Sunday, November 30

Wednesday, November 26

Home Educator Appreciation Day

My mother/teacher deserves to win for many reasons:

1. Her teaching has raised me from my spiritual Babylon.
2. Her gentle touch and soft voice is a great way to start the school day.
3. She’s never strict.
4. She only raises her voice if she has to.
5. Her seven years of teaching has been, I believe, a good experience for her.
6. She works hard, having to teach two of her own children.
7. She has no duplicate.

I now conclude my nomination for Debra Renee Anderson, my loving teacher and mother with this:

I, Jacob Anderson, age 9…

…love her.

Please, encourage other homeschoolers by clicking here to nominate them.

A Perk I'm Thankful For

Non-Traditional Days Off.

It’s finally happening. DH and I haven’t been away by ourselves for 4 ½ years. The kids have been to my parents’ overnight without us, however we have always just stayed at home (and missed seeing them in their beds at night). But next week we get two days AWAY and the kids are staying here. I get two days and nights with my man (and two days and nights without cooking or cleaning or internet or t.v.) and they get two days off school. Everybody wins. Except maybe my parents who are kind enough to come stay with them. Thanks, Mom and Dad!

Tuesday, November 25

An Author I'm Thankful For

Carol Barnier.

She wrote How to Get Your Child off the Refrigerator and on to Learning and I picked it up when I was beginning J in first grade. It was just the grace I needed to teach my highly distractible son without feeling like I was doing it wrong. She encouraged me to let him move, cut out the writing, and make a lot of manipulatives -- particularly out of 3x5 cards which I still stock up on every year. While other books like to blame the parents for their child’s inability to focus (not going to name names here) her personal experience gave me grace and encouraged me to see my child for the gift that he is. I’m so very, very grateful for her book and for the occasions I’ve had to be in her workshops. It’s made a huge difference in our journey.

Monday, November 24

A Tool I'm Thankful For

A Whiteboard.

I started homeschooling without one because I thought it was too schoolish. I didn’t want to mimic a classroom per se. But sometime in our sixth year dh brought a free one home from his work remodel and I’ve been so thankful for it ever since then.

I used to spend so much time looking for scratch paper on the spot to check that math problem for J, illustrate a point, or to write out a word for B to copy. J also wanted lists of what to expect for the day and when I printed them out that paper always got lost. I was always looking for something to write on. And as I scoured they would be turning upside down in their chair or wandering off.

Enter the whiteboard. It is always free and in front of us. It keeps our academic to-do list handy and we can wipe each item away after we complete it. J can practice penmanship and math, B can do copywork from it, we can make sketches before we do our actual drawings and when it’s not in use the toddler can “color” on it and clean up after himself when he’s done.

It’s a simple thing but I’m thankful for it.
What are your favorite tools?

Friday, November 21

Identity (This and That)

Sometimes we have days (o.k. weeks) when we think:
“Is this all there is?”
“I’m a homeschooling mom. But I have two degrees and years of ministry experience [insert your own resume here]. Isn’t there something more than this?”
“I think I’d also like to do that.”
These days like to piggy-back on one another until we finally start seeking out other outlets to make us feel fulfilled and useful -- maybe even important -- because that looks so much more appealing than this.

When I hear other people’s stories… “I’m the volunteer coordinator for a major Christian non-profit,” … “I’m a nurse,” … “I’m a stay at home mom, but I work part-time from home.” … I start to think, well maybe I can do more than just this one thing. If I can do this then maybe I can also do that.

I let this little question get the best of me once and I dove into something that I thought would give me increased joy. It turns out that it wasn’t even comparable because while that added to my task list, it didn’t add to my character. After that was revealed to me as an unfortunate mismatch, I found new life in my “this”… more patience for the time that learning can take, more tolerance for the noisy toddler, more peace with why I do what I do, more creative ways to make my this distinctive, customized and infused with the essence of our faith and worldview. This is more about being than doing.

Still, I am a person outside of homeschooling. There are parts of me that are distinctively me, things that my kids don’t easily enter into, core values that I’m continually pushing toward and layers that I’m continually peeling away. Rather than exist in a continuous line I’m finding that I exist in radiating circles… I think Rilke called it “widening rings.” Before we can enlarge our identity we need to be comfortable with the identity we already have.

Thomas Merton said, “If you want to identify me, ask me not where I live, or what I like to eat, or how I comb my hair, but ask me what I am living for, in detail, and ask me what I think is keeping me from living fully for the things I want to live for. Between those two answers you can determine the identity of any person.” (The Man in the Sycamore Tree)

What is your “that?” And has your that ever derailed your ever widening this?

Wednesday, November 19

Homeschooling is Post Modern?

The Rise of Homeschooling is a Post-modern phenomenon.
Postmoderns distrust institutions.
Postmodernity blurs the lines between everything - fact and fiction, on and offline, news and entertainment. = more holistic lifestyle. Living is learning.
Postmoderns often only process information that they can apply immediately. If my kids can't use this in their immediate futures, I stay away from it until it seems more prudent.
Postmoderns revisit their roots. Going back before the days of government schools when young people (okay, boys) were mentored in a trade, given adult responsibilities at twelve, marrying as teenagers (I'm actually not going there)
Postmoderns want spiritual values without constraints, if we preach the radical values of Christ, they will form their own boundaries.
Postmoderns don't want to reconstruct, they want to deconstruct.
Postmoderns live with chaos. Seriously, there isn't a homeschooler alive that can defy this one!
Postmoderns value authenticity, not doctrine or authority.
Postmoderns desire experience, participation, interaction and community.

there is the There is one particular educational "emergent" philosophy that has grabbed my attention lately.

Traditional methods of delivering education and training no longer provide the insight necessary to be effective within the dynamic and interdisciplinary nature of today's highly technical environment.

Monday, November 17

What Emergent Means Here

It's a bit of a double entendre really. Can I coin the phrase "triple entendre" because there's really three things that come to mind? First a definition: Something that emerges comes into view, arises, becomes. That's very descriptive of our homeschooling. Our strengths are discovered and allowed to rise as such. Our style changes, fluxes, emerges. Our methods come about from trial and discovery. Learning happens in different forms with each passing month. And, as a result, I notice that my kids have a more well-rounded point-of-reference than they had before.

Secondly, the word "emergent" has been used in the field of education for quite some time. For instance, emergent literacy is the development of reading skills over time in the life of a young child. (Read to your kids!) Emergent in this field does not refer to a new way of doing things. It's a recognition that within each child lies great potential and purpose that's just waiting to burst forth. Similarly, Reggio Emilia schools have a very appealing emergent philosophy that builds upon the interests of the child and I think that our schooling mimics many facets of this philosophy... painting broad goals but giving freedom for students to determine how to reach them, observing students closely to guide the implementation of those goals, and involving community in their overall development and performance. Therefore, emergent is an educational term indicating that who my children are and who they are becoming will come from them not from me. I get to help shape but not dictate.

Lastly, our family has crept away from some faith practices of modernity and has delved into the world of "messy spirituality." Though still quite Christian, we have re-evaluated many of the practices of our spiritual heritage, kept what seems most like Jesus and have dispensed with a little that just didn't make sense. As the conversation increases about the difference between the two, I'd probably fall more in line with the word "missional" rather than "emergent" but missional simply didn't say all that I wanted it to say here.

I just thought maybe it was time to elaborate a little on this. It's not completely refined, but this is the gist of the blog.

Friday, November 14

Battling Burnout, Part III

Let a book tell you what to do. If you’re a mom that is uninspired to continue writing your own unit studies, get a unit study guide and let it tell you what to do for a few weeks. It may not be your style, but sometimes it will excite your kids with new methods of learning that you may not have touched on your own initiative.

Take an in-service day or two. Classroom teachers do this for very good reason. You need to take time to figure out what to do for the next week or month. If it makes you feel better, put on a quality DVD for your kids to watch while you do this. Hitting the ground with a plan on Monday will build your confidence and push you out of your slump.

Tailor the trends that overwhelm you. I think lapbooking is very cool in concept but, to me, that’s a lot of work to do in a few weeks’ time. At the end of our lapbook study I may have a beautiful display to show to grandparents, but I have no ideas left to try in the next unit. My solution? Choose just one lapbooking fold or booklet, complete it over a week’s time and then glue it to a notebook page. Then, next week if you or your kids don’t feel like continuing in that vein then you don’t have to and it’s not left incomplete.

Reduce the stuff that drains you. Are you involved in an activity that sucks the joy out of your life? Are there people that leave you feeling discouraged whenever you’re around them? Do what you can to reduce exposure to these things. Your energy is precious and everyone notices when mom is trying to pour from an empty vessel.

Reaffirm the truth of your identity in Christ. Sometimes we tell ourselves that being a homeschool mom just isn’t very important in the big scheme of things. Well, we actually tell ourselves this fairly frequently but we get into trouble when we begin believing it. You are God’s teacher/pastor to your children. You are ushering in his kingdom with your good works both in and outside of your home. You are accepted and free to become that person that he created you to be. You are loved and you are purposeful. If you base your identity in your Creator then it’s quite possible that your homeschooling will not just be a daily task but an act of worship.

Let me close by reminding you that you are a person of passion. If nothing else, maybe you can gain encouragement from the fact that you are only burning out because you were following hard after something you are deeply passionate about. At one time you were in motion and you were awesome! Infuse some new gas in your tank so you feel like you’re getting somewhere. Remember, you don’t have to go at top speed to be effective and engaged, and you don’t have to go the same way you were going before, you just have to go.

Thursday, November 13

Battling Burnout, Part II

Busy day yesterday! Here's part 2 of 3. More tomorrow!

Give yourself permission. You’re going to wonder, “Give myself permission to do what?” Well, what do you wish you could do in your homeschooling that you’re holding off on because of some unrealistic expectation, some other voice other than your own, or because of fear that your kids will experience gaps, test badly or fall behind? What do you need permission to do? Stop early for the day? Try something new? Let go of something burdensome? Experiment? Take a day…a week…every Friday off? Examine your expectations to see if they’re serving your child or family well and give yourself permission to do what you think is best as their mother and mentor.

Shake up your patterns. This is especially necessary in those subjects that seem to make everyone drag their feet the most. Every 4th week leave Latin lessons behind and let your child try some online vocabulary activities. Mix penmanship practice with computer typing lessons. Let a video show you England instead of reading about it from a book. Let your older child read aloud to all of you while you give your voice a rest and snuggle your littlest one in your lap. You can even take a week to only focus on a big project and leave the subject studies behind. There are endless possibilities.

Learn together. Sign up for a family class through the Park and Rec. Put yourself next to your kids in a learning environment and let them help you with Taekwon Do, Web Design or Ballroom Dancing. You’ll probably laugh a lot and come away with a greater appreciation for the potential that really lies within your kids.

Establish traditions to anticipate. These may be based on a holiday or a habit. You can have Friday Night dinner and discussion by candlelight, a Valentine making day, Breakfast and Bible, Dad’s the Teacher Day or even create an obscure holiday observation (How about Squirrel Appreciation Day on January 21st or Lame Duck Day on February 6th?).

Encourage another homeschooling mom. Sometimes answering the question (outloud and with a little conviction), “So, why do you homeschool?” is just what you need to get your cylinders pumping again. And if you’ve met together over coffee you’ve taken a little time out for yourself so it’s a doubly good idea.

Tuesday, November 11

Battling Burnout, Part I

My husband and I have been involved in church ministry on some level for the full 14 years of our married life. We have planned and prepared many different kinds of programs, hosted innumerable (and delightful!) dinner guests, taught countless small groups, staffed youth programs, trained leaders, presented workshops, sermons and even dramatic productions. I could go on and on. Thinking about it makes me feel tired but satisfied. However, several years ago, when I was in the thick of it, thinking about it made me feel something altogether different.

After trying daily for years to get the point across, provide growth opportunities, teach with creativity, help handle conflict, expect good behavior, model a Christ-like ethic, pose challenges, and praise, praise, praise, it seemed that we were spinning our wheels. I’m talking about youth ministry, but I could also describe my own homeschooling journey in the same terms; stalled, going nowhere and feeling overworked and under appreciated. Yes, I have been burned out in both areas.

Burn out is different from stress. Stress often makes you work harder in order to reach a goal that you feel is worthy of attaining… even if it’s an unhealthy goal. Burn out is characterized by letting that work slip through your fingers. You are burned out when you feel ineffective, lose interest, and disengage. If you feel like the only reason you’re homeschooling this week is because you’re afraid someone might check up on you, you’re there. And you’re not alone.

I most often want to disengage from homeschooling in the dead of winter. I live in the rainy Northwest and I honestly don’t know anyone who loves homeschooling indoors in February. The books aren’t new anymore, the children aren’t listening anymore and you can’t just leave the house and blow off steam at the park. It’s prime time for burn out. It’s also the time when we have to shake things up a bit in order get back into drive.

I have made a list of 10 ideas that I have personally tried (and some I have waiting in my back seat yet) when the winter doldrums hit. I hope that you can find just one idea here that inspires you to get back to a place of delight and productivity in your homeschooling.

Tune in tomorrow to see them!

Monday, November 10

Learning in the Fort

The boys have made forts on their bunks. They were able to get a certain amount of school work done in their forts today, which is fun.

Last night I had to put on a military persona and send them secret messages in order to get them to stop playing with the forts and get ready for bed. "Cease work on the fortress and make ready your men...don't forget to brush." "Retire to your quarters at 19:00" and so forth. We sent several notes back and forth (using their Sarah Palin Baby Name Generator names) in order to get the nightly task done. It worked.

Today, they've continued to play in that vein. A few minutes ago B came to me with a note.

B - "I've come from Clamp Noodle with an urgent message about one of our men."

I read the note and busted up.

Tuesday, November 4

School Without A Watch

I misplaced my watch on Saturday night. I miss it for several reasons:

  • The light feature tells me nightly what time it is when S wakes up cold after kicking his blankets off.
  • The water resistant face lets me shampoo small heads without taking the watch off.
  • It tells me how well our school day is going.

Whoa! Did I say that? Do YOU say that? Is the success of the day determined by how quickly the work gets done? Sadly, this is my success gage more often than I care to admit.

The past couple of days we've worked through our learning activities sans timepiece. We let our stomachs tell us when we were hungry. We let the toddler's behavior tell us it was naptime. We let our inability to focus tell us it was time for a break. The natural rhythms weren't usurped by our anxiety over the time.

Today it worked great (yesterday was a different story entirely). When we felt like it was time for a break we found that we had accomplished more by, what turned out to be, 10:30 than we had accomplished the day before by lunchtime. THAT was nice. Now we have the afternoon to make some Scottish shortbread (still learning about the U.K.) and get ready for our own little election night party.

I just might leave the watch upstairs more often...if I ever find it again that is.