Homeschooling: The Typical Day

 

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I’ve had requests for a post about a “typical” homeschool day at our house.  These requests usually come from moms with toddlers who are busy trying to do double duty or moms with larger families. I don’t blame them for asking.  I wish someone would show me how to do it too.  🙂

*warning*     This post contains graphic descriptions of chaos that are not for the faint of heart.  If you’re a mom considering homeschooling….  Come back to this blog when you’re ready to quit.  At the very least it will convince you that if my kids were successfully educated;  yours should go to Harvard.

*disclaimer*    My current days bear little resemblance to the early homeschool ones, because while  I am a mom of seven, only one is left in the house.  Homeschooling my present senior is its own blog post, but I’m not brave enough to write it yet. 🙂

 

I remember my first year, in a burst of zealous excitement I posted a schedule with start and finish times for each of the different subjects.

That went the way of the dinosaur the first time we tried to do an ABeka math page.  Seriously, there were not enough hours in the day.

I think I initially had visions of freshly scrubbed faces eagerly anticipating the day’s lessons. Reality looked more like little kids following me around asking what to do next with cheese puffs stuck to their socks.  I had anticipated organization and order.   I  just hadn’t quite foreseen how quickly the toddler could get to the toilet while I was trying to explain fractions for the umpteenth time.  Sopping wet sleeves and cries of “ewww gros” were not necessarily part of an organized homeschool lesson.  Unfortunately, if you barricade the bathroom none of the short children can get in.

Reality looked much different than my expectations.

 

One morning during Bible time a flea had the audacity to jump on my arm. I realize this was not a national emergency, but I do not “do” bugs.  I’m originally from Buffalo, New York.  It’s too cold there for bugs.  No one has bugs.  I was certainly not going to have bugs.   Additionally, we were new to the area and renting. I had already heard horror stories from long time Oklahoma residents of what happens if fleas get in your carpet.   Apparently you may as well move out, because they will take over.  Somewhere in the reading of that morning’s chapter this lone flea invaded my space, then promptly jumped off and escaped into the vast expanse of a roomful of carpet.

I was frantic.

I could see it multiplying exponentially in the very fibers of my front room.

Bible time was over.

The kids were sent to the table to do work pages while I dealt a death-blow to the looming infestation.

I only had a few minutes.

Work pages will only keep kids busy for a blip of time, and there was always the toddler waiting for the chance to have a tea party on the commode. I ran to the cupboard, grabbed the flea spray which was in a distinctively shaped bottle, and vigorously sprayed.  If you are serious enough about spraying you can cover about three-fourths of a room before the smell of the spray even catches up with you.  I know this to be true because when the smell did catch up with me, it had an unexpectedly strong bleachy tang to it.  Apparently the bottle shape was not as distinctive as I had thought.

In case you are wondering…..

Yes, I really sprayed almost an entire roomful of carpet with Lime-Away.

Yes, it does change the color of the carpet………quickly.

No, the color change will not be uniform; but it will be permanent.

Yes, I promise you your husband will notice.

Yes, I am still married.

No, we never saw anymore fleas.

 

Organized lessons looked different than I thought.

Have I mentioned that my kids are intense?  In my experience most homeschool children tend to be pretty intense about their interests.  In our family, it’s extreme, because it’s a a function of both homeschooling and genetics.    One of my middle children (If you have 7, you technically have 5 marvelous middle children) was the first to funnel that energetic intensity into bugs. You are already aware that that particular inclination is not in my DNA.

Anyhow, it all started with a BJU earth science text that had a myrmecology experiment in it.

No, I didn’t know what myrmecology was.

As a general rule….Never agree to science experiments that have words in them you do not know the meaning of.   It always ends badly.

This very intense and completely engaged child successfully performed the experiment.  Myrmecology refers to the study of ants; and as the text predicted,  the ants really will follow each other up from the nest along a stick and into a jar creating a nifty homemade ant farm. It really was amazing with one or two minor issues.   The first was that she went on her own to find the ants while I guarded the toddler and the bathroom, and took the first ants she saw.  Fire ants are apparently the easiest to find.  Unfortunately, at that point in my life I didn’t have instant recognition for fire ants.  I also didn’t realize that ants that harmlessly fall back in the sand all day as they try to crawl out of the jar will be instantly enabled when you turn out the lights.  They will stay in the jar contentedly all day long looking like industrious oversized regular ants and suddenly turn into a bloodthirsty hoard flooding through the air holes the minute darkness hits.

There were a lot of ants in that jar, and they all escaped to exact revenge.

I could go on and on……

 So, what’s the point here?

The point thankfully is not how many idiotic things have happened in my household as I’ve schooled over the years.  Though I hope you find some comfort in the image of my kids with cheese puffs embedded in their socks it isn’t my main thrust.

I honestly think it’s important to know that all moms have “those” days.  Actually, all moms have lots of “those” days, and because homeschool moms have extra work they have more opportunities for “those days”.

It’s not about the day.

You will have those days that are close to perfect and beautiful to see, but more often the days will have flaws.

Some days like these will be ridiculous.

Some will be difficult.

Schedules get interrupted.

Things break.

Kids get sick.

Crisis moments come.

The point is that homeschooling is a marathon of days, and it’s the cumulative race that wins. No single day, week, month or year makes your homeschool a failure or a success.

That’s the whole beauty of Deuteronomy 6.  It’s that constant walking together, teaching as you go that disciples young children into mighty men and women for God.

I think sometimes we’re guilty of thinking that learning should always look like a school.  Then if life doesn’t look quiet, organized, and orderly, we think we’re failing.  Actually God made children for families, and educating them was His idea first.  It’s ok if your homeschool looks more like a family than a school.  It’s supposed to.  Just be faithful.   Establish what routine you can.  Walk day by day in it.  Use the best books you can afford. Cherish the beautiful moments (there will be lots of them). Laugh at the ridiculous ones.

And above all….

Believe God.  He is the one who called you to this.  He is the one who will honor your effort.

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Homeschooling: Things we did that I loved….

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Several weeks ago I shared with you some things that I would change or do over in our homeschooling. After 27 years I really could probably write 100 of those “do over” posts.  Thankfully, I could probably write 100 of these “do again” posts as well. Homeschooling encompasses some of my favorite and best family memories.  So, I share a couple of these “do agains” in the hope that they will encourage and bless you.

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We Read Aloud

Everyone knows you’re supposed to read to preschoolers and of course we did.  However, in our homeschool we try to read aloud every single day right through high school.

We’ve traveled through Narnia together,

We shivered through the wolf attack in Beric the Briton by candlelight.

We sat enthralled and grimacing as the starving Indians fought over the raw buffalo intestines in No Other White Men (about Lewis and Clark).

We wished for our very own pet owls in Owls in the Family.

We laughed so hard we cried at The Best Christmas Pagent Ever.

We cheered as Mark Antony delivered his historic speech over Caesar’s murdered body.

Ok…. and we yawned through Lorna Doone (Just in case you were wondering if some of the read alouds were flops, there were a few. However, even the failures are memorable.  To this day no one in my house will touch a book if you say it reminds you of Lorna Doone.)

Even now, my soon to be graduate and I just finished reading Hamlet aloud .  He played an awesome Hamlet, but my favorite memory is from the scene with the queen and Ophelia.   His rendering of Ophelia was epic. It was perhaps a bit sarcastic as I doubt the mad Ophelia had quite that tone in her voice.  Apparently my 17 year old son didn’t quite see what Hamlet found so enthralling about her.

 Next on the stack is A Tale of Two Cities.

If you ask my kids for their favorite memories from homeschooling; something we read aloud always makes the top 5.

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We Intentionally Teach Bible

For us, we adopted a gentle building block method for teaching the Word. Each morning we read through a portion of the Bible together verse by verse.  As soon as they were beginning readers, they got to take a turn in this” read around the room” format; and it was always an anticipated milestone to be old enough to read.  Then we just talked and shared about what the verses we read meant, and how they should impact our daily lives.  Over each one’s 12 years of education we read and talked about a lot of Scripture, and that’s the idea.  It gave us the opportunity to teach what we believe, and show them from the Word why we believe it.

We used games to review and test what they’d learned.  Friday was Bible game day in devotions, or sometimes we did it on Sunday nights for family church.  We used lots of different games and I’ll try to share some in a future post.

The important thing is to intentionally teach the Word.  Let your church support and enrich what you already do at home.

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 We Make Things FUN on Purpose

Children are like otters.  They love to play.  They need to play.  It’s an integral part of their make-up to play.

It’s so hard to remember this when you’re lost in the trenches of daily homeschooling.

Your child misses half of their math problems on a good day (don’t ask about a bad day).

Their cursive is hopelessly illegible  (send that one to med school…. surely that’s a perfect fit).

 They don’t remember what a subject and a predicate are (and you just told them).

They got 100 on their spelling test but spell like an illiterate in their daily work.

They got a 30 on their spelling test, and as expected spell like an illiterate.

Meanwhile the toddler is playing in the toilet, again.

Then fun seems both elusive and frivolous.

But…

It is essential.

While it is of course important that you educate your child; it is futile if while you are doing so you fail to capture their heart.

 Remember, you want them to treasure this experience of spending all their school days with you.  You want them to love the God who called you to it, and live that legacy of faith.

Fun does not have to be elaborate or expensive.  As a matter of fact it’s my opinion that it’s better if it isn’t.  It can be as simple as lunch outside on the grass or under the kitchen table in a tent.  You have to eat lunch anyhow, just eat it in an unusual place.  It’s easy to get caught up in the thought that a vacation to Disneyland is fun, and to wait all year for that one experience, but miss all the little moments that are your privilege to share as a homeschool mom.

Play games to review concepts.

Have random silly moments.

Celebrate everything.  Corrie Ten Boom (The Hiding Place) said of her dear Christian mother that she could make a party out of anything, and that she made everything “an occasion”.  I’ve treasured that description ever since I read it.

Don’t let the serious nature of your calling obscure the main point.

 It’s all about the heart and ultimately the life that that heart will lead.

Teach them, train them, yes; but don’t forget to play and to celebrate.

Schoolwork successes will come and go.  They won’t always spell like an illiterate (they’ll use spellcheck)  😉 .  They will however always remember the experiences they had with you.

I’m striving with you to choose to make each day a treasure to remember.

Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to read my homeschooling blog posts and to share them. I want you to know that I have really appreciated your encouraging words.

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Homeschooling: Remembering Bread…..really?

 

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Opposition is uncomfortable, but in the end it makes you stronger and more determined.

Distractions however are deadly.

If you really want to destroy something, distract it.

Turn it from its original purpose.

Give it something else to be focused on and passionate about.

It’s especially insidious and effective if it’s a “good thing”.

Homeschooling’s greatest enemy is found in that very principle.

I won’t touch any of the current distractions I see dancing around on social media sites, at homeschool conventions, and in homeschool mom conversations.  Instead I’ll travel back to the 90’s to something that’s no longer in vogue to make my point.  If you weren’t homeschooling back then it’s probably hard to believe that this is true, or even imagine how strong the pressure was.  I’m sure it will even seem silly, but to the homeschool community of the 90’s along came militant bread baking.   I’m sure the idea that you could turn hard-working already stretched moms into militant anything is ludicrous to you, but I assure you it happened.

Now don’t misunderstand me.  I love homemade bread. I have a daughter who enjoys making it, and I relish every loaf she shares. I’m not even slightly bashing bread or bakers.   This is just an easy example because this particular cause doesn’t have the following or draw that it once did.

The 90’s bread baking revolution wasn’t just a gathering of souls who loved the smell of homemade loaves, and enjoyed the process.  No, this was a  movement that avidly researched the various grains of wheat, and the best ratios for the richest gluten flours.  They gave classes on the timetables for grinding to baking and the benefits to your colon.  Pre-ground wheat was useless.  White flour was akin to poison.  Every homeschool convention had classes on wheat grinding and bread making.  Next to the newest reading program would be a vendor showing enlarged pictures of your family’s squeaky clean pink colons brought about by eating homemade home ground wheat bread using their superior grinding system.

 Their booth was packed.

Their classes were full.

If you fed your kids Wonder Bread, you didn’t mention it.

The health benefits touted were huge. Grinding your own wheat and baking your own bread would cure everything from learning disabilities to deadly disease.  It prevented every ill, and testimonials abounded to its curative powers. You were a substandard mom, if you didn’t get on the train with everyone else and at least lust after and save for the Lexus of wheat grinders.  Not knowing what a wheat berry was made you unenlightened and in need of evangelizing.

Moms that before would have discussed how to raise their families, educate their children, and focus them more firmly on what mattered, were now clustered together discussing how to find time to grind and bake.  Understand me.  These moms were passionate and sincere about their family’s health.  Their motives were the best.  They only meant good.  A tremendous amount of each finite mom’s energy went to the cause.  Many could not keep up and had to choose.  It’s a measure of how powerful these deceptions can be that the choice was a hard one, rather than an obvious one.

Recently a popular homeschool speaker shared his privileged visit at the deathbed of a dear saint. She was a beloved, well-known homeschool mom, and he asked her what she would have done differently if she had it to do over.  She considered, and very wisely said,

I would have baked less bread“.

Amen sister.  In the light of eternity… Well said.

Health and nutrition are good things, but homeschooling is a better thing, and raising godly children is the ultimate thing.

In the end the body is merely the bag you lived in.  Your children are the eternal souls you are entrusted to raise.

That’s the focus.

That’s the call.

That’s the thing to never waver or be distracted from.

I could have chosen many “good things” to focus this post on.  Homeschooling had only been known about for a few years, before the distractions starting hitting the movement, and hitting it hard.  These distractions were always “good things” or at least appeared as “good things”.

If you want to destroy something, distract it from its purpose.

 

Nehemiah said it best when his enemies called him from his wall building for a meeting.  He was not fooled and replied,

” I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down.  Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?” (Neh.6:3)  Four times his enemies came to him and four times they received the same reply.  “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down.”

Moms, don’t let the good things and the interesting things distract you from the one thing.

Homeschooling your children is a God-given privilege and purpose.  I won’t list distractions for you.  Everyone has their own, and the movement itself always has any number vying for your attention. They always look like “good things”, but they take your energy and focus from the “best things”.

Avoid them.

Ignore the clamor.

Evaluate your focus.

Remember the goal.

You are raising mighty men and women for the Lord.

Bread is irrelevant.

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Homeschooling: What I wish we’d done differently…

I could probably write a hundred of these posts.

 After 7 kids and 27 years there doesn’t seem to be any shortage of things that could use a “do over” or a “do better”.

That’s not intended as any kind of “downer” statement.  It’s just true.

So, for better or worse here are a couple of thoughts on the subject.

** I wish I’d remembered that kids don’t always know what’s best for them, or like what’s good for them.**

That’s easy to see when we’re talking about baths,

tooth brushing,

or

 eating marshmallows exclusively while feeding their broccoli to the dog.

Academically it’s harder to see.

It’s easy to forget that kids still don’t know what’s best for them, or like what’s good for them, even when we’re talking about math or writing.

I wish I’d always listened to my gut rather than their complaints and given them what was best for them; whether they thought they wanted to be a nuclear physicist or not.  Yes, one of them was sure she would never use Physics because it didn’t interest her.  She ended up teaching high school Physics, and her college road would have been easier if I’d have been firmer.

Others were sure that spelling was obsolete due to spell check, that they were never going to give speeches, or write novels.

On the other hand, I don’t regret caving in to one of my more creative kids who circulated a petition through our church to get out of dissecting an eyeball.  In the first place I don’t personally LOVE dissections anyhow, and the eyeball is a little grim.  But more importantly if she would go to all the trouble to write and circulate the petition… I just counted it as a civics lesson and picked a different dissection.  Incidentally, I was shocked at how many signatures she got.

 Apparently lots of people don’t want to dissect an eyeball.  I wonder why?

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**  I wish we’d prayed more as a family.**

Personal prayer is the lifeline of your Christian walk, and of a homeschool mom especially.

I get that.

However your children hear your heart when they hear you pray, and their hearts are knit with yours before Almighty God.   Let your children share in the requests that make your heart ache and burn. It will teach them what really matters.  When God’s answers come, the rejoicing will be that much sweeter because it’s shared.

 

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 ** I wish we’d taken more pictures.**

I’m sure this seems like a frivolous comment, but in the hustle and craziness of everyday life pictures just didn’t seem to make the daily “to do” list.  We did some crazy fun things in school, and most of them unfortunately are memories without picture prompts.

 

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  ** I wish I’d always gotten up earlier than the kids.**

I am not naturally an early riser.

Mornings, it always seemed to me were for people who liked that sort of thing.

I was not one of them.

One year the Lord led me on an unintended trail as I read the Word.

From Genesis 19 when Abraham departs with Isaac for the pivotal sacrifice on Mount Moriah,

to Moses warning Pharoah (Ex.8-20)

to the gathering of the manna (Ex.16:20)

to the preaching of the prophets (Jer. 7:25)

to the women at the tomb (Mt.28:1)

to the apostles preaching when miraculously released from prison (Acts 5:21)

and a multitude of other times…..

It seemed that almost everything I read happened early in the morning.

It took a year for me to get that perhaps the Lord wanted me to respond to this in someway, and many more years before there was any semblance of consistency.

  As I said, mornings are for people who like that sort of thing.

But as always the Lord was right, and I’ll be honest and say I really regret that it took me so long to get this.  Those quiet minutes before the household chaos begins are precious and sweet. My heart is so much more ready to meet them once I’ve had a quiet time of prayer and Bible reading. I know that you can read and pray anytime, and I did;

but there was manna in the morning.

If you have a new baby, nursing baby, are sick, or walking on any of the many paths that make sleep hard to get; this is not meant for you.

Sleep peacefully, sweet lady, whenever you can get it; and save this for a time when it will bless you, not burden you.

Just so you know…. I made lots of mistakes. That doesn’t thrill me, but it’s ok.

God is bigger than my mess-ups.

He’s bigger than yours too.

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Homeschooling… some thoughts

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This year I retire from doing a job that I never would have picked for myself, but which I have loved.

This year my awesome last born graduates from our homeschool.

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In 1987 my family started an audacious journey.   Everyone we knew thought we were nuts.  Actually, we agreed with them , but God had put this on our hearts; and He would not let us go.

I feel like I have some things I want to say before I retire after 27 years, but I realize that my friends may not want to hear me ramble on; so I’ve decided to post here.  That way they can ignore me if they want  .

Homeschooling has changed in 27 years.

When I started it was barely legal.  I knew 3 other families.  The major curriculum distributors had just begun selling to homeschoolers.  Did you know that most of even the staple Christian publishers would not sell to us at first?  Our choices were really limited.

When I started, the bulk of homeschoolers were either “unschoolers” (aka devotees of Raymond Moore and his “Better Late Than Early” philosophy) or of a more Mennonite or Amish type lifestyle.  We all got along really well.  (When there’s only 3 of you in a town, if you’re smart you don’t pick at each other.)

State homeschool conventions were small enough to be held in a church.  In 1987 the Georgia State Convention hosted Greg Harris and was held in a church in Atlanta.  Almost all of the attendees (including me) were either in their first year or anticipating their first year of homeschooling.  The curriculum vendors fit easily in the church’s foyer.  Sing Spell Read and Write was brand new and epically innovative.  Rod and Staff was there, they looked the same, espoused the same values as they do now, and  amazingly were priced about the same.

There were no used book sales.

There was no internet.

Our neighbors thought we were really odd.  (We agreed with them.)  Sometimes they turned us into the authorities.  We did not appreciate that, and went to great pains to make our neighbors like us and our kids. It was a matter of survival.

And…. everyone was scared we’d mess this up, and our kids would go through life unable to do fractions.

All that uncertainty was good.

It put us on our knees a lot.  It made us humble as we looked at the overwhelming task before us and the absolute lack of resources behind us.  It made reliance on God a necessity…. there were no other options.

Now we have an abundance of curriculum choices, internet resources, co op opportunities, play groups, sports teams.  These are wonderful blessings that enrich our homeschool experience.

BUT…

 Sometimes I worry that the changes that have so blessed us have also crippled us, because we now have the dangerous option to think that our success comes from ourselves.

It doesn’t.

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The Coleman kids when we started our homeschool adventure…

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 and later….. much later when the girls were all graduated and the “Coleman” Homeschool was down to the two boys that kept us fun  🙂

 

 

 

 

 

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