too.

       Be assured that the struggle is worth the effort.  You will reap benefits beyond what you can imagine right now.  Some of the best benefits for you and your children include:

-Seeing our children grow in the Lord

-Seeing our children develop spiritual strength and discernment

-Helping our children grow in moral clarity/discernment

-The protection of your children’s innocence

-Family togetherness and closeness

-Academic excellence

 ~Do you worry that your family or friends might not support your decision to homeschool?  You’re right—some might not.  My mother didn’t think homeschooling was a good idea at first.  But I just kept going, and I passed along positive articles/statistics about homeschooling as I found them. 

       One relative, when informed of our decision, thought we were crazy (“why in the world would anyone want to do that?!)  We did not have a pleasant conversation about it.  They ended the conversation by saying, “well…we’ll be watching you.”  Brrr.

       Over the years though, as they watched my children mature, learn and grow, things changed.  My Mom became my biggest fan, and soon started passing articles about homeschooling on to me—just to encourage me.   Our other relatives, while still not understanding our decision, they have accepted it (although I’ve noticed that my children still get “grilled” about what they have learned from time to time.  <Sigh>) 

 ~Do you wonder if your children will grow up to be normal?  Perhaps you’ll ruin them for life.  Normal?  Who decides what or who is normal?  And is normal really good enough?  I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my children to grow up to fit in with the “normal” youth culture of America.  I want them to be a part of our family’s culture.  No, I don’t want them to be “normal”; I want them to be different!  After all, we are Christians.  We are called to be “in the world, but not of it”; we are called to be lights.  If we are living the way we should, we will look “weird” to those who are not living for the Lord…we will look different.  And that’s O.K.

       So don’t be afraid to take that leap of faith.  Homeschooling is nothing to fear.  Through His strength, you can do it….the Bible says so.  (I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!)   

Additional Resources:

Not Everyone Thinks You’re Wonderful Because You Homeschool… (but we do!)  

Why Be Different

Anti-Homeschooling Excuses…Are They Valid?

 © 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

Posted in Challenge to Parents, Deciding to Homeschool or Hompreschool, Encouragement, Getting Started | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »