Homepreschool and Beyond

*Relationship *Routine *Readiness *Reading Aloud

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  • A Balanced Approach:

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

    “Susan Lemons gives you the blueprint…”

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

Reading Aloud to Babies and Toddlers

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on April 1, 2012


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Tips:

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

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

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

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

Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See, Bill Martin

Goodnight Moon; The Big Red Barn, Margaret Wise Brown

The Three Little Kittens, Paul Galdone

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

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

Very Busy Spider, The, Eric Carle

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

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

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

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

The Pudgy book of Mother Goose, by Richard Walz

Little Golden books, such as:

The Animals of Famer Brown, Richard Scarry

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

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

The Jolly Barnyard, by Annie North Bedford and Tibor Gergely

© 2010, 2012  Susan Lemons all rights reserved. 

Posted in Babies, Book Lists, Family Life, Picture Books, Reading Aloud | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The “4 R’s” for Early Learners (Preschoolers)

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on March 13, 2012


We’ve all heard of the “Three R’s”:  Reading, writing, and arithmetic. Most people believe that these are the basic building blocks of education for all children—even preschoolers.

But have you heard of the “Four R’s”?  The four R’s are not only for preschoolers; they are for children of all ages. They are the real building blocks of education–especially for preschoolers. The four R’s include:  Relationship, routine, readiness, and reading aloud.

Relationship is the first and most important part of any child’s education. Our first responsibility as parents is building a relationship of love and trust with our little ones. Once our children learn to love and trust us–ideally during infancy–we can begin to teach them how to have loving relationships with others. The most important relationship we can help our children develop is their relationship with God. (For more, see my tab on Relationship.)

Routine is the second building block.  Preschoolers need a regular daily routine that they can rely on. They need to have regular times for meals, snacks, naps, and learning activities. Even older children rely on that sense of “what comes next”; it keeps them on an even keel emotionally. I’m not talking about a down-to-the-minute, oppressive routine; just a simple plan for the day that gives children security and regularity. (For example routines for children ages 2-3 and ages 4-5, see my tab on routine.)

Readiness: Children of all ages need to develop readiness before they tackle any new task.  “Readiness” simply means that the child is physically, emotionally, cognitively, and spiritually ready for the experience.  Readiness has everything to do with maturity…and since children mature in their own, God-given time-table, parents must learn to be patient and wait until their child is ready…no matter what their neighbor’s child is capable of.

Parents who wait for signs of readiness, interest, and even natural learning to take place will save themselves and their children hours of frustration.

Readiness is especially important during the first eight years of life.  During this time, there is a vast range of “normal” development.  That’s why homepreschooling/homeschooling works so well:  Parents can individualize their children’s learning.  Where their children are “ahead”, they can let them move them along without holding them back.  In areas where their children struggle, they can slow down, relax, and give their children time to develop readiness.

Reading aloud:  Reading aloud to your children is the single most important thing that you can do to help them learn.  Reading aloud, and the discussion that goes with it, does more than teach the content of the book you’re reading:  It also teaches pre-reading skills such as learning that letters make words, learning that print moves from left to right, learning to value and enjoy reading/language, learning the basics of grammar, learning correct pronounciation, and so on.  It also is a great relationship builder!

I believe that these “4R’s” should be the foundation upon which homepreschooling/homeschooling rests. If these priorities are kept in perspective, everything else naturally falls into place. You may ask, “but what about the traditional 3R’s: Aren’t they important?!” Sure they are…once your child is developmentally ready for them. Most preschoolers aren’t. We have to remember that the curriculum in the public schools has been pushed down to the point that what used to be taught in Kindergarten is now taught in preschool, and what used to be taught in the first or even the second grade is now taught in Kindergarten. No wonder so many children are struggling in school! Preschoolers haven’t changed, but the curriculum has…drastically. Yet many parents expect their children to master it.

I take a different approach: I believe we should give the kids an old-fashioned, relaxed, play-based preschool/Kindergarten, and then slowly, over the years, notch those expectations up. You might say: Expect LESS of them when they are little, but MORE of them when they are older. Most public schools have it the opposite way: Expect MORE of them when they are little, but LESS of them when they are older.

This isn’t to say that preschoolers can’t learn. Preschoolers can (and do!) learn so much. In fact, if you take a look at the “skills lists” in Homepreschool and Beyond, you will probably discover a lot of things that you would never think that preschoolers could or should learn (especially about the Lord, or about nature, science, and the world around them.) In these areas especially, I think many parents underestimate their preschoolers. However,we need to remember that the way preschoolers learn is unique (they learn primarily through play,hands-on experiences, and through being read to and talked to) and the things they should learn are not simply their colors, numbers, and alphabet. There is a whole, vast world to explore, and preschoolers are very curious.

By using the foundation of the 4R’s, we can keep our priorities in order (make the main thing the main thing–relationships), and we can lay down a firm foundation for our children’s later years.

In my next post, I will briefly talk about specifics: What specific things do preschoolers need to be learning or doing, if not early formal academics?

© 2010, 2012 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

Posted in Academics for Four Year Olds, Academics for Preschoolers, Curriculum, Early Math, Goals, Homepreschool, Homeschool, Homeschool Preschool, Kindergarten Readiness, preschool at home, preschool curriculum, Readiness, The 4 R's | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on March 6, 2012


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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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 »

Enter for a Chance To Win Homepreschool and Beyond

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on February 22, 2012


Home Educating Family Magazine has posted a review of my book, Homepreschool and Beyond on their review website. Hop on over, read the review, and enter for a chance to win one of two copies of Homepreschool and Beyond. Good luck!

~Susan

Posted in Book Reviews, Homepreschool and Beyond, Reviews of Homepreschool and Beyond | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Homeschool in Freedom: Breaking All the Rules, Part Two

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on February 20, 2012


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 »

The Truth About Early Formal Academics (revisited, with lots of new research links)

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on February 8, 2012


We’ve all heard these sayings about education: “the earlier the better.” “Let’s start our kids early, and give them an advantage.” “Early readers do better in school,” and so on. But are any of these widely held ideas true? Is there any proof to back up these sayings? The truth is, not one single study that has shown that early formal academics are beneficial to normal young children from loving homes. No study has shown any long-term benefit to early formal academics, and there is no proof that learning to read earlier is better than learning later. However, there is considerable proof that early academics can cause harm.

Consider this: Until the last 30-40 years or so, most children weren’t introduced to the alphabet in a formal lesson type of way until Kindergarten–and even then, often only the upper case letters! Nowadays, many children are taught the alphabet in preschool—or even before (as toddlers.) The results have not been encouraging. In fact, the more the public schools demand of young children, the worse America’s children do—academically and behaviorally. I don’t think this is a coincidence. Look at the evidence for yourself:

-More and more children are being diagnosed with learning disorders. Many developmental experts believe this is due to the recent “push down” in preschool/school curriculum, combined with a lack of time for play and other more traditional preschool-type activities.  On average, 1 in 6 children are diagnosed with some type of  developmental disability, a 15% increase between 1997-2008 (this is mostly due to attention deficit disorder.)

School/academic  preschool often presents unique problems for boys:  Boys are more likely to be diagnosed with attention deficit disorder  than girls are, probably because boys naturally have higher activity levels than girls do, and thus have a harder time sitting still (or listening, or being quiet, etc…). Additionally, in general, boys mature later than girls, and often are not ready for formal academics.

-Literacy and literary knowledge continues to decline. The web is abuzz with commentators questioning/lamenting: “Is reading dead?”  Even Steve Jobs is quoted as saying, “It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don’t read anymore. Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year.”

But there is hope…Most commentators  conclude that reading is not dead–it’s just changing. Less people are reading the great literary works, and more are reading in short snippets–tweets, texts, and blogs versus reading real literature. If that is true,  reading is in its death throes as far as I’m concerned. Thank-goodness homeschooolers are still keeping it alive! (For more, read the Literary Crisis  or read the shocking statistics about reading in the U.S.)

-Studies have shown that children whose preschool experience was child-initiated did better in elementary school. From Moving up the Grades: Relationship between Preschool Model and Later School Success, by Rebecca A. Marcon, University of North Florida: “.….By the end of their sixth year in school, children whose preschool experiences had been academically directed earned significantly lower grades compared to children who had attended child-initiated preschool classes. Children’s later school success appears to have been enhanced by more active, child-initiated early learning experiences. Their progress may have been slowed by overly academic preschool experiences that introduced formalized learning experiences too early for most children’s developmental status” (emphasis added; read the entire article HERE.)

-Many parents/schools are “miseducating” young children. From “Academics, Literacy, and Young Children,” Childhood Education, Spring 2000, by Elizabeth M. Nel: Important points: “Miseducation…(It) puts a child at risk for psychological damage (Werner & Strother, 1987); what is worse, it is apparently for no good reason, since the benefits of early reading instruction are relatively insignificant. …Therefore, with respect to literacy, developmentally appropriate preschool academics do not involve formal reading instruction, but rather they promote print awareness (Kontos, 1986) by exposing young children to letters, words, and numbers in meaningful contexts (Lesiak, 1997).…Reading to children is one of the best ways to model literacy skills (Bus, Van Ijzendoorn, & Pellegrini, 1995). Reading should not be limited to a set story-time, but rather should be shared with children throughout the day.”

-There is no advantage to learning to read early: From Rush Little Baby: How the Push for Infant Academics Might Actually be a Waste of Time-or Worse, by By Neil Swidey, October 28, 2007, The Boston Globe: (Watch the video, then scroll down for the article. It’s long, but worth the time; and it’s not only about infants.) Quote: “A classic study in the 1930s by noted researcher and Illinois educator Carleton Washburne compared the trajectories of children who had begun reading at several ages, up to 7. Washburne concluded that, in general, a child could best learn to read beginning around the age of 6. By middle school, he found no appreciable difference in reading levels between the kids who had started young versus the kids who had started later, except the earlier readers appeared to be less motivated and less excited about reading. …”Many efforts to teach a child to read before 4 or 5 years of age are biologically precipitate and potentially counterproductive for many children. ‘The danger in pushing reading too early, Wolf says, is that, for many children, we may be asking them to do something for which their brains are not ready. You run the risk of making a child feel like a failure before they’ve even begun,’ she says. And while the gains from early reading may fade away, the damage from being tagged a slow kid at a young age has the potential to be permanent.’” …..”Study after study shows the best thing parents can do for their children is give them a nurturing, rich, vibrant environment, reading to them often and exposing them to lots of language in organic ways. Reading books out loud is most effective when the parent uses the words on the page to help the child make connections to his or her own world.” …”As long as parents are exposing their children to a nurturing, vibrant environment, reading to them regularly, and speaking with them intelligently, they should feel free to put the flash cards away.”

. -Harm is the result when children enter an academic first-grade program too soon: This is from a surprising source–The Longevity Project,  a twenty year project at the University of Riverside: (My summary):  According to the study, these children had adolescent problems, problems later in life, and “an earlier DEATH!” Now THAT’S scary!! (NOTE: The study results regarding early learning are toward the end of the video, linked above.)

My conclusion: We should relax and enjoy the preschool years! Following your children’s lead when it comes to early academics is the wisest choice. Watch your children for signs of interest and natural learning, so that you neither push your children, nor hold them back. Remember, our goal should be to find “balance”….we do this by addressing the needs of the whole child (spirit, mind, and body) and by using an individualized, developmentally appropriate approach. This is more than just a “good idea”; it is a necessity, since every child is different and develops at his/her own, God-given time-table.

Finally: It’s important to know that most, if not all of the studies that are highly promoted as showing  the “benefits” to early formal education have been done on “at risk” or “disadvantaged” children, NOT children from average American homes. Furthermore, the studies showed that any “advantage” the children gained was short-lived, and disappeared altogether by the third grade. Furthermore, the studies ignored the negative effects of early formal education, such as those listed above (and more.) Still not convinced? Check out the links below, and the following books:

 Links About Readiness:

Best Homeschooling (ALL these articles are great!)

Preschooling at Home: My article, What Your Preschooler Really Needs (lots of good resources on this site.)

Is Five Too Soon to Start School? (from the U.K.)

Should Preschools be all work and no play? (This highlights a lot of the research I mention above in a practical way. Remember, as homeschoolers, we don’t have to get our children ready for Kindergarten; we can make our Kindergarten ready for them, instead.)

Paula’s Archives (another great collection of articles)

Books about Readiness/Early Learning:

Endangered Minds: Why Children Don’t Think-and What We Can Do About It, Jane M. Healy, PH.D., Simon and Schuster Paperbacks, 1990.

Home Grown Kids, Raymond and Dorothy Moore*

Miseducation: Preschoolers At Risk, David Elkind*

Einstein Never Used Flashcards, Kathy Hirsh-Paskek, Roberta Michnick Golinkoff

The Three R’s by Ruth Beechick*

(Remember, there is a whole chapter on the issue of readiness in Homepreschool and Beyond.)

 © 2010, 2012  Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

Posted in Academics for Four Year Olds, Academics for Preschoolers, Early Academics, Homepreschool, Homeschool Preschool, Kindergarten Readiness, preschool curriculum, Readiness | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

How Do You Measure Success (In Homeschool/Homepreschool)

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on February 4, 2012


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

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

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

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

3)  How do you measure success?

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

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

About Relationship:

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

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

-Do my children want to please God?

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

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

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

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

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

About Routine:

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

-Has our routine helped us develop helpful habits?

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

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

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

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

About Readiness:

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

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

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

About Reading Aloud: 

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

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

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

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

About Academic Goals: 

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

-Am I challenging my children without pushing them?

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

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

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

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

Live the 4R’s!

~Susan

© 2010, 2012 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

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

Our School Room

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on January 23, 2012


After 18 years of homeschooling….finally, we have a school room! We recently went through a bit of a home renovation. My hubby put laminate wood floors in most of the house, and we re-arranged our room set up. What was the formal dining room became the formal living room, and what was the formal living room became our school room. Our china hutch and large table, which were rarely used, were moved into our kitchen’s dining area, and the small table we had there was moved into our school room. Our school room is  really a multi-purpose room: We use it during our school time, of course, but I also use it as my office, as well as a library and a game room.

Our schoolroom is at the front of the house, away from the usual action. It is quiet there and far away from the kid’s bedrooms, which makes it a perfect retreat for me in the evenings or early in the morning.

The best thing about it is being able to have (most) everything in one place, and being able to have a place for school work besides the dining room table. I love being able to fix lunch while leaving our work in progress out in the schoolroom, instead of having to clear away the work in progress.

As you can see, it doesn’t LOOK much like a schoolroom. To me, the most important word in the word “homeschool” is home, so I wanted our schoolroom to look like home. I always wanted it to be full of light and life, including plants and animals. We definitely have the plants, but I’m not so sure about adding any animals yet. We already have three dogs and a cat (they live outside), and each of the boys has their own fish tank in their rooms. I might eventually try adding a Beta fish. I’d really love to have a guinea pig again, or a bird, but considering the allergies and asthma that plagues us, I don’t think it would be a good idea. But come spring, we’ll probably have some type of caterpillars or maybe an ant farm.  I also want to try my hand at a terrarium.

The only wall that looks like a “schoolroom”, I suppose, is hidden from view unless you walk into the room and turn around. On this wall, I have our “I-Can” chart, some reminders from our Bible curriculum for the year, a pledge to the Christian flag/pledge to the Bible chart, and Rod and Staff’s blossom charts. Our calendar is behind a cabinete door, and our other drill materials are either in a binder or in flash-card form (kept in a wooden box on the shelf.)

What Do We Keep in Our Schoolroom?

Art Supplies: We don’t have room to keep all our art supplies in our schoolroom– we still have to keep most of them in our utility room. We do keep the most-used, least-messy goodies hidden away in a couple of the cabinets: Paper, colored pens, colored pencils, glue and glue sticks, staplers, etc, so that the boys can make their own “books”, notebook pages, timeline cards, and so on.

School Work: We keep the seatwork we use daily in a small wire cart that has three drawers—one for each for the boys, and one for me. I have their next work, their completed work, and timeline figures filed in the box above.  I keep the less-often used forms and extra math drills in a red  hanging file holder. All the books we are reading for school are kept on the bookshelves, along with books that I want to encourage the boys to read, or the books I want to read aloud to them.

Books: Dictionaries and other reference materials, readers, books for this school year

My Stuff: Computer, Bible study materials, journals, paperwork, stationary, my reading.

Miscellaneous: Musical instruments (some of them), learning games, reference materials for my writing, white boards, clip boards, a globe, my computer, and so on.

Remember, a schoolroom is NOT a necessity; it really is a luxury. We’ve homeschooled many years without one, so don’t feel as if you have to have one in order to homeschool successfully. Even now, we use the whole house to homeschool…we still use the living room for reading aloud and the family room for night-time reading; we use the kitchen for messy projects (art, science, whatever), and the boys often take their clipboards  into their rooms to work in private. The most important thing is finding a space and making it work for you. A “school room” doesn’t have to look like a schoolroom unless you want it to.

You might also like: The Key Word in “Homepreschool” is “Home”  and “Home Sweet Homepreschool”

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

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Goals and New Year’s Resolutions

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on January 5, 2012


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christmas Gift!! (Gotcha!)

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on December 25, 2011


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

The “Christmas Gift” Tradition

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

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

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

So, from my family to yours…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Button Trees

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on December 23, 2011


This is a great “mommy craft” or craft for older kids. I saw the idea on Better Homes and Garden’s site.  Warning: Making these trees is addictive, but this isn’t a cheap craft. I think we spent close to $12 a tree.

You will need:

Styrofoam “trees”

Lots of buttons (a couple of hundred)

Pearlized, long pins (in the BHG picture they used only white; we used colored; again, a couple of hundred.)

         

A small star, or cotton fabric scraps to make a small bow

Here’s what we did: Starting at the bottom and with the largest buttons, we attached the buttons with the pins going around the tree. At the bottom you have to be careful to pin them straight in so that you don’t have sharp pins sticking out; when you get to the top, you have to point the pins down for the same reason.

After the first row is complete, start the next row, overlapping the buttons. When all the rows are done, use tiny buttons to cover up any blank spots. Finally, we pinned fabric bows on the top.

I was surprised how much the boys enjoyed this. Josh liked it so much that he made two!

Didn’t they turn out great?! They make nice presents, too. Josh was very proud to give one of his trees to his piano teacher.

NOTE: BHG mentions the option of dipping each pin in glue before poking them in. That might be a good idea if your tree is going to be handled a lot. If you use glue, I’d recommend Styrofoam glue.

Obviously this is a craft for older children who are responsible and careful with small, sharp objects. Additionally, I’d recommend keeping the finished trees out of the reach of young children, glue or no glue.

~Susan

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

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Finger Play Friday: There Was a Little Turtle AND Tiny Tim (song with motions)

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on December 23, 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.

There Was a Little Turtle

(NOTE: To make turtle, hold hands out with thumbs touching. Keeping hands in the same position, lay one hand on top of the other. There should be one thumb on both sides of your hands. To make “turtle” swim, twirl thumbs in a circle.)

There was a little turtle (make turtle, twirl your thumbs)

Who lived in a box (use pointer fingers to draw a box)

He swam in a puddle (use hands and arms to “swim”)

He climbed on the rocks (use hands to pretend to “climb.”)

He snapped at a mosquito, he snapped at a flea, he snapped at a minnow and he snapped at me. (say slowly; on the word, “snapped”, clap outwards like you are snapping at something)

He caught the mosquito, he caught the flea, he caught the minnow (do the same as you did on the word “snapped”)

But he didn’t catch me! (say phrase slowly and with emphasis; wag pointer finger from side-to-side)

(you can also SING this one; the tune is the same one that is used for Tiny Tim. <click to hear tune>)

Tiny Tim Song (with motions)

I had a little turtle, his name was Tiny Tim (make turtle as above)

I put him in the bathtub, to see if he could swim (make swimming motions)

He drank up all the water, he ate up all the soap (make eating motions)

And now he’s blowing bubbles, out of his tiny throat.

Bubbles, bubbles, bubbles………etc till at the end of the phrase, when you shout, “pop!”

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The Importance of Keeping Traditions

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on December 17, 2011


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Product Details

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

– Traditions are FUN!!

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

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

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

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

-Reading TONS of Christmas books

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

Advent Calendar/Pop-Up

-Attending our church’s Christmas Eve service.

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

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

Kid’s Crafts from Martha Stewart 

Family Fun Magazine

Activity Village

The Artful Parent

-Traditional crafts for older kids: Orange Pomanders 

Metal garden lanterns or candle lanterns

-Inspirations for mommy-crafts:

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

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

Have fun!

~Susan

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

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Teaching Our Children About the Symbols of Christmas

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on December 7, 2011


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus Tree

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

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

Christmas colors: 

Red-the blood of Jesus

Green-God’s everlasting love

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

Purple-the color of royalty.

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

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New Review of Homepreschool and Beyond/How You Can WIN a Copy

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on December 6, 2011


I am very excited to announce a new review of Homepreschool and Beyond.  Along with the review is a chance for you to win one of two copies for FREE! Read the review and find out how to enter on the wonderful blog, Generation Cedar.  If you have never taken the time to visit Generation Cedar, you are in for a treat! Enjoy, and good luck!

~Susan

Posted in Homepreschool and Beyond, Reviews of Homepreschool and Beyond | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

The Stuff That Dreams are Made Of

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on November 29, 2011


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arch” Christmas books (available at Bible bookstores)

The Legend of the Candy Cane (Walburg)

An Orange for Frankie (Polacco)

The Polar Express (Allsburg)

Apple Tree Christmas (Noble)

The Twelve Days of Christmas (Haidle)

Why Christmas Trees Aren’t Perfect (Schneider)

Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree (Barry)

A Letter to Santa Claus (Weninger/Moller)

The Light of Christmas (Evans)

Deck the Stable (Eastwick)

An Early American Christmas (dePaola)

The Tale of the Three Trees (Hunt)

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

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

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

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).

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