Sunday, February 24, 2013

My Latest Read

I like to read at least one book a year on Homeschooling. It usually is read mid-year, sometimes because I need encouragement, sometimes to equip myself further, this was for the latter.
I was browsing through the great lending library at the learning center, where 2 of my kids take piano lessons, and found this book:
Homeschooling for Excellence written by David and Micki Colfax

Any one who knows us, knows that one of the biggest reasons why we have chosen to homeschool is because of the freedom to teach the kids about the God who created them. In this book, with the exception of acknowledging that is a reason people choose to do so, the authors did not discuss the spiritual side of homeschooling. This read was purely for educational pursuits.

It was a great quick book, I blazed through it in a few days, which is abnormal for me... and I was very encouraged by it. It solidified for me, again, what we are academically doing with our kids. The method they used with their own children is very much what we are doing, using the Robinson Curriculum as a guide; basically reading, writing and arithmetic, then allowing the children to focus their extra time on the things that interest them allowing them to grow into the people God is making them rather than being put into a mold.  Occasionally I wonder if how we do things is really working. Sometimes it seems too simple . So It was nice to read how it worked for another family and worked well!

Growing up in public school I tend to do my measuring with it, thinking that is what an education needs to look like. This book was yet another reminder that we don't have to follow traditional education to be successful. They had some interesting things to say about traditional schooling. The authors were both certified teachers before deciding to homeschool their own children. A large section of the book was spent discussing the failure of public education, taking into consideration that this book was written in the 80's (when this homeschool movement was beginning), knowing the school system has not largely changed for the better since then, it makes me even more appreciative that we are able to do this for our kids.  Here's a few quotes I liked:

The result is that the classroom teacher's freedom to deal with individual differences is sharply limited. This curriculum-imposed suppression of individual differences is one of the most unfortunate consequences of contemporary assembly-line schooling, for if there is anything that early childhood educational research has contributed to our knowledge, it is that children mature at very different rates, have very different aptitudes and vary dramatically in their ability to put information into meaningful contexts. ....a "good" student is too often one who fits or is able to adapt to curricular stereotypes, learning what is given when it is given....What most educationists refuse to acknowledge is that real learning, in and out of the classroom, varies along community, cultural, and class lines, and from place to place and from era to era. For the most part any standardized , official curriculum is largely meaningless, incoherent, and irrelevant to the lives of most children. It is rather a control mechanism, one which interferes with and undermines education.

This was good too:

According to child development specialists, most children learn nearly half of all they will ever learn by the time they are four or five years old. In view of that, it is remarkable that parents--those who have been primarily responsible for their children's growth over those early, learning crammed years--can be made to feel somehow inadequate to the task of educating then as they grow older. The widespread acceptance of the notion that parents become incapable of looking out for their children's interest and education once they reach the age of six or seven is perhaps a carry over from an earlier time, when many parents were illiterate or immigrants who themselves lacked the skills their children would need to function in modern industrial society. But today most parents posses the ability to teach their own children, and to do a better job of it than individuals whose credentials typically consist of a degree or two from a lowly education department in a college of no particular distinction, and whose most redeeming attribute is often the ability to find work in any of several thousand bloated school districts.

And if that doesn't ruffle my/your view of public school education I don't know what will :)

The book was well written, and even though at the time of the writing three of their boys were in Harvard they acknowledged that every one is different, has different gifts and will have different futures, encouraging fellow homeschoolers to not let one curriculum dictate what your child needs to know. It has some good suggestions for applying the simple three R's and has a huge list of resource suggestions in the back.

I was also able to relate to the family because they homeschooled while working their land into a homestead.  Which we lean toward and that aspect of the book encouraged me. They have a second book, which I am going to have to get, about their homesteading journey.
Hard Times in Paradise --sounds interesting.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Homeschool Crisis

Once a year (at least), I experience what I have come to to call a homeschool crisis. It is a moment of feeling like a complete and utter failure and want to give up. It more in my head than anything else but it happens and we just pulled out of one so I thought I'd share my thoughts.

When we made the decision to homeschool, I really had a 'rose colored glasses' view on it. Thinking it would be sunshine and roses everyday, with perfectly intelligent, perfectly obedient children and a perfectly organized, perfectly run household.  In fact things were going along pretty smooth (of course we had out moments), but I  never had that feeling of crisis until number four came along and messed up our whole routine (joking slightly). God bless little number four, without him I wouldn't be nearly as dependent on God to help me. I'm not going to blame it all on the little guy though because as the children grow and more is expected academically, personality conflicts, pre-teen attitudes, pre-ten attitudes, pre-eight attitudes... all also play a part in this challenging yet fulfilling occupation.

December rolled in with sickness and lots of it, my son was nailed first with pneumonia for two weeks, then I was down for three weeks with a kidney infection and bronchitis, my girls got some nasty coughing thing too. So the whole month which is usually spent on crafts and baking and a lot of reading was spent on the couch, in the sickbed completely not in the Christmas Spirit. I was glad my lack of Christmas excitement didn't stop the kids from secretly making things for each other.
We were able to accomplish a little school after Christmas, but my heart was not in it. Surprise visits from family far away and the death of my Grandmother with an emergency trip to NY in mid January. I was getting depressed. The kids weren't getting along, school was half-hearted on all our parts. I was wondering as I do in times of discouragement, 'what is the point? I should just call the public school'.

This thought has crossed my mind more than once. In the words of Dori from the movie Nemo, we "just keep swimming...just keep swimming" in other words we keep going. Maybe the Lord speaks to my heart with a word of encouragement, maybe one of my children blesses me in some way. Something always happens in that moment of crisis to encourage me that what we are doing is right --even if its hard, its right.

If your not called to homeschool then your not called, but if you are called please don't give up. Whether feelings or circumstances seem to be standing in your way, you can know the Lord is going to help you and bring you through. No, it will not be perfect. You will some days (probably more days than I'd like to admit) feel like your failing miserably and you're the only one in the whole world doing so. Other days are victorious, you will be rejoicing at how great things are going and how wonderfully the kids are learning.
Stand in confidence knowing God is with you. And don't get distracted looking too much at what Super-mom is doing over there with her children (its a trap, because chances are Super-mom is looking at you).  Tend to your own little flock in the ability you have been given. We do however need a standard, set it high, yes, goals are a beautiful thing.

I have to constantly remind myself why we are homeschooling. Its not so we can have ridiculously smart kids (although, I have to admit it is a hope), its not so we can mimic what the public school is doing at home.
I want to give them an excellent education, while teaching them principles and morals that will last a lifetime, I want them to have room to grow to be the people God made them to be, not feel they have to mold themselves into someone they're not in order to please people, to grow up respecting authority, to know kindness and grace, treating people the way they should be treated, and to learn how to learn.... It is truly a gift to be able to do this.

I've heard it said that homeschooling is a marathon. Galatians 6:9 says this:

And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.

Its true.

I can't put my finger on what specific 'thing' brought me out of my little crisis this time. I think mostly it was just an understanding that these feelings are going to come and they are going to pass.
The Lord Jesus was faithful in helping me just keep plugging away and not giving up like I wanted to. This past week our school days were the longest they've ever been, yet the children had good attitudes and did their work without complaining. They are growing. We are growing together. I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Little Sister reading to Little brother 

Big Sister reading to Big Brother

Everyone getting along, doing the same thing-- I had to take a picture of this it doesn't happen so often :)

If you'd like, I'd love to hear your thoughts on how you have been helped. Or you can send me  private message at sonsdotdaughters dotfarm at gmail dot com.
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