Sunday, June 29

Teach Your Own

I'm reading John Holt's book this summer and it's so good. I'm trying to write down great passages so as I come across something share-worthy I'll post it here.

The preface contains a lot of thought-provoking insights:
  • Much of what has stayed with us for use in our lives as adults has very little to do with our actual school work.
  • There seems to me a suggestion [in public schools] that in learning about the world, other people's books are more important than observation.
  • "There is no such thing as teaching, only learning." -- Sister Agnes Patricia

This portion is worth 30 seconds to read:
Homeschooling isn't just another instruction delivery system; it shows us alternative ways to teach and learn, and to participate in family and community life; ways to find work or get into higher education without jumping through the standardized hoops of mass-market schooling; ways to use school rather than have school use you. Homeschooling also offers ways to think about "democracy" and "individuality," while, at the same time, avoiding the polarization that places people into lone-survivalist or drone-collectivist camps; and ways for children and adults to reunite living and learning that go far beyong doing homework together." -- Patrick Farenga.
And so I'm thinking...
...about how to make their experience less like my work and more like theirs.
...about how to let them have a greater hand in directing their education.
...about how I can let go enough so that we can really learn how to reunite living and learning.

Saturday, June 28

TFAHC, Day 4

I am a lesson planner. I love the blank lesson plan chart with all the little boxes just waiting to be filled in with ideas. I love the crinkle of them when they are all filled in with tiny pencil print. I love how it charts their abilities and tracks their progress. I love that I have an instant record of what they loved and what they didn't care so much for. And when we happen to have a day when car repairs need to happen, the baby won't nap, ministry needs to happen elsewhere and grandparents want to stop by I need to have some things in my back pocket so that we can still go about the process of learning but in a different way.

Here are some great ideas from Carol Barnier regarding what to do when the day of schooling just can't happen according to plan.

  1. Have the kids make insect creations out of stuff you have at home (or take a field trip to SCRAP for some new goodies). Give them scientific speicifications for their insect and have them give an oral presentation about it when they are done.
  2. Do a big art project that will take all day. You know, those art projects you keep putting off because they take too long? Do one of them.
  3. Have a "Day of FIVE". I love this one for those days when they need to be self-directed. She suggested: read about 5 different animals and draw and label one, look at five things under the microscope and draw and label one, Find out five things about our state (I can see this as an ongoing lapbook project), Find five things out the window and draw and label one, Look up five kinds of clouds and draw and label one. I can even see this being a great road trip activity.
  4. Play a board game, but instead of just rolling and moving have them answer a review question before they move.
  5. Math Fun Day. Lots of great things you can do with this.
  6. Have a historical movie watching and re-enacting day -- requires previewing the movie and prepping activities, but it's a good one to keep in your back pocket.
  7. Nature Walk and Sketch Pad day
  8. Celebrate an Author Day
  9. Sewing Project Day
  10. and my favorite -- Recreate a Reading Rainbow episode on your own topic. Lots of scripting and filming and even a field trip needs to be worked into this one. I can't wait to let my kids have their shot at this idea.

Monday, June 23

TFAHC, Day 3

The OCEANetwork Conference was only two days... but I have a few more days of thoughts to share.

Today's thought is simple because I couldn't connect with the overall perspective of this speaker, but he did say this upon trying to instill in us the desire to reach our children's hearts:
"When you have outstretched arms, you can't control anything." -- Mark Hamby

Fair enough.

Sunday, June 22

TFAHC, Day 2

Books for Boys

If you have boys you may have found that they don't catch on to reading as early as your daughters might. I wouldn't know because I don't have any daughters. However, I do have one son that blasted off with reading when he was four and one son who is six and could really live without it.

Jan Bloom gave some good tips at her workshop for getting your reluctant boys to read. (I won't share all of them because she makes her living doing these workshops and selling books):
  • Choose books that are full of information, action or excitement.
  • Make books accessible and available. Give them their own bookshelf and put the books on it that you want them to look at.
  • Write a story together with him. Let him dictate it to you while you write it down. When he sees his own words in print he can illustrate it and share his work with other people -- which is what reading and writing is all about.
  • Let him choose predictable stories... these are the ones that drive you crazy... because predictability enchants children.
  • Let him label his own books and feel the ownership.
  • Create a family reading journal that you all fill out with the author, title, number of pages, and what you liked best about the books you all are reading. Boys need to see the whole family reading for enjoyment (particularly their dads).
  • When you read aloud to him let him move around: build with Legos, mold with clay, color.... or throw darts like mine like to do.
I do many of these things already. The most important thing is to remember that it's completely normal for a boy to hold off on reading until he's 9, 10 or even 11. Once they get it, they'll catch up very quickly and read with passion. It's been proven over and over again. So, I'm not sweating it.

Friday, June 20

Thoughts from a Homeschool Conference, Day 1

“Jeremiah 29:11 is not a promise for you right here, right now.” Thank you for verbalizing this, Voddie Bauchum. Homeschoolers are NOTORIUS for taking scripture out of context and claiming promises that were never intended for them or for anyone from the 2nd century on. (Case in point: Proverbs 22:6 -- Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it -- is not a promise. Although it is wisdom.)

Consider that scripture not only contains Jeremiah 29:11 --

For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
But it also contains Ecclesiastes 7:13-14 --

“Consider what God has done: Who can straighten what he has made crooked? When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, a man cannot discover anything about his future.”

Either it’s a contradiction or we’re reading something wrong.

So if Jeremiah 29:11 isn’t a promise for me right here right now, where does that leave me?

  1. There’s something wrong with me.
  2. There’s something wrong with God.
  3. God forgot or was hindered.
  4. The text doesn’t mean what we think.

The answer is D. I can’t tell you how many times over the last five years I have had to reconcile all of my former church “quip” teaching with what I have experienced firsthand in a life that gropes to experience and follow God.

  1. “God is never late.” Huh?
  2. “God will always give you his best.” Homelessness is his best?
  3. “Everyday with Jesus is sweeter than the day before.” An irritating fantasy.

I’ve had hardship and struggle that I never imagined I would have -- and I'm not done yet. He allowed, and will continue to allow, all of it. And I have learned, much like the people Jeremiah was REALLY talking to, to embrace the struggle, put down roots and live in the midst of oppression, disappointment, fear and the complete silence of God.

So, today a room full of homeschool leaders had a lesson in hermeneutics. And I was glad to hear someone say outloud what I’ve been screaming on the inside.

Stop claiming other people’s promises and get on with seeking out the relationship that the Father wants to have with you. Your mileage may vary.

Monday, June 16

Homeschooling When It's Summer

I saw a friend the other day who schools all summer long and their family takes off all of November and December. I really, really like that idea. I’m sure the holidays are slower and cozier and more family-oriented that way. But all of me wants to be off when the sun is shining. If it’s raining and cold outside, I’d rather be inside doing other things… like learning and creating things.

That’s not to say that summer isn’t a GREAT time for learning because it is. I like to think that we just learn in different ways in the summer. For instance, the library summer reading program just began on Friday. One of my kids has already read for nine hours. The other for four. That reading time is priceless for them in so many ways.

The boys began swim lessons today. Next week they will do a sport/VBS camp at a friend’s church. Other weeks the boys are signed up for basketball, rock climbing and even Tae Kwon Do on Fridays. These are learning opportunities that aren’t offered during the day in a typical school year. So, we soak them up in the summer and they think they are just having fun.

So, perhaps we actually do “school” year-round. But the point of this endeavor is not to compartmentalize our education into seasons, but to learn how to learn every day of the year. For us, home schooling doesn’t really stop in the summer -- it just looks different.

Monday, June 9

Summer Reading

Men and Women in the Church by Sarah Sumner…. This book formed my thinking several years ago. I think it’s time for a re-read to see if I’m still in the same place or if I’ve moved.

Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright … I am co-hosting a summer Theology Park group on Friday mornings. Can't wait to dive into this one.

Essays on Learning…. Saw some things at Barnes and Noble I’d like to explore.

The Religious Potential of the Child 6-12 by Sophia Cavaletti… I read the version for preschool age children several years ago and it gave me weeks of chewing material.

Teach Your Own by John Holt… Every summer I try to dive into some different part of the homeschooling world and see what I can glean from it. This is one of the pioneer secular thinkers.

My Antonia by Willa Cather… Sometimes literature just calls to me and I've no idea why. This is the case here. I just think it's time to read this one.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck... I like a little dose of my favorite author every summer. Time for a re-read of this one.

Grace (Eventually) by Anne Lamott... I asked for (and recieved) this one for Christmas and just haven't had the time until now.

Visual Faith by William Dyerness... I asked for (and recieved) this one for a birthday two years ago. In my attempt to combine art and worship, I think I need to wade through this one.

If I get through three of these, I’ll be good.

Friday, June 6


And we're done.

Not the last day I was dreaming of. But we accomplished it all.

Notes to self:
  • When one has a super-competitive son any kind of bean-bag tossing game in which you keep score is never fun.
  • When introducing the summer calendar to the kids, never START with the item that states, "We will have media turn-off days Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays."
  • When it's the last day of school, they will unexpectedly get up and get dressed and start all on their own at 7:30 a.m.!
  • It's not about how much they can say back, it's the process of learning that is important. Even a "test" is a learning experience.
Next up:
  • Dad gets home.
  • We eat spaghetti.
  • We have cupcakes and certificates and "Hello, Summer" gift buckets.
  • We put the baby to bed.
  • We watch The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in our pjs.
  • We call it a year.

Thursday, June 5


Almost there, al m o s t t h e r e.

Got up and took care of three things on his list and helped his brother out a bit as well. Managed to wade through more research for his mountain report and had fun drawing stick figure pictures to go along with all the ratings on the Beaufort Scale (wind speed).

Reminded me today that we haven't done marbles in a long time (at least two weeks) and so when all was said and done, we called it even and I let them get something out of the prize box.

Marbles are our way of inspiring cheerfulness and cooperation. They can earn about 12 a day doing their various school tasks. Once they fill their jar to a certain line, they get a prize. Simple. Yes, I realize it's a form of bribery, but I'm not concerned. It's a motivator and most of the time it works well. They work pretty hard for their prizes which are around $1 for me to purchase.

So, tomorrow there's a page here and there to finish up and a review of EVERYTHING from the past four weeks. And later on there's a party. Oh, yeah!

Wednesday, June 4


Got up and decided to get going on schoolwork because Dad said they could go to the store and buy the new Indiana Jones computer game when he finished. J has been saving his birthday money for this day. So, he completed handwriting, listened to B read aloud to him, and helped B with his maps book before I was even ready for them to begin. It's always nice to have a carrot to hold out for them.

Finished his maps book completely, added animals and a rock climber to his mountain model, recited a very long memory verse and drew a pretty good picture of a lichen.

  • We had a pretty good discussion on what makes a Jew a Jew and why Jesus was one... but we're not.
  • S decided to take an early nap and we got a LOT accomplished before lunchtime.
  • Almost lost today's work on J's report when the computer froze up... but we recovered it. Whew!
Tomorrow's Carrot: Gram and Grandpa are stopping by and if the boys are done with schoolwork they get to go with G&G on a little outing involving ice cream. Gotta get done by lunchtime, guys!

Tuesday, June 3


  • Started his report on Mauna Kea yesterday. Oh, my. This will take a while.
  • Breezed through map learning, handwriting, geology vocabulary and memory verse drawing (his favorite).
  • I had a hard time explaining their last mountain project and getting them to understand it. In the end it may just be a cardboard model of a mountain, but we'll see how the next four days go.

  • Finished phonics reader #39 and began #40. He's on course to finish by Friday!
  • Breezed through map learning, sequencing skills, and geology vocabulary.
  • I worked with him on turning his memory verse into a rebus... never realized how many skills it takes to create a rebus (rhyming, drawing, communicating accurately...).
  • This mountain project was his idea. I get the feeling I distorted his idea a bit by the backlash I felt from him today. We'll have to go back and redefine it tomorrow. Has yet to finish math for the day. Little brothers are way more fun than math.

  • I'm so antsy to be done. And yet, I don't have summer figured out yet (meaning I don't have all the funds necessary to sign them up for everything they want to do) so I'm actually hesitant to dive into three months of bored kids...
  • I'm working on a list of things I want to learn this summer and I'm trying to come up with a way for them to make their own list as well. If we can explore these things together it just might help us make summer more meaningful.
Back tomorrow for more countdown!

Monday, June 2


Two more lessons in his map book
One more page in Handwriting -- practice the whole cursive alphabet once more.
Two more geology vocabulary words to define and draw and put in a sentence
Two more chapters in The Bronze Bow
Review one long memory verse from this year
Locate and plot Oregon's 8 tallest mountains
Daily Bible
Study the effects of glaciers on mountains
Work on report on Mt. Mauna Kea

Two more pages in Math
Two lessons in map book
Two pages of cloze sentences with Mom
Two geology related words to draw and put in a sentence
One time through phonics reader #39
Review one long memory verse from this year
Locate and plot Oregon's 8 tallest mountains
Daily Bible
Study the effects of glaciers on mountains