Homepreschool and Beyond

*Relationship *Routine *Readiness *Reading Aloud

  • Categories

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 197 other followers

  • 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 ‘Homeschooling’ Category

Thinking About Homeschooling, 2015 (Near Bakersfield, CA)

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on April 6, 2015


Are you, or any friends or family thinking about homeschooling? Do any of you live in or near Bakersfield, CA? If so, please join me for our annual Thinking About Homeschooling meetings. Thinking About Homeschooling is a Christian ministry I started, whose goal is to help families make the decision to homeschool, and then get off to a confident start. This dates and topics for this year’s meetings are as follows, so save the dates:

Tuesday, May 12: Making the Decision

Tuesday, June 9: Legalities and Record Keeping

Tuesday, July 14: Choosing and Using Curriculum

Tuesday, August 11: Teaching preschool and Kindergarten

For more information, including the location of the meetings, please comment on this post. If you are planning on attending, I will add you to my email loop so that you can receive email reminders, and meeting recaps (with links.) If any of you are out of our area but are thinking about starting homeschooling, I can email the recaps to you (after each meeting.)
NOTE: While a lot of information can be passed along on the blogosphere, nothing compares to talking in person, looking at curriculum and resources with your own eyes, and enjoying the company/encouragement of other parents who are in the situation that you are!! If you can’t attend our meetings, search for meetings in your area. You can check with your local homeschool support group or your private school satellite program; you can also check for groups under the names of “Considering Homeschooling” or “Exploring Homeschooling”.
~Blessings!
Susan

Posted in Deciding to Homeschool or Hompreschool, Getting Started, Homepreschool, Homeschool, Homeschooling, Thinking About Homeschooling? | 1 Comment »

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

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on October 10, 2014


Note: This is a classic post that originally appeared on my Home School Enrichment blog several years back. I’ve updated it, hoping it will encourage you. Thanks HSE, for giving permission for me to re-post it!

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

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

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

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

Another thing you may be learning is the pain of unrealized expectations. They can be heartbreaking. Many homeschoolers, especially new ones, envision the “perfect homeschool”: Cheerful, obedient children who love to learn; a patient, totally organized Mom whose lessons plans are legendary and always completed, and of course, a house that is always perfectly clean and beautifully decorated. It’s hard when our dreams don’t match up with reality.

So what should you do if your year is off to a rough start? Here are some ideas:

-Pray and ask the Lord to renew your enthusiasm about homeschooling. Ask the Lord to give you HIS vision for your homeschool, and the bravery/grace to be able to follow it.

-Take an eternal perspective: Remember that this time at home with your children is just a “blink” compared to eternity. We want our children taught in the way that most benefits their eternity—and that is homeschooling. So we can’t give up!!

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

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

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

-Re-examine your routine. Is it appropriate? Does it include plenty of breaks, and time for younger students to play? Do your children have regular bedtimes, and a set time to wake up? Do you? Do you get up and dressed BEFORE your children do? (I admit, I’m still working on that one.)

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

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

-Consider changing to a year round schedule. A year round schedule allows you to take time off when you need to. You can take time off for family emergencies, illnesses or cleaning days without worry. We take off extra time around the holidays, in exchange for schooling part of the summer (it’s too hot to do anything outside in much of the country, anyway.) During the early years of schooling (K-3), we follow a four day week; Fridays are set aside for catch-up work, park days, field trips, library time, art, messy projects, nature walks, games, life skills, catch up work, and so on (we often can count Fridays as school days, too.)

-Make homeschooling your priority. Schedule everything you can around it. Don’t let the phone or appointments take you away from school time, unless it is absolutely unavoidable. Take the phone off the hook if you need to, or turn off the ringer. Set your cell phone to silent.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on August 28, 2014


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


About us (parents):

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bible Storybooks

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

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

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

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

Happy Day Books (available most Bible bookstores)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some of our favorites for older children:

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

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

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

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

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

Finally: Conversations and Daily Life

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

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

“It makes Jesus happy when you share.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exposing the Seven Major Blindspots of Homeschoolers, by Reb Bradley

Christian Child Training Versus Free-Will by Barbara Frank.

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

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

Helping Our Children Grow Close Relationships with God, Part Two

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on August 20, 2014


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Helping Our Children Grow Close Relationships with God

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on August 18, 2014


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adult Peer Pressure and the Homeschooling Parent

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on July 6, 2014


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PE for Homeschoolers/Homepreschoolers (Activities, Games, and More)

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on February 27, 2012


If there is one area that homeschoolers tend to neglect, it has to be PE. I think many homeschoolers have the attitude that, “if we have to be weak in one area, being weak in PE isn’t so bad.” After all, the public schools are weak in PE, too: Many schools are shortening recesses and shortening or eliminating PE altogether.

There are lots of ways to cover PE…you can even enroll your children in outside-of-the-home activities if you desire (many sport centers even offer classes for homeschoolers now. There are also sport opportunities available through city leagues, private classes, etc—and sometimes PE is offered by homeschool support groups.) However, for the sake of this post, I’m going to stick to providing PE at home.

PE at home isn’t hard to do; it just takes a time commitment. I recommend that you make sure your children spend some time playing outside every day, weather permitting. An hour a day is a good goal (you can even break it up into 15 minute segments if you need to.)

If you don’t have any outside space available to you at home, you’ll have to get creative. A few ideas: Taking off for the park a two or three days a week; purchasing a rebounder, and using it inside; jumping rope; purchasing an exercise DVD, and doing it together; exercising with your Wii. You could also run in place, do sit-ups, jumping jacks, and so on inside.

Even if you do have a backyard, just getting your kids outside to play isn’t really enough. Two or three days a week, plan to go outside with them and lead them in a more “official” PE time. Use this time to build their coordination, strength, endurance, and sport skills (listening skills, too!)

Here are some ideas that are appropriate for children of all ages (unless otherwise noted):

Work on specific sports skills: Throwing and catching balls of all sizes; throwing and catching bean bags, Frisbees, etc; bouncing balls (dribbling); controlling a ball with feet (soccer skills, including kicking); batting skills; basketball skills (making baskets; throwing with good aim, passing, etc)  AND whatever sport skills are important to you or your child. You might even want to choose a “sport of the month” or “skill of the month” to work on.

*Jump rope play: Learn to jump rope (5+) alone and when others turning the rope for them; have two people hold the rope, or tie it to something on one end (I tie mine to one end of our swing set) and then: wiggle it and have your kids try to jump over it without touching it (we call this playing “snake”); jump over the rope when it is held up (“high waters”); lay the jump rope on the ground and walk on it like a balance beam, and so on (get creative!)

*Play outside games: Some games need multiple players, but many can be adapted for even one child (and a parent.)  Examples: Hide and Seek, What Time is it Mr. Fox, Horse, and so on. (see below for other specific suggestions.)

*Practice coordination/build stamina with props: Use hula hoops to make paths to jump/hop/step over; learn to twirl and throw the hoops, etc; balance a ball on a Frisbee and see how far you can walk without dropping it; dance or move while holding streamers, and so on. Go to any dollar store and you are sure to find some props for PE on the cheap.

*Do stretches then calisthenics: Jumping jacks, sit-ups, etc (My Fit has a list of suggested exercises.)

Specific Activities:

*Play kickball, soccer or baseball with a beach ball or other large ball

*Set up “target practice” with bean bags and laundry baskets (you could also use Nerf balls or wiffle balls.)

*Use old 2 liter soda bottles as bowling pins, and a softball as the bowling ball and “bowl”

*Set up an obstacle course and have your children run through it. Use a stop-watch to see if each child can improve their time.

*Learn how to play “four square” (6+), hopscotch, (5+) jacks (6+), and Chinese jump-rope (6+), marbles and croquet (6+)

*Play “red light, green light”: You can play this with even one child. The basic directions are HERE (along with some other fun games); or, play it by having children run, hop, crawl, walk backwards, etc on the “green lights.”

*Play “Simon says” the usual way, or: “Simon says climb up the slide, then run over to the fence and touch it, then walk backwards to me. Ready, set, go!” Or, “Simon says do 25 jumping jacks.”

*Try having your children move in different ways: Hop, skip, jump, run; walk backwards, crab-walk; walk toe-to-toe, tip-toe, walk on heels, tiptoe, side-step, and so on; try moving  like animals: turtle, rabbit, gorilla, lion, dog, cat, bird, and so on.

*Make your child into a living wheelbarrow: Have your child get down on his hands and knees in front of you. Pick up your child’s legs at the ankles and have your child “walk” on his hands. This is a great workout for his arms and back.

*Older children will enjoy playing ping-pong, laser tag or dart tag (with Nerf guns.)

*Have several children or a co-op group? Try rely races: Have children pass a ball over their heads then between their legs; run to a spot, turn around, then tag the next person in line; or, have children run to a specific spot, pick up an object, run it back to the next person, who then runs to the same spot and puts in down, and so on. Games are also tons of fun. A larger group with several adults for supervision can even play more complicated strategy games like capture the flag. Other fun: parachute play (you can substitute a large sheet for a parachute.)

*Some days, you just can’t do everything you’d like to do PE wise. Perhaps your kids need PE, but you aren’t feeling good…perhaps you are over-committed (or just overwhelmed) for that day. That’s the time to use a back up plan. Make up a simple plan to use when you need to get your kids moving but you know you can’t be overly involved.  Have them: 1) Walk around the yard 3 times. 2)  Do 25 jumping jacks. 3) Jump rope 50 times. 4) Walk around the yard one more time. 5) Play outside for at least a half an hour.  Make your own plan, including activities your children know and enjoy. Use it on the days you don’t do formal PE with them, or the days when you need a break.

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

There aren’t very many websites or blogs that have ideas about homeschool PE on them, so if you have any links or ideas to share, please share them in the comment section.  If you are looking for some fun props and toys to use for playtime and PE, check out Hearth Song for some unique outdoor toys. Finally: Have fun. Try to make PE fun for your kids. They will get more out of it and be more cooperative, too.

© 2012 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.  Portions of this post are taken from Homepreschoool and Beyond, used with permission. Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.

Posted in Elementary School, Homepreschool, Homeschooling, PE, Play | 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 »

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 »

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.

Posted in Family Life, Holidays, Homepreschool, Homeschool, Homeschool Preschool, Homeschooling | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Links and Ideas for Thanksgiving

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on November 14, 2011


Here are some of my favorite ideas for Thanksgiving:

The five kernels of corn tradition

-Memorize Psalm 100:4 (or all of Psalm 100), Psalm 118:1, or 1 Thessalonians 5:18

-Make “thankfulness” the  theme of the month. Make a “thankfulness” jar or wall display (tree with leaves, clothespin wreath,  paper wreath, etc.)

-Decorate: Let the kids help you decorate the table, make place cards, etc. Options: Go on a nature walk and gather pretty leaves, acorns, seed pods, etc and combine with pumpkins, persimmons, gourds or fresh fruit and candles’; OR decorate your Thanksgiving table with your kid’s crafts: Handprint turkeys, Paperbag turkeys, Pilgrim Hats, toilet paper tube indians/pilgrims (picture here; directions here),  MORE craft ideas .

Paint place mats, name cards etc with fall colors OR print with leaves, roll a small corn cob in fabric paint then roll on napkins,OR collage popcorn kernels, dried, split green peas, etc on namecards as a border, or the names themselves.

-Purchase a plain, white, cotton tablecloth and fabric pens. Each year, have guests write what they are thankful for on the tablecloth, then date and sign their names. This tablecloth will become more special over the years (be sure pens don’t bleed through to the table; if necessary, put butcher paper or cardboard underneath.)

-Give time (service) or give financially to the homeless shelter, Love Inc., etc. Many groups/churches gather food baskets for the poor this time of year, as well.

Singing: (Hymns): Doxology, Showers of Blessings, Count Your Blessings; (Choruses): God is so Good, -Praise Him, Praise Him ( praise him, praise Him in the morning, praise Him at the noontime…),  Allelu, Allelu, Allelu, alleluia (praise ye the Lord), Turkey Dinner Song 

Finger Plays:  5 Little Pilgrims, 5 Little Turkeys,  lots more HERE.

 Favorite Thanksgiving Books:

Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving, by Eric Metaxas

Three Young Pilgrims, by Cheryl Harness

The Thanksgiving Story, by Alice Dalgliesh

He Remembered to Say Thank-You, by Mann (an Arch Bible story book)

Sometimes it’s Turkey, Sometimes it’s Feathers, by Lorna Balian

Favorite board books include Let’s Celebrate God’s Blessings on Thanksgiving, by Caldwell The Story of Thanksgiving, by Skarmeas, and I’m Thankful Each Day, by Hallinan (the version from Candy Cane Press).

© 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, Book Lists, Family Fun, Holidays, Homepreschool, Homeschool, Homeschool Preschool, Homeschooling | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Finger Play Friday

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on November 11, 2011


NOTE: This finger-play is written out as I learned it.  I do not know its original source. Most finger-plays, like “mother goose” rhymes, have been passed down from mother-to-daughter or from teacher-to-teacher, with slight variations.  When finger-plays are included in books, the author is usually listed as “unknown” or “traditional.” If anyone knows the original source of this finger-play, please let me know so
that I can give credit where credit is due.

This finger play is great to use in fall–for Johnny Appleseed Day, things harvested in fall, etc.

Ten Red Apples

10 red apples grow on a tree (put both hands up and out to make a tree)

5 for you (hold out one hand, indicating “5”)  and 5 for me (repeat, with other hand)

Let us shake that tree just so (hold out hands and pretend to shake tree)

And 10 red apples fall down below (make 10 fingers fall down.)

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 (count each finger).

Posted in circle time, Finger Plays, Homepreschool, Homepreschool and Beyond, Homeschool, Homeschool Preschool, Homeschooling | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Finger Play Friday

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on October 28, 2011


NOTE: This finger-play is written out as I learned it. I do not know its original source. Most finger-plays, like “mother goose” rhymes, have been passed down from mother-to-daughter or from teacher-to-teacher, with slight variations. When finger-plays are included in books, the author is usually listed as “unknown” or “traditional.” If anyone knows the original source of this finger-play, please let me know so that I can give credit where credit is due.

Ten Red Apples

10 red apples grow on a tree (put both hands up and out to make a tree)

5 for you and 5 for me (hold out the five fingers of each hand one at a time.)

Let us shake that tree just so (hold out hands and shake them)

And 10 red apples fall down below (make fingers fall down.)

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 (count each finger).

Naughty Hands

(This one is definitely politically incorrect, but I love it and think it is very appropriate!)

Sometimes my hands are naughty (hold our hands, then slap one with the other)

And so my mother says, that she will have to scold them (shake finger as if scolding)

And send them off to bed (fold hands in prayer stance, then place on side of head; lay head on fingers, turn head to one side as if resting on a pillow, shut eyes and pretend to go to sleep.)

So little hands, be careful, of everything you do (hold out hands and look at them–OR extend pointer finger and shake it)

Because if you are sent to bed, I must go there too! (point to self; then fold hands in prayer stance and place on side of head; lay head on hand, turn head to one side as if resting on a pillow, shut eyes and pretend to go to sleep.)

Posted in circle time, Finger Plays, Homepreschool, Homepreschool and Beyond, Homeschool, Homeschool Preschool, Homeschooling | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a 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 »

Making Storytime Special

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on October 10, 2011


 (Classic repost, updated.)     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2010/2011 Susan Lemons all rights reserved. 

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

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

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on October 2, 2011


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Live the 4R’s!

    ~Susan

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

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

The Parable of the Public Poolers

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on August 9, 2011


By Jonathan Lewis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 »

Homeschool Fair/Human Body Unit

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on July 11, 2011


(This is a belated post…I thought some of the boy’s craft  and school ideas might be fun summertime activities for others, or perhaps inspiration for the next school year.)

My boys have been obsessed with two things this year: Wiki Stix and wooden (puzzle) models. We got to show both things off this spring at our annual “Homeschool Fair.” It really is a fun event—like a science fair, but for every subject. You’ll see things like traditional science projects (including oral presentations to the group), but also history dioramas, notebooking and lapbooking for various disciplines; writing; arts and crafts; child-made videos (we even had some “stop action animation” this year); demonstrations of various types; sewing projects; baked goods (which are then sold as a fund-raiser); Lego models and other types of models, etc, etc. This year there was a display about how chickens lay eggs that included real chickens, and a display about rabbits that included real rabbits. In conjunction with the displays, our group serves a bag lunch (another fund-raiser) AND after lunch there is a talent show (“God’s gifts”): recitations, mime/drama, singing, kids playing their musical instruments, and so on.)  My Josh played piano for this. 

This year, the boys each entered their Wiki Stix sculptures:

They also entered their wooden models (you can find these at Michaels craft stores; they can be colored or painted, as you see.)

Additionally, they  showed off some of their academic work: their human body cut-outs. We traced around their bodies onto heavy white butcher paper and  then read about each major organ; finally, we added them to the body outlines in (approximately),their rightful place, one-by-one.

We used My Body Book by  Patty Carratello  for our patterns, but we beefed up the text by reading tons of other books, as well.

Here is a partial list of the books we read: I-Can-Read Books: Your Skin and Mine, Use Your Brain, A Drop of Blood, What Happens to a Hamburger,  You Can’t Make a Move Without Your Muscles, and Ears are for Hearing, (all by Showers), as well as The Skeleton Inside You, by Balestrino.

(Excuse the funny face–he did it on purpose, of course.) We read numerous “Let’s Read and Find Out About Science” books as well, including Why I Sneeze, Shiver, Hiccup and Yawn.  Some of the “I-Can-Read” and the “Lets Read and Find Out” books were read as review, and then passed along to another family (since my boys had really outgrown them.)  I would say that these books are best for 5-9 year olds or so, although my 10 year old still enjoyed them….and learned a lot from them. They certainly opened up a lot of discussions about how our bodies work.

We also read Body Battles by Gelman (about the immune system) and (a lot of) The Human Body (by Weldon Owen. This was a Costco find that included  overlays; I couldn’t find it online, sorry.)  We used The Human Body as a sort of as reference/”spine” book. It explained the systems of the body nicely, and had beautiful pictures. We also read portions of God’s Design for Life: The Human Body (from Answers in Genesis) which inspired us to branch out for a bit to learn more about  Leonardo Da Vinci  (we read portions of Leonardo Da Vinci and studied his drawings, inventions, and his more famous paintings.)

For activities, we  looked at a real x-ray, listened to our hearts with a real stethoscope, learned how to take our pulse and experimented to see how exercise increased our pulse, examined our skin before and after a long soak in the tub, and examined our skin and hair under 50X magnification, and of course, made the body models. We would review the organs (etc) that we’d already learned about daily, before learning anything new, and I think I’m going to add what we’ve learned to our vocabulary notebooks so that we can regularly review what each organ/system does.)

The study took us about 6 weeks, and during this time we learned about the skin, skeleton, bones/bone marrow, muscles, brain, eyes, ears, kidneys, liver, bladder, cells, spleen, pancreas, gall bladder, appendix, heart, lungs, stomach, small and large intestines, veins and arteries, as well as the systems of the body (we skipped over the reproductive system for now; Dad will cover that with them soon.)

If you decide to do this unit and have several children, you could use the “bus stop” method: Have all your children do their school together, and then “let the preschoolers off the bus” (excuse them from lessons) while you do more detailed reading/work with older children. Preschoolers could make an outline of their bodies, too, and while they wouldn’t remember all the names of the organs/systems and what they do, they certainly could learn about and remember the names and functions of the main organs (brain, skin, bones and muscles, heart, lungs, and perhaps the bladder.) Mature 4 year olds could sit through the easier books, too (the “I-Can-Read About”/”Let’s Read and Find Out About Science” books.)

We will repeat this unit when our boys are older (at a more advanced level) and next time, we’ll include labeling the body parts, bones, etc, as well as studying reproduction.

~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 Art, Crafts, Elementary School, Homepreschool, Homeschool, Homeschool Preschool, Homeschooling, Science, Summertime Fun and Learning | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Why Homeschool: Common Myths About Homeschooling Debunked (part two)

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on June 23, 2011


Myth #4: I’m not patient enough to homeschool—OR-I don’t like my kids enough to homeschool. Remember, when God calls
us to do something, He always gives us the abilities we need to complete it. Patience is developed with practice, prayer, and the work of the Holy Spirit. You
will find that the Lord will use homeschooling to teach you many things; patience may be one of them.

If you don’t enjoy being around your children all the time, perhaps you need to work on strengthening your relationship with them. Or perhaps the issue has to do with discipline (with my two strong-willed little boys, I totally understand the discipline struggles!) If so, take the time to deal with it now. Your children are your responsibility; you can’t pawn off the problems to institutional schools and hope they will deal with it; they won’t. Discipline starts with the heart…only you can do the job. (See my links on discipline helps on the right sidebar, and chapter 3 in my book.)

-Myth #5: Homeschoolers get an inferior education. Only people with teaching credentials are qualified to teach, right?! Wrong! A twenty-plus year study has shown that homeschooled children do better academically than their public-schooled counterparts. Homeschoolers score (on average) 30 or more percentage points higher than public school kids, and do better on their ACT and SAT tests as well. Homeschoolers are MORE likely to go to college, and are heavily recruited by colleges, as well.

-Myth #6: All homeschoolers are right-wing, conservative, religious fanatics. It’s true that many homeschoolers proudly claim that title–myself included (I don’t think you can be too “fanatical” about following God!) However, you should know that since homeschooling has become more common, and since its success has been proven, the number of homeschoolers has grown to include all types of families and religious beliefs (or lack thereof.) Just do a “Google” search for the type of group you are interested in, and you are likely to find them. Many different religious groups are jumping onto the homeschooling band-wagon, including Muslims, pagans, atheists, liberals, and more—so you can no longer label the homeschooling movement in that way. Not everyone homeschools for religious reasons. Some families homeschool to achieve academic excellence; others choose to homeschool due to family situations; to accommodate gifted or delayed children; to maintain a close family life, or just as a personal preference.

Myth #7: Homeschoolers are “indoctrinating” their children. Yup. You’ve got me on that one. But so are the government schools. The truth is, no system of education is completely neutral. Public schools teach their own philosophy (secular humanism/liberal political slant), while others teach theirs (Judeo-Christian values/traditional, constitutional/conservative views.) However, it is not up to the government to decide which is correct. As parents, we have the right to teach our children what we think is best. We strive to teach our children truth. God’s truth. We teach our children creationism and intelligent design; but we also teach them about evolution. We do not hide our children from opposing views, but rather teach them truth, and how to discern between the two. We want our children to know about evolution, and also how to refute it.

For more information/an encouraging look at the effectiveness of homeschooling, take a look at THIS encouraging video.

~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 Deciding to Homeschool or Hompreschool, Elementary School, Getting Started, Homepreschool, Homeschool, Homeschool Preschool, Homeschooling, Thinking About Homeschooling? | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »