Homepreschool and Beyond

*Relationship *Routine *Readiness *Reading Aloud

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    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

Posts Tagged ‘Goals’

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.

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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 »

How Do You Measure Success (In Homeschool/Homepreschool)

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on February 4, 2012


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

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

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

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

3)  How do you measure success?

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

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

About Relationship:

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

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

-Do my children want to please God?

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

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

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

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

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

About Routine:

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

-Has our routine helped us develop helpful habits?

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

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

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

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

About Readiness:

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

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

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

About Reading Aloud: 

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

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

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

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

About Academic Goals: 

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

-Am I challenging my children without pushing them?

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

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

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

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

Live the 4R’s!

~Susan

© 2010, 2012 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

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

Goals and New Year’s Resolutions

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on January 5, 2012


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Stuff That Dreams are Made Of

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on November 29, 2011


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arch” Christmas books (available at Bible bookstores)

The Legend of the Candy Cane (Walburg)

An Orange for Frankie (Polacco)

The Polar Express (Allsburg)

Apple Tree Christmas (Noble)

The Twelve Days of Christmas (Haidle)

Why Christmas Trees Aren’t Perfect (Schneider)

Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree (Barry)

A Letter to Santa Claus (Weninger/Moller)

The Light of Christmas (Evans)

Deck the Stable (Eastwick)

An Early American Christmas (dePaola)

The Tale of the Three Trees (Hunt)

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

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

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

Training Your Children for Christ: Steps to Effective Parenting

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on October 22, 2011


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

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

Things Parents Should Do

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Susan

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

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

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on December 31, 2010


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

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

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

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

     Here are the questions I’ve been asking myself:

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

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

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

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

-Am I spending enough time in the Word? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Blessings,

           Susan

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

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

Curriculum Planning, 2010-2011 (part two)

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on July 28, 2010


     Now we get to the really fun topics of study!  Here are our plans for units, art, and music:

Unit Study (History/Geography/Science): 

     This year we are going to alternate between history and science by topic, treating each as its own unit study. 

~History:  TruthQuest.  TruthQuest is a literature approach that includes suggested reading (living literature) to cover each time period, as well as text that ties each event/time period together.  I chose it because many other curriculums that use a literature approach don’t tie events together at all..they don’t even try.  We’ll use Homeschool in the Wood’s  Time Traveler’s series for lapbooking activities to go along with it, as well as Sonlight’s Timeline figures (we’ll be making a card file timeline—more on that later.)  

Science: 

~Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Zoology 1: Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day, supplemented with Knowledge Box Central’s lapbooks.  We’ll throw in all the non-fiction/”living” books we can find on each topic as well as any field trips or activities we can, turning each topic into a “chicken unit study” (a.k.a. a unit study for “chickens” who don’t want to step out and plan units without any textbooks/pre-made curriculum at all.  Instead, the textbooks become our “spine” or outline of study.)

Music: 

~Music lessons:  Private music lessons (piano and violin, repectively.) 

~Listening:  We will play one CD of classical music for a month at a time, until the boys are familiar (or re-acquainted) with it; at the end of each month, I hope they will be able to identify the composer and some of the pieces just by listening.  My choices: 

     ~Paganini  (best of)

     ~Mozart’s String Quartets K387 and 421   (my boys already enjoy these)

    ~Mozart’s Requiem 

    ~Handel’s Messiah  (Think: Hallelujah Chorus.)  If you aren’t familiar with it, you’re in for a treat.  It’s a little “long hair” to those who are new to classical music, but give it a chance!  It tells the entire life of Christ through music. It’s moving and beautiful.  Give a listen to the samples of the choruses “And the Glory of the Lord”, “For Unto Us a Child is Born”, or—get ready to cry and listen to “Surely he Hath Borne Our Grief’s”, or “He Trusted in God that He Would Deliver Him”, which re-inacts the crowds who were mocking Jesus while He was on the cross.)

     ~Handel’s Water Music

     ~Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker

~The best of John Williams (movie themes—I think he is one of the greatest composers of our time.  He wrote the themes for Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Superman, E.T., Hook, etc, etc.  These are like beautiful mini-symphonies.)

~Glenn Miller (classic “big band” or “swing” music–love that brass!)

~The Imperials and the Cathedrals  (both in one month)–these are classic southern gospel albums that include quartet music, hymns, spirituals, and some pop.  Many of you young moms may consider this type of music to be “corny”, but be assured, the musical difficulty and quality is amazing (especially the vocals, which both groups are most famous for.)  If you want your children to learn to discern complex harmonies and be able to pick out the individual parts in music, these are indispensible.  Give a listen to some of the samples and see for yourself:  On the Imperials’ CD, sample “The First Day in Heaven”, “Sweet, Sweet, Spirit”, “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”; on the Cathedrals, give a listen to “This Old House” and “Wonderful Grace of Jesus”.  Just when you think their bass goes down as low as is humanly possible, he goes down an octave more!  (Don’t forget that you may be able to listen to more complete portions of the music I recomend on You Tube.)

~Singing:  Hymn of the month–We will choose one hymn that we will sing (during our worship time-along with other worship/”Sunday School” type songs) every school day for a month, OR until the boys have the chorus and at least one verse memorized.  I choose these according to what is going on in our lives spiritually.  Our first hymn will be “I Surrender All.”

      We will also sing during our unit time (we’ll listen to music of the time periods we study, learn the folk songs of the time, etc.) 

Art:  My goal this year is for the boys to do all of the art projects listed in my book—there are 56!  (These are open-ended projects appropriate for almost any age–preschool through early grade school.)  We will also be using Artistic Pursuits at least once a week. 

     Whew!  It does seem like a lot, but I’m hoping that the elements will work together well.  If I decide we need to tone it down a bit, we will.  I want to keep things simple, consistent, and FUN this year.

Live the 4R’s! 

       ~Susan

© 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

Posted in Art, Curriculum, Elementary School, Goals, Music | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Helpful Advice for Homeschooling Elementary School-Aged Children

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on June 12, 2010


Simplify the Curriculum, or “Colette’s List of 10 Things  (with my own comments added):

1).  Keep everything as simple as you can. Jesus wrote with a stick in the dirt, and He was the greatest teacher that ever lived. He used no curriculum or flannel graphs or lesson plans. Homeschooling can be made far more complicated than it should be. A simpler approach is much more effective.

     Why do we make things so difficult for ourselves?  Why do we feel we need to spend hundreds of dollars on curriculum, “educational toys”, manipulatives, etc to homeschool successfully?  Why do we glue ourselves to one single method or curriculum? 

      Remember, there is no perfect curriculum.  There is no special toy/manipulative or magical homeschooling method that will teach your children and solve all your problems.  The truth is, we can make almost anything “work” as curriculum if we need to–in fact, before buying curriculum, it’s always a good idea to ask yourself if it is really necessary at all.  Many topics can be taught naturally using real books and discussion. 

     The key to homeschool success is relationship–your relationship with your children; the time you spend working with them one-on-one; your ability to individualize your methods and curiculum; the time you spend reading aloud and then discussing what you’ve read.  Relationship is more important than curriculum (or method.)

2).  Stick to the 3 R’s. They form the foundation of life-long learning in every field because they are the tools of study. There will be no need to formalize any other subject if the children are doing their best in these 3, because people who are well grounded in reading, writing and math will approach other subjects boldly, independently and confidently.

     I have to add Bible to that…I believe our most important subjects are Bible/Christian Character, math, and language arts.  We should concentrate most of our time on these.  Be sure to go for mastery, not just “exposure” in these subjects.  I have a good friend who says, “If your child knows and loves the Lord, loves to learn, can read and write well, knows basic math, and knows how to do research –then what else does he need?”   (Thanks, Peggy!)

     Do you worry about “gaps”?!  Things your children will miss?  All children have “gaps”.  You have them, too.  There is simply too much to learn; no one can master it all.  But if you love to learn and if you know how to do research, you will want to fill those gaps when they come up–and you’ll know how to do so.  You will be a lifelong learner.

     Don’t get me wrong; I do want my children to know science, history, geography, etc.  We do teach those subjects in our homeschool.  I also believe that art and music are important.  But sometimes we overlook the fact that our children learn lots from real life, being read to and through independent reading.  We make things harder than they need to be.  If your children haven’t mastered the basics yet, try concentrating on mastering them  for awhile.  For your other subjects, read aloud to your children, and discuss what you’ve read.  Also encourage your children to explore their own interests during their free time. 

3).  Let the children teach themselves as much as they are able to. This teaches them responsibility, intellectual independence, and builds confidence. It’s also better for the parent/child relationship because you can focus on parenting instead of playing schoolteacher.

     I agree, and yet disagree with this one.  I make it a rule not to do anything for my children that they can do for themselves; I encourage them to learn how to work “independently”  in their chores and their schoolwork (more and more as they grow older.)   But that doesn’t mean I expect to totally give up my role as “teacher-mom”  and turn all learning over to my children.  I think there has to be a balance of independent work and facitiated learning/discusion. 

      Sometimes in our haste to make things easier for ourselves, we turn too much over to our children too soon.  To make the most of our homeschool, we need to maintain our involvement in our children’s school work.  At the least, we should introduce new concepts and discuss them; introduce new assignments, communicating to our children exactly what is expected of them; supervise/check in on our children as they work; read aloud/discuss their learning; ask them to talk to you about what they’ve learned (or narrate–either verbally or through a report), and finally, inspect (check) their work immediately upon it’s completion.  If we overlook these things, we miss out on the best parts of homeschooling and in my opinion, let our children down. 

     I must admit, I didn’t do the best job with this for my older set of children.  I was so busy with my little ones that I entrusted them with too much independence too soon.  I didn’t discern their true needs.  Be careful to find a balance in your homeschool, so that you don’t repeat my mistakes.  (Note:  Plan to sit right with your children while they are doing their assignments for the first few years.  Maturity comes before independence.)

4).  Use the most direct method available. For reading, read. For writing, write, for math, do it, and for Bible, read it. Don’t fall for catchy curriculums or methods that are really just something else for you and your child to learn. 

     See my post, “Homeschooling Early Elementary…Keep it Simple”, HERE.  

5).  Don’t worry about your child’s age or grade. Just let him do the best he can each day. Children grow intellectually like they do physically: in spurts. Although we may have an audience of skeptical relatives, homeschooling is not a circus, and we refuse to train our children to do tricks for people.

     Our goal should be to find out where our children are now, and then move them forward from there.  Slow and steady wins the race!  We tend to expect far too much of our younger children, and not nearly enough of our older children.  Instead, duing the early elementary years, back off a bit and wait for readiness.  Children in Sweeden and Switzerland don’t even start school until they are 7, and yet they outscore American children on standardized tests.  (See my tab, “Readiness”, and my archived posts on readiness as well.)

 6).  Minimize distractions in the home. Watch for excessiveness in entertainments, snacking, outings, phone conversations and the like. These sorts of things can easily get out of hand and compete with the effectiveness of a homeschool and sap the family of time and energy.

     Such distractions also get in the way of our children’s time to play,  explore their hobbies/interests, and so on.  These are vitally important to children of all ages.  Distractions eat up our own time as well; especially the time we could be spend reading the Bible,  playing games with our children, and giving them unrushed, real life experiences (cooking, nature walks, art, etc) they need.

7).  Seek quality over quantity. A few tapes of great music, a small case of carefully chosen books, a few special play mates, and an occasional outing is better than a large, but poor quality collection.

     Often we spend hundreds of dollars on these things–with the best of intentions–only to have them gathering dust on a shelf.  Start with a few of the best, and use them.  Once your children become familiar with the books and CD’s you have, you can add more.  This saves you from stress and guilt…and it saves money, too.  Sometimes I think we give ourselves so many options that we don’t know what to do; we’re like toddlers overwhelmed by a mountain of toys.  Less really can be “more.”  Believe me about this–I’ve learned it the hard way.

8).  If you must document your school activities, do it after the fact. This way you will not make promises you cannot keep. If you are required to make lesson plans, be as vague as permissible. Don’t let transcripts, diplomas, records and tests determine your academic plans. Focus on learning and the rest will follow.

     I don’t know about you, but I hate those “teacher plan” books…I dispise those empty boxes (even if I planned my day that way–i.e. alternating subjects.)  This year we’re using a simple, journal-type planner.  I added my own tabs to divide up the weeks, as well as tabs for writing down the books we read, resources we’re using, etc.

9).  Put the needs of your youngest, most vulnerable children first. If an older child gets a little behind in school, I’m sure you can forgive yourself. But if something happened to the toddler while you were busy homeschooling, I don’t think you would be able to say the same.

     Once we’ve given our youngest what they need, they will be content to let us work with our older children.  See my tab on “Routine”, and my article, “Keeping Little Ones Busy.”

10).  Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul and don’t neglect to seek him early…giving him the first fruits of your day and teach your children to do the same. I know that you are tired and that there aren’t enough hours in your day, but we serve a God who can make the sun stand still.

     Examine yourself:  Do you “make the main thing (JESUS!) the main thing”  in your personal life/homeschool/family life?  Do you spend time in the Word everyday?   Does your life reflect your most important goals?  Do you live out your faith?  Does your life rotate around GOD, or your family/homeschool?  (OUCH.)   I know I have a long way to go regarding these matters…I’ve been very convicted lately about truly living out my most important goals.  

     For more about “the main thing”, see my post, “Challenge To Christian Parents.” 

     Live the 4R’s!   ~~Susan

     Info about this post:  Simplifying,”   according to my information, this was orginally posted on the RC4JC Yahoo group and is used with permission:  “Anyone can use Colette’s list of 10 things; she’d like it if they credit the e-group or her by name, but it’s otherwise free for use without any conditions.”  (If this information is incorrect, please let me know so I can give credit where credit is due.  I did my best to find the orginal source.)

Colette is one of the moderators of the Robinson Curriculum email group:
Robinson Users for Christ

Simplify the Curriculum © Colette Longo, used with permission.  Other portions of this post: © 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

Posted in Curriculum, Elementary School, Encouragement, Goals, Holiness, Homeschool, Homeschooling, Methods, Readiness, Reading Aloud, Relationships, The 4 R's, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Are You Homepreschooling for the Wrong Reasons?

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on May 28, 2010


          The more I talk to parents of young children, or read their blogs, the more I see that many of them are, in my opinion, homepreschooling them for the wrong reasons:

      *To keep the kids busy and “out of my hair”:  I don’t know how many times I’ve heard moms say that the only reason they homepreschool their little ones is to keep them busy and “out of my hair” so that they can have some time to themselves, or some time to teach their older children.  Homepreschool is not about what is best or easiest for us; it is about giving our preschoolers what they need to optimize their growth and development.  If you are homepreschooling only to “keep them busy”, examine your motives carefully and ask yourself if you are really giving your preschoolers what they really need and deserve.  Additionally, remember that our little ones are perceptive of our attitudes.  They will know if we teach them half-heartedly, and if we view them to be a burden or interruption instead of a joy. 

      *To get them “ahead” academically:  Whether it is their own pride, a desire to impress others, a desire to “prove” themselves to others, or simply because they don’t know what else to do, many parents push their preschoolers into early academics.  Remember that no study has shown any lasting advantage to early academics, but many have found great risks (see the tab, “Readiness”, the tab, “Early Academics?!” as well as the archives for the topic   “Readiness” for more information.)    

      *Because you love to teach, and can’t wait to start “officially” homeschooling:  Some parents are so excited about homeschooling (a good thing!) that they can’t seem to wait until their children are school age to begin formal, academic lessons (a bad thing!).  Some parents start their preschoolers in a “Kindergarten” curriculum at the tender age of three or four.  If you really love to teach, and want to settle your children into a learning routine, by all means do so—but in a developmentally appropriate way!  Remember that preschoolers do not learn in the same ways that older children do.  Preschoolers need hands-on/real life experiences with things they can touch, see, and explore. Preschoolers need time to reinforce their learning through play.  Preschoolers need to be read to, talked to and sung to; they need to get dirty and make messy art projects.  Preschoolers need much more repetition than older children do; in fact, young children thrive on repetition, while older children often “balk” at it.  Preschoolers need time just to be—time to be little kids, and time to mature.  (See the tabs, “Preschool Goals” and the “4R’s”.)

       I’d like to encourage each and every one of you to write down your reasons for homepreschooling and/or   homeschooling.  This will help you examine your true motives.  It will also be a great blessing to you on those days when you feel as though you want to give up (believe me, we all have those days…this is “the toughest job you’ll ever love.”)  Re-reading the reasons you started homepreschooling/homeschooling in the first place will help you “re-set” you mind and provide you with the encouragement you need to keep going (as will a short break and some long prayers!).  For some ideas to get you started listing your reasons, re-read the tab, “What is Homepreschool?”, and check out the links on making the decision to homeschool under the tab, “Important Links.”  Next, decide which reasons are the most important to you (I hope they are spiritual reasons.)   Finally, assess yourself:   Does your homepreschool really, consistently reflect those reasons?  Are you “making the main thing the main thing?” 

 © 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

Posted in Deciding to Homeschool or Hompreschool, Encouragement, Getting Started, Goals, Homepreschool, Homeschool, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

How to Start Homeschooling in 10 Simple Steps

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on March 31, 2010


1.  Pray.  Pray about your decision, and ask the Lord to give you the wisdom and patience you will need.  Also ask Him to give you His vision for your homeschool.  What should your goals be?  What does He want you to teach your children this year—and how should you teach it? (See tab, “Homepreschool Goals” if you have a young child; your primary goals should be the same–just add mastering the basics–the  3 R’s.)  To solidify your decision, be sure to explore the links related to “Making the Decision to Homeschool” under the tab, “Important Links”. 

 2.  Write down your goals and the vision the Lord gives you, and then don’t be afraid to step out in faith and go for it!  This vision might have to do with your homeschooling lifestyle, character and Bible learning goals for your children, or academics…but whatever it is, trust the Lord’s inspiration and follow His leading. 

 3.  Research the legalities involved.  Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states; some states require little to nothing, others make you jump through a few hoops.  Go to Home School Legal Defense’s website, You Can Homeschool.  There you will find links to your state’s laws and support groups.  They will help you meet the requirements of the law in the simplest way possible.

          If you are pulling your children out of public school, HSLDA and your local support group can guide you step by step; be sure to contact them before  pulling your children out of public school.          

          Remember to check the compulsory age of attendance in your state.  In many states, Kindergarten isn’t mandatory.   You might not have to worry about the legalities at all until your children are 6 or even 7 years old (this varies from state to state.)

    4.  Join HSLDA; most private school satelite programs  require it.  HSLDA is an essential part of protecting our rights to homeschool.  They will also protect you from any legal problems you might encounter if you need to pull your children out of public school.  HSLDA monitors legislation in every state, as well as nationally.  Best of all, HSLDA can provide you with peace of mind. 

 5.  Contact your local Christian homeschool support group and join it now.  The best place to find your group is Home School Legal Defense’s website.  Click on your state to find the group closest to you.  You can also Google your city/state and the words, “Christian Homeschool Support Groups”, or your state’s name plus the words, “Considering Homeschooling groups,” “Exploring Homeschooling” or “Smoothing the Way Groups.” These groups offer mentors and/or  meetings to help you get started and help you during your first year of homeschooling.

        I can’t overemphasize the importance of a good, Christian support group!  Our group is like our church family; we love, support, and encourage each other.  Our group even serves each other in emergencies (when I was on bed rest during a pregnancy, our support group brought us meals!)  Your group has a wealth of love and support, as well as a network of helps and activities just waiting for you.  Don’t try to be a lone ranger; get involved and let them bless you.  You and your children need them, and they need you, too.

 6.  Find out where your child is in his/her learning now.  (This is vital because our goal should be to start where are children are now, and move them out from there.)  There are several ways to do this.  The easiest way is through home assessments.  Depending on your child’s age, assess the following:   Does your child know his phonics, including the “blends” like ch, ck, cl, cr, th, sp, sw, etc?  Is your child reading fluently and with expression?  Can she write a complete sentence?  (Does she know what a complete sentence is?)  Does your child know her math facts? And so on.  

        If you child is being pulled out of school, you might have tests or paperwork to look over or perhaps, if you believe it is wise, you could talk to your child’s former teacher.  (See Homepreschool and Beyond for more information.) 

7.  Determine your child’s learning style.  How does your child learn?  Through hearing it? Seeing it?  Experiencing it?  Writing it down?  OR, perhaps some  combination of these?  Oklahoma Homeschool’s site has lots of good information about this, as does A-Z Home’s Cool Homeschool site.  If you are still not sure about your child’s learning style, don’t worry about it; just observe your child as you go along, and note your child’s most successful learning experiences.  Finally, remember that it’s better for young children to learn using hands-on/several different modalities (see it/hear it/play with it/etc.) 

8.  Research methods and curriculums. If you feel totally lost, a good place to start is (again!)   Oklahoma Homeschool. Be sure to print up and use the Curriculum Planner Worksheets—especially the first one, which will help you assess your preferred methods of teaching (scroll down to find it.)  Another helpful site is Home School Curriculum Advisor .  (Just Google “homeschool methods”, though, and you’ll get thousands of results.)

          The most commonly used methods are traditional textbook/worktext (a textbook with “fill in the blanks” included); unit studies (see my posts that explain units), literature approaches, including Charlotte Mason, and the classical approach…but there are many more.  You should know that most homeschoolers are “eclectic”, meaning that  they customize and combine several different methods, and use several different curriculums (versus ordering a “boxed” curriculum from one supplier.)  My preferred methods include the “Beechick” approach with elements of unit studies/Charlotte Mason/literature approach and Notebooking.  (Many different methods fit together perfectly.)

        Before you order anything, remember to ask yourself:  Can I teach this without using a curriculum?  Does this fit the methods I like to use, and my children’s learning style?   (For much more on choosing and using curriculum inluding 20+ important tips, read Homepreschool and Beyond.

9.  Gather your materials.  Start simply.  Start by choosing your Bible curriculum; it’s the most important.  I find that once I choose my Bible curriculum, the rest seems to fall into place.  It could be as simple as a Bible story book or a devotional book, or it could mean a more formal “curriculum.”  You might even find what you need at your local Bible bookstore—especially if your children are young.  (See Homepreschool and Beyond for more details.)  I encourage new homeschoolers to start with only 4 subjects:  Bible, math, language arts, and reading aloud (for us, a unit study.)  This will give you time to break into the homeschool routine, and discover what works for your family.  You might even discover that you and your children are enjoying the read aloud time so much, that you want to stick with it and continue to use a literature/unit study approach.

          If you are pulling your children out of public school, you might want to allow your children some “detox” time before you begin, and then, you might consider slowly adding to your daily routine (again, start with Bible) until you are doing all your subjects daily.

 10. Set up a simple daily routine (see “Routine” tab.) Remember, it doesn’t have to be timed to the minute; just a simple schedule of “what comes next” will suffice.  Be sure to keep your lessons short and give your children frequent breaks.

            Now you’re ready to get started!

       Remember, relationship is more important than curriculum.  It is the love, time, and attention that you give to your children that is the most important element of your homeschool.  The heart of homeschooling is time spent together reading aloud and discussing what you’ve learned.  Whatever curriculum/method you use, be sure not to overlook homeschooling’s greatest strengths:  a) One-on-one attention (beware of any method that asks your children to work too independently),  b) Conversation, and C) Individualizing the curriculum (your child might need 1rst grade math, 2nd grade phonics, and 3rd grade history–and that’s OK!) 

           You can make due with almost any curriculum if you have to, but it’s almost impossible to homeschool successfully without developing healthy, loving relationships, so make the main thing the main thing! (See the Relationships tab.)

           May the Lord richly bless you as you start homeschooling!

 

This post contains excerpts from the book,Homepreschool and Beyond”; used with permission.  © 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

Posted in Curriculum, Deciding to Homeschool or Hompreschool, Getting Started, Goals, Homeschool, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Teaching Children to be Gracious

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on March 13, 2010


Teaching Through Parenting       

          The hardest thing about teaching children any character trait is modeling it for them.  And if we want our children to learn graciousness, we have to make sure they see graciousness in action~~through us.  This is the hardest part of parenting…changing ourselves.  Anne Ortland says, “Successful  parenting means: One, becoming what you should be,  and two, staying close enough to the children that it will rub off.”  She challenges us further by asking, “What will you become, in order that your offspring may turn out to be great human beings for God?”  (Disciplines of the  Home.) 

           Mrs. Ortland’s quotes neatly summarize what the Bible says about discipling our children. Proverbs 23:26 says, “My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways.” Luke 6:40 says, “The disciple (we could insert “student,” or “child” here) is not above his master (parents); but every one that is perfect shall be as his master (parents).”

           When our young children are misbehaving, we should always look to ourselves first—because young children reflect all we say and do with their behaviors.  Before we can help our children change, we must change ourselves.  “Do as I say, not as I do” just doesn’t cut it.  Good parenting is just as much about controlling ourselves as it is controlling our children—remembering that as much is “caught” as is “taught.” 

           Yes, parents are teaching their children all the time– whether they intend to or not. We consciously teach them about the world, but we also unconsciously teach them with our behavior and our attitudes.  We need to be sure that the lessons we are teaching are the lessons we want our children to learn.  (In my book, I call this “teaching through parenting.”)

Teaching Graciousness~Systematically         

           A large part of graciousness boils down to good manners—and manners can be systematically taught. A good book to start with is The Family Book of Manners, by Hermine Hartley.  This book could be used with preschoolers and/or older children (tackle one behavior/manner a week.)

          We say a little something we call a “character catechism” along with our memory verses most mornings that I adapted from Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining, and Bad Attitudes… in You and Your Kids by Scott Turansky, & Joanne Miller):

~”How do we obey?  Everyday, all the way, in a quick and cheerful way.” 

~God wants us to honor others.  What does honor mean? 
1. Treating others special.
2.  Doing more than what is expected (going the extra mile.)
3.  Having a good attitude.
~I have a chance to show honor to people when:
1.  I am told to do something.
2.  I am told, “No.”
3.  When someone dishonors me.

Golden Rule Poem:
“Be you to others kind and true, as you’d have others be to you; and neither do nor say to men, whatever you would not take again.”   ~Author unknown

           I just picked up a real treasure for my boys:  A 1940 version of the Boy Scout’s Handbook.  We are going to begin reciting the “Boy Scout Pledge” (with a few of my own tweaks):
“On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Golden Rule…to help other people at all times, to keep myself physically strong and morally straight, and to do a good turn daily.  A Christian should be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.  Be prepared.” 

 Things to do:
~Set a good example for your children.
~Memorize Bible verses with your children, and practice them every morning during your devotions.
~Develop your own “character catechism” to practice during devotions (I’m working on a more complete version.)
~Practice being good:  Role-play manners with your children.  Act out possible scenarios, and practice proper responses. 
~Label your children’s character traits throughout the day:  “That was very kind of you.”   “Thank-you for sharing with your sister.  That was very unselfish of you, and it shows real love.”   “What a good helper you are!   You’ve done your good deed for the day.”   OR:  “You need to keep your hands to yourself.  Hitting is not kind.”  “Your tone of voice is not honoring me.  Can you say that again in a pleasant tone of voice?” 
~Read books to your children that will teach them character traits.  Look for examples of the character traits exemplified in books and real life, and point them out to your children.

 Suggested Books: 

           An especially good series, although not written from a Christian viewpoint, is A Child’s Book About… (Being Lazy, Being Mean, Disobeying, Interrupting, Throwing Tantrums, etc-many other titles), a “Help Me Be Good Book”, by Joy Berry (preschool age and up.)  Another favorite for our family is Richard Scarry’s Please and Thank-You Book, by Richard Scarry, which contains the story of Pig Will and Pig Won’t, a little pig who learns to be cheerful, cooperative, and helpful around the house. Other books to read:

 If Everybody Did, by Jo Ann Stover

 What Do You Do, Dear/What Do You Say, Dear? , by Sesyle Joslin and Maurice Sendak

 What Would Jesus Do? Charles M. Sheldon’s Classic In His Steps now retold for children, by Mack Thomas  

 Books for Parents: 

Creative Correction:  Extraordinary Ideas for Everyday Discipline, Lisa Welchel   

Don’t Make Me Count To Three, Ginger Plowman (my favorite; shows how to use Bible verses to teach character and reach the heart.)

 Etiquette Plus: Polishing Life’s Useful Skills, by Inge P. Cannon (use with children 6 and up.)

 For Instruction in Righteousness, A Topical Reference Guide for Biblical Child Training, by Pam Forster

 Hands-On Character Building, Rick and Marilyn Boyer

Laying Down the Rails: A Charlotte Mason Habits Handbook, by Sonja Shafer

 Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining, and Bad Attitudes…In You and Your Kids!  and Good and Angry, by Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller

This post contains excerpts from the book,Homepreschool and Beyond”; used with permission. © 2010 Susan Lemons,  all rights reserved.

Posted in Book Lists, Character Traits, Curriculum, Encouragement, Goals, Holiness, Homepreschool, Mothering, Parenting, Spiritual Matters | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Preschool Unit Studies, Preschool Themes: What Do They Look Like?

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on March 2, 2010


          OK, you’ve decided on your topics (themes) and are ready to get going!  But what should a preschool unit study look like?  What types of activities should be included in your unit–and how many of them do you need? 

          The first thing to remember is to  keep it simple.   There is no “rule” stating what a unit study “should” be or “should” contain.  Reading picture books is the bulk of our preschool “unit studies”.  But whenever we can, we add simple activities that go along with our theme.  This isn’t an obsession; I don’t go crazy with it; we simply add activities when we think of them. Here are some elements you might think about when you are planning a preschool/Kindergarten unit study:

~Books, both fiction and non-fiction (if appropriate); this is your most important element! If this is all you have to offer your children, that’s OK!

 ~Music: Music related to the theme (for older kids, music written during the time period of the theme.)  For the farm unit, we’d sing “Farmer in the Dell”, “Old MacDonald”, “Baa Baa Black Sheep,” etc.

 ~Finger plays/poetry/nursery rhymes: Poems, finger plays or action rhymes about the unit. For a farm unit, we’d do finger plays like “5 Little Ducks”; nursery rhymes like Little Boy Blue and Little Bo Peep, and poems such as the Giving Farm, by Vicki Witcher http://www.kinderkorner.com/farm.html .

~Art and crafts: I like to keep art as open-ended as possible.  Use projects that have a set result (that “should” look a certain way) sparingly, and concentrate on open-ended art ideas instead (I included a list of more than 50 such projects in my book.)   Examples of art for a farm unit: Draw or trace the shape of a cow, and then finger paint or paint on it; draw or trace the shape of a lamb, then cover with cotton balls; paint with milk paint, paint or write with feathers, etc.

 ~Projects/activities: This includes cooking experiences, science experiences/experiments/exploration, Montessori type activities (hands on, small muscle), large muscle activities, and so on.  For a farm unit, we might: Look at and sort different types of seeds; put whipping cream into a jar and shake until it turns into butter; sprout beans in a clear glass or zippy bag, start a garden, and so on.

~Dramatic play:  Use dress up clothes, props, and prop boxes to inspire your children to “pretend” about your unit.  For example, for the farm unit, you might have overalls, boots, and a big hat to wear (traditional “farmer” clothes); a rake and other gardening tools to play with outside (supervise carefully), etc.  You can find some great ideas HERE  and HERE

 ~Videos:  Used sparingly, these can be a great supplement-especially when it comes to science (documentaries.) Warning: Watch out of evolutionary content.

~Field trips or virtual field trips: Icing on the cake! Not every unit will have field trips; they can be as simple or as complicated as you wish. For our farm unit, we watched several “virtual” tours of farms, visited a dairy farm, went to our grocery store where we talked about which produce grows where (Does it grow on a tree?  Under the ground?  On a bush?), and where products come from (Meat:  Bacon = pig; beef = cow;  milk products & how they are made, such as milk, yogurt, cheese, ice cream, etc);  for a wrap-up, we went to our county fair.)

          Be careful not to go crazy with these! A few really good elements make a more enjoyable unit study than a bunch of meaningless ones. A rule of thumb for a two-week study (for preschool/Kindergarten) would be: 10-12 books; 1-2 songs to learn; 1-2 finger plays; 4-8 different art/crafts (not all have to be related to the unit–just offer them throughout the week); 4-8 hands on projects/activities; 1 creative/dramatic play activity, 1-2 field trips (if possible).  Every element does not have to be present.  The idea is to make your “study” meaningful and fun.   Remember, the single most important thing you can do to help your preschooler learn is to read aloud to her.  As long as you do that while providing a loving, consistent, creative home environment with lots of time for free play, you’ll do just fine.

Next post: Unit For A Day

 

Portions of this post are excerpts from the book,Homepreschool and Beyond”; used with permission. 

© 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

Posted in Art, Crafts, Curriculum, Goals, Homepreschool, Homeschool, Music, Reading Aloud, Uncategorized, Unit Studies | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »