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 ‘Family Life’ Category

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

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on August 28, 2014


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


About us (parents):

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bible Storybooks

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

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

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

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

Happy Day Books (available most Bible bookstores)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some of our favorites for older children:

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

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

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

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

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

Finally: Conversations and Daily Life

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

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

“It makes Jesus happy when you share.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exposing the Seven Major Blindspots of Homeschoolers, by Reb Bradley

Christian Child Training Versus Free-Will by Barbara Frank.

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

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

Reading Aloud to Babies and Toddlers

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on April 1, 2012


Reading to our babies is one of the best things we can do to encourage their language development…and in the future, to help them love to read.  The best time to start reading to babies is before their birth.  Reading the same book to them everyday helps them become familiar with your voice and experience the rhythms of language.  Once your baby is born, continue reading to him everyday, even if it seems he isn’t paying attention.

If you have missed this opportunity, don’t be discouraged.  It’s never too late to start reading to your child!  If you have a squirmy, resistant toddler, read on for suggestions.

Read to your child everyday, even if he doesn’t seem interested.  Try to make reading fun—for toddlers, you can experiment with books to touch (like Pat the Bunny) and sturdy board books that don’t have many words.  Most toddlers are interested in animals, so look for books about animal sounds.  A perfect choice is Eric Carle’s The Very Busy Spider, which has textured pages to touch, and a simple text including animal sounds.

If your child continues to refuse to sit on your lap and listen to a book, try the following:

-Read to your child while he plays near you.  Hold the book towards your child, so that if he looks at you, he can see the pictures.  Don’t force your child to sit on your lap to listen to a book-we want books to be associated with positive experiences.

-Keep sturdy board books or cloth books in your toddler’s toy box, and stand books up near your baby when your lay him down for “tummy time”.  They might get chewed on a little, but that’s ok.  The idea is to help you child associate books with enjoyment.  (Supervise chewers carefully!)

-Try reading to your child when he is tired and wants to cuddle-like right when he wakes up or right before bed.

-Try reading to your  baby when she is  in their “quiet-alert” stage.  For older babies, this might mean right after a meal.  For nursing babies who fall asleep after nursing, try reading to them after bath time, or right after a diaper change.  Experiment—try reading several times during the day to find what works for you and your baby.  Once you find a time that works, try to make it a habit.

-Choose the right book!  Books for babies and toddlers should have bright, realistic illustrations (or photographs), simple, short sentences, and include rhyme and/or repetition.  Books you can “sing” to baby are especially good choices.

-Some toddlers seem to need a sense of “control” in order to sit still for a book.  In this instance, I usually let them have it (in moderation.)  I let them turn pages, for example, ask them to point to things in the pictures, and so on. But I never let little ones grab, tear, or throw books. Toddlers must be taught to treat books carefully.

-Very squirmy toddlers might need a specially  modified read aloud time for awhile: Don’t linger too long on the pages; shorten or skip text if you have to, or even  just “talk” to them about the pictures in short sentences.

Other Tips:

-Don’t read in “baby talk”.  Use real words and complete sentences. It is OK to use a sing-song, higher pitched voice, if it seems natural to you to do so.

-Encourage toddlers to chime in with repeated phrases or sounds when they can.

-Don’t worry about variety: It’s OK to read  a few favorite books over and over for now. Babies and toddlers love repetition, and learn through it.

Here are some of our favorite books to read to babies and toddlers (in no particular order):

Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See, Bill Martin

Goodnight Moon; The Big Red Barn, Margaret Wise Brown

The Three Little Kittens, Paul Galdone

Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed (board book), by Eileen Christelow

Ten In the Bed, by Penny Dale (out of print–from Discovery Toys–a ‘singable” book.)

Very Busy Spider, The, Eric Carle

Read-Aloud Bible Stories, by Ella Lindvall (Great first Bible stories with short sentences.)

Farm Animals, Baby’s Animal Friends, (chunky board books) by Phoebe Dunn (there are others in this series, by different author. These where my baby’s favorites.)

The Foot Book, Dr. Seuss (short sentences, lots of repetition.)

Wheels on the Bus, (a pudgy board book), by Jerry Smath (another singable book)

The Pudgy book of Mother Goose, by Richard Walz

Little Golden books, such as:

The Animals of Famer Brown, Richard Scarry

Old MacDonald Had a Farm, (there are several  versons of this-they are all good, and fun to sing.)

My First Book of Sounds, by Melanie Bellah and  Kathy Wilburn

The Jolly Barnyard, by Annie North Bedford and Tibor Gergely

© 2010, 2012  Susan Lemons all rights reserved. 

Posted in Babies, Book Lists, Family Life, Picture Books, Reading Aloud | Tagged: , , , , | 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: Throwing Out the Rules

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on February 18, 2012


Many homeschoolers, especially new homeschoolers, live under a self-imposed set of “rules” based on their perceptions of what homeschooling should be. These unspoken “rules” are often based on our experiences with public schools. These “rules” often hurt us and our kids. They need to be discarded and replaced by the rule of true freedom. Here are some of the rules that I’m talking about:

-There’s no rule that says that you have to be perfect to homeschool: You don’t have to start out with tons of patience or wisdom; often God gives us that along the way. If you feel challenged by this, consider it an opportunity that God is giving you to step out in faith, grow in your spiritual walk with Him, and grow your spiritual gifts.

-There’s no rule that says that you have to be supermom: Many new homeschooling moms try to “do it all”. Sometimes they feel they have to prove themselves to others; other times they just don’t want to give up their mental picture of what homeschooling should be like. The expectations we put on ourselves are often unrealistic and have to be revised. Expect it and don’t let it depress you.

The hardest part of homeschooling is NOT the academics; it’s balancing homeschooling with the needs of daily life (keeping the house clean, the laundry done, doing errands, etc.) You may have to get help for a time, or even lower your standards for a while. Remember, it’s the eternal things (relationships) that matter most, not how clean your house is. Enlist your kid’s help, no matter their age, and you’ll find your “balance” soon enough.

-There’s no rule that says that your kids have to be “super-kids”: There is a perception out there that all homeschooled kids are above-average, if not brilliant. The reality is, most of them are simply “normal” or “average” academically, and that’s O.K.

Many homeschooled kids come across as “smart” or “mature” simply because, in general, they are polite, have good vocabularies, and are not afraid to talk to adults.

Putting things in the proper perspective is important. Remember those “main things” we want our children to excel at: Relationships, spiritual knowledge, wisdom (which is applied knowledge), maturity, manners, common sense, and a love of learning. If they have those things, they will have an amazing advantage in all matters, academic or otherwise.

-There is no rule that says that if you choose to homeschool now, you have to homeschool forever; many folks homeschool from year to year. Any amount of time that you can homeschool your children will be beneficial to them.

The only time this rule applies is during high school. If you start homeschooling your high school aged child, you should plan to homeschool them all four years, since enrolling them in public school can be problematic (some public schools will make them start as a freshman instead of counting the classes you’ve already done at home, for example.)

It is also important to remember that no matter how or where your children are educated, we, as Christian parents, are responsible to see that they receive a thoroughly CHRISTIAN education. As Daniel Webster said, “Education without the Bible is useless.”

–There’s no rule that says that you must have a college degree or a super high IQ to homeschool your kids: Remember, studies have shown that homeschooled kids do better than publically schooled kids do–no matter the educational level of their parents. You don’t have to “know it all”; you can learn along with your kids. All you have to do is stay one lesson ahead of them.

-There is no rule that says that you  have to know how to do algebra or be able to speak a foreign language in order to homeschool: Let’s face it, we all have subjects that we are weak in, don’t know, or just don’t like. But don’t worry; you don’t have to know it all! There are many non-traditional ways to cover those hard subjects: As homeschoolers, we are free to use video curriculum, curriculum on computer, or co-op classes. Some homeschoolers recruit other family members to teach those subjects they love or specialize in. If you still don’t find a workable resource, get creative: My daughter covered her foreign language requirement in high school through being tutored by a foreign exchange student. She learned to read, write, and speak Japanese, which is not a language commonly offered in high schools. Where there is a will, there is a way.

–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 do homeschool! Only participate in activities that provide positive socialization, and which 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.

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 for themselves. Additionally, make sure that textbooks aren’t your children’s ONLY reading. Continue to read good literature aloud to them, even once 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. 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.

(To be continued)

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

Posted in Education, Family Life, Family Rules, Homeschool, homeschool methods, Homeschooling, Methods | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

How Do You Measure Success (In Homeschool/Homepreschool)

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on February 4, 2012


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

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

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

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

3)  How do you measure success?

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

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

About Relationship:

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

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

-Do my children want to please God?

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

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

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

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

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

About Routine:

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

-Has our routine helped us develop helpful habits?

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

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

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

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

About Readiness:

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

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

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

About Reading Aloud: 

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

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

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

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

About Academic Goals: 

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

-Am I challenging my children without pushing them?

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

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

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

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

Live the 4R’s!

~Susan

© 2010, 2012 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

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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 »

Christmas Gift!! (Gotcha!)

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on December 25, 2011


Love came down at Christmas;
Love all lovely, love divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Stars and angels gave the sign.
Christina Rossetti

The “Christmas Gift” Tradition

I thought our family was the only family that did this….have you ever heard of the “Christmas Gift” tradition? The idea is to say, “Christmas Eve Gift,” and “Christmas gift” (on the appropriate days) to everyone in your family before they say it to you. No one I’ve asked outside my family has ever heard of it.

I’m thrilled to say, I’ve finally learned that we’re not alone! Check it out HERE–stories from lots of other families who have the same tradition! Some families apparently expect some type of gift (a small gift, like a candy or a nut) from others when they say it…we don’t. We just try to “get” the others in our family before they “get” us. It’s a neat way to remind each other that Jesus is the real gift of Christmas. We do the same thing on New Year’s Eve and New Years, too (we try to say “New Year’s Eve Gift”/”New Year’s Gift!” to each other before others say it to us.)

No one seems to know for sure where the tradition comes from. Some say it comes from Scotland (my family is Scottish)…others say it is a southern thing, originating from slaves…and others say it is an Okie thing (my mom was an “Okie”.) All I know is that I grew up with this tradition, and as weird as it may be to some of you, we think it’s really is fun! In fact, I need to get on the phone, call my brothers, and see if I can “get” them…<GRIN>

So, from my family to yours…

…Christmas Gift! Merry Christmas! May Jesus, our wonderful gift, bless you and yours today and always!

I found this public domain quote about it from the Ancestry site (link) as well… taken from Christmas Gift by Ferrol James, 1989, Dell Publishing:

“Christmas morning did not begin at daybreak but at least two hours before. It began with the thump and patter of the newly awakened feet of children….Finally a permissive mother would light a lamp and all Christmas would break loose. When some bolder child approached his bed to see if he was awake, Mr. Pharoah would leap up and startle the scout into immediate paralysis. “Christmas gift!” he would shout.
Then it rang all over the house. “Christmas gift!”

You said it first and you said it fast. You said it to anyone and everyone upon first sight that day. It was the salutation of the season used on that particular morning. It was an achievement to catch a sister, a cousin, an aunt or uncle unawares with the cry. “Christmas gift!”

…It was said that whoever beat another person to saying it was supposed to receive a present from that individual. When I said it to Simon or Coot or Clarence or any of Jesse Lee’s children, however, I was always answered with “Hand it here!” My sister Janice had a sharp ear and had early noted the disregard for terminal consonant or sibilant in the speech of the help. She consequently cut a fraction of a second from her time. “Chrimma giff!” she would yell, jumping from behind a door. It was hard to get Christmas gift on Sister Janice. It was impossible on Daddy. He beat everyone to it, his parents, his siblings, and certainly his children. He surprised, he startled, he anticipated everyone. It was a point of honor with him. He carried the custom into his eighties. He was even known to hide behind the smoke house and leap out at arriving grandchildren. “Christmas gift!” It is the cry of the Bear Cat. Of the Bareheaded Man. It brings Baby Jesus and Santa Claus together. It wraps them in red tissue paper adorned with a sprig of mistletoe or holly; it is a harmonious package. It really means “I love you,” and on that one morning each year it can be shouted exultantly to the heavens. Christmas gift! “Christmas gift! Everybody!”

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

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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.

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Teaching Our Children About the Symbols of Christmas

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on December 7, 2011


(This is a repost that I thought should be brought to your attention.)

Christmas is my favorite time of year AND my favorite holiday.  Some families worry that Christmas has become too commercialized, and that its real meaning has been forgotten.  Even many of the traditional Christmas symbols seem faded or jaded to us.  But have you ever considered teaching your children the real meanings of our Christmas symbols?  This can help our children focus their attention where it belongs. Many of our traditional symbols offer perfect Christmas object lessons!

Many of our symbols (nativity scenes, sheep, wise men, stars, angels, etc) have obvious meanings.  Others are not so obvious, but they are just as special:

The Christmas tree is an evergreen tree—a tree that never turns brown and never loses its leaves.  This reminds us of God’s unchanging love for us.  Evergreen trees point towards heaven, reminding us to think about God.  Additionally, many pine trees’ new growth (around Easter time) is in the shape of a cross!  (School-age children will enjoy the book, The Legend of the Christmas Tree.)

Lights and candles remind us that Jesus is the light of the world, and that He wants us to be lights in the darkness, too.

Wreath:  The circle shape of the wreath reminds us that God is eternal-from everlasting to everlasting.  He has no beginning, and no end.  It also reminds us of His everlasting love.

Bells are rung in times of celebration.  Many churches around the world ring bells on Christmas to celebrate Christ’s birth.  Also, sheep wear bells so that their shepherd knows where they are at all times.  Jesus always knows where we are, what we are doing, and even what we are thinking.  We can depend on Jesus to help us when life gets hard—just as the shepherd takes care of His sheep.

Candy Canes:  Turn a candy cane upside down and you have a “J” for Jesus.  Turn the candy cane over and you have a shepherd’s hook, to remind us that Jesus is the Good Shepherd.  The red of the candy cane reminds us that Jesus shed His blood for us, and the white reminds us of Christ’s sinless life. (The book, The Legend of the Candy Cane shares this beautifully (for ages 5 +). It also states that the stripes remind us of Jesus’ suffering, and that “by his stripes we are healed.” There is also a new version of the candy cane story that is by an author I enjoy (although I haven’t seen the book): The Candymaker’s Gift: The Legend of the Candy Cane.

Doves—are traditional symbols of peace. Birds remind us to praise the Lord with song.  They also remind us that Jesus knows when even the smallest sparrow falls.  If God knows and cares for the sparrows, how much more will He care for us?!

Holly reminds us of Christ’s suffering.  The sharp leaves remind us of the crown of thorns that Jesus wore, and the red berries remind us of His shed blood.

Santa Claus:  Santa was a real man—“Saint Nicholas”, who was famous for His giving, so “Santa” is often a symbol of giving and “the spirit” of Christmas.

A personal note about Santa:  I hope you’ll think about telling your children the truth about Santa.  We choose to tell our children the truth; Santa is something fun we pretend about at Christmas time (we also tell them not to spoil the secret for any one else—learned that through experience!)  We don’t want our children to learn the truth about Santa and be crushed.  We don’t want them to wonder, “If Santa is pretend, is Jesus pretend, too?  What if my parents are lying to us about Jesus, just like they lied about Santa?”  We don’t want to place the seeds of doubt in our children’s minds.

We give gifts to remind us that the wise men gave gifts to Jesus on His birthday.

Here are some symbols we learned about in the book, The Jesus Tree: 

Jesus Tree

Christmas balls (ornaments) are round, like the world.  This reminds us that God made the world.

Snowflakes are unique; no two are alike.   No two people are alike, either.  God makes each of us are special, and He loves us all.

Christmas colors: 

Red-the blood of Jesus

Green-God’s everlasting love

Gold-was given to Jesus by the Wise Men.  It is also a symbol of Kingship or royalty.

Purple-the color of royalty.

© 2010/2011 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.  Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.

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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 »

Backyard Nature Study: A Surprise Visitor

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on October 27, 2011


We had a visitor in our backyard this week—one that really surprised us. Here’s what
happened:

The dogs were barking like crazy. They seemed to be barking at something on the ground. In the past, they’ve killed mice (our doxies are great mousers), toads (I can’t tell you how many toads I’ve saved from the “jaws of death”—I’ve decided to count  next spring/summer), baby birds, and kittens (they dug under the fence and dragged them out of a neighbor’s yard—so sad–but they survived, thank goodness.) Anyway, the dogs were intently staring at something
on the ground, and barking like maniacs. I sent Ben outside to see what they were upset about, but I quickly followed him outside when I heard the dogs starting to fight over it. Was it another mouse, or some other creature I needed to save? I could see something in the grass, oblong shaped, but I wasn’t quite close enough to see what it was (or didn’t believe my eyes) until Ben shouted, “It’s a turtle!”

Sure enough, it was a turtle, flipped onto its back. I quickly snatched it out of the dog’s reach and brought it to safety inside.

The turtle was completely pulled into his shell.  There were not even any visible openings for its head, arms, or legs. We put it in a plastic container with some lettuce and a lid filled with water, and waited to see what would happen. We weren’t even sure if it was alive.

But after only a few minutes, a little head poked out! While the boys watched it, I got on the internet to see if I could identify it. I had noticed that the bottom of its shell seemed to be cracked in a straight line across the upper third of its body, and there was a tiny bit of blood in spots. That “crack” turned out to be a hinge—and we quickly identified it as a box turtle.

I found out that the box turtle’s hinge allows it to completely hide inside its shell. (There aren’t any visible holes in the shell at all when it’s pulled inside!) It can open and close its hinge  like a little door. Also, while inside their shells, box turtles can move their hinge and “rock” themselves from front to back. There is a band of skin around their necks—almost like a tight, thick choker necklace—that their head retracts into. Josh said it looked like
leather. This little guy had three back toes and four front toes, both with impressive little claws, and it had orange spots on its body. Whenever it was startled, it hissed. We were fascinated!

The boys begged to keep the turtle, but I knew that its presence, even in a habitat in the front yard, would drive our dogs nuts. I also knew my dear husband had no interest in trying to build
us a safe place to keep him/her…so I decided  to find our visitor a new home, and it’s a good thing I did.

A friend knew a friend who kept turtles, and she agreed to take it…until she saw it, that is. She could tell that it was a female, and she could tell right away that it was hurt and might
be sick. She didn’t want to risk exposing her healthy turtles to a sick one. So I drove it out to California Living Museum, having been assured by another friend that they would take her. However, they take only indigenous animals, so they didn’t want her, either! Even so, it wasn’t a wasted trip, because they gave me the name of someone from our local “Turtle and Tortoise Club”, saying they did “recues.”  What a relief.

That very night we bid good-bye to our visitor and drove her to the man from the Turtle Club. He immediately recognized that her shell had been chewed, right near her head (I don’t know why I didn’t realize it—it was obvious.) Also, her hinge had small specks of blood on it, still. Additionally, by then, we had realized that she wasn’t eating. He assured me that she would be seen by a vet right away, be nursed back to health, and then placed in a good home.

So ends our turtle adventure–except…naturally, like any typical homeschooling family, we had to learn more about turtles!

Box Turtle facts we learned (besides what I shared above):

-Box turtles are land-dwellers.

-Our little turtle was no more than 5 or 6 inches long, but she was surprisingly heavy.

-Box turtles eat grass, lettuce and so on (as I expected), but I was surprised to find out that they are omnivores–enjoying snails, worms, and other insects as well (they eat the snails shell and all.) According to  Box Turtle Care A to Z,  “Wild turtles are omnivores and in will eat earthworms, snails, grubs, beetles, caterpillars, carrion, grasses, fallen fruit, berries, mushrooms and flowers. They will take a bite of anything that smells edible.”  Apparently they love corn on the cob.

-Their backbones and ribs are fused to their shell. Since they have backbones, they are vertebrates.

-Turtles hibernate. Our friend told us that their pet turtles stop eating before hibernation (that’s not why ours had stopped eating–it is still warm here, and too soon for hibernation). When it’s time for them to hibernate, some people put their turtles in the vegetable drawer of their refrigerators for the winter; others put them in boxes (with newspaper padding) and then put them on a shelf in the garage until spring.

-Box turtles cannot right themselves if they are flipped on their backs. If we hadn’t found her, she would have died.

-Box turtles are NOT slow. They are quick little characters, and can even CLIMB.

-Box turtles can live as long as fifty years.

This was a unique opportunity for us to see a turtle close up–it really was amazing. I’m sorry the dogs chewed on her…I’m sorry we couldn’t keep her…but I’m glad we got to study
her for a couple of days, and glad to know she’ll get a good home.

Turtle books we’re going to read for continued research (This is one of those “teachable” moments that we’ll turn into a mini unit study):

Box Turtle at Long Pond, by William T. George

Take Along Guides: Frogs, Toads, and Turtles, by Diane L. Burns

A Turtle in the House, John Gabriel Navarra

Album of Reptiles, by Tom McGowen

(We’ll see if we get off on a tangent of reptiles, in general.)

Books for the boys to read:

Let’s Get Turtles (A Science I Can Read Book), by Millicent E. Selsam (a longer one)

Reptiles do the Strangest Things, by Leonora and Arthur Hornblow

© 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, Creation Science, Family Life, Homepreschool, Homeschool, Homeschool Preschool, Homeschooling, Nature Study, preschool at home, Reading Aloud, Unit Studies | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a 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 »

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 »

Things I Learned While Camping

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on August 2, 2011


Our family is on our second “season” of trailer camping. It really does involve some learning/skills to get it done right…lots of planning, too. Each trip seems to get easier; it’s almost a fine art. Here are some of the things I’ve learned by living in a trailer:

1. I  learned how to flush a toilet with my foot: Lift up to add water, push down to flush. Oh—you have to be careful where you put the toilet paper…put it in the wrong spot and it won’t go down, so you’ll end up fishing for it. Yuck.

2. I’ve learned how to sleep on a dining room table: Well, once it’s transformed into a bed, that is.

3. I’ve learned how to sleep at odd angles: Head higher than my feet, feet higher than my head, one side of the bed slightly higher than the other (just enough  that I feel like I’m “rolling” to one side, and so on.) We don’t have one of those new-fangled rigs that levels itself; we have to try to level off by driving the trailer wheels onto boards—so we can only get so close.

3. I’ve learned how to shower in the tiniest spaces imaginable, where I touch a wall or shower curtain with every move (yuck again.)

4. I’ve learned how to open cabinet doors: We only just realized that half our cabinets (the ones we thought we had to yank hard to open, and slam to close) have a retractable catch on them…all we have to do is pull up a tiny bit on the knobs to open and close the cabinets gently (if they aren’t ruined because we yanked on them and slammed them so often.) Boy, do we feel silly. I guess it goes back to that old axiom: “read the instructions.”

5. I’ve learned to put on my make-up and blow-dry my hair sight unseen.

6. I’ve learned that nature (or camping?!) seems to affect people’s personalities: It makes them kinder, friendlier and more helpful to others. NOTE TO SELF: Spend more time in the natural world and in nature study next year!

7. I learned to do without most of the things I thought I couldn’t do without.

8. I learned to appreciate simple things like my own, comfy bed and a hot shower (especially a shower that lasts as long as you want it to.) I’ve also learned to do what my dad called a “Navy Shower”: Get in and rinse off; turn the water off. Stand there shivering and soap up, then turn the water back on to rinse. Brrr. I’m asking my hubby to install an electric “instant” hot water heater in our trailer ASAP.

9. I learned that when little boys play outside long enough, they’ll put themselves to bed.

10. I learned that a large family can indeed live happily in a very small space.

11. I learned that real life experiences really are the best teachers (for me and the kids).

Helpful hints for new RVers/Campers:

*Create a master packing list (and remember, you really can’t have too many towels, wipes, or zippy bags–we use them to “catch” throw-up on windy roads, and for collecting treasures at the beach, etc.) Kathy: Thanks for the idea! Ben only threw up *once* this trip…the bags worked perfectly.

*Bring bicycles, scooters, etc.

*Buy an electric griddle and cook outside a few mornings (we had scrambled eggs, bacon, and pancakes!)

*Spurge on some really comfortable chairs and a BIG plastic rug for outside time…when you RV, your family room is outside.

*Bring family games along (this trip we played Double Solitaire, Casino, Three Kings in a Corner, and Uno Tiles.)

*Plan to spend lots of time walking and hiking (the trail guides at CA’s state parks are worth the quarter…give the kids the job of finding the markers along the trail. Your job is to read each marker’s entry—it explains what you’re looking at–and help your kids grow their sense of awe.) We love getting out in nature! This trip we’ve seen: Deer, Cormorants (and their babies!), ducks (and ducklings!), Stellar Jays, Chipmunks, and one giant Banana Slug (among other critters.)

-Stop at state parks! Be sure to check out the park’s visitor center. Our favorite this trip was at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park: The Visitor’s Center had labeled birds nests and other park “finds”; stuffed wildlife (we asked, and yes, they died natural deaths…Ben said the tiny fawn there made him want to cry); lift and match flaps with info about the coastal redwoods, animal habitats, etc; maps; history of the area, AND—the boy’s favorite—rubber stamps of animal footprints (we wished we had more time there, but we got there near the end of the day.)

*Have campfires at night and hang out around them; make S’Mores (you can buy JUMBO sized marshmallows at Target stores)

*Spend at least ONE day doing NOTHING but “hanging around” the campsite and relaxing

*Have fun!  ~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 Family Fun, Family Life, Nature Study, Trailer Life | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Gleaning From Charlotte Mason

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on July 31, 2011


This article originally appeared in Home School Enrichment Magazine, issue 37, Jan/Feb ’09. HSE has graciously given me permission to reprint it on my blog. Thanks, HSE! NOTE: I will share more Charlotte Mason approach ideas and links in upcoming posts.

Even if you’re new to homeschooling, you’ve probably heard the name Charlotte Mason. Maybe you’ve heard other terms linked to her name, such as “living literature,” “twaddle,” or “literature approach.” Who was Charlotte Mason? And can parents of young children glean anything helpful from her ideas?

Charlotte Mason was a British educator who lived during the Victorian era. Her writings were first introduced to Americans by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay in her book, For the Children’s Sake. Soon after its release, homeschooling moms (myself included) were wading through reprints of Mason’s six-volume Original Homeschool Series. This series, though difficult to read through, contains many inspiring and applicable ideas. So many, in fact, that other homeschool moms started writing about Mason’s writings, translating them into a more modern, easily digestible style. Now there are numerous books, Web sites, seminars and curriculums dedicated to the Charlotte Mason (CM) approach.

The CM approach is perfect for young learners. Her mottos, emphasis on reading aloud, and use of short lessons all lend themselves naturally to preschoolers, kindergarteners and 1st graders. Charlotte Mason’s motto was, “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.” (1) The atmosphere of the home is important to every homeschooler and includes two vital areas: The emotional tone or feel of our homes, which is dependent upon the attitudes and relationships within a family, and the physical atmosphere in our homes, which is made up of the things within it—books, plants, animals, art, toys, and more.

Obviously, the emotional tone of the home is set by us—the parents. Remember the saying, “When Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”? We all know it’s true. As parents, we need to remember that we set the mood of the day. Our goal is to exemplify the qualities listed in Galatians 5:22-23 (love, joy, peace, longsuffering, etc). Additionally, we must be conscious relationship builders within our family—good listeners and conversationalists who make together-time a priority.

The physical atmosphere of the home is also important. It should be warm, comfortable, and welcoming. We’ve filled our house with books, traditional toys, plants, and animals (I like to say I decorate with books). I want our home to be a haven against the troubles of the world. The discipline Charlotte Mason talks about has to do with the daily routines of life that keep us in order, as well as disciplines of habits. Mason states that most of what makes up our lives is habit.

“The habits of the child produce the character of man, because certain mental habitudes once set up, their nature is to go on forever unless they should be displaced by other habits. Here is an end to the easy philosophy of, ‘It doesn’t matter.’ ‘Oh, he’ll grow out of it,’ ‘He’ll know better by and by,’ ‘He’s so young, what can we expect?’ and so on. Every day, every hour, the parents are either passively or actively forming those habits
in their children upon which, more than upon anything else, future character and conduct depend.” (2)

Mason emphasized that “a habit is ten Natures.” She believed that parents should help their children develop more than twenty habits, training them one at a time, starting in infancy. Examples of sought-after habits include self-control, courtesy, diligence, truthfulness, kindness, respectfulness, thankfulness, attentiveness, and so on.

 “Each of us has in his possession an exceedingly good servant or a very bad master, known as habits. The heedless, listless person is a servant of habit; the useful, alert person is the master of a valuable habit.”  (3)

Obviously, habits are easier to learn than they are to break, and the earlier good habits are mastered, the better. A wonderful book that pulls together Mason’s ideas about habits and how to train them is Laying Down the Rails, by Sonja Shafer.

The life Mason talks about comes from the influence of parents, the atmosphere of the home, and the ideas which influence our lives. Many interpret this to mean “learning is life.” While this is true, Mason seemed to think of education’s “life” as more than that. Mason often referred to both ideas and books as “living.” Ideas grow and change with us, influencing us in ways too numerous to expound upon. They become a part of our very selves. Mason believed that ideas, which often come from books, are to our hearts and minds as food is to our bodies. They are an important part of the “life” of education. Thus books, or at least the ideas in them, are called “living.”

Charlotte Mason says that every child needs “something to do, something to think about, and something to love” everyday.  The home is the ideal place to provide these things for our children. Other commonly used Charlotte Mason terms:

•  Narration: “Telling back” a story or experience, thus promoting retention and speech skills. This is sometimes called “oral composition.”

•  Nature study: Charlotte Mason encouraged parents to take their children outside and into nature everyday—even if only into their own backyards. Neighborhood walks and tromps through the woods or parks are perfect for preschoolers. Mason encouraged children to bring along sketchbooks so they could draw what they see. Parents can extend such learning by bringing along binoculars, hand-held microscopes, cameras, and field guides. “The child who does not know the portly form and spotted breast of the thrush, the graceful flight of the swallow, the yellow bill of the blackbird, the gush of song which the skylark pours from above, is nearly as much to be pitied as those London children who had never seen a bee.’” (4)

•  Picture study: Display copies of famous paintings for your children to look at. Discuss the medium used, and try them for yourself. Notice the use of line,  color, and light in the pictures. Talk about the objects in the picture: What do you see? How does it make you feel? Charlotte Mason suggests looking at pictures from one artist at a time.

•  Living books: Living books are “whole books” (not abridged), written by one author (versus a “textbook committee”) who knows and loves his subject. Classic books are living books. These are the books we can’t put down—the kind that make children beg for “Just one more chapter, pleeeze?!” Classic picture books are the books we enjoy, too, and don’t mind reading to our children over and over.

•  Poetry: Every literature program should include poetry. Start with simple nursery rhymes, and work your way up to A Child’s Garden of Verses, Now We are Six, Eric Caryles Animals Animals, Famous Poems Old and New, and so on .

•  Recitation (Memory Work): The Bible is perfect for memory work, as is poetry. Don’t memorize through drill—practice memory work by reading verses and passages to your children over and over. Play with words, and recite small passages throughout the day.

•  Masterly inactivity: Free time for constructive pursuits such as hobbies, art, exploration, and creative play. Mason advocated that children should have their afternoons free for activities of their own making.

•  Twaddle: “Dumbed-down” books or lessons; meaningless books written to sell a product, books based on a movie, abridged books, and some textbooks.

•  Short lessons: Charlotte Mason taught that short lessons actually encourage the habit of attention.

•  Copybook: What is more natural for young children who are interested in learning to read or write than copying their name, and later, short sentences from books? Copywork is a great way to learn to write. You can extend that learning for older children by using the methods laid out in The Three R’s by Dr. Ruth Beechick.

•  Geography: Geography for the young child should be related to the world they know (home) and the world of books. When you read a picture book that takes place in another country, show your child where the country is on a globe. How far away is it from home? When Daddy takes a trip, show your children his route.

As you can see, the CM approach is a natural approach that works beautifully—especially with young children. It makes use of principles that good parents use instinctively and trains both the heart and the mind. The CM approach can be interpreted and applied in many different ways: Some parents use CM with a strict literature approach, but others use CM methodology with unit studies or even the classical approach (which I think is developmentally inappropriate for young children). For more information about applying the CM approach in your homeschool, investigate the resources listed below.

Recomended Books:

A Charlotte Mason Companion, by Karen Andreola

Educating the Wholehearted Child, by Clay and Sally Clarkson

For the Children’s Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School, by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay

Laying Down the Rails, by Sonja Shafer

The Original Home Schooling Series, by Charlotte Mason

The Three R’s, by Ruth Beechick

Websites: (NOTE: I cannot vouch for all the content of these sites, nor their links.)

http://simplycharlottemason.com

www.amblesideonline.org (good articles, classical approach; but be warned, there is lots of mythology included. You can read CM’s books on this site.)

References:

1. Charlotte Mason’s  Original Homeschooling Series, vol. 6 

2. Charlotte Mason’s Original Homeschooling Series, vol. 1, p. 96

3. Charlotte Mason’s Original Homeschooling Series, vol. 4

4. Charlotte Mason’s Original Homeschooling Series, vol. 1

© 2009 Homeschool Enrichment Magazine, all rights reserved. Used with permission.

Posted in Art, Charlotte Mason Approach, Family Life, Homepreschool, Homeschool, Homeschool Preschool, Homeschooling, Methods, Music, Nature Study, Preschool Science, Reading Aloud | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

The Importance of Responsible Parenting

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on July 27, 2011


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Susan (temporarily from Felton, CA)

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

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

Building Baby’s Brain

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on July 16, 2011


NOTE: I wrote this article for Home School Enrichment Magazine, and it appeared in issue #39, May/June 2009. They have graciously allowed me to reprint it on my blog.

 We’ve all seen them: products that promise to optimize your baby’s brain growth, increase the neural connections (synapses) in your baby’s brain, and give your baby a head start on learning. These claims are based on the fact that babies’ brains grow at a phenomenal rate, which, manufacturers claim, offers  a unique “window of opportunity” that parents can use to maximize their baby’s development. Some manufacturers imply that if you miss this special window  of opportunity, your baby’s intelligence will suffer. These claims are based on the premise that parents can somehow design or wire their baby’s brain, “building” a better baby. Better than they were before! Better, stronger, faster, and of course, smarter.

Many parents do believe that they can greatly influence their baby’s development. They believe that with the proper enrichment and stimulation, they can grow their baby into some sort of genius. Just follow the money and you’ll see the proof of these beliefs: parents spend more than 2 billion dollars on products promising such results every year. But do these products really work? To answer that question, we need to learn a little about brain development.

See How They Grow: Baby Brain Development

There is a lot about the human brain that scientists don’t know and can’t explain. Here are some things they do know: Babies are born with immature brains. While they contain almost the same amount of cells that adult brains do, the cells are not organized or connected properly (compared to an adult brain). During a baby’s first three years especially, his brain is busy building connections between cells. These connections are called neural connections, or synapses. By the time a child reaches three years old, his brain has made most of the necessary connections. In fact, your baby’s brain has made too many connections: the brain of a 3-year-old is twice as active as an adult’s brain. This is because his brain is less efficient than an adult’s brain. Over the next few years, the neural connections are refined: the connections that are used are strengthened, and those that are not needed are pruned away. But this pruning isn’t a bad thing. A child’s brain must prune connections in order to become more efficient. This is not the end of the story, though. The brain continues to grow and prune connections throughout life. Yes, you read that right: the truth is, the brain continues to grow and prune synapses as needed throughout life!  Since babies build these synapses based on experience, many parents assume that the more experiences they can provide for their babies, the more connections their babies’ brains will make, the bigger their brains will be, and the smarter their babies will become. This is not necessarily true. A bigger brain is not a guarantee of greater intelligence. Just look at nature. Many animals have bigger brains than humans do; human males have larger brains than females. Size does not correlate to intelligence. What makes the human brain more intelligent is its unique, God-given organization and refinements.

Since the human brain grows at such a phenomenal rate during its first three years, many “experts” urge parents not to miss the special window of opportunity to influence baby’s mental development during those years. They warn that once missed, the opportunity will be lost forever. They claim that certain skills are especially important to introduce early—primarily the development of second languages and learning music. In truth, the optimal “window of development” extends much longer than some “experts” suppose. From the book, Einstein Never Used Flash Cards:  “The window extends far beyond early childhood. Professor Huttenlocher writes, ‘Second-language teaching and musical training are likely to be more effective if started early, during the period of high plasticity, which includes the early school years (ages 5 to 10 years.)’  Thus, we needn’t rush music and language learning training into he crib.” [Emphasis added.]

There is great comfort in this—comfort for parents who have adopted an older child, for parents of developmentally delayed children, and for those of us who have older children.  We should never think that it is too late to learn music or a second language. It is never too late to enrich and develop your child’s mind and abilities—or even your own.

The Truth about Early Learning Systems

There is no evidence that videos, flash cards, or other infant “learning systems” will make your child smarter. But there is considerable evidence to show they are harmful. As David Elkind says in Miseducation: Preschoolers at Risk, “When we instruct children in academic subjects, or in swimming, or gymnastics, or ballet, at too early an age, we miseducate them; we put them at risk for short term stress and long term personality damage for no useful purpose. There is no evidence that such early instruction has lasting benefits and considerable evidence that it can do lasting harm.” In Einstein Never Used Flashcards, the premise is put forth that the danger of too much early enrichment contributes to “neurological crowding.” This occurs when too much information is presented to children, competing with the neural connections that should be forming in the brain. This competition can potentially crowd out necessary connections and actually decrease the size and number of brain regions related to creativity and intelligence.

Babies need face-to-face interaction with responsive adults to learn. If you are truly concerned about helping your baby grow and develop his brain to its maximum capacity, you should spend time talking to and playing with your baby. Television takes away from a baby’s true learning time. In her article “Baby Einsteins: Not So Smart After All,” (TIME Magazine, August 6, 2007), Alice Park reports on a study from the University of Washington that showed that “With every hour per day spent watching baby DVDs and videos, infants learned six to eight fewer new vocabulary words than babies who never watched the videos. These products had the strongest detrimental effect on babies 8 to 16 months old, the age at which language skills are starting to form. The article continues: “Three studies have shown that watching television, even if it includes educational programming such as Sesame Street, delays language development. ‘Babies require face-to-face interaction to learn,’ says Dr. Vic Strasburger, professor of pediatrics at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics. ‘They don’t get that interaction from watching TV or videos. In fact, the watching probably interferes with the crucial wiring being laid down in their brains during early development.’”

Television and videos can actually delay language development instead of improving it. Additionally, some experts contend that television and videos actually shorten children’s attention spans, overstimulating their immature brains. Television trains children’s minds to expect high levels of stimulation—bright colors and quick changes. Real life is not always as interesting.

The AmericanAcademy of Pediatrics suggests that babies 2 and under shouldn’t watch any television and that it should be strictly limited even after this age. Television takes time away from play, exploration, and interaction with adults. This is where true learning takes place.

Finally, there’s context: Meaningful learning takes place in context. You can teach a baby to memorize the look and shape of words, and perhaps to recognize them, but without the appropriate life experiences and vocabulary to go with those reading skills, this “learning” is meaningless. They will not understand what they “read.” Research has proved over and over that there is no academic advantage to early reading.

What Parents Can Do to Enrich Baby’s Development

• Relationships first: developing a strong, emotional bond of love and trust is most important for you and your baby.

• During the early years, you are training your child’s habits and tastes. Television watching is a habit that is easy to acquire, but hard to break.

• Go ahead and expose your child to classical music. Sing to your children, too.  This may not make them grow synapses, but it will help set their tastes. It will set the stage for appreciation of music, and later, learning music.

• Instead of television, provide your little ones with interesting things to see, do, and explore. Put your baby on a blanket on the floor and place colorful toys around him. Let your toddler play with play dough or explore an indoor “sandbox” made from oatmeal or rice (for toddlers who won’t put it in their mouths!) Add plastic measuring cups and plastic-ware for more fun.

• Change your baby’s point of view. Switch your baby between the floor, a swing, a bouncer seat, a playpen, your arms, etc., and give him a new perspective on the world.

• Talk to your baby/preschooler all the time, about everything you are doing. Talk to your baby using “parentese”: that special, high-pitched voice and exaggerated facial expressions parents instinctively use when talking to babies. Involve your baby in “conversations”: when baby makes a sound, copy it, and then talk to baby. Be sure to pause and give baby time to respond to what you say. This teaches conversation skills.

• Remember that the “experts” who misinterpret brain research to mean that babies must be sufficiently “stimulated” or “taught” before age 3 do so to promote their products. They are using fear and guilt to compel parents to buy unnecessary merchandise.

• This isn’t to say that babies don’t benefit from enriching activities. It is the type and amount of stimulation that matters. Natural learning, as always, prevails as the best way to stimulate your baby’s development: things like gentle, consistent care, talking to babies, singing to babies, and reading to babies.

• Gentle sensory stimulation, if not overused, can be beneficial to babies. Place small babies on different types of textures: carpet, blanket, parachutes, and so on. Play baby games like “X Marks the Spot” or “So Big.”  Give your baby a gentle massage.

• If you want to spend some money on baby-learning products, remember that babies earn through relationship, interaction, play, and exploration. It would be better to invest in quality, old-fashioned toys and spend time playing with your baby than it would be to plop her down in front of a video.

Remember that there is no single window of opportunity that slams shut once babies reach a certain age. The brain continues to grow and prune synapses throughout life. You will not harm your baby by giving him a normal, loving babyhood minus the flash cards and videos. To the contrary—you will be giving your baby the best start possible.

© 2009 Homeschool Enrichment Magazine, all rights reserved. Used with permission.

You might also like: Curriculum for Babies?!

 What Babies Really Need: Creating a Stimulating Home Environment

Reading Aloud to Babies and Toddlers

Posted in Babies, Early Academics, Family Life, Mothering, Music, Parenting, Toys | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

We Have Another Graduate!

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on June 13, 2011


     (Belated post) My daughter Rebekah has graduated from homeschool-high school! (Two down, two to go!) Home Educator’s Resource Center put on its 14th annual graduation ceremony on June 4, 2011, and it was beautiful…just like my daughter!

         One of HERC’s annual traditions is that the kids choose a community leader to honor—someone who has been a help or encouragement to homeschoolers/the homeschool community. This year, it was only natural that they chose to honor our own Peggy (you can learn more about HERC Bakersfield, and Peggy HERE.)  They read a tribute to her, and showed her a beautiful slide show of her life.

        Other traditions: A slide show of the kid’s senior pictures and their senior activities; a senior class theme and Bible verse; a spiritual challenge from the seniors to the juniors, and the graduation speakers (HERC alumni, who give advice to the seniors about staying the course spiritually, the challenges they will face as they become more independent, etc.) I also love that the parents may choose to be the ones to hand their children their diploma (lots of hugs, all around. That’s what we did. The kids still have other hands to shake— representatives of HERC, perhaps their private school satelite program leaders, etc.)

Bekah and one of her close friends, Emily

        Another tradition that I really love is the  “senior bios”. No public school could do this simply because of the size of their schools—graduation would take days! But since we have smaller classes, we have the time to do it.  Right after each senior’s name is called (and while s/he walks down to “shake hands” and get their diploma), their bio is read. It includes things like the student’s interests, accomplishments, awards, goals, and so on. I’m always amazed at the accomplishments of these kids!  Here is Bekah’s bio; I expanded it a tad for you:

Rebekah Anne Lemons

Rebekah Lemons is the second of four children in the Lemons’ family, and the only girl. She has been homeschooled “from birth.”

Affectionately nicknamed “Sis”, her sweet and loving personality has always been a blessing to all who know her.

Ever since she was a little girl, Rebekah has had a vivid imagination. Now that she’s older, she keeps it alive through her creative writing. She rarely goes anywhere without her notebook and her Bible, and hopes to become a (published) Christian fiction author (probably in the fantasy/science fiction genre.) She has memorized entire chapters of the Bible and can read, write and speak Japanese.

Although she’s “shy” in public, her friends and family know she’s anything but shy OR quiet. Rebekah overcame her public shyness to step out into the work world. She’s volunteered more than 300 hours at Summit Bible College, and was named “Volunteer of the Year” in 2010.  She is now employed at the college as an administrative assistant, and has already begun taking courses there. Rebekah plans to get her degree from Summit Bible College and then perhaps go on to another college for a degree in writing.

Bekah’s life verse is Jeremiah 29:11:  (NIV) “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Rebekah (top row, middle right) and *most* of her class

Bekah and her younger brothers (my “two to go”!)
 
     Bekah also got her driver’s license this week, which means that she is driving herself across town to work. Please pray for her to be a cautious, confident and good driver; pray that she stays safe…and pray for my nerves! My baby girl is all grown-up! Where did the years go?      ~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 Family Life, Homeschool | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »