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 ‘Homeschooling’

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

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on October 10, 2014


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 »

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 »

Homeschool in Freedom: Breaking All the Rules, Part Two

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on February 20, 2012


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Homeschool in Freedom: Throwing Out the Rules

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on February 18, 2012


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-There is no rule that says that you have to do fifteen different subjects in one day. That is how many subjects some curriculum suppliers offer: Bible, math, reading, phonics, grammar, writing, handwriting, spelling, vocabulary, history, health, science, art, music, and foreign language. Alternate your lessons by day of the week, by unit, or by semester so that you are teaching either science OR history, spelling OR vocabulary, grammar OR writing, science OR health, but never everything in the same day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(To be continued)

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

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

Goals and New Year’s Resolutions

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on January 5, 2012


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teaching Our Children About the Symbols of Christmas

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on December 7, 2011


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus Tree

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

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

Christmas colors: 

Red-the blood of Jesus

Green-God’s everlasting love

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

Purple-the color of royalty.

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

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

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).

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

Finger Play Friday

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on November 4, 2011


 This is one of the finger plays you might learn if you attend Gymboree with your children. You can also  hear it on Parachute Express’s CD, “Shakin’ It”.

Great Big Cat

There was a great BIG cat (hold hands out wide)

And a WEE little mouse (say “wee” in a high-pitched voice; hold pointer fingers close together to show how small the mouse was.)

Who ran around, and around (twirl hands around quickly)

In a high, high house (hold finger-tips together over head to make the roof-line of a house.)

Now, that WEE little mouse (say “wee” in a high-pitched voice; hold pointer fingers close together to show how small the mouse was.)

Got caught (begin to pretend to “catch” mouse by moving arms/hands together to scoop up mouse; clap hands together right after the word “last”) at last

Because the great BIG cat (hold hands out wide, emphasis on the word “big”)

Ran around (dramatic pause here-begin to twirl hands around)  and  around (dramatuc pause here; twirl hands faster)  sooo fast.  (hold out the word “sooo”, emphasize the word “fast”, saying it quickly, while twirling hands around quickly.)

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Finger Play Friday

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on October 28, 2011


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

Ten Red Apples

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

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

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

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

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

Naughty Hands

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Making Storytime Special

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on October 10, 2011


 (Classic repost, updated.)     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2010/2011 Susan Lemons all rights reserved. 

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

The Parable of the Public Poolers

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on August 9, 2011


By Jonathan Lewis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on August 7, 2011


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

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

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

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

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

Links having to do with habit training:

FREE e-book on habits

Habit training tips

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Susan

Helpful CM Links:

Charlotte Mason Help

Penny Gardner’s site

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

Catherine Levinson’s site, “Charlotte Mason Education”

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

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

Gleaning From Charlotte Mason

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on July 31, 2011


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recomended Books:

A Charlotte Mason Companion, by Karen Andreola

Educating the Wholehearted Child, by Clay and Sally Clarkson

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

Laying Down the Rails, by Sonja Shafer

The Original Home Schooling Series, by Charlotte Mason

The Three R’s, by Ruth Beechick

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

http://simplycharlottemason.com

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

References:

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Review of Homepreschool and Beyond

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on July 19, 2011


Here is another review of Homepreschool and Beyond from Education Cafe. There are also some good links to other articles and sites included.

~Susan

Posted in Book Reviews, Homepreschool, Homepreschool and Beyond, Homeschool, preschool at home, Reviews of Homepreschool and Beyond, Susan Lemons | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Homeschool Fair/Human Body Unit

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on July 11, 2011


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Susan

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

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

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

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on June 23, 2011


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

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

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

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

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

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

~Susan

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

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

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

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on June 21, 2011


Almost everyone has heard them: the myths about homeschooling. If you are thinking about homeschooling, they may be bothering you…or perhaps they “bother” your friends and family, and in turn, they are bothering YOU about them! If that is the case, be assured: they are only myths. The truth about homeschooling is far different.

Here are some of the myths you may have heard:

-Myth #1: Homeschoolers are anti-social. Some people believe that homeschoolers choose to homeschool in order to isolate their children from the “real world.”  This is not true. Many families choose to homeschool to protect their children from some of the negative
influences of the world, yes; but isolate them…no. In fact, most homeschooling parents go out of their way to make sure their children are well  “socialized”.
Homeschoolers are commonly involved in multiple “outside the home” activities, including church activities, “lessons” of various kinds (music, art, sports, co-op classes, etc), scouts, team sports, homeschool support groups, etc. Furthermore, homeschoolers have many social opportunities that other kids don’t. They get to interact with people of all ages (adults, the elderly, young children, babies, etc) through home life, field trips (homeschoolers get lots of amazing field trips), community service, etc. Homeschoolers get to live and learn in the real world…the world is their classroom.

If you think about it, home is the real-life environment, and institutional school the “artificial” environment. When else in your life are you with people all the same age, all thinking about and doing the same things at the same time? Never. Adults (and employers) appreciate creative, independent thought.

-Myth #2: Homeschoolers are socially awkward.  Well, it depends. Every child is different. Some children are naturally shy. When these children are homeschooled, often their extended families (who may not have supported homeschooling in the first place) will blame their shyness on homeschooling. Other times, homeschooled children will be deemed “awkward” or “backward” when they are simply “culturally different.” Most homeschooled children are more mature than other children in some ways, and less mature in others; hopefully they are mature spiritually, but innocent to the ways of the world. They may not understand modern teen culture, know who Madonna or Lady Gaga is, or be up on the latest “R” rated movie, but that is a good thing!  None of those things are the things we want them to aspire to or be involved in.

I don’t know about you, but I want my kids to be different. I want them to be committed Christians, who keep their ways pure. I want their culture to be our family’s culture…a Christian culture. I think we should be different from the rest of the world…part of the world, yet set apart.  Perhaps “socially awkward” or “backward,” as most people judge it, is actually something to be desired, considering today’s culture (which never ceases to shock me.)

Myth #3: Parents aren’t smart enough to homeschool. Many parents who are considering homeschooling think they aren’t smart enough to carry it off. They worry that without a college degree or teaching credential, they simply aren’t qualified. In fact, NHERI has done a twenty year study that shows that
homeschooled children do better academically than children in public school—regardless of the educational level OR the income level of their
parents.

Homeschooling parents have the opportunity to learn along with their children. You will find that you will fall in love with learning all over again. You’ll have the chance to learn those things you never mastered in school, or relearn what you’ve forgotten. As to your children—all you have to do is keep one lesson ahead of them.

When it comes to those difficult subjects that you might have struggled with or feel unable to teach, there are many viable options: Online curriculum, virtual classrooms (some curriculums, like ABeka, offer CD’s that show a Christian school classroom for your child to watch, then do the lessons), co-op classes (many homeschool support groups offer them—my kids have taken yearbook, creative writing, Spanish, choir and biology—with full labs—in that way), and even private tutoring (we found a foreign exchange student to teach my daughter Japanese.) Additionally, sometimes spouses, grandparents, friends and family can help fill in the gaps.

 

Next post: Part two!

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

Posted in Deciding to Homeschool or Hompreschool, Elementary School, Getting Started, Homeschool, Thinking About Homeschooling? | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »