Jesus' Precious Little Lambs

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

Less is More Homeschool

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Our 2014-2015 Yearbook. Click on the pic to look inside!

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“Instead of spending over 1,200 hours each year in school, [homeschooled] children can devote time to what more directly builds happiness as well as future success. Things like innovation, hands-on learning, and meaningful responsibility.” –Laura Grace Weldon

As I have been reading Laura Grace Weldon’s blog, author of Free Range Learning, I have been reminded again of why I love homeschool. To me, homeschool promotes a “less is more” mindset–less materialism, less structure, less entertainment and stimulation, less performance pressure, less conformity. I think all of us who grew up in school still fight the “more is more” school mindset to differing degrees. We want to pack as much as possible into a child’s day, buy them a lot of educational stuff, and make sure they have as many experiences and opportunities as we can afford to give them. And we think that its our job to keep them occupied, busy, entertained, happy, etc outside of “educational hours.” We have an innate distrust in a child’s power for natural learning during free play and self directed pursuit of interests. However, homeschool life can be very different than the norm, and very freeing. We needn’t model our homeschool hours, and after homeschool hours, to look like the alleged “more is more” school kid’s life.

If you decide to visit Laura Weldon’s blog, you may realize, like me, that your mind is still thinking a lot less free, and lot more structured by school methods, than it could be. Laura believes real learning happens in a natural and playful context. That sounds very possible in the early years, especially preschool, but how does that look as kids grow up? Well, have you ever thought of math being taught naturally like this, or how about teaching business sense like this?  Check it out, I think you will enjoy her “free thinking” ideas.

Here in bold are some of the things I have come to love the most about homeschooling with the “less is more” philosophy, and underneath are some of Laura Weldon’s related comments on each topic:

 Homeschool allows children to be self-directed

“The school mindset leads us to believe that children benefit from lessons, the newest educational toys and electronics, coached sports at an early age, and other adult-designed, adult-led endeavors. Well-intentioned parents work hard to provide their children with these pricey advantages. We do this because we believe that learning flows from instruction. By that logic, the more avenues of adult-directed learning, the more kids will benefit. But there’s very limited evidence that all this effort, time, and money results in learning of any real value. In fact, it appears too many structured activities diminish a child’s ability to set and reach goals independently.”

“We’re so committed to structured, top-down instruction that we impose it on kids beyond the school day. Young people are relentlessly shuttled from the classroom to enrichment activities to organized sports and back home to play with educational toys or apps.”

“This isn’t to say that all instruction is bad, by any means. It does mean that six long hours of school-based instruction plus afterschool adult-organized activities in sports or recreation or screen time supplants the kind of direct, open-ended, hands-on activity that’s more closely associated with learning. Most of the time this kind of learning is called play.

Homeschool allows for long play periods daily, which is critical to learning

“Unless they’ve been raised on a steady diet of ready-made entertainment, children are naturally drawn to free play and discovery-based learning. They make up games, daydream, pretend, and launch their own projects–freely seeking out adults for resources and guidance when necessary. They are naturally drawn to achieve mastery.”

“Often kids are gone at lessons, after school programs, or play dates. When they get home they sit staring at screens. Toys in their carefully decorated rooms appeared to be tossed around as if the small owners had no idea how to play, only how to root restlessly for entertainment.”

“Rather than developing the subtle awareness fostered by time spent in nature, in conversation, and in play, they instead are wired to expect overstimulation. Without it, they’re bored.”

“Ask the oldest person you know to share some memories about play from his or her childhood. Chances are you’ll hear about pick-up games, handmade toys, and free time that spun long summer days into marvels of imagination.”

Homeschool allows for real life work together

“In a way, doing household tasks together puts parent and child on more even ground. So often we parents are rushing to schlep our kids to practice or lessons or other kid-oriented events, making them the pivot around which a family’s activities revolve. Taking part in regular tasks together, even if we’re pulling weeds on opposite sides of the garden, affirms the sort of mutuality that advertisers tell us is only found in pricey vacations. Of course time afterwards for a nice game of hoops and some cold lemonade builds bonds too.”

We tend to spend a lot on activities and products for our children assuming this enriches their lives but if they don’t get the chance to take on real responsibilities, we’re depriving them of key components of adult competency.”

Homeschool allows for maximum creativity

“In today’s test-heavy schools the emphasis is on coming up with the correct answer, but we know that the effort to avoid making mistakes steers children away from naturally innovative perspectives. Divergent thinking generates ideas. It’s associated with people who are persistent, curious, and nonconforming. Research going back to the 1970’s shows that this generation of children are less imaginative and less able to produce original ideas. An extra whammy may very well be coming from increased participation in organized sports: more than a few hours a week appears to lower a child’s creativity.

This is dire news, because creativity is actually much more closely linked to adult accomplishment than IQ. In fact, 1,500 CEO’s listed creativity as the leading indicator of “leadership competency.”

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Our butterfly life cycle study

This was definitely our best nature study experience so far!!! It felt like a real gift from God as we were able to witness so many miraculous moments throughout……

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Faith’s Nature Journal Page

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Noah’s Nature Journal page

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My Nature Journal Page

One day in June we brought home a Monarch egg that was laid on a milkweed leaf. The next morning a tiny caterpillar hatched and began to eat its egg.

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Our Monarch caterpillar grew big and fat, and ate lots of milkweed leaves and flowers. We ended up raising two monarchs when we accidentally brought another egg home.

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We also found a Swallowtail caterpillar when it was small and black (this is a pic of when it had grown much bigger).

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Our Swallowtail caterpillar made a chrysalis and hung for 3 weeks, but then the butterfly emerged deformed. 😦

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Noah caught the moment our Monarch started to become a chrysalis, and so I snapped some pics! It was a caterpillar for a total of 14 days.

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Monarch chrysalis’ are a beautiful green and gold.

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Our Monarch chrysalis became clear the morning it emerged. The Monarch was inside its chrysalis for a total of 10 days.

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Then, as I was taking pictures, it started to emerge!

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We were so excited! The kids ran outside and were able to witness the butterfly coming out of its chrysalis and then drying its wings.

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We released our butterflies the next day. A final special moment was when Faith got to hold her Monarch for a few minutes before it flew away. Thank you God for all your blessings on our nature studies.

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Beach day at Half Moon Bay

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All 3 kids happily engaged in the sand

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Playing in the waves

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A family photo attempt

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A moment of asking for forgiveness

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A cozy morning devotions moment

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The harvest is eaten as soon as its picked 🙂

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We love our littlest helper. He loves to help spray the table or set the table, and shadow the older kids as they do their work around the house.

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You are so funny daddy!

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So cute

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Singing at VBS

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Noah plays dolls with the girls so that Faith will be happy (she doesn’t want to play without him)

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Make something out of foil

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Awww, Daniel feeding Faith his avocado

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Faith is little mommy

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Loves her baby bunny

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BMX with daddy (riding Noah’s bike)

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For Uncle Buz after he preached on Matthew 8 (the wind and the waves obey Jesus)

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A field trip to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge

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A new tradition: Sunday morning kind thing, with a not very creative name. A note for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Nigeria.

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Freedom is Priceless

(Excerpts are taken from this article in Home Education Magazine, and this article at Home School Legal Defense Association.)

I am proud to be celebrating this 4th of July the wonderful freedoms of a homeschool life afforded in our sweet land of liberty!!! Did you know that our country’s homeschool freedoms have been attained through much sacrifice on the part of our homeshcooling forefathers and foremothers? “A few decades ago parents took tremendous sacrifices and risks to follow God’s leading to train their children at home. These families faced fines, jail, and even the threat of the state taking their children away. These families held on to their convictions and God honored them in an incredible way. After 15 years of litigation and legislative battles, we won the right to homeschool in all 50 states.” Now, thank God, educational freedom is ours for the taking because of these parents and the vigilant work of the Home School Legal Defense Association to protect family, religious rights, and homeschool freedoms.  “Homeschoolers have had tremendous success before the Congress and the state legislatures because we are not asking for a handout but simply to be left alone. Private homeschooling is thriving, with no help from the government. The studies all show homeschoolers are academically above average from the elementary level all the way through college. Homeschoolers have earned the right to be left alone.” Freedom, bedrock to the homeschool movement, has been hard earned, but wow, what privileges we have now! Thank God for our freedom!!!

Sacrifices of Freedom-Minded Homeschoolers Reflect Traditional American Spirit

Many homeschoolers are God-fearing, country loving, individualists full of self-reliant American pioneering spirit. Many Amercians have chosen the freedoms of homeschooling at a sacrifice–especially a personal economic sacrifice in order to live off of one income so that one parent can stay at home and teach. We proudly value family enough to let go of some material luxuries as necessary. Forbes magazine recently disproved the notion that those families who are well off are the only ones who can afford homeschool. “At least 1.5 million students receive home-based academic instruction. The ranks of homeschoolers are rising rapidly across every social strata, faith and ethnicity. While many families lack sufficient means for someone to stay home, it’s not generally those affluent enough to afford exclusive parochial education. The highest homeschool participation appears in households with incomes ranging from $25,000 to $75,000. The homeschool community reflects a cross-section of Americans; the children of truck drivers and lawyers, whites and blacks, rich and poor, Christians and unbelievers.” Christian homeschoolers valiantly make the sacrifice because we strongly believe that what we are doing for our children is right in the eyes of God.

 Our nation’s founding fathers also sacrificed their own economic well-being in the fight for freedom. Freedom can not be maintained without sacrifice. Sadly, freedom, won at great cost in blood and treasure, can be lost by a future generation tempted by false material gain………

Which Do You Choose: Material Gain or Freedom?

Homeschooling today is represented by two groups: private independent homeschools where children are taught at home free from government intervention, and the much newer group– home-based Charter schools where the public school system directs and oversees most aspects of a child’s education. Although the two groups seem similar at first glance since they both fall under the title of “homeschooling”, the philosophies and mindsets are as different as can be. Today I will delve into the differences between private homeschool and home-based charter school so that we may continue to make informed and wise educational choices for our families. I urge anyone who may have any interest in Charter school to read on and fully consider the implications of enrolling in charter school. I urge you all to read on and consider the freedom of choosing to homeschool!

Charter school  seems like a good choice to some and is gaining popularity with families considering homeschool because of reasons like support from an overseeing teacher, accountability to a functioning school, tests and grades to prove progress, and scores on file to present someday should you need them. But that is not all that is alluring. Charter schools offer free computers and free curriculum. Resource teachers are available when you need them. There are reimbursements for educational supplies and extracurricular activities. Charter school homeschool sounds like a very tempting idea. Free money sounds too good to pass up. The drawback however, is that doing charter school is doing public school in your home. The problem with that is “when we interact with public schools, we are drawn into their values, standards, mentality, assumptions, and approach to education.” The other drawback, and deal breaker for our family, is that doing charter school ultimately means forfeiting freedom.

What is the big deal about freedom, when I need confidence and help in order to make homeschool happen?? If smooth and easy homeschool days are what you are looking for, realize that enrolling your children in charter school may actually be a recipe for burnout. “Your child is expected to use the curriculum sent to you, even if you don’t care for it, or if it doesn’t fit your child’s learning style. He may have to continue doing lessons he already “knows” because the assignment is required.” Plus, 4 to 6 hours of instruction a day is required. When curriculum is dry or tedious or not well suited to a child, the child is dangerously placed in a position to begin to dislike learning. Then confidence to teach begins to erode in a parent’s heart as she inevitably starts thinking, “I can’t teach!” or “Homeschooling is not for me!” Next comes burnout, and throwing in the towel. Oh how I wish families with this experience had given private independent homeschooling a chance first! In homeschool, you have the freedom to move at your own pace, have a flexible schedule, have shorter schooldays, and choose your own curriculum. I was pleasantly shocked when I found out how little is required by the state of private homeschoolers in the way of records. So much freedom! Plus, homeschool is a purposeful approach to education. “Thought is given to the direction and depth of education, rather than accepting a series of requirements and plodding towards its completion.” Being purpose driven in all your endeavours makes a world of difference. Also, studies show that homeschoolers are academically above (4 grade levels on average!), but studies show that homeschooled charter students are graduating on par with students who attend a public school (which we know unfortunately is pretty low!). After all those good intentions of home-based charter school families, how sad. Proof that public school methods, whether used at school or home, produce similar undesirable end results.

Families who enroll in an alternative public school program must make uncomfortable trade-offs. Charter school families are saying, “In exchange for resources, guidance, and money, we agree to adopt your values, use your curriculum, take your tests, and comply with your standards. We realize that if we skip today’s math lesson, we still have to make sure that our children can pass the required math test. This means that skipping geometry altogether is not really an option, and that things like the music that the children love will just have to wait.” Homeschoolers, on the other hand, are saying, “We are taking fundamental responsibility for choosing the values, approaches, methods, curriculum, and assessment for our children’s education. We may choose to purchase a curriculum that tells us what to study each day and follow that curriculum precisely. Or we may develop our own curriculum, based on our children’s interests, strengths, abilities, and unique timetables. What is central to our homeschooling is that we are freely choosing each of these things. We willingly take on the responsibility for our children’s education and are free to change any time, to make mid-course corrections, to skip math today and do two math lessons tomorrow, or to skip today’s math entirely because it’s a review of things our children already know, or skip geometry altogether because music is more important and we only have so much time and energy.” Homeschool is total freedom down to the most minute details of education

