Terri's Take... » homeschooling /blog Living a Proverbs 31 Life in a Romans 1 World... Sat, 12 Jul 2014 08:30:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 Finish Well the Race You Started /blog/2014/06/finish-well-the-race-you-started/ /blog/2014/06/finish-well-the-race-you-started/#comments Thu, 05 Jun 2014 18:10:11 +0000 /blog/?p=1892 Finish Well – Part 3 of a 3-Part Series

Part 1 – Start Fresh

Part 2 – Stay Strong

Why should we finish well? Why should we continue down this path that we started?

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Frankly, I’ve seen the fruit and experienced the blessing of homeschooling my teens through high school. Does this mean it’s for everyone? Maybe not. But I can tell you how my family has been blessed with homeschooling, not just in the early years, but through junior high and high school as well.

Public schools, especially in the upper grades, are dangerous places. Bullying, verbal abuse and peer pressure are rampant. And it’s not that kids are just getting an earful; they can be physically attacked and coerced against their will.

But I’m not here to tell you about the dangers of public school. You have the nightly news for that. I would like to share with you the blessings of homeschooling to the finish line.

My kids are not perfect. We have had some rough moments as our teens have navigated their teen years, learning what it means to grow up and become an adult. We have had tense moments and times when we have cried like babies because we didn’t know what to do next, BUT…

Our kids are amazing young people! We love to be around them. But we don’t lock them up at home either. We have acclimated them into the “real world” through extracurricular activities and taking classes at the community college. They have spent large amounts of time with other teens through theater, sports and our church youth group.

Homeschooling our young people has allowed them some opportunities they might not have otherwise had:

  • Apprenticing and job shadowing
  • Classes at the community college
  • Serving at church and para-church ministries
  • Serving on short-term mission teams
  • Spending time with their younger siblings
  • Traveling around the country and the world
  • Starting small businesses

So, how do you finish well? There are two opposite approaches… which one is better?

  1. 1. Just keep going (AKA press on). Sometimes, it is just a matter of putting one foot in front of the other because you see the light at the end of the tunnel and you are determined to get there. This light could be the end of a school day, a school week, a school year or an entire education. Don’t lose hope and don’t lose sight of that finish line. Focus on it and you will get there.
  2. 2. Look up (AKA stop and smell the roses). Look into the faces of your children and truly see them. Take a hard look at your schedule and determine if it needs tweaking. Open your eyes to the opportunities around you and make the most of them. Sometimes we are in so much of a hurry or so determined to accomplish something, that we lose the joy. Don’t lose the joy!

Is one of these approaches better than the other? Not really? Pick the one that will work for you today – either plodding ahead or stopping to smell the roses. You can always use the other approach tomorrow, right? I find myself using either approach, depending on my mood or whatever else is going on around me. Sometimes it is better to just keep plowing forward; while other times it is more necessary to stop and catch my breath and enjoy my surroundings.

The main thing to realize is that this journey we have chosen is exactly that… a journey. And a journey begins with one step and then continues with another and another, until before you know it, there are miles between you and where you started. You may still have miles to go, but take heart…

“The road of life twists and turns and no two directions are ever the same. Yet our lessons come from the journey, not the destination.” – Don Williams, Jr.

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” – Ernest Hemingway

In a few months, I’ll be participating in my first race. I’m on a team with 11 other women for the Portland to Coast – a walking race approximately 130 miles from Portland to the Oregon coast. I am the first leg. Obviously my focus is on starting well so that I set my team up for a great race. The middle portion will be the hardest (I have a leg in there too), but the finish is the most critical in many ways. Don’t let it just happen by default. Be pro-active, positive and make the most of your final years with your student.

So, to recap what we have covered over these 3 blog posts…

Starting fresh might mean that you first need to take a break, even a vacation, or just change it up a bit to keep the material fresh and from becoming burnt out by routine and monotony.

Staying strong involves identifying the source of your strength, digging deeper for reasons and conviction to continue homeschooling. It also includes finding support, establishing a solid routine, and learning to say “no”.

Finishing well is something we do because we believe in the journey and we trust that this path we have started is worth finishing.

Do you feel like you need some help? Please check out our Homeschooling ABCs and Upper Level classes, which have been written for you, the homeschooling parent, to help you homeschool with confidence and for success. Why walk this road alone when you can have someone who has already walked it help guide the way for you?

Homeschooling is a journey, but it is the most rewarding journey that I have taken yet. Are you weary on this journey? Seek the help you need to make it enjoyable once again. Perhaps one of our courses will be the very thing that will lighten your step.

Are you lacking confidence? Lean in to your decision to homeschool. Embrace it, even if it feels uncomfortable for a time. You will go through peaks and valleys during your homeschool journey. It is inevitable. It’s important to remember that the most growth happens in the valleys.

“Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.” – Arthur Ashe

And then remember that you can always…

God bless you!

Terri

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Stay Strong in Your Decision to Homeschool /blog/2014/06/stay-strong-in-your-decision-to-homeschool/ /blog/2014/06/stay-strong-in-your-decision-to-homeschool/#comments Tue, 03 Jun 2014 20:05:10 +0000 /blog/?p=1881 Yesterday we talked about Starting Fresh when you feel stressed and burnt out with homeschooling. That was Part 1 of a 3-part series.

But how you can stay strong and run the race of homeschooling that you have chosen for your family so that you don’t get to that breaking point? That’s what I would like to address today. You need to follow a 5-Step Plan that will keep you from the cliff of burn-out and frustration and squarely on the road of successful, joyful homeschooling.

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Read on about the 5 Steps to Staying Strong in Homeschooling…

5 Steps to Staying Strong in Homeschooling:

  1. 1. Identify the source of your strength! For me, it is my Lord. Whether or not you share my faith, I believe that you have to find the source of your strength. When I have hard days, I look to the Lord for my strength and He promises that He will give it.

It says in Isaiah 40:

“Who has held the oceans in his hand? Who has measured off the heavens with his fingers? Who else knows the weight of the earth or has weighed the mountains and the hills on a scale?” (vs. 12)

“He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless.” (vs. 29)

“Those who trust in the Lord will find new strength” (vs. 31)

Psalms 121 reads:

“I lift up my eyes to the hills. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.”

Ephesians 6 says:

“Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.”

So, how do I tap into this strength? By spending time in prayer, mostly. I try to take daily walks and I use that time to pray. I also gain strength from the Lord when I read the powerful words of scripture, like the ones I just typed above. Reading the Psalms, Proverbs and the Gospels always strengthen me to press on.

  1. 2. Dig Deeper! Remember why you started homeschooling. Keep your goals at the forefront of your mind. Write them down and refer back to them when you have doubts or feel tired.

Have you seen the Indoctrination movie? If you ever need to fuel yourself with reasons WHY to homeschool your kids, this is a great movie to watch.

We may start out homeschooling for reasons that don’t seem quite so important anymore, such as not being ready to part with your 5yo when it is time for him to start Kindergarten or you didn’t like the teacher. We began homeschooling because my 5yo had learned to read at 3 and was already reading at a 2nd or 3rd grade level by the time she was supposed to enter kindergarten. I was afraid she would be bored in kindergarten, so I decided to homeschool her until the bulk of her peers had caught up in reading, maybe until 2nd grade.

Whatever reasons we had for starting homeschooling may not be enough to sustain the decision to continue. Sometimes we have to dig deeper and find the reasons WHY we are homeschooling and keep those at the forefront of our minds for when those bad days happen and we question what we are doing.

Here are some great reasons to homeschool:

Academic reasons – 1-on-1 tutoring is more effective than classroom instruction. A parent is acutely interested in her child’s academic success. You don’t need a teaching degree to effectively teach your own child, even through high school! Kids can progress at their own speed – not held back or pushed ahead unnaturally.

Social reasons – Social interactions in age-integrated settings are more appropriate and effective in developing socially adept adults than peer-driven age-segregated social groups.  As a parent, I can find better social situations for my child than the school playground, classroom or bathroom.

Spiritual reasons – Teachers and students have to check their faith at the door of the public school. Their hands are tied to pursue or discuss their faith in school, particularly if they are Christians. I can teach my kids about our faith all throughout the day. We CAN pray in school. (Deut 6)

Life preparedness – The majority of kids today spend 8 hours in school and 7 hours in front of a screen. There must be some overlap! We can finish up our schoolwork before noon and use the rest of the day for baking, gardening, hiking, etc. We can volunteer at ministries, apprentice or shadow a professional; we can learn new skills, start businesses, take field trips and so much more with our extra time. Classroom time doesn’t prepare a child for “real life”, but experiences do.

  1. 3. Strength in Numbers – Find Support! We need each other. It’s harder to work alone; it’s harder to exercise alone; it’s harder to diet alone; it’s harder to homeschool alone. It can be done, but it is harder. Find support. You may not have many friends in your local area that homeschool. Reach out and find some. Maybe they don’t go to your church or live in your neighborhood… maybe they aren’t part of your scouts club or theater group… but they are out there. Look for a local support group or co-op. See if there is a First Class in your area or other local grass roots support group. Maybe you have to drive to the next town over. You may only be able to connect with homeschoolers online for a season. It’s not ideal, but it is better than having no one in your life who shares your educational choice.
  1.  4. Rhythm in Routine. Having a daily routine and schedule will help you get through tough days. Routines allow children to do the next thing without having to ask you. Schedules help you stay on task and are a great reminder of what must get done each day. Routines and schedules take the “thinking” out of what comes next. This is homeschooling on auto-pilot! (a day doesn’t have to be scheduled out to the nth degree, but even an order of events make your days much easier to tackle.)
  2. 5. Power in Personal Boundaries – Say “No.” Sometimes you need to say “no”. You can’t do it all. This is a season of life – even if it is a very long one. Sometimes you can say yes, but not always. Understand your limits and don’t overcommit.

Stay posted for tomorrow’s post on Finishing Well. How can we finish well this race that we began so long ago (it feels like that, doesn’t it?)? Do you need any help staying the course? Check out Homeschooling ABCs and Upper Level Homeschool for the encouragement and equipping you need to homeschool for success.

Question: How do you Stay Strong during the marathon of homeschooling?

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3 Ways to Homeschool More Effectively /blog/2014/06/3-ways-to-homeschool-more-effectively/ /blog/2014/06/3-ways-to-homeschool-more-effectively/#comments Tue, 03 Jun 2014 03:43:19 +0000 /blog/?p=1858 Part I – A Fresh Start

Are you tired after teaching for 9 months?

Do you long for a fresh start, to make next year better than this one coming to a close?

Would you rather just put your head in the sand and not think about it until August?

I hear ya! I have felt all of those emotions and then some. Yet today, our first day of summer break, I found myself thinking about next year, strategizing on areas I can improve, considering the ways to help one child excel in a certain subject and another child in a different subject.

How about you? Have you started thinking about how you can make next year better yet? Or are you still thinking about this possibility:

Great idea, huh? Well, maybe not!

Great idea, huh? Well, maybe not!

How can we find the joy in the midst of the battle of wills? How can we continue to create lesson plans and teach subjects day in and day out when we are getting tired? Or when we are getting bored? Or when we are plain old fed up?

Over the years, I have received many interesting comments, such as…

  • “Why are you trying to shelter your kids from the world?” Um, duh!
  • “What about you? Don’t you need some time away from your kids?” Yes, but not all day. J
  • “You must be some kind of super woman because I think that I might go loony if I had to be around my kids all day.” I understand.
  • “Parents make the worst teachers.” Really?
  • “Your kids are going to turn out to be unsocialized misfits.” I thought that geekiness was “in” these days?
  • “What if your kids can’t get in to college?” Well, that’s a reasonable, if misguided, fear.

Getting bombarded with these kinds of comments can really make you second-guess yourself, can’t it? How many of you have second-guessed your decision to homeschool at some point along your journey? I have.

But the lowest point that I have reached in my homeschooling wasn’t because of these types of comments. My moment of true doubt and fear came when I found myself alone with no one to turn to or talk to when I reached my maximum capacity.

It happened like this…

I had been teaching my kids at home for 11 years (this was about 5 years ago). My oldest child had just finished her sophomore year of high school. At that time, I also had an 8th grader, a 4th grader, a 3rd grader and a kindergartener. I also had a 3 yo.

I should have felt well established, confident and secure in my decision to continue, right? But I didn’t.

I looked around and realized that I was the only one left of my peer group still homeschooling. We had quite a crowd of friends homeschooling while the kids were younger. We swapped subjects and children with each other. We formed a co-op together. We took our kids to the same extra-curricular activities, field trips and events.

One by one, these families decided not to continue to homeschool. There were many reasons, but most of them boiled down to these two:

  1. 1. The parents didn’t feel confident to teach the higher grades.
  2. 2. The parents were tired and burnt out.

Our co-op could no longer continue because the number of homeschooling families plummeted. I found myself at a crisis point. My kids were feeling lonely and isolated. I was feeling overtaxed with 5 kids now to teach ranging from high school to kindergarten and a busy 3 year old to keep out of trouble.

We had been living this lifestyle for so long and yet I suddenly felt unable to go on.

I had reached a new decision point in my life. I could follow the crowd, or I could start fresh, stay strong and finish well. I chose the second option and I would like to share with you how I did it.

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“Tomorrow is always fresh with no mistakes in it,” Anne Shirley of Green Gables.

Isn’t it great that we get to start fresh? We can make a brand new fresh start at the beginning of the school year. But you know, we can also start fresh each week, each day. We always have an opportunity for a fresh start.

Thank goodness, right?

Here are some ways to make a fresh start when you need one:

  1. 1. Take a break. You don’t want to reward stubborn behavior, but butting heads isn’t the solution either. Sometimes we all need a break from the daily grind. Some ways you can take a break would be:
    • field trip,
    • spring cleaning,
    • plant the garden,
    • science museum,
    • reading day,
    • serve a widow,
    • organize stuff for a garage sale,
    • go to the library, go to the park, etc.
  2. 2. Change it up! Try something new. Guess what? You are not married to your curriculum. There is really only one thing you are married to – your spouse. Try something different and see if it helps. Maybe the curriculum you are using isn’t fitting the way your child learns. Try something different. You don’t’ have to spend a lot of money on experimentation.
  3. 3. Take a vacation, especially if the weather is wonderful.
    • We do take a summer vacation because there is no place more glorious than the Pacific Northwest in summertime (well, that’s my opinion).
    • But we also take snow days for sledding and snowboarding;
    • Spring and fall days for festivals, hiking, biking and swimming.
    • We rarely take days off school on school holidays, such as Presidents Day, etc. We just keep plugging along.

Now, I probably made it sound like you should rarely have regular school days, with regular school subjects and regular school assignments. Actually, no, this couldn’t be further from the truth – you should have a schedule and a routine (it’s good for everyone) – but these ideas are for you to fall back on when you are feeling stressed and burnt out.

Because the truth is that the #1 reason that homeschooling families stop homeschooling is because the mom is fried. It’s not because of a job loss, health problems, aging parents or other external reasons. These can often be overcome by sheer determination and creativity. But the homeschool mom who is burnt out does not run the race like she wants to or the way that she set out to. These ideas that I have presented are to help you when feel a weight of stress pressing down on you or when you start to feel quick-tempered, sad, annoyed, confused.

Stay posted for tomorrow’s post on how to Stay Strong so that you are less likely to reach burn out stage to begin with! Do you need any help getting back on track? Check out Homeschooling ABCs and Upper Level Homeschool for the encouragement and equipping you need to homeschool for success.

Question: What are some ways that you start fresh when you need a “do-over”?

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Kickin’ it to the Finish Line /blog/2014/05/kickin-it-to-the-finish-line/ /blog/2014/05/kickin-it-to-the-finish-line/#comments Mon, 05 May 2014 19:17:44 +0000 /blog/?p=1828 We’re nearly there! Pat yourself on the back for reaching the finish line! You are a superstar – a champ! Most homeschooling parents like to take a summer break of some length even if it does not last a full 3 months. And we’re so close, we can almost touch it. But with the sun shining brightly outside and the weather warming up, it can be difficult to stay focused and finish the school year strong.

And speaking of summer, check out our Road Trip Sale if you are planning to take one this summer!

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Here are 3 ideas to add some “kick” as you approach the finish line:

1. Change it up! Do something new to keep interest high as you compete for your kids’ attention. We asked our friends on Facebook what they do to regain their children’s attention or to stop fighting for it. Here are their ideas:

  • Go outside and run!
  • Turn up the music and dance!
  • Read aloud a chapter from an engrossing book
  • Do a unit study (like the free New Zealand one here)
  • Take a hike in the woods and collect something
  • Do push-ups or laps
  • Go to the park
  • Go to the library
  • 10 minutes on the trampoline
  • Play a board game
  • Take the dog for a walk
  • Do an art project
  • Watch educational videos
  • Play educational computer games
  • Play Globalmania

2. Look Up! If you have been homeschooling your kids since August or September, then you might have your head down with your shoulder to the wheel. Sometimes we are just putting one foot in front of the other, homeschooling by rote, just to get by. Sometimes that is all we can do. But I encourage you to take a deep breath and look up!

Look into the faces of your children and truly see them. Take a hard look at your schedule and determine if it needs tweaking for your final weeks of school to make it work better for you (it’s okay to lighten it up). Open your eyes to the opportunities around you and make the most of them. Sometimes we are in so much of a hurry or so determined to accomplish something, that we lose the joy. Don’t lose the joy!

3. Throw an End-of-the-Year Party! We like to throw historical feasts 2-3 times a year, with one to finish up the school year. We dress in costume, cook period appropriate dishes and follow the social customs of the day. On our final day of school, we will also give out evaluations for our students up through 8th grade and updated transcripts with grades for our high school students. It is a fun night of recognition and makes for very fond memories. These memories last throughout the summer so that the idea of starting back to school is pleasant and doesn’t produce groans from the kids.

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Question: What are you doing to finish this year strong?

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Teaching with Technology /blog/2014/03/teaching-with-technology/ /blog/2014/03/teaching-with-technology/#comments Tue, 18 Mar 2014 00:31:38 +0000 /blog/?p=1791 My family is really loving my preparation for a session that I will be presenting at a few upcoming conferences, specifically Teach Them Diligently in Nashville, TN; Christian Heritage in Bellevue, WA; WHO in Puyallup, WA and OCEAN in Portland, OR. This is why my family is having so much fun…

I am watching recent uploads to some of my favorite educational YouTube channels. Ya, you heard that right… YouTube… the website that I have a love/hate relationship with. Truly, you can find some amazing stuff on YouTube, but you can also find seriously atrocious stuff and navigating your way around it can be challenging. To help my family navigate, I subscribe to my favorite channels; “favorite” videos that I want my kids to watch and turn safety mode “on.” While none of these things truly safeguard your kids from harmful videos on YouTube, my presence does. So we enjoy these videos together.

Would you like to know about some of my favorite YouTube channels? Here are a few… (And be sure to subscribe to my blog updates to the right, if you haven’t already done so.)

1. Spangler Effect – Steve Spangler Science videos are appropriate for all ages. Big science is great fun for everyone. Occasional swear words are bleeped out. Some favorites are…

Water Rockets

Hydrogen Peroxide

2. Mr. Zoller – These social study themed videos are appropriate for kids of all ages. Very informative, but interesting and keep kids’ attention.

Geography of China

Thirteen Colonies

3. Crash Course – These videos are for kids who are a little older, say junior high and high school. A very captivating and fun way to learn some more difficult subjects, such as science and literature.

Hamlet

The Odyssey

4. HistoryTeachers – These are music videos using popular music with new lyrics that teach on topics in history. Very fun, but some have mature(ish) themes, such as beheadings, affairs, etc.

French Revolution

King Henry VIII

5. History Supersizers – Learn about the food and lifestyles of people who lived in a different time. Occasional swearing is bleeped out.

Edwardian

Wartime

6. Nerdy Nummies – While not educational in the same way as the above, many of these baking ideas are taken from school subjects, such as…

Pi Pie Pops

Science Beaker Cake

7. Kahn Academy – Not a YouTube channel perse, but a great resource for learning a whole spectrum of subjects, from Ancient Rome to Genetics.

Tour of Ancient Rome

Punnett Squares

I hope that you have fun with these. Please list your favorite Youtube channels below in the comments box. Who knows, maybe they will make it into my recommendations during my live (and recorded) presentations. And be sure to subscribe to your right for blog updates in the future.) Thanks!

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Why Use “Living” Books? /blog/2014/02/why-use-living-books/ /blog/2014/02/why-use-living-books/#comments Tue, 04 Feb 2014 05:35:21 +0000 /blog/?p=1772

Why and How You Should Use Living Books

As I write this, we are halfway through the school year. We are definitely in our groove when it comes to school and have a solid routine. Eventually though, the comfort of routine wears off and monotony settles in. How can you keep your children excited about learning? The answer is to supply them with “living books.”

So, what are “living books” and why should you use them for teaching your children? Here are some definitions of a living book:

A living book is written by a single person, a real and knowable person.

A living book is a literary expression of the author’s own ideas and love of the subject.

A living book is personal in tone and feel. It touches the heart and emotions, and the intellect.

The author of a living book addresses the reader as an intelligent and capable thinker.

In a living book, ideas are presented creatively in a way that stimulates the imagination.

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This idea of a living book stands in stark contrast to a textbook. So what then is a textbook? Read on:

A textbook is a non-literary expression of collected facts and information.

A textbook is impersonal in tone and feel. It touches only the intellect.

In a textbook, facts are presented without creativity in a way that deadens the imagination.

[Excerpted from Educating the WholeHearted Child (copyright 1994, 1996 Clay Clarkson). Used by permission. For more information, contact Whole Heart Ministries (P.O. Box 3445, Monument, CO 80132, 719-488-4466) or visit their website at www.wholeheart.org.]

Charlotte Mason, a British educator from England in the previous century, whose ideas are currently experiencing a rebirth among American home schools, wrote this in her volume 1 of The Original Homeschooling Series, “The fatal mistake is in the notion that he (the student) must learn ‘outlines’ of the whole history… just as he must cover the geography of all the world. Let him, on the contrary, linger pleasantly over the history of a single man, a short period, until he thinks the thoughts of that man, is at home in the ways of that period. Though he is reading and thinking of the lifetime of a single man, he is really getting intimately acquainted with the history of a whole nation for a whole age.”

Have you ever experienced this in your home schooling adventures? You set out to cover a certain amount of history in a particular year, just to find out that your child becomes fascinated by a single character or time in history. This happened to us a couple of years ago. We were studying modern history with the goal of getting through the years 1850 to the present. I had allotted 4-5 weeks for studying the Civil War, which I thought was plenty. What I didn’t realize was how fascinated my children were to become with not only this event in history, but the general time period as well.

After 6 weeks of reading the books I had planned to read and doing the activities I had planned to do, my children were begging for more. I reluctantly gave in and let them guide their own education for a while. They chose more library books from the time period. My daughter sewed some period clothing, complete with snood and gloves. My son converted some cast-off clothing we found at Goodwill into a union soldier’s uniform. We went to a Civil War reenactment, made a soldier’s meal of hard tack and goober peas, and talked Dad into crafting some wooden rifles in the shop.

We stayed on this topic for probably a total of 9-10 weeks. Since that time, I have realized that learning does not follow a set pattern. In fact, more learning often takes place when allowed to progress naturally rather than on a set schedule. Last year, we studied the medieval time period. We were supposed to get to the year 1600, but only studied through a portion of the 15th century. And we did not get to all of the historical figures that I would have liked. But those events and people that my children gravitated toward allowed them to soak in the particular time period in history and gain more depth than if I had pushed them through on my schedule.

I am not saying that a schedule is bad. A schedule is a wonderful and necessary tool, but let it be your servant and not your master. Take the time to slow down and read “living books”. Read the first part of this article once again to remind yourself what a “living book” is and learn to identify them when browsing your library’s shelves.

I would like to conclude with a couple more quotes. Karen Andreola, author of A Charlotte Mason Companion, writes, “If we want the mind of a child to come alive, we feed him living ideas. Ideas reside in living books,…”

I am a rather eclectic homeschooling mom and do not follow the Charlotte Mason method completely. Still, I would like to end with a final word from Charlotte Mason herself:

“…the only vital method of education appears to be that children should read worthy books, many worthy books.” ~Charlotte Mason

For a list of great books to read, I would recommend that you check out these books from your library:

Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt

Books Children Love by Elizabeth Wilson

Valerie of Valerie’s Living Books writes, “I have chosen Living Books as my primary curriculum because I want to see my children loving learning rather than enduring an education! In this, my interest has never been in books and resources designed to entice reluctant kids with short attention spans, but rather in materials carefully written with an evident passion to challenge children, encouraging them to reason carefully and respond wholeheartedly.”

And finally, if you are studying the Ancient, Medieval, or the Colonial time period this year, do check out our book series entitled, “What Really Happened…” The authors who contributed to these books are passionate about their subject and this delight gets transferred to the student. This is a great way to introduce your children to amazing individuals from these time periods who changed the course of our world. For more details, go to: Historical Biographies.

Question: What “living” book are you engrossed in?

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How to Get Seriously Productive /blog/2014/01/how-to-get-seriously-productive/ /blog/2014/01/how-to-get-seriously-productive/#comments Fri, 31 Jan 2014 02:25:35 +0000 /blog/?p=1765 People have been asking me how I get so much done. I would love to tell you!

In the past year, I have written and published a book (A Child’s Geography: Explore the Classical World), created a new magazine (Quest Magazine) that publishes a brand new issue consistently every month, developed a new site (Map Center) where you can download Map Trek maps by the piece, and am nearly ready to launch a new web application (Map Studio) where you can create exactly the maps you want for your homeschool lesson, workshop, sermon or classroom. Oh, and I am also writing a 4th volume of A Child’s Geography: Explore Medieval Kingdoms.

How in the world can anyone get this much done? I have 5 secret weapons! And they are:

1. I will hire or outsource the stuff that I cannot do, such as coding or editing for example. It just makes good sense. Why should I learn something that will take me hours to learn when someone else already knows how to do it and can do it quickly and hopefully, inexpensively. (Guess what? I also outsource my housecleaning twice a month to a high school girl who works both quickly and at a great price!)

2. I get up early! Yes, I can get more done in 2-3 hours in the wee morning than I can the rest of the day. And staying up late usually doesn’t cut it. Those are your most worn out hours of the day. Get up early and use your freshest hours to accomplish what you really want to accomplish, whether that be writing a book, assembling a digital scrapbook, planning your curriculum, etc.

3. I get away (very occasionally). If you really need to get something done, like you have a looming deadline whether self-imposed or imposed by others, get a hotel room for 24 hours and just get it done. It’s best if you don’t take your spouse along, unless the object of the get-away is to connect with each other. Those are highly valuable times but different from what I am talking about now. I am due for a solo get-away so that I can tackle more of my book. I just need that quiet and interrupted time (on a rare occasion) to get some momentum.

get-away

4. I walk every day. This time not only gets my blood pumping, but it recharges me. It also feeds my creativity. I will usually get some fresh insight while walking that I can use to push my productivity. I also use this time to pray, which is very good for my soul and emotional well-being, not to mention good for those who are being prayed for.

take-a-walk

5. I have an awesome husband that will help me carve out time to get something special accomplished. He really is an amazing man! And, in my work life, I have an incredibly talented administrative assistant, and it’s almost like having another “me”. Wow, what would I do without these two?

While I realize that most people do not have an admin assistant, nor does everyone have a supportive spouse, everyone still has the exact same 24 hours each day. To become more productive, you just need to know how to use those hours to your best advantage. Focus on just points 2, 3 and 4 and you will get more accomplished than you thought you could.

So, go out there and get something done!

Question: What is on your to-do list that you really need to carve some time out to accomplish? For me, it’s writing my book. What’s yours?

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Scheduling the Easy Way /blog/2013/08/scheduling-the-easy-way/ /blog/2013/08/scheduling-the-easy-way/#comments Thu, 15 Aug 2013 21:22:01 +0000 /blog/?p=1531 A 5 Step Plan!

SchedulingEasyWay

It’s that time of year. Everyone is gearing up for school. All of the stores are having “back to school” sales on everything from school supplies, clothing and even furniture. Parents are anxious, students are feeling dread, and everyone’s pocketbooks are getting thinner. BUT this need not be the case!

We can keep our spending under control and we can be prepared and confident for a new school year. We can even pass that enthusiasm onto our kids so that the sense of dread is replaced by a sense of anticipation and excitement. So let’s get started…

But first, take a moment to read an archived article on the subject of How Not to Overspend on Curricula if you still have some purchasing to do and then click right back here to get your scheduling plans in place.

Step 1: Plan Your Subjects

Consider the ages and grades of your school children and decide which subjects they need to study this year. Obviously, you want to cover mostly basics when your kids are still young – reading, writing and arithmetic. As they get older, you will eventually drop formal reading lessons and even handwriting assignments and begin to focus more on what they are reading and how they express themselves. Most students are ready for grammar and spelling by 3rd grade, if not earlier. Arithmetic will one day be replaced by algebra and higher math and science, history, and writing will take on greater significance in their studies as they progress through the years. At some point during your children’s education, you may want to include additional subjects such as foreign language, logic, fine arts, performing arts, music, debate, and geography. Did I miss anything?

But I hope that it is obvious that you do not want to try to cover all of these subjects with all of your students every year. It is just too overwhelming. Pick 5 or 6 subjects that your students are most in need of and let the rest go… for now. These are the subjects that my children study at these grade levels:

Grades K-2 – Reading, Handwriting, Math, and History (w/geography and narration)

Grades 3-6 – Math, Grammar (includes writing), Spelling, History and Geography, and Science

Grades 7-8 – Math, Grammar (includes writing), Spelling, Typing, History and Geography, Science and Logic

Grades 9-12 – Well, lets just say that it gets to be quite a bit more! We’ll cover higher math, writing, literature, grammar, spelling, history, science, health, fine arts, public speaking, debate, government, foreign language and various electives. But not all in one year!

By the way, we do our writing assignments across the curriculum so we do not separate it out as a separate subject. We also combine geography studies with history.  I hope that makes sense. Our children begin music lessons around Kindergarten or 1st grade and continue as long as they can stand it. (smile)

Step 2: Purchase Your Materials

Hopefully, you have already purchased the majority of the curricula, books and other materials that you plan on using this upcoming year, especially if you intend to start school sometime this next month. If you have not, then you might want to hurry up and do so and perhaps even request expedited shipping. I have not practiced what I preach as I am just ordering my school books now, but I also do not intend to start school until mid-September, so I should have plenty of time still to review the materials that will begin to arrive over the next 2-3 weeks and get my scheduling done before we start school.

If you have not decided on what curriculum you want to use, or have it narrowed down to 2 or 3 choices, then this is the time to ramp up your online and offline research and make some decisions.

Your online research includes checking out the websites of the curriculum providers that you are considering (do a Google search), reading reviews that have been posted online and asking questions on homeschool chat boards. Your offline research will include asking your friends’ opinions, visiting your local homeschool bookstore and browsing through your favorite catalogs.

Many curriculum providers offer a “trial run”, meaning if you don’t like it after 30 or 60 days then you can return it for a full refund. You may want to consider this if you are still unsure which program(s) to use for your children.

Step 3: Set Aside Some Time

Ideally, I would suggest that you find a weekend between now and when you start school to get away with your husband and get your final preparations in order. This is not exactly a cheap option, but priceless when it comes to the time that you will have to strategize with your spouse and get your goals and schedule out on paper. The place you would choose would need to fall somewhere between boring and exciting. Let me explain… if you just pick a motel down the road to “get away”, most likely the view will not inspire you nor the surroundings intrigue you when you need to take a break and get out for a walk.

On the other hand, if you choose to head for the lake with your ski boat in tow, you might not get anything accomplished because who wants to think and strategize when you can be out waterskiing! My husband and I often head for a quaint inn on the Oregon coast which has breathtaking views, fantastic restaurants and not a whole lot to do but sit on the beach or take a walk through the foaming surf. It’s an ideal place for us to talk, to dream, to set goals and to get our thoughts out on paper.

If you absolutely cannot get away for a weekend or even an overnighter, then consider scheduling an afternoon or two at the library. This will give you the time you need to focus without the constant interruptions of family life (as charming as those interruptions can be!).

Step 4: Open the Books

Bring all of the core books that you will be using this year with you on your scheduling day or weekend, as well as any teacher’s manuals that came with your chosen programs. Bring, also, any books that you will be using for the first month or so of school. The tools that you have chosen for your children’s education will help you to determine your daily and weekly schedules. Here’s how…

Let’s use a grammar book for our example. Let’s say that there are 120 lessons in the grammar book. Take 120 and divide that by 36 weeks in the school year. Your answer is 3.33 and that means that your student will have to cover 3 and 1/3 lessons per week to finish the book in one school year. What this means to me is that I will need to schedule grammar for this child at least 3-4 times per week. Perhaps a goal that you have for this child is that they catch up from last year. Then you might want to schedule 4 lessons per week. Or maybe you honestly don’t care if you finish every last lesson in the book, then 3 days should suffice. You get the idea.

How about math? Let’s say that the book only has 90 lessons. Well, 2 1/2 lessons per week may not be enough mathematical stimulation for this particular child. You may decide that you do not mind if your student gets ahead in this subject, so you bump it up to 4 lessons per week. These are decisions you will want to make for each student and each subject as you look through each of the core books and teacher’s manuals that you will be using with your children this year.

Here are some suggestions for how many lessons to cover each week, but by no means are these hard and fast rules, so make your own decisions and feel confident about them based on your own goals that you have set for your children and the books that you have chosen to use this year.

Math – 4-5 days per week

Reading/Phonics – 5 days per week

Handwriting/Copywork – 4-5 days per week

Grammar – 3-4 days per week

Spelling – 2-3 days per week

Writing – 2-3 days per week

History – 3-5 days per week

Science – 2-3 days per week

Foreign Language – 2-4 days per week

Logic – 1-2 days per week

Step 5: Write it Out!

Now, by this time, you have invested some significant thinking time. You want to get your ideas out on paper so that you can continue to use this information all year long. You don’t want to have to go through this process again this year unless you change your program or curriculum at some point during the year.

On a piece of paper, draw out boxes for a typical school week. You may not want to schedule your subjects for specific times of the day but prefer to simply schedule the order of the subjects. Either way is fine. Personally, I choose a start time for school, but after that we just keep plugging along until all of the scheduled subjects are completed for the day. We take breaks when necessary!

You can keep this schedule solely for school subjects or you may want to include chores and other weekly events on your schedule as well. Rework the schedule until you are satisfied with it and then type it up on the computer. Post your schedule once completed in a prominent place and place one in each child’s school notebooks as well. You can’t follow a schedule that you don’t see!

In the past, I have scheduled time every Sunday evening to look ahead through the books and determine exactly what each child would be doing during that particular week. I typed in page numbers and specific activities onto the individual schedules that I kept for my two school children that I had at that time. I now have four children in school along with a toddler and a baby on the way. I will not be making these specific schedules for the children every Sunday night this year, but I will be looking ahead each Sunday to see what we’ll cover during the week ahead to determine if I need any supplies, library books, etc.

Well, I hope that I haven’t overwhelmed you and that you can appreciate how scheduling your school year in advance will alleviate most of your worrying and wondering about whether you are covering all that you should be this year. But please remember that your schedule and your plan are only tools to help you. You are not a servant to them, they are servants for you. If it’s not working, revise it or ditch it altogether and start over. You are the teacher. Modify your schedule or your books to make them work for you.

Have a great school year and enjoy the process!

Question: What do you LOVE most about the beginning of a new school year? What concerns you the most?

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Homeschooling Through High School /blog/2013/08/homeschooling-through-high-school-2/ /blog/2013/08/homeschooling-through-high-school-2/#comments Mon, 12 Aug 2013 12:19:16 +0000 /blog/?p=1491 Facing the Giant!

Does the concept of homeschooling through high school feel like a giant looming up before you? Perhaps not too unlike David facing Goliath?

How many of you have seen the movie Facing the Giants? Do you remember the scene when Coach Grant Taylor singles out Brock and tells him to do the death crawl one more time, making him promise to give his very best? With Jeremy on his back and blindfolded, Brock gives his best effort to crawl to the 50 yard line. However, Coach Taylor doesn’t tell him when he has passed the 50 yard line and continues to ask him to give his very best and not to give up. He reminds him of his leadership ability and how he can make or break his team, depending on the effort and attitude he gives off.

2006-facing-the-giants

How is homeschooling through high school like facing a giant?

It’s an incredible moment, isn’t it? Movie scenes can be powerful because they tug so strongly at our emotions. This scene makes you want to stand up and cheer Brock into the end zone, doesn’t it?

Another movie scene that tugs at my emotions is from the Return of the King, when the giant nazgul looms over the fallen body of Theoden, King of Rohan, ready to strike the final death blow.

Then a warrior stands between his fallen body and the giant demon-like monster, warning it not to take a step closer to the fallen king. The nazgul hisses in reply, “No living man may kill me!”

The warrior whips off his helmet to reveal the beautiful face of Eowyn who shouts, “But no living man am I! You look upon a woman. Eowyn I am, Eomund’s daughter. You stand between me and my Lord and kin. Be gone, if you be not deathless! For living or dark undead, I will smite you if you touch him.”

Eowyn-Return_Of_King-005

Sometimes it feels like we are facing a giant. Sometimes we feel small and like we don’t measure up to the task presented to us. Sometimes we feel like we don’t have what it takes to get the job done.

I write to you today to tell you that you do have what it takes to homeschool your teen through high school. I am here to tell you that it isn’t as hard or as GIANT of a task as it might feel to you right now. You have incredible influence and the ability to do this important task. I am excited to tell you that you CAN successfully equip your teen with a quality, real-life, well-rounded (or laser-focused) high school education capped by an official graduation by implementing four basic strategies.

Homeschooling through high school is not only DOABLE, but FRUITFUL. I am excited to break it down for you and show you how.

Todd and I have been teaching our kids at home for 15 years. We have graduated 2 of our children and have 4 more to go. I have been “teaching” high school students for the past 6 years. This year, I will not have any high schoolers under my care, as my current students are 8th, 7th, 3rd and 1st. However, starting next year, I will be once again homeschooling a high schooler and will continue to do so for the next consecutive 11 years. If I am not an expert now, I certainly will be by the time I am finished.

Opponents of homeschooling will say that your kids are going to miss out… miss out on the social life, the friendships, the prom, the sports…

If you have homeschooled for any length of time, then you know that homeschooled kids are just as socially active as traditionally schooled kids. By homeschooling through high school, our teens were able to gain valuable work experience, apprentice opportunities and shadow under experts in their field. They had the flexibility go on missions trips, do some extensive travel, apply themselves to music and serving through our church’s worship team. They also had the time available to focus on home-related skills and take some college classes.

Homeschooling through high school gives your students the freedom to pursue a real-life, well-rounded education by giving them TIME to pursue their interests and important skills. Instead of 8+ hours of instruction in the classroom and homework, they can finish their schoolwork in half the time providing the flexibility to pursue their unique interests.

Here are the four basic strategies that you will need to implement as you prepare for and home educate through high school:

  1. 1. Planning
  2. 2. Recording
  3. 3. Outsourcing
  4. 4. _________

Perhaps the last one is the most important one of all, but I’m going to taunt you by saying that you will need to attend the Homeschool Expo coming up the week of August 19-23 to get the full message. In my session on Homeschooling Through High School, I will go into detail how to implement each of these strategies so that you can successfully equip your teenager for real life, college and beyond… and award them a diploma in 4 years or less.

Get your tickets now for the Homeschool Expo!

Question: Which aspect of homeschooling through high school worries you the most? the least?

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The World is a Book… /blog/2013/03/the-world-is-a-book/ /blog/2013/03/the-world-is-a-book/#comments Tue, 26 Mar 2013 01:02:15 +0000 /blog/?p=1215 Does it seem ironic to you that this geography enthusiast (moi!) has barely stepped out of the country? Yes, I have been to Tijuana, Mexico and British Columbia, but not too many miles outside of my own country border. I have spent the last twelve years of my life writing about other places and other time periods, helping families to look outside of their own walls, their own borders.

God has created a marvelous earth and beautiful people in every corner of our globe. I love sharing about these places with you. I have finished writing the first draft of the next volume in the Child’s Geography series, which Ann Voskamp began several years ago. We are excited to bring volume 3 to life in early summer. It will cover many of the Balkan countries (Greece, Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina), Slovenia, Italy and Malta – the Classical World of Ancient times. It will be a fitting sequel to the Holy Land. Take a peek at the cover:

We’ve had several parents proof read the text for us. Here are some of the comments we are receiving:

“Thanks so much for allowing me to be part of Explore the Classical World.  Loved it!  I’ve had volumes 1 and 2 on my shelf but hadn’t started them with my kids—planning to very soon now that I’ve enjoyed volume 3 so much!” – Jill

“Wow great job on the first five chapters.  I really enjoyed them, and I know my sons will too when the final draft is finished!” – Angie

“I really enjoyed reading this! You are a gifted writer. I enjoyed the colorful local characters! … I thought it would take me longer to read through, but it was engaging and interesting that I couldn’t stop reading! Looking forward to reading the next chapters!” – Nanci

“Boy, this was fun!! And, I learned something (well, a lot) to boot!! Thank you for the opportunity.” – Renee

“Reading this has REALLY made me want to visit Greece and some of these places! I love the story line and how descriptive and fun the information is displayed or told. This is going to be an excellent book and I am very excited to use this with my son and to recommend it to others! I haven’t used the first 2 books and will now be looking into purchasing them as well! Way to go and thanks so much for making History/Geography FUN!  Thank you for this opportunity!” – Lindsey in Florida

We are so pleased that several of you have had a chance to preread and proof the first draft. It is the skeleton, in many ways. Now, we are ready to put flesh on the bones. My daughter and I are flying to Europe next week. We’ll be visiting our missionary friend in Slovenia along with some other Slovene friends that my daughter has made over the last couple years teaching at an English camp in the country. We’ll also be traveling through Italy and Greece. Besides bringing encouragement and goodies to our friends, the purpose of our trip is to take photos and video of these places that I have been writing about over the past eight months.

I’ll be posting fun facts and photos on this blog over the next 3 weeks, so stay posted. It should be alot of fun!

Coincidentally, next week is also the week that our social media manager moves to Honduras, so you should be seeing some great photos of that part of the world on our Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter pages. This geography company will actually be seeing a couple corners of the world and bringing back for you a slice of the culture and history.

Side note: If you order from Knowledge Quest during the first 2-3 weeks of April, please just know that our normal staff of four will have dwindled down to one, who is also completely responsible for the care of five children while I’m away. Please be patient if it takes an extra day or two to get your order out. (smile, wink, hug!)

Question: Where in the world would you like to go?

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