Jesus' Precious Little Lambs

A Charlotte Mason Christian Home School: Preschool – 3rd Grade :)

Meet Miss Mason

Traditional Curriculum vs. A Living Education

After working for several years in the elementary school system as a substitute teacher and also while student teaching to get my credential, I formed quite a distaste for curriculum. I would open up a Houghton Mifflin or Open Court teaching manual and follow a scripted lesson with the children during Language Arts. The dryness made me want to gag and made the students want to get on to better things like recess. After looking over lots of homeschool curriculum recently, what I have come to realize is that the majority of curriculum is still traditional (workbook and textbook) which by nature is static, impersonal, and largely unrealistic in general. They all seem to be focused on the regurgitation of information and facts at a pretty low level of comprehension (Bloom’s Taxonomy, one of the best things I learned about in my teaching credential program, is soooo good to be aware of when teaching, or to use for evaluating the curriculum you are using or thinking of buying–does it use all low level thinking questions, or are there high level thinking questions too?). There happens to be lots of money in text book publishing, and sadly, literacy has been reduced to consumerism and instant gratification. School books, readers, textbooks, and the typical homeschool workbooks are dry as dust, dead as a door nail; a meal of saw-dust.

Rather than finding the perfect package of curriculum that simply does not exist, I have come to find and admire a role model, Charlotte Mason, whose educational principles seem to replace much of the need for store bought curriculum. What a relief, seeing as I seem to dislike curriculum’s pre-digestion of information approach so! Charlotte Mason lived and breathed the principles of a true education, education as a life, and was a pioneer in home education and major school reform in the late 1800’s. Charlotte Mason’s philosophies that live on in her 6 volumes, strike me as so right on as I continue to read about them. In her method of education, popular with homeschoolers, children are taught as whole persons through a wide range of interesting living books, firsthand experiences, and good habits. When I became sure beyond a shadow of a doubt that homeschool would be the vehicle of real learning in my children, and knew that it was going to have to look radically different from anything I knew of in the school classroom, my research discoveries revealed that Charlotte Mason’s philosophies and methods are rare gems of truth–perhaps the best thing out there to accomplish my goals. I want to share with you some of the things about a Charlotte Mason education that draw me in the most: living ideas, living books, and narration. I think Miss Mason’s philosophies will inspire you as a parent teacher eager to be able to better nourish your child’s mind.

SimplyCharlotteMason.com, A Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on the Gentle Art of Learning by Karen Andreola, or A Charlotte Mason Education by Catherine Levison are great resources for more information about Charlotte Mason methods.

Living Ideas

One problem in school classrooms is that children are taught at. Did you know there was a time when books were so expensive that schools did not use them? The lecture system of classroom education came from that situation. The teacher had to convey his knowledge to the student without any books. Even though books are available now days, unfortunately we have not departed from the lecture system–we teach at our children, spoon feeding them all the things they are to think, instead of coming along side them to grow them into deep thinkers. Most likely our own school experiences taught us that “we learn that we may know, not that we may grow; hence the parrot-like saying of lessons, the cramming of ill-digested facts for examinations, all the ways of taking in knowledge which the mind does not assimilate” (CM, Vol. 1)

I agree wholeheartedly that we should educate our children so they may grow. And just as their physical bodies grow on the food that is good for them, so their minds grow on a certain type of mind-food. “The mind is capable of dealing with only one kind of food; it lives, grows and is nourished upon ideas only; mere information is to it as a meal of sawdust to the body” (CM, Vol. 6). Those who believe we learn in order to know emphasize information. But those who agree with Charlotte Mason that we learn in order to grow, give their children ideas. If our children are going to stand against the ideas of the 21stcentury, this is how we must approach education. Ideas are so much more than mere facts or information. Ideas plant a powerful seed, that captivates thoughts, motivates deep pondering, and produces true learning that becomes a part of you. To really know something, it must penetrate past the outer court of the mind and gain access into the inner place where it stirs the imagination, touches the feelings, and affects the person. This outer court is where we keep facts that don’t seem to affect us personally. We may memorize them and spit them back out when required, but they don’t truly educate us. When something influences our lives, that’s when it has truly educated us. That’s when we truly know. (simplycharlottemason.com)

Oh my, in light of that, I think my education really started once I graduated from school. How about you? All I used to do was numbly regurgitate information only to be forgotten later, but now my mind is hungrily feasting on the grand ideas of well-worded books. I think I am finally learning something that I won’t soon forget.

“The difference between educated and uneducated people is that the former know and love books; the latter may have passed examinations.” –Charlotte Mason

Living Books

The most enticing aspect of Charlotte Mason’s philosophy to me is the idea that children’s minds should be fed with only the best ideas from the best books. Books that challenge the mind and soul with deep and noble thoughts and whose literary style leaves “beautiful impressions”. Books that help teach us about the moral world around us and inspire us to be better than we were. Living books are high literary quality books, first hand sources, classics–not the abridgement of an abridgement (as in Houghton Mifflin and open Court) so stripped down that it hardly bears resemblance to the original work, drained of its drawing power upon the reader. “Let all the thought we offer our children be living thought; no mere dry summaries of facts will do; given the vitalizing idea children will readily hang the mere facts upon the idea. . . . Let their books be living books, the best that can be found in liberal supply and variety” (The Story of Charlotte Mason, p. 51).

What taste are we cultivating in our children over time as we allow them to read what Mason called “twaddle” (books written down to children)? What enthusiasms are cultivated by silly stories unable to grow a person? Dumbed-down literature is easy to spot. When you’re standing in the library and pick up modern-day, elementary-level books, you’re apt to see short sentences with very little effort applied to artistically constructing them to please the mind. Miss Mason said, “They must grow up upon the best. There must never be a period in their lives when they are allowed to read or listen to twaddle or reading-made-easy. There is never a time when they are unequal to worthy thoughts, well put; inspiring tales, well told”. (CM)

Give children fruitful ideas, rather than bushels of information (as most history and science texts for example shove fact after fact at you). Miss Mason said, “An idea is more than an image or a picture; it is, so to speak, a spiritual germ endowed with vital force–with power, that is, to grow, and to produce after its its own kind.” (Wow, that is powerful. I can hear my Pastor, Bishop Carl Smith’s, voice in that statement as he has taught us over and over again on the power of the Word of God being able to produce after its own kind as we think it and speak it) What you want your child to become, is what you should be giving them to read–the ideas in the books planted like seeds in their minds will “produce after their own kind.” Give them the Bible, the living Word, and other “living” rich literature for learning the great ideas of life from the greatest minds down through the centuries. Yes, mom has to read the books too in preparation for rich discussions in which these ideas will be worked out. As you and your child’s mind feasts upon the ideas of C.S. Lewis, Shakespeare, Dante, Mark Twain, John Bunyan–who will you become together?! Its unfathomably exciting.

Charlotte Mason used literature and adult level books as early as first grade. This is one reason the parent reads aloud to the student much of the time in this method. It is an excellent way to bring the best and most vital books to children long before they are capable of reading such things as Shakespeare on their own and without our help. Another advantage is raising the child’s vocabulary level at an early age while exposing them to good sentence structure and content.

When selecting living books for your child, its easy to feel overwhelmed by all the choices, but look for ones that will reinforce your priorities. Many people recommend a myriad of books for various reasons, but your choices should ultimately reflect the ideas that rule your life. Its entrusting a lot to a school to allow them to choose those books for you, ones that will reinforce what is uniquely important to your family. Ultimately I feel that only parents can truly choose the reading materials that will shape, form, and grow their children’s minds in alignment with the family’s values, priorities, and interests. I think parents should really weigh whether they want to give the school system, Christian or not, the privilege of feeding their child’s mind, and thereby owning that mind. At my well respected high school, I was reading about homosexuality, incest, and rape in The Color Purple at school under the tutelage of my gay and lesbian Core teachers–my parents totally unaware. What will be fed to your child’s mind at school?

Narration

Great Literature is to be used in every subject according to Charlotte Mason. In schools, classic novels are snacked on here and there in one subject only–Language Arts. But then the story is staled by focus on comprehension questions, vocabulary, and analysis. It is the person forming the question who is actually doing the most thinking. When a book is “taught” and then “tested”, the reading becomes mechanistic as the student tries to guess what the teacher wants in order to get an A.  At the end of the test, the book may be either remembered fondly or dumped completely by the child’s mind.  On the contrary, when literature is savored for its own sake, narrated through the individual personhood of the child, and shared in an intimate way with others, the book becomes a permanent part of the child’s life.  It becomes a way to build good character and healthy relationships as children are invited into the “great conversation” of mankind that transcends time and place.

If you don’t test the reader, how do you know that all this noble well written literature is indeed growing his mind? Let your child narrate, or tell back what she has heard. So you read a portion of a living history book. Then you require your child to narrate. He should tell back in his own words everything he can remember from the reading. Narration demands a much higher thinking level than true/false, multiple choice, or fill-in-the-blank questions. You are asking your child to pay full attention and compose a mental essay, in a sense. Narration may seem easy until you try it for yourself. Charlotte encouraged adults to use this method to help them learn too. When you understand its potency, you will see why Charlotte used it in teaching many subjects. Since our children are unique individuals; they will form their own relations with what they read. Narration is the peephole that gives us a peek into our child’s “inner court” and lets us see what has been admitted there. Read this article for a really clear example of the excellence of living books over textbooks, and the wonderful advantage of narration.

I think that one of the most difficult things of the paradigm shift required to implement narration is that we are not the center. Teachers and parents are not the fountain from which knowledge springs for our thirsty students.  It is not the parents’ jobs to provide all the answers.  When we do, we rob our children of an opportunity to exercise their own minds, and a lack of exercise leads to atrophy.  It is not for us to draw all the connections for our students through the development of units. It is also not for us to determine which ideas are most important from our reading. Mason stressed the importance of laying out the feast of ideas for children and then allowing them to deal with it as they were able.  This means they may not get every point that we think is important. One of the hardest things to let go of is the need to ask questions that points them to our way of thinking. However, to raise your child to be a thinking, articulate individual, child produced narration is an excellent means.

Your Child, an Image Bearer

The reason Miss Mason had such lofty educational standards is because she understood that children have very capable minds to learn, think, and read. Unlike the modern behaviorists who believe that children’s minds are like an empty vessel to be filled with information (the same devaluing premise of our lecture style based modern education; the same beliefs in the mind of many a teacher), Miss Mason believed what the Bible says: children are created in the very image of God himself. Children come to us with compelling inborn powers of mind in place, yet also with ignorance, which like an appetite, must be fed on mind food from living books and ideas, life and experiences. Children are already born a person–not an object to be manipulated as the behaviorist believes. Not a rudderless and morally neutral explorer, or an animal at the mercy of drives beyond his control. If your child is not being read literature way above grade level at school, or is being “taught at”, seriously consider which premise your child’s school is functioning on. Don’t allow anyone to devalue the personhood of your child. Education must be built upon a Godly understanding of our little people, or it will be devoid of the real mind food children are ravenous for.

A No Curriculum Home School

I am pleased to point out that the Charlotte Mason method need not involve the purchasing of a curriculum and once understood, could potentially be done solely through the library at no cost. It allows you to be Spirit led as you pray about the just right book selections you will make for growing your precious child’s impressionable mind. A Charlotte Mason education is not structured or unstructured—apply the method in the way that works best for you. School recommended by Charlotte Mason starts at age 6 and is typically during the morning hours only (9 to 11:30 or 12 up through 6th grade, 1 pm for upper grades). Children are encouraged to learn constructive entertaining things such as pottery, wood working or painting in the afternoons. There is time set aside everyday for this type of enjoyment, time to follow their own interests, along with plenty of time out in nature. Miss Mason loved children, and wanted them to enjoy that special time of their lives and not have it pass by in a blur.

If you research the practical application of Miss Mason’s methods in subject areas of spelling, grammar, composition, etc., you will see why no curriculum per say is needed. You can find sample schedules of a morning in a Charlotte Mason home school to see how it all falls into place. You can buy the aforementioned books which will include philosophy, practical application or “how to”, schedules, and living book lists. Basically little store bought curriculum is needed because living books are the content of a Charlotte Mason curriculum, and skills are taught in a very simple systematic way directly out of the literature currently being read.

Homeschool does not have to look anything like school with its traditional ways of teaching and high dependence upon curriculum. If you toss the age leveled curriculum, you can teach your children all together as a family in several subject areas. As for the “helpful” scope and sequence (what to teach and when) that curriculum tries to offer, I contend that the one size fits all nature can actually only complicate matters. Being free from this type of timeline is very important in order to match what your child is learning to what he actually needs to be/is ready to be learning. A 1st grader may be above in some subject areas, and below in others, making a 1st grade curriculum package a pretty good waste of money. Its really hard to find the just right fit in every subject area for each child. Besides, where can you find curriculum that teaches Charlotte’s Web to a preschooler; The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to a second grader; and Shakespeare to a 5th grader like a Charlotte Mason school would?

Raise up a Daniel!

It is in the rare homeschool that wholeheartedly believes in the incredible God given abilities of a child created in His image, and feeds his mind accordingly, that I think we will find our future Daniel’s of the Bible. Youth of deep conviction, wiser in understanding and knowledge than their peers, chosen and favored by man and God. Its a great privilege and responsibility to raise up a Godly generation of Daniels in the 21st century!

Aim high my friends! Train up your children’s minds in the way they should go, and may your children be found as….

“Youths without blemish, well-favored in appearance and skillful in all wisdom, discernment, and understanding, apt in learning knowledge, competent to stand and serve in the king’s palace.” Daniel 1:4

A Twaddle Book

Noah’s first real attempt to read a book captured on camera. Mommy is so proud! Perhaps we shall decide to allow a little twaddle only for the purpose of decoding practice.

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A Living Book

Most of our reading time is spent with mommy or daddy reading aloud out of living books like The Velveteen Rabbit. My favorite book from childhood! The Velveteen Rabbit is a classic story from 1922 about how toys and people become real through the magical experience of loving and being loved. The message of this story is heart warming and one that is never forgotten. I recently checked it out from the library after reading about Charlotte Mason’s beliefs that children need to be read to from the best books. It didn’t occur to me to read a book of this level to my 3 year old or that I would find him captivated enough to finish the whole book in one sitting together. Thank you God for raising my sights through my acquaintance with Charlotte Mason.

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Simple At Home Preschool

Homeschool is For Everyone

If our endless crafts and creativity at Jesus’ Precious Little Lambs School makes you say “I could never do homeschool like that!”, then this post is to show you the simple side of at home teaching. If you long for practical help, rather than lots of educational philosophy, then this post is for you! This post is also about the at home teaching that moms of preschooled children want to make sure they are providing as well. Whether you have chosen to preschool or not to preschool, you will always be homeschooling to some degree because as a parent, you are inherently designated as your child’s lifelong teacher. That is why this blog is written with EVERYONE in mind.

After all, parents are indispensable teachers with the largest and first responsibility for educating their children. Parents of school students still have the responsibility to educate their own children, and school is not a surrender of that responsibility. I was a preschool teacher 4 years ago, and the kids in my class who knew their numbers and letters were the ones being taught at home, the ones whose parents were not surrendering up everything to the teachers. The children faring poorly academically had some of the least involved parents. Learning in a large group environment at a pace set by the teacher, not by individual needs, is like learning by osmosis. I think my preschoolers picked up a few things academically here and there during school time, but not at all like a child does in a one on one tutoring type of environment at home with a parent. I especially don’t feel that preschool or kindergarten teachers teach a child to read (I know I never taught anyone to read in my years of teaching), it is really the parents who do so. Reading or otherwise, leaving education entirely up to the schools should not occur in preschool, elementary, middleschool, or highschool.

The Japanese Educational Challenge demonstrates the remarkable effect of a mothers’ total involvement in their children’s education. In Riverside, New York, school administrators were mystified to find many Japanese families purchasing two set of textbooks. Author Merry White recounts, “…..one set was for the mother, who would study the lessons ahead of her child to help him or her in schoolwork. The result was that Japanese children who entered school in September knowing little or no English often finished in June at the top of the class in all subjects.” Its time for our society as a whole to take more responsibility for teaching our own children instead of only bemoaning the sad state of our schools, and feeling “trapped” by it. Dean and I can attest that as soon as we said yes to homeschooling, our minds opened up to see how every little life experience together could be used to teach, and how this may not have so readily dawned on us otherwise. We surmised that if we had not made the homeschooling decision, eventually we may have unconsciously felt a little too released from our responsibility as our children’s main educators, lazily assuming school was teaching them most of what they needed to know, and lining up with the rest of status quo. This being said, more important than making a homeschooling decision, is a parents day in and day out mindset towards education, and the will to take on the largest share of her child’s education.

Keep it Simple

Ok, so onto the practical advice I promised! I felt that some of you would appreciate some explicit how-to teach lessons at home information. Here is homeschool preschool (and beyond!) academics pared down into what really matters: The 3 R’s–Arithmetic, Reading, Writing. Yup, that’s it. Everything else– science and history and art– is more optional, interest of the moment driven, and learned as you go (in books, on trips, on a nature walk; as it comes up). Yes, Precious Lambs does a lot of fun crafty fluff, unnecessary things even. I am probably too influenced by my structured preschool educator background; but for me, all the cutesy stuff is fun. However, what kids really need more than cutesy stuff is the basics and a strong attachment environment to learn it in. An emotionally warm, unrushed, somewhat unstructured, and often child-led morning of activities.

Teaching background, credentials or not, no matter; you can offer your child this: the academic basics in an attachment environment. Most of us can teach a young child the 3 R’s. I think most of us can handle teaching simple arithmetic by counting and adding up all kinds of things around the house with our children (sometimes taking things away too–subtraction). Handwriting is something that the child just kind of has to be ready for after working his muscles in play dough, gluing tiny object on paper, and things like that. Writing obviously can not be done by small children, but their “writing” is in the form of narration. Have your child tell you about the story you just read sometimes. Telling a story from beginning to end will prepare a child to write later. So that is all pretty easy, but teaching reading seems mystifying to most new parents. To me, the academic basic that really matters between ages 3 to 5 is learning to read (but this is not universally accepted as some parents feel that formal academics is unneeded before age 6). There is more than one right way to teach reading, but this post is where I will share what seems to be working for us so far.

One Must Have Product

First, its quite important to mention that we focus on lowercase letters and letter sounds because this is what matters for reading. (Most preschools learn it the reverse way first–uppercase and letter names– which doesn’t make a lot of sense) Having a lowercase alphabet that can be manipulated by the child’s hands is really good to have! The one we ordered from Rainbow Resource has been our one indispensable homeschool teaching tool thus far (see pics below). Beneath each letter puzzle piece is a picture of something that starts with the sound (like drum for d), which I have come to find is apparently an exciting and engaging surprise element for my children. Most of the following teaching ideas I am going to share with you evolved from working with this puzzle regularly over the last 6 months–rudimentary activities eventually evolving into more complex ones as new ideas for how to use the puzzle came to mind. When I say we work with the puzzle “regularly”, I mean just 10 or 15 minutes a day usually. So simple to complete some preschool learning during breakfast and have the rest of the day for play! This is all it really takes to learn the basics, not two or more full mornings of preschool a week like we are conditioned to think. This is not preschool classroom “osmosis” type of learning, this is golden one on one work which doesn’t take much time. I feel that having a good teaching tool like an alphabet puzzle is imperative for building your phonics activities upon at home.

Don’t Underestimate Yourself

Thinking up our alphabet learning activities myself, rather than using canned curriculum, has been a really rewarding part of schooling my children. It always seems to be true in life that whatever comes from you, is part of you, brought out to fill a need, is the most effective and strangely satisfying way to provide. Its also an unforgettable experience–literally. Use a curriculum to teach your first child how to read, and you will inevitably forget how to teach reading to your second child unless you dredge up the curriculum book again. Teach reading from your own ideas, and you will never forget, it will always be a part of you. The following ideas I will share were not part of my past preschool curriculum and teaching experience, the following activities were largely absent from my well regarded Pre-K classroom (and I daresay this would be the norm), and that is why I say parents have to teach their own children. In my former Pre-K class, phonics was like 2 minutes introducing the letter of the week at circle time and occasionally reading Alphtales, handwriting was worksheet style letter printing despite the lack of student readiness, math consisted mostly of counting the days of school (again despite the lack of readiness for grasping large numbers), and we did no student narrating as preparation for writing. Mostly, we were pretty much there to have fun–not provide a firm foundation in the basics of reading, writing, and math. If I went back to teach after homeschooling my own kids, I would be a MUCH better teacher, but still hardly able to make a dent in real learning due to the high student to teacher ratio. Most preschool teachers out there only know to do what I used know, or less. I say all this so that you will not overestimate the ability of your preschool teachers, nor underestimate your ability as parent teacher.

Keeping learning simple in the simple environment of home is exactly what cultivates true learning of the basics. Preschool is not a simple environment—learning the basics is complicated in the overly stimulating classroom, in the way an environment is structured in order to coral a group of 24; learning the basics competes against the high amount of entertainment required just to keep the attention of the large group.  I think you will love teaching reading simply from your own ideas in your own home, so I would like to get you started with some tangible activity examples for teaching reading.

Teaching 26 Letter Sounds

We started out with the idea of simply singing “ah, buh, cuh, duh….” while pointing to each letter on the alphabet puzzle, and then removing a few letters at a time to find pictures of things that start with those sounds. I would ask, “Can you think of/find something else that starts with that sound?” An appropriate question, but requiring a lot of help in the beginning. The process of teaching 26 different specific letter sounds is slow. The beginning of that process for Noah dates back to age 2 before we had the puzzle, but I can see that now at 3 1/2 yrs. letter sound learning is really picking up speed and finally sticking too (due to both the puzzle and his age). There are lots of ways to learn letter sounds–phonics toys, flashcard drill, starfall.com, letter puzzles, etc. Just don’t do too much at one time–try not to let your child’s eyes glaze over! As long as you are doing just a little bit each day, and it stays fun, have no worries that you are pushing academics too soon–it will be a slow natural progression leading your child into the wonderful world of reading (much sooner than his school taught peers).

Teaching First Sounds in Words

Several months ago my next idea was to start pointing out beginning sounds, in words of interest, randomly throughout the day. “I wonder what b-b-blueberry starts with?!” Pause, pause. “Say it slow. Bllluuuuebeeeerrrrryyyy. Can you hear it?” Of course I had to supply the answer for quite awhile. Now days when I ask, “What does tomato start with?”, most of the time Noah will respond with the correct beginning sound (I am always supplying new words, Noah’s answers are not memorized responses). Sometimes I hand him a letter from the puzzle and ask, “Can you find something that starts with this sound?”, (from a group of items sitting in front of him). Now we are moving along into hearing ending sounds which is looking very promising lately as well.

The next idea that came was to build words using the alphabet puzzle, spelling 3 letter words like cat, wig, and bug. In order to succeed at encoding (build words), a child should know several letter sounds, be sufficiently familiarized with the location of each letter on the puzzle board (or whatever you are using), and able to hear some of the sounds in a word. Once your child can do these 3 things, the idea of building words as the logical next step becomes apparent to the parent constantly contemplating, “where are we going from here?”. Building your child’s ear for first sounds, which are easiest to hear, then last sounds, which are next easiest to hear, and finally middle sounds can be a loose phonics guideline.

I am amazed at the growth I am beholding in Noah since we officially began homeschool last winter! I can’t tell you how exciting it is to be the one who is responsible for all this academic growth (like deciphering sounds in words) in my son!!! I know you will love it too!

Teaching Phonemic Awareness

Noah and I also just play around with words at the breakfast or lunch table. We tend to spend a lot of time at the table during meals together, but wherever you and your children happen to spend time together will probably work as well. Basically you want to build your child’s ear for sounds, and conveniently you don’t need any supplies to do these games. We clap out syllables just for fun. Or I ask, “How many buh’s do you hear in baby?” “Hey! Blueberry has two words in it! Do you hear what they are?” “Here is a silly sentence: Baby and Bubs eat blueberries for breakfast.” This rhyming game always makes Noah smile, “Baby, waby. Baby, saby. Baby, maybe.” “Can you guess what this word is: “cuh” “uh” “puh”? If you just do whatever silly sound game that comes to mind, it will be a phonics lesson. Phonemic awareness activities seem like goofy stuff, and young children eat it up (especially if you appear to be having a ball)! Eventually your child catches on and joins in, or even starts initiating the games.

Don’t get caught up in rigorous formal phonics packaged curriculums. It will take the spontaneous fun out of things for you and your child as it can never be ‘interest of the moment’ driven. If you are full time homeschooling, your child might as well go to school if you go the canned curriculum route. 😉 Trust me, ideas will come as you step out and just try it, and as you pray for them. Don’t worry, there is a natural progression to this stuff and you don’t need to be an expert to teach reading. But how do I know my child is learning everything? As your child starts to stand out head and shoulders academically, so to speak, amongst his same age school peers, your fears will be put to rest. Mine are already evaporating as I see Noah achieving what I know could never happen in a 3’s class at preschool.

Where Do We Go From Here?

This has probably been enough to think about for now, but if you are the kind of person who has to know what is up ahead, I will attempt to provide a glimpse. Its all a little foggy for me still right now, and that’s why homeschooling takes faith–the fog doesn’t clear up until you are in the midst of it. But it does clear as you take one step at a time, as I have shown you in this post how my own teaching reading methods are becoming more clear simply through experience. The appropriate idea never fails to come just as you arrive at the place of needing that next logical step, and your child’s readiness for the next step will conveniently happen to correspond, but before then it is much too hard and confusing to think it all through to places too far ahead. Try not to think too far ahead, especially outside of your prayer time. Curriculums seem to be the perfect answer for the confusion, for giving you that picture you crave of where you are headed, but they also bring on much confusion with their one size fits all scope and approach, not to mention ripping you off of an experience so rich and confidence building as you personally generate your own material. The rewards of personally and divinely generated provision can not be substituted for! This is the stuff that makes a person–allow God to use homeschool to form your life and shape your faith. Don’t be fainthearted, you can teach your children step by step too!

Soon enough I will need another alphabet manipulative with more than one of each letter so that we can build bigger words. Montessori students use something called a moveable alphabet that we will soon be purchasing. Look it up and you will see why it is a better choice than magnet letters or letter tiles. I think the alphabet puzzle is a better starter item because of the visibility and display of the letters, but it of course does not have indefinite usefulness. With the moveable alphabet, we will eventually move into building 4 and 5 letter words that can be sounded out. Additionally, I foresee us memorizing words that can’t be sounded out (sight words), and perhaps learning a phonics rule here or there if its really helpful (like the silent “e” at the end of a word makes the other vowel long as in “rake” or “poke”). But we will not be bogged down in learning every single phonics rule that I don’t remember anymore anyway (not sure if I learned them in the first place), because its simply not necessary for most children in order to learn how to read, and its way too tedious. But this is territory we have not yet ventured into yet. Perhaps we can keep you updated when we get into all this fun “advanced” kinder/1st grade level stuff!

Perhaps you have some reading or education wisdom to share yourself, and we welcome that here! I would love to have other contributing writers on this blog, as well as hear your comments regularly.

And So Then We Will Be Reading?

Building words (encoding, or spelling) is easier for kids than breaking down words (decoding, reading) and is thus our main focus right now. But from time to time we sound out some words in books as we are reading as well. My feeling is that lots of encoding work will turn a child into a good reader, and make decoding work less of a struggle. My aforementioned phonemic awareness/word play activities and encoding/word building activities are, in a nutshell, how I am currently teaching my children to read.

I hope teaching reading is no longer mystified for you.

(Let me know if you have any questions though as I am all too happy to help with whatever I might know. ;))

The whole Teaching Reading series of articles on SimplyCharlotteMason.com offers some great step by step instruction as well, with a low emphasis on tedious amounts of phonics. It will take you more into the “advanced” stuff too if that is where your child happens to be.

A Peek into our Jamma Preschool:

Mealtimes are Great Learning Times

We count berries or grapes or raisins all the time (math), or find a word of interest on our plate for deciphering beginning sounds (phonics).

Learning at Breakfast!

Noah successfully matched up some letters with fruits and veggies that start with the corresponding sounds after eating breakfast at his play kitchen table one day.

Building a Word

Another day, and still preschooling in our jammas. 😀 (Lest you think homeschoolers never emerge out of pajamas– we do get dressed before learning time on some of our summer days, and definitely during the school year since we co-op)

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Hold Onto Your Kids–Book Review Part III

To Preschool or Not to Preschool

Preschool time is soon approaching, and perhaps your child is on their way this fall! Perhaps you are excited, or full of mixed emotions about sending your little one off. Whether you feel at ease and your mind is made up, or your eyes moisten at the thought of this new change, read this post, please. (School age parents read too as all this info applies to older children as well) There is so much info and opinions out there supporting a young child going to preschool. Harder to find, but pretty thought provoking, is the information regarding the cons of preschool. In this third review of the book, Hold Onto your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers, I will continue to examine the trend of our time: peers replacing parents, but this time in light of another recent trend: sending young children to preschool. Preschool parents of course want to know what preschool will not do for their child, so that mom and dad can do it. For you, here is a firmer foundation to step out on your decision. Honestly, I know very few families not sending their kids to preschool. However, there may be a mom simply following her instincts to keep her young ones home, and yet can’t quite put it into words why it is she is choosing to hold on to her children a little longer. Someone else may be reluctantly keeping a child home for lack of options. For you both, here is some wind to sail through your decision.

Here are several popular beliefs surrounding the decision to preschool one’s child and some countering arguments:

Preschool Will Socialize My Child

Today’s parents and teachers view early and extensive peer interaction in a positive light. We need to socialize children, right? Everywhere you go that’s what you hear parents talking about. The belief is that socializing–children spending time with one another–begets socialization: the capacity for skillful and mature relating to other human beings. However, there is no evidence to support such an assumption, despite its popularity. Author of Hold Onto Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers, Gordon Neufeld, challenges our definition of “socialize”. “Social integration means much more than simply fitting in or getting along; true social integration requires not only a mixing with others but a mixing without losing one’s separateness or identity.” That is something that takes a great amount of maturity that children do not yet have! (Christians, can our children socialize with people of unlike values and still hold their identity in the world? Be salt to the earth without first being salty? Or a light to the world that can’t be snuffed out without first being ablaze? Not yet. Children are inherently not salty or ablaze, yet.)

If you have read my other book reviews, then you know that attachment to adults, not peers, is necessary for maturation. And the maturation required to keep one’s identity in all settings is necessary for genuine socialization. So true social skills arise out of a child’s maturation, maturation that results from his attached relationship to an adult. To be sure, the socializing of playing with other children plays a part in rendering a child capable of true social integration, but only as a finishing touch. It is no easy task, even for adults, to hold onto oneself when socializing. When we are too desperate to make things work, or uncomfortable being ourselves, we make ourselves fit in or we back away from conflict. Children have even greater difficulty holding onto themselves when interacting with others. What is praised as getting along in children would, in adult life, be called compromising oneself or selling oneself short or not being true to oneself. Until children can hold onto themselves, we need to hold onto them.

Hold Onto Your Kids has made it so clear to me why having my family standards is so important–like allowing Noah and Faith to socialize consistently only with like valued families. Our parent initiated and hand selected friendships for Noah and Faith are by far the safest, most beneficial friendships they could ever have. Cousin Roman, Landon, Tayler, and David’s families are so like minded that Noah can easily hold his sense of self around them. These children are the finishing touches to Noah and Faith’s socialization. But the true socializing behaviors are wrought out right here with mommy and daddy. Preschool, on the other hand, Christian or not, is a mixed bag, and relationships arise that are often not carefully hand selected by the parents. However, the more well attached children are to the adults who care for them, the less concerned we need to be about restricting their social play. Since homeschool lends naturally to a very attached child-parent relationship, this actually allows for more true social freedom. Who would have thought? (Oh, and who said homeschooling is riddled with socialization issues anyway? ;))

Peek in at your child’s preschool one day and observe your child–does it appear that he is learning more from his peers or his teacher? Preschool interaction seems innocent enough for sure, but the environment still has consequences: the kids are learning to follow each other. This seems ok for awhile, but as those innocent preschoolers grow and become immersed in American pop trash for example, the cultural icons of our age, our own children have already been trained from young to follow these peers. Like a bit placed in the mouth, our children can be led astray. Preschoolers are completely unable to hold onto themselves and therefore, the preschool environment is not the place for learning social skills.

Preschool Can Help My Child Overcome Shyness

Preschool seems important to some parents because they do not want their child to be shy. What Hold Onto Your Kids has to say about shyness makes me sigh a breath of relief about Noah’s shy tendancies. Some kids are naturally more shy than others, but it doesn’t have to be seen as a handicap. The usefulness of shyness is that it serves as an attachment force keeping a child from making an unsafe connection. The shy child will be timid around people he is not attached to. Naturally, adult-oriented children are much slower to lose their shyness around their peers. They might appear socially naive and awkward around their peers. Peer oriented kids, appear to be socially successful. This is their forte–what is cool and what is not, what to wear and how to talk. Much of the sociability of peer oriented kids is the result of a loss of shyness. Phew! My little Noah is just mommy oriented, a good thing worth appreciating his shyness over. What should eventually temper shyness is not peer orientation but the psychological maturity that engenders a strong sense of self (which comes from strong parent attachment). I think I will see Noah’s shyness melt away as I keep him close and as he comes into who he is. That is something preschool can’t do for a shy kid.

My Child Would Be Bored Without Preschool

“I’m bored” is the all too common refrain of older children. I remember finding myself bored during childhood summer vacations–so much time, so little to do, and mom and dad at work. Many parents find themselves trying to alleviate their child’s listless type of behavior by facilitating peer interaction or finding a social activity of some sort. Even preschool parents are are trying to prevent boredom with play dates, sports, summer camp…..Thank goodness this is not what my parents did–they left us bored and alone. 😉 Social activities and friends are exactly what bored children do not need. It may temporarily seem to work, but it actually exacerbates the underlying issue. The underlying issue is that children become bored when their attachment instincts are not sufficiently engaged and when their sense of self does not emerge to fill this void. In other words, the hole that is usually experienced as boredom is the result of a double void of attachment and of emergence: the child is not with someone with whom he can attach and feel comfortable, and, on the other hand, she lacks sufficient curiosity and imagination to spend time creatively on her own. Ideally, such a void comes to be filled with the child’s emergent self: initiative, interests, creative solitude and play, original ideas, imagination, reflection, independent momentum. My sister and I were forced to “find ourselves” in these long summer hours, and that we did–emerging from all that ‘something from nothing’ type of play as thinking, creative young ladies with a strong sense of self. 😀 Peer orientation only blocks the emergence of the vital, curious, engaged self. So don’t be afraid of boredom! It will serve to mature your child! Better bored at home, than constantly superficially stimulated at preschool.

I would be so bold as to say that too much social play is an endangerment to emergent play (creative play). For young children, the closeness and contact with the person attached to must be very secure, like an anchor, in order for the child to be venture out into emergent, or creative solitary play. Children can never be a strong enough attachment anchor for one another, so their emergent play is always preempted by social play. Because we strongly emphasize peer socialization now days, emergent play–play arising from the child’s creativity, imagination, and curiosity about the world–has become endangered. Even parents serving as a playmate need to be careful and not overdo it, lest the emergent play deteriorate into social play, which is far less beneficial. Emergent play is more important in regards to a child’s development; social play is just fun, the icing on the cake. Upon discovering this, I too became aware that long solitary playtimes need to be carved out in the week for Noah and Faith, rather than having a constant stream of friends and play dates at the house. Preschool may be fun, but make sure it does not preempt true learning time at home alone.

My Child Needs Preschool Friends

The very concept of friendship is meaningless when applied to immature people. A true friend is considerate, acknowledges our boundaries, respects us as individuals, supports our growth and development. The capacity for true social integration comes with maturity and individuality. Many children are not even remotely capable of such. Until children are capable of true friendship, they really do not need friends, just attachments. What a child really needs is to become capable of true friendship, a fruit of maturation that develops only in a viable relationship with a caring adult. Our time is more wisely spent cultivating relationships with the adults in our child’s life than pursuing “friends” for our child. If its adult interaction that our child really needs, then we must admit that a lower adult to child ratio than what is found at preschool will best serve our children.

Preschool Will Smooth Out My Child’s Personality

When we think of homeschooler, we automatically think eccentric, right? Ha! We have an obsession with wanting to be “normal”, and for our kids to fit in. Perhaps we ourselves have become so peer oriented that we have a hard time expressing our own individuality and take cues from each other instead. To be cool is essentially to conform; we seek safety from shame. I urge you to consider that down through history it is the non-conformists who have made a difference in our world. The more a child depends on accepting adults, rather than peers, the more room there is for uniqueness and individuality to unfold and the greater the insulation against the intolerance of peers. Sorry, its just not cool to be cool. We are going to have to celebrate our children’s oddities and idiosyncrasies, or run the risk of suffocating their unique contributions in this world. Nowhere is there more freedom for a preschooler to be himself than at home!

Being Liked at Preschool Will Boost My Child’s Self-Esteem

Our challenge is to use our influence with our children to break (or prevent) their dependence on popularity, appearance, grades, or achievement for the way they think or feel about themselves. True self esteem does not say, I am worthwhile because I can do this or that. Rather, it proclaims, I am worthwhile whether or not I can do this, or the other. Only a self esteem that is independent of these things is going to truly serve a child. Only the unconditional loving acceptance that adults can offer is able to free a child from obsessing over signs of liking and belonging. Time at preschool can never do for your child’s self esteem what time spent in your love at home can.

Preschool Will Make My Child More Ready For Kindergarten

In the first days of kinder, a peer oriented child will appear smarter, more confident, and better able to benefit form the school experience. The parent oriented child, impaired by separation anxiety would appear to be less adept and capable–at least until he can form a good attachment with the teacher. Peer oriented kids have all the advantages in situations that are adult poor and peer rich. Because peers are plentiful and easy to spot, the child need never feel lost or without cues to follow. Thus, in the short term, peer orientation appears to be a godsend. And it is undoubtedly this dynamic that research taps into when discovering benefits to early education. In the long term, of course, the positive effects will gradually be canceled by the negative effects of peer orientation. Anxiety becomes the haunting long term emotion of the peer oriented because peer attachments are inherently insecure, and peer oriented kids are among the most agitated, perpetually restless, and chronically alarmed. Preschool may appear to serve the kindergartner, but the closer preschool brings a child to peer orientation, the worse off the child is in the long run at school.

Not Preschool Friends, but Best Friends

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Homeschool Preschool

So what if I decide to preschool at home you say? I feel overwhelmed! Let me put you at ease. One of the most pressing questions of parents who have made this decision is, “What preschool/kindergarten curriculum do I use?” The short answer that you are probably looking for is Before Five in a Row, Sonlight, or Rainbow Resource (supplier of curriculum). All wonderful curriculums. However, let me diverge into what really matters. Do you know that 85% of a persons personality is formed by age 6? What are the implications of that? The time to pour your life (rather than academics) into your children is now. As I have been shouting from the mountain tops so to speak on this blog, your investment in the preschool years is unsurpassable. Perhaps only 15% of what you do with your children needs to be academic. Where does that place curriculum on the todem pole? Pretty low. The other 85% of your investment is one of the heart. Whose personality was ever formed by letters and numbers? Have you come to realize at this point in life that it is so much more about what is in your heart than in your head? Values, character, love of God, spiritual skills, family life–knowledge of the heart–outweighs the importance of intellectual pursuits, especially in the formative years before age 6. You needn’t give away these priceless precious years to a preschool teacher.

Besides learning these lessons of the heart while at your side, the next most pressing need of preschool age children between 2 and 5 years old, is unstructured playtime. Too often, when not engaged in academic activities or some other intellectual pursuit (eg. music lessons), young children are engaged in other activities substituting for play, like playgroups and playdates (social fun, yes, but emergent, no). The current trend is to plan short play activities for children. Play that is adult planned and structured is rarely emergent, imaginative and creative. Children allotted short play periods over and over again may give up on more sophisticated forms of play and settle for less advanced forms that can be completed in short periods of time. Play that develops a child is long, uninterrupted, spontaneous, and initiated by the child. This is hard to achieve at preschool. This is hard to achieve even on non-preschool days at home as music, gymnastics, art classes, little league, church classes, playdates, playgroup–not to mention errands and other family obligations–fills up the schedule. And preschool goes from two days one year, to three days the next, and then kinder is a full 5 days! In my estimation, preschool + our calendar, may not leave enough time for emergent play. Find a way to get home and stay home, a lot.

If you are homeschooling, try to resist the urge to pack too many activities into the week or to make your homeschool preschooling too structured (I think I am speaking to myself here!!). Take heart that if you provide books, colors, paper, pencils, scissors, the outdoors, along with plenty of time with you, your preschooler will easily acquire the so-called school readiness skills. Learning comes naturally in the early years, our attempts to “teach” often just gets in the way. What pre-school/kindergarten curriculum should you use? The one God has already provided. God’s curriculum includes His Word and His world, loving parents, and the natural learning abilities of young children. With your Godly guidance, your little one will learn everything he needs to know without ever having a pre-packaged, store-bought curriculum.

Cherish those Rosy Chubby Cheeks!!!!!

Finally, from my heart to yours, please don’t send your little ones away to preschool unless you have to or are led to. Try to put yourself in the future and imagine how you will yearn to be able to once again kiss the cheeks of your preschooler again. Just to spend one more day with them when they were little. You wouldn’t care how bored you used to be pushing them on the swing, or listening to another story that didn’t make sense to you. You would just ache for the time when your little one saw no flaw in you, when you were perfect in their eyes, when they had absolutely no shame being smothered in your kisses, no flicker of embarassment present in their eyes when you lavished your love. You would long to hear their belly laugh as you tickled them on the swing, or to hear their sweet young voice eager to tell you everything they are dreaming up. Haven’t you already wished to be able to go back in time with your preschooler and hold them as a baby just one more time? This time in life will never come again. Hold Onto Your precious little ones a little longer and have no regrets!!

May God speak to your heart concerning the important decision to preschool as you pray.

Mommy’s Cupcake. Look at those cheeks!

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Hold Onto Your Child–Book Review Part II

It Takes a Village to Raise a Child

An attachment village that is– a set of nurturing adult relationships that help mentor and assume responsibility for your children. Do you have an involved and available extendend family close by? If not, do you know your neighbors? Do you value making friends with people who show an interest in fostering a relationship with your child? Do you purposefully find ways to endear your child to her teacher? We need to raise our children together, like people do in a village. While those of us feeling burdened as we parent alone, would benefit from an attachment village, others of us feeling competent in our parenting, still can not deny that the effects of having a matrix of influence would be incredible. One day I would love for my children to spend a day, or longer, apprenticing under all sorts of people in their work, trade, craft, interest, etc.. (The flexible open-ended nature of homeschool allows for immersion in true learning experiences like this, a real luxury indeed!) We will be on the search for mentors who can teach our children what they really want to know. Friends and neighbors with a vested interest in our children’s development who will share their experiences. Can you imagine what a richly rewarding experience it would be to school outside of the classroom under the nurturing mentorship of an attachment village? For children in school, an attachment village is even more indispensable, lest they fall through the cracks into the “mentorship” of their peers.

Provence, An Attachment Culture

Lets look at a traditional culture; Rognes, Provence; where children are growing up with strong adult attachments, so that we may glean what we can, and recreate our own “attachment village”. Interesting to note, attachment wisdom is in the Provencal culture itself, not in the people’s consciousness. The people don’t even have to think about it, its just what they do. In our culture, we have far fewer embedded attachment rituals and structures, and some of the ones we have, are eroding. We are losing the structures that protect family life in our culture and relationships are paying a price. When attachment is not in a culture, it must be consciously worked at in order to prevent the consequences of attachment voids. We do not have the luxury of relying on our culture to protect us from ourselves and safeguard important values important to human life as other traditional cultures do (even to the point of not having to be conscious of what such values are). Reading Hold Onto Your Kids will serve to bring attachment into fuller consciousness.

In Provence, children greet adults and adults greet children. Socializing involves whole families, not adults with adults and children with children. There is only one village activity at a time, so families are not pulled in several directions. Sunday afternoon is for family walks in the countryside. Even at the village fountain, the local hangout, teens mix with seniors. Music and dancing bring the generations together instead of separating them. Culture takes precedence over materialism. One can not even buy a baguette without first engaging in the appropriate greeting rituals. Village stores are closed for three hours at midday while schools empty and families reconvene. Lunch is eaten in a congenial manner as multigenerational groupings sit around tables, sharing conversation and a meal.

The attachment customs around the primary school are equally impressive. Children are personally escorted to school and picked up by parents or grandparents. The school is gated and can only be entered by a single entrance. At the gate are the teachers waiting for their students to be handed over to them. Again, culture dictates that connection be established with the appropriate greetings between the adult escorts and the teachers as well as the teachers and the students. Sometimes when the class has been collected but the school bell has not yet rung, the teacher leads the class through the playground, like a mother goose followed by her goslings. While to North American eyes this may appear to be a preschool ritual, even absurd, in Provence it is self-evidently part of the natural order of things. When children are released from school, it is always one class at a time, the teacher in the lead. The teacher waits with the students at the gate until all have been collected by their adult escort. There aren’t many cracks to fall through. Provencal culture is keeping attachment voids to a minimum. However, attachment is simply in the culture, not the consciousness of the people.

Teacher-Student Relationships in Our Schools

“Attachment is by far the most powerful process in learning.” The desire for sameness with important attachment figures leads to some of a child’s most significant learning experiences; attachment empowers learning like a power assisted vehicle. In our culture, learning in school is often labored and the teaching is forced due to large attachment voids between teachers and students. Think about the impact of that. The author mentions how he was attached to his 1st grade teacher and not again until he was in 5th grade. “The in-between years were a wilderness as far as my education was concerned.” It is sobering to realize that all of us have similar stories about school. I can testify that as an attachment learner (the immature, ie young, especially depend on attachment to help them learn), I did not learn well in school because I felt so disconnected from the teacher. Even very caring teachers could not offer enough connection for me as they still had 30 other students to care for. On the flip side, when I worked as a teacher in preschool, I was not fully conscious of the attachment learning connection (I hadn’t read this book yet!), and so I did not attach myself to the children as much as I could have. Understandably, I was caught up in all the work to be done, splitting myself between 24 students, and honestly, serving my own attachment needs as I was there to make some teacher friends for myself. Gasp! Many of you think of me as a great teacher, and I was certainly putting a lot of effort in, but I want you to realize that the BEST teachers can never educate your child in the amazingly effective context of attachment like YOU can! That is just one reason of hundreds why homeschoolers believe “We are our child’s best teachers.” The way to a child’s mind has always been through his heart.

So learning is obstructed in a classroom setting by the inherent lack of attachment available. In the classroom, the often harried teacher of 30 is burdened by the ever increasing demands of the state and the schools, and worn out by trying to teach a herd of  kids who do not heed her or learn easily due to their peer orientation. If attachment does occur, its never for long, as kids are uprooted from teachers every year to move up a grade in elementary. The massive amounts of teachers a child has in junior high and high school only compounds the problem at a very attachment needy time in life. The schoolyard is actually where the power-assisted attachment based learning occurs best–learning peaks during recess, lunch hour, after school, and in the breaks between classes. Unfortunately, kids being attached to each other renders teachers ineffectual, no matter how well trained.  Learning happens where there is attachment. With little or no attachment to teachers, we are trying to get children to thrive in an unnatural learning environment, and in school, we even punish them for not succeeding with bad grades.  Also, a dangerous educational myth has arisen that children learn best from their peers. They do, partially because they are easier to emulate than adults but mostly because children have become so peer oriented. Unfortunately, what many learn is not the value of thinking, the importance of individuality, how to become humane, or what it means to be noble (let alone math, science, language, etc.) They learn what matters to their peers.

Ok, say your child is the one who escapes peer orientation and is actually learning something at school. It is still increasingly difficult to keep a child (let alone an adult) in the midst of a system that is screaming in an opposing direction at an alarming volume. As each generation becomes more peer oriented, teaching gets more impossible, and your child is subject to that impossibility. What is the chance that your child will have a teacher whose morale has been sunk by the already formidable task of educating the young, and on top of that, struggling with the chronic resistance of the students? If we can recall having some “bad” teachers way back when we were in school, and if peer orientation only increases with each generation, then the chance of getting a burned out teacher is also greatly increasing for our children. Having come from the teaching world, I know that teacher burn out is rampant. Burn out is inevitable when teachers can no longer lead because students no longer follow. With teachers not able to teach anymore, real learning does not happen anymore. Plus, you only have to imagine how you as an adult would fare if subjected by your friends to the kind of social interaction children have to endure each and every day–the petty betrayals, the shunning, the contempt, the sheer lack of dependability. Immature manifestations come naturally with the territory of being young, but the insatiable attachment hunger of peer oriented youth exacerbates the immature manifestations to an unbearable degree. (More on this next time!) Indeed, a very difficult environment to learn in.

Build Your Village

Homeschooling is not the only way around all these issues– yes, it is one of the best safeguards–but in the event that a family is not willing to homeschool, some protection from peer orientation may still be found in building an attachment village, a “mini Provence”, to surround your child. Hold onto your child, and when you can’t, make sure another adult you trust is.

Just a Few of My Villagers 😉

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Calling All Parents to Read!!

Ah summer! Its a great time of year to read if you find yourself with any lazy summer days at home or relaxing on vacation. I found a couple high interest booklists that that I will be reading through myself this summer to help shape my parenting and education views. And now that I have started reading, I realize that I can’t keep info this good to myself. I want you to know too! If you are homeschooling, or considering homeschooling, have ever had any single thought of homeschooling flicker into your mind ;), read these books with me!!! Or maybe you are a really awesome parent who just wants to learn things like how children learn best by teaching themselves, or the 6 patterns of natural intelligence; then read some of these books! It doesn’t matter if your kids have already been going to school, these books will open your mind so much. Besides, you never know what could happen. My story of becoming a homeschooler is like so many other pre-homeschoolers–I was not originally interested in homeschooling, there was something almost offensive and unattractive about it. How naive I was. As a dutiful parent, I researched it anyway–just to make sure we weren’t supposed to be doing it. I admit that the one nagging feeling driving me to figure things out was the loss I felt inside over the thought of sending my children away into the school system, and the imagined gradual deterioration of our precious attachment to each other. I put the research off for awhile because the idea of teaching my own kids successfully all the way through highschool scared me! However, I attest that reading did wonders to quell my fears, and surprisingly, presented a wonderful array of pros that were just too irresistible to resist. I am totally hooked, and gushing!!! I must mention one research resource– Dumbing Us Down has been an amazing instrumental book revealing why I do not want my kids in government schooling, or school as we know it at all. I highly recommend it! Internet research has also proved to be very helpful.

So I plan to pick up the pace of my reading this summer, start writing reviews for you all, and I suspect the momentum will carry me well past the summer and into the school year. Many nights I sit down with my husband and review what I have read recently (we don’t have TV, but that is a story for another time). Its so important to have a united vision and keep hardworking, time deficient hubbies, in the know! I think if you have little kids, like me, now is the time to read, read, read, and get things figured out. Life doesn’t slow down, so I hear, when the kids are older. But whether your kids are big or little, homeschooled or not, form your vision, write down your mission, and become fluent in your philosophy. We must read to do this. Don’t wait, kids keep growing.

Will you read with me? I would love to read these books with other interested parents! Please share the lists with others who may benefit.

Booklist!

Christian Home Educators Association of California Booklist

Homeschool Association of California Booklist

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine

(Free Online Magazine–I love this mag! Click on “magazine” and then “current issue” for 150 pages of awesomeness)

Why I Write Book Reviews

Why will I be writing book reviews? Its the same reason that I write this entire blog. Its because I love you!!! I want to share information with you that will make your family rock. Many of my readers, whether near or far, are very dear to me, and I naturally want to to be a blessing to you. However, whether I know you well or not, I care a lot about the happiness and fulfillment of mothers, and I churn inside to know that your hearts and minds are well nourished for the demanding calling of motherhood. I want you be wildly successful! I want you to totally believe in yourself and have the courage to follow the less traveled path. “For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.” Matthew 7:13 If something I convey in my “cliff notes” helps you, then its worth typing it all out to me. Please share my reviews with others who would benefit so we together can empower parents everywhere.

Please, Tell Me You Make Time To Read!?

Now, I know you have read some parenting books, and if you’ve been so fortunate, learned some pretty good stuff that has helped you out. So recall the delicious taste in your mouth as you savored a book full of inspiring new information that you just couldn’t get enough of. Your heart beat faster as you sensed that a new day was dawning on the horizon of your understanding. I hope you have been fortunate enough to have had that experience recently, or to have had it at all. Either way, it is certainly not too late……nor too early to jump into the vast and wonderful information available to parents willing to self-educate. How many years did you study for your college degree that you may or may not be using right now, only come to find out that its family and parenting, your truest life calling, that you should have been studying a little more? We can never anticipate all that the future holds for each of our families, but we do know that problems are certain to arise as we all are rearing children in this chaotic world. When problems come, we often rush headlong into trying to figure out what to do about this or that, and ignore the preceding essential requirement of reflecting and understanding. We must understand how things work so that we can understand what can (or did) go wrong. Prevention goes a long way when it comes to something as weighty as the awesome responsibility of raising up a child. Knowledge is empowering, right? Knowledge helps us think ahead, and some forethought can prevent, intercede, or head off many problems altogether. I know you want to feel empowered as a parent. It would be wonderful if we could set aside some time regularly or seasonally, to gather a pile of books and read up. Its more important than the nightly news, the morning newspaper, the iphone time. This is for our children, our primary responsibility– what could be more important? The more we grow up (maturing psychologically and spiritually), the better we can help them grow up.

Why I Do Not Write Book Reviews 🙂

In case you were wondering, here are some reasons I do not write book reviews. To make my blog look pretty, to shame you for not measuring up to the ideals contained within the books, to hear myself talk, to stay up really late and work really hard and not reach anyone’s heart, to provide cliff notes to those who could be reading the full book instead, to provide tedious and irrelevant information that no one cares about, to waste your precious time. Pretty please read my reviews?

Be a Thoughtful Parent

There are some reeeeeeally good books out there about raising children that will make you think. What books have been pivotal to you? We would love to hear from you.

The worst thing we can do as parents is to think less by reading less. The quality of our thoughts determines the quality of our lives. “Men are anxious to improve their circumstances, but are unwilling to improve themselves, they therefore remain bound.” –James Allen

The more that you read,
the more things you will know.
The more that you learn,
the more places you’ll go.
~ Dr. Seuss

Will you go with me? We shall not journey alone.

Happy 4th of July Hugs!

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