The Home School Legal Defense Association together with homeschooling families, have been working hard for the last 20 years to convince legislators and the general public that homeschooling works and that homeschoolers do not need to be regulated by the government. “The homeschool movement has provided families with the opportunity to take greater responsibility for their lives; to discover that they can do things without the direction, control, or regulation of conventional schools and without the “assistance” or interference of the government. We are finally at a point where homeschooling is pretty well accepted, although we have to continue to work to maintain the freedoms we have reclaimed. We are under the same government that once heavily restricted and prohibited homeschooling. If we begin crawling back to the government to drink from the public trough, we risk our liberty.” As more and more parents are choosing to accept government funds from charter schools to educate their children and create small public schools within their homes, we are risking our homeschool liberties. I believe that one of the biggest current threats to homeschool liberty is the growing interest and participation in charter schools.

The High Price of “Free” Government Money

“If more and more homeschoolers choose to become dependent on government money, we need to realize that controls will be added, and we will not be able to break free. As homeschoolers “yoke” together with the public schools through charter school programs and cyber schools, the public schools and the state will once again dictate to us our curriculum, teacher qualifications, and methods.”

(As the Home School Legal Defense Association says, “This is not idle conjecture. It is already happening.”)

“Programs for Non-Public Students (PNPS’s) create a highly visible group of families who are willing to accept greater regulation and control by public schools and the government than are most homeschoolers. Because of their high visibility and their willingness to follow conventional practices, families enrolled in PNPSs threaten to become the standard by which homeschooling is understood by the general public and regulated by the government and the educational establishment, thereby unnecessarily increasing state regulation of homeschooling. PNPSs give the impression to legislators, the general public, and the educational establishment that homeschoolers are comfortable with and willing to accept public schools as appropriate and correct settings for homeschooling. PNPSs seem to say that public schools are so important and essential that we need them even to homeschool. If chartered homeschooling becomes the norm, those homeschoolers who resist state regulation will be considered a fringe group who must be forced into submission.”

“Cyber charter schools offer great opportunities for entrepreneurs to make money. They receive money from the government. There are no expenses for school buildings, transportation, lunches, athletic programs, etc. Since parents do most of the teaching, few teachers are required, so salary costs are much lower. It is much easier to make money this way than through a conventional private school that has to depend on tuition and independent fund raising. Despite the differences in philosophy and requirements, marketers either do not understand or are deliberately blurring the extremely important distinctions between homeschools and cyber charter schools because homeschoolers are their most promising target market”

It seems that most people I talk to to differentiate little between families who independently educate at home and families who do charter school at home. We are all known as “homeschoolers”. Can someone enrolled in full time public school be called a homeschooler? Despite all of the attractions for homeschoolers, charter schools are supporting homeschooling in name only. “Because cyber charter schools are based in homes, many people, including some homeschoolers, will assume they are homeschools. However, we don’t use the term “homeschoolers” for students in work-study programs or in schools that have open campuses, or those taking correspondence courses or doing their school work at home temporarily because of health problems. Although people like this are literally studying in their homes, or at least outside of conventional classrooms, they are not identified as ‘homeschoolers.'”

A Complex Issue

“Homeschoolers have worked long and hard for many years to protect the right of parents to choose for their children an education consistent with their principles and beliefs. We understand that in the best of all worlds, parents who are willing to accept all the restrictions and drawbacks of a cyber charter school should have the right to enroll their children in one. There may be times when a cyber charter school, despite all its disadvantages, may be better than the local public school. So in the best of all worlds, cyber charter schools would co-exist harmoniously with homeschools. Students in cyber charter schools would not be called homeschoolers. The general public would understand that cyber charter schools are regulated in many ways that homeschools are not. Parents could choose among educational options that include homeschools and cyber charter schools.

Unfortunately, we do not live in the best of all worlds. Given the advantages cyber charter schools gain by recruiting homeschoolers and their aggressive marketing strategy, they are likely to call their students homeschoolers. Even if they didn’t, much of the general public would still lump homeschoolers and cyber charter school students together and call them all homeschoolers. Only people who knew a lot about the subject would grasp the important distinction between the two. In addition, there are parents who want to homeschool or think it would be best for their children, but they think they don’t have enough money or confidence or education or whatever. These people may decide they can manage a cyber charter school program, and they will want to call themselves homeschoolers.

How can we protect our right and freedom to homeschool without interfering with the rights and freedom of families who want to participate in such programs? How do we as a society balance the needs and wants of a given individual with the needs and wants of other individuals and the good of the whole society? If my freedom is being undermined by what you are doing, do I have the right to prevent you from doing it, even though this limits your choices? Or do you have a moral imperative not to do it?”

Trust the Lord and Live in Freedom

As for us, total freedom of choice in homeschooling sounds right for our family. Give us us a life that does not separate us from our inherent parental rights and duties, or question our God given wisdom to chart the paths of our own children. The responsibility of freedom is awesome! To be accountable to virtually no one but God. The charge is so overwhelming sometimes that it drives me to my knees in prayer, right where I ought to be.

It takes courage, even heroic willpower for a family to choose freedom over free money. Our family has decided that we do not need the government’s “free” money. The price is too high. “The soul of homeschooling has its foundation built on the incredible sacrifices of many parents who risked all in order to win the right to be free from suffocating government control. To be free to teach their children according to God’s ways and in obedience to His commands. God honors those who honor Him and who trust in His sovereign love and power.”  Thank you homeschool forefathers and mothers who fought for my freedom! Thank you HSLDA for what you have done! Most of all, thank you God for how you have honored our decision!

We have personally experienced God’s blessings over our decision to independently homeschool time and time again. Every time I look back through our homeschool adventures pictured and written up here on this blog, I am overwhelmed, sometimes choked up, thinking about how Jesus’ Precious Little Lambs is blessed of the Lord!!! I never would have known it was in us if we had not made this choice in faith.

Dear friends, God is exceedingly and abundantly able to provide for your family if you will dare to trust Him for all your financial provision and educational guidance. God will honor your faith to stand apart! As He honored the sacrifice of our forefathers, he will honor your sacrifice for the sake of freedom! May the call for freedom swell within your heart this 4th of July!

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My country tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died!
Land of the Pilgrim’s pride!
From every mountain side,
Let freedom ring!

Our father’s God to, Thee,
Author of liberty,
To Thee we sing.
Long may our land be bright
With freedom’s holy light;
Protect us by Thy might,
Great God, our King!

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Thanks for passing this post along to someone else!
The following article highlights many of the benefits of the freedoms of homeschool in a succinct and poignant way. Its a great article to share!
Want to Tell the State to Stick it? Homeschool Your Kids by Forbes Magazine.
 

4th of July Fridge Art

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Teach Some Patriotic Songs!

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Noah’s 4th of July Pattern Work

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My Big Guy’s Wish Came True–He Caught His 3rd Lizard

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Camping at Samuel P. Taylor State Park Was Gorgeous!

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Communing with Nature

(Millipedes are Safe to Hold)

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Cool Fungi

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Faith is Learning Her Letter Sounds So Quickly!

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A Wise Piece of Advice: When Assigning a Chore, Always Give the Job to the Youngest Person In the House Who Can Get the Task Done

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“varied experience and often a more purposeful approach to their education. There seems to be more thought given to the direction and depth of their education, rather than the typical public school students who accept a series of requirements and plod toward their completion.” – See more at: http://thehomeschoolmagazine.com/articles/highschool/homeschooling-comes-of-age/#sthash.ZgHoaJok.dpuf

“varied experience and often a more purposeful approach to their education. There seems to be more thought given to the direction and depth of their education, rather than the typical public school students who accept a series of requirements and plod toward their completion.” – See more at: http://thehomeschoolmagazine.com/articles/highschool/homeschooling-comes-of-age/#sthash.ZgHoaJok.dpuf

“varied experience and often a more purposeful approach to their education. There seems to be more thought given to the direction and depth of their education, rather than the typical public school students who accept a series of requirements and plod toward their completion.” – See more at: http://thehomeschoolmagazine.com/articles/highschool/homeschooling-comes-of-age/#sthash.ZgHoaJok.dpuf
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Happy to Be a Mommy

In honor of Mother’s Day, we can reflect on what each one of us loves about motherhood. What makes you happy to be a mom? What do you love about your job? So much of what I love about being a mom is now all wrapped up in the special nature of being a stay at home, homeschool mom. Here are a few of the things that I feel very blessed to be celebrating this Mother’s Day:

I get to stay at home! I get to raise my children myself! Modern moms are working moms, and if homeschooling my children wasn’t my job, I am sure I would have to go out and find a job. But I would rather be with my children than do anything else that the workforce has to offer me. I would miss my kids so much if we were apart all day! I am thankful to be homeschooling.

I don’t have to rush! I don’t rush off anywhere in the mornings while trying to manage morning grumpiness, fleshly attitudes, and resistance to regimented routines. We enjoy being able to follow our own pace which always includes sleeping until we wake up, chores, devotions, and a hearty breakfast. Noah is even learning how to do his own devotions as our morning schedule emphasizes time with God and supports our goal of raising a young man who seeks the Lord for himself. The day gets off to a good start when I am able to fully take care of my children’s emotional, spiritual, and physical needs each morning. We have many happy homeschool mornings together, and I am so glad for quality time early in the day with my children because by the time afternoon comes in our house, naps, quiet play, dinner preparation and other chores, time with daddy, as well as bodily tiredness dominate and sometimes only permits superficial interaction between me and my children. I know I would find guiding my children through the hurry , hurry, hurry routines of a typical school day unpleasant. I love having the time to hear their thoughts upon waking up, answer their questions during breakfast, being able to give them my complete attention, and personally witness every big and small moment of growth and learning during our day.

My kids are two peas in a pod! Noah and Faith do everything together–they even go to the bathroom together. 🙂  They are adorable together! I am so thankful that with us all being home, Noah and Faith are provided lots and lots of time to form a really beautiful friendship. They also get lots of practice working out all kinds of skirmishes, which makes for a strong bond and healthy relational intelligence. I couldn’t imagine separating them during school hours and the toll it would take on their bond………and then seeing them eventually someday down the road replacing each other with school peer relationships. My sister Tara and I are only 19 months apart, we both attended public school, and experienced periods of real closeness and periods of estrangement. Sadly, I believe that our relationship was so up and down due to school schedules and inevitable peer orientation. I know if I keep my children learning and living together here at home, the strength of their relationship will grow, rather than ebb and flow over the years. The friendship of my two peas in a pod will blossom and bear much fruit over the years, and that is a great delight to a mother’s heart!

I have more than two hands! Now that Noah is starting be a real help around the house, I feel like I have 4 hands. For awhile, mothering little ones was so demanding because I had to do everything–cut their food, feed them around the clock, run a tight schedule for napping, wash loads of stained laundry, clean up an explosion of food after every meal, brush their teeth, brush their hair, get them dressed, do diapers or help them with the potty…… I know you can relate! Somehow I thought mothering would always be this much work. Even while training little ones to be “helpers”, sometimes we are cringing on the inside because their “help” is actually just making more work for us in the end. Recently however, I see the light at the end of the tunnel–the workload really is going to get lighter and lighter as my children grow and provide actual productive “help”. Now that Noah is 4 years old and starting to make real contributions to the family, I already see it happening. Having one child who can get himself ready, do a few helpful jobs around the house, and help take care of Faith, has made a huge difference. Chore time is such an integral part of our homeschool and family life. My goal is to eventually work myself out of a job. Why send the kids off to school so that I can stay home and dust and vacuum?? Instead, I can train my kids at home to take care of the household, enjoy my extra time to read or pursue other interests, and take real delight in the fact that my children are being well trained as future mothers and wives, fathers and husbands? And just think, pretty soon I will have six hands!

There are two fathers in our home! I love the way that Noah parents Faith! Wow, again, I feel like Dean and I are working our way out of a job by pouring so much time and instruction into our eldest. We know that whatever kind of big brother we train him to be will hugely influence the rest of our children. He is the most time intensive kid, requiring the most discipline and guidance, but for good reason! He is the the one with the calling and responsibility to set the example for Faith, and it is him that she without a doubt follows. All day long I hear her voice earnestly chiming out, “I will Noah! I will!,” after he asks her to do something. Older siblings taking care of younger siblings was not the way I grew up, but I still saw examples of it around me whether in life or in literature, and I just knew that was what I wanted for my own family someday. However, I really didn’t know how to train my children to do this, so I am so grateful that God is honoring my desire. Noah has the heart of a father already. My eyes don’t have to be on Faith 100% of the time when Noah’s are, because he is making sure that she is obeying the rules and staying safe. If Noah addresses Faith’s behavior and gets no response, Noah lets me know– “Mommy, Faith is playing in the birdbath.” At that point, Faith is already climbing down saying, “I won’t Noah, I won’t.” At dinner one night, Faith is in the potty, and Noah says, “Lets me check on her mommy.” He gets up from the table to check on Faith, who is potty training, and asks her every possible question to make sure she is coming along ok. “Are you done Faith?” “Did a little come out or a lot?” “Potty or poo poo?” “Do you need a wipe?” and on and on. I was grinning across the table at Dean for our blessing. Noah loves to father, and I can’t wait to see Faith love to mother.

I have love bugs! My very favorite part of mothering is bedtime cuddles, long hugs around the neck, and hearing “I love you SOOOOO much mommy!” Just when I feel the most exhausted in the day, around 8 pm, and I am looking forward to a short time to myself or with my hubby before my bedtime, my Noah often says, “mommy will you cuddle with me tonight?” Part of me cringes because I want to have my break, but the other part of me is so committed to raising affectionate and attached children, that I often say yes. Noah and I climb into his bed, and although I am tired, I lay fascinated listening to him tell his endless creative and imaginative stories about trains and toy stores and machines. I feel like I wouldn’t really know my boy if we weren’t spending those last 20 minutes together before he falls asleep. I would not really know who he is deep down. So much pours out of his heart in those quiet one on one twilight moments that would never surface to the same extent during the day. He hugs me so close, and so affectionately tells me how much he loves me, which is something unique to our nighttime cuddles. Noah seems to appreciates the sacrifice I make to spend the last of the day with him so much, which makes it all worth it. I love that Dean does cuddle time with his little boy too. I feel that this family tradition has been one of the main factors in turning Noah from a boy who ran away from all gestures of affection at 2 years, to a boy oozing with affection at 4 years. We have also started cuddle time with Faith, but we have to be more creative since she still sleeps in a crib. I look forward to peering into what bubbles out of her heart as her language expands and as we spend more time in each others arms.

Last years post: Mothers Are Homemakers

Happy Mothers Day Friends!

Invitations for Our Mothers Day Tea Party

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Cuties All Dressed Up

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Tea Party Fare

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Generations of Love

Tayler, Grandma Mary, Aunty Miriah, Mamama Sheila, and Gran Jo-Jo Joanne.

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Mommy Too

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Noah, Faith, and Mommy

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Grandma Loves Me

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Is Kindergarten the Best Training Ground for a Child?

Charlotte Mason Friends Book Club, Home Education (Vol. 1) pages 150-225

  • This post dovetails my To Preschool or Not to Preschool post–one of my very favorite posts ever written!! If you have, or will have, a preschool age child please read it!
  • FYI, when Charlotte Mason refers to kindergarten, she is referring to nursery school, a pre-school: a place intended to get 2 to 6 year olds ready for school (Charlotte’s kindergarten years 2-6 = American preschool + kindergarten years). Charlotte Mason’s methods recommend beginning formal lessons at age 6.

Kinder-Garden, A False Analogy

The first kindergarten was established in Germany in 1840, and “kindergarten” originally meant “children’s garden” because it was intended to be a place for children to be taken care of and nourished like plants in a garden. No doubt kindergarten, or preschool, was originally intended to be an out of door life in the garden for children. A beautiful idea in theory, however, we must admit that modern kindergartens and preschools resemble nothing of the sort.

Charlotte notes the homogenizing effect on children in a kinder-garden tended by a teacher: “the exactly due sunshine and shade, pruning and training, are good for a plant whose uses are subordinate, so to say, to the needs and pleasures of its owner.” Plants are not created to have purpose, but children are. Learning is hampered in the traditional learning environment where twenty children are focused and dependent on the teacher, and where children become dependent upon her constant direction. Everything is planned, expected, suggested by her–nothing gets to the children without her processing it first. Children lose a lot of their individuality and purpose. On the other hand, learning at home is more spontaneous and child centered, rather than teacher centered; individuality is inherent in a homeschool environment because children direct much of their own learning. The habit of self direction over the years becomes a powerful momentum in their education and lends to a very gratifying sense of purpose.

We are so proud when our preschooler comes home from preschool able to identify a rhomboid from a pentagon, a primary color from a secondary color, when he can cut and fold paper–we feel like “my child is learning!” But Charlotte believes “this is at the expense of much of that real knowledge of the external world which at no time of his life will he be so fitted to acquire.” Real learning for our young ones is giving them as much outdoor time as possible, and to guide them toward developing powerful habits of attention during that outdoor time. Spending hours in nature every day far surpass the results of the organized academic work they get in even the best kindergarten situation. Developing powers of observation in young children is the main goal of early education, and home is the growing place that provides countless observation opportunities–like straightening a tablecloth or a picture, or wrapping a package–which would never present themselves in a classroom setting. Unfortunately, the contrived lessons taught in the artificially controlled environment of a classroom make for a poor growing place with much less opportunity for real life observation skills to be honed.

Masterly Inactivity

Children must be given the freedom and time to learn to direct themselves and think for themselves. The direction parents give in the continual guarding of habits and guidance of character is very important. However, the other part of raising children is leaving them alone, or what Charlotte Mason calls providing “Masterly Inactivity’. Children should be left alone to develop according to their own nature as long as they do not become spoiled. They should be left alone to create their own games and imaginary play with no adult influence. A few good quotes from Charlotte on Masterly Inactivity:

“Children must be let alone, left to themselves a great deal, to take in what they can of the beauty of earth and heavens; for of the evils of modern education few are worse than this––that the perpetual cackle of his elders leaves the poor child not a moment of time, nor an inch of space, wherein to wonder––and grow.” 

“Children need time to make up episodes, carry on pretend adventures, live heroic lives, lay sieges and defend forts, even if the fort is only an old armchair. Adults must not interfere or tell the children what to play. They need to accept the fact that this is something they don’t understand, and, even more, their very presence carries the cold breath of reality that makes the pretend illusion dissipate and fade away. Think what it must be like for a commanding general leading his soldiers when some intruder into his play-world tells him to tie his shoes!”

“The educational error of our day is that we believe too much in mediators. Now, Nature is her own mediator, undertakes, herself, to find work for eyes and ears, taste and touch; she will prick the brain with problems and the heart with feelings; and the part of the mother or teacher in the early years (indeed, all through life) is to sow opportunities, and then to keep in the background, ready with a guiding or restraining hand only when these are badly wanted. Mothers shirk their work and put it, as they would say, into better hands than their own, because they do not recognize that wise letting alone is the chief thing asked of them, seeing that every mother has in Nature an all-sufficient handmaid, who arranges for due work and due rest of mind, muscles, and senses.”

The Perfect Teacher

Imagine the perfect kindergarten teacher–a sweet voiced goddess, a joyful singing enchantress who makes the classroom like a little piece of heaven below. She lulls children into nice little games of frisking like lambs, flapping their fins, and flying around the room like butterflies.” Its not exaggerating to say that the direction exerted by preschool/kindergarten teachers over the children even extends into the area of play. (“However, put the commonplace woman in charge of a large group of children, and “the charmingly devised gifts and games and occupations become so many instruments of wooden teaching.” So true!)

Ah, but the children in a good preschool classroom look so happy! Charlotte says, “It is a curious thing about human nature that we all like to be managed by persons who take the pains to play on our amiabilities.” It is little wonder that children can be wooed to do anything by someone who charms them. Be assured that there is a kindergarten teacher even more perfectly suited for your children than that singing goddess……….and Charlotte asserts that it is you: “If the very essence of the Kindergarten method is personal influence, a sort of spiritual mesmerism, it follows that the mother is naturally the best Kindergarten teacher; for who so likely as she to have the needful tact, sympathy, common sense, culture?”

Small Children Have Great Powers of Mind

Anne Sullivan, Helen Keller’s teacher once said, “I don’t want any more Kindergarten materials . . . I am beginning to suspect all elaborate and special systems of education. They seem to me to be built up on the supposition that every child is a kind of idiot who must be taught to think, whereas if the child is left to himself he will think more and better, if less showily. Let him go and come freely, let him touch real things, and combine his impressions for himself, instead of sitting indoors at a little round table, while a sweet-voiced teacher suggests that he build a stone wall with his wooden blocks, or make a rainbow out of strips of coloured paper, plant straw trees in bead flower-pots. Such teaching fills the mind with artificial associations that must be got rid of before the child can develop independent ideas out of actual experiences.”

The biggest problem with preschools is that they are notorious for having a great deal of twaddle in song and story and projects–stripped down, dumbed down, spoon fed ideas and language. In preschool, not only are ideas and information constantly distilled and interpreted by the teacher herself, not only are children taught how to play by adults as if the child’s whole job was continual imitation, but children are exposed constantly to very simply worded books, poems, and songs. I never realized how much people undervalue the intelligence of little children until I discovered how uneasy I felt about replicating what other children are learning at preschool in my own homeschool preschool. Charlotte says, “Generally, children who grow up with adults and never have juvenile books are better able to glean from the literature of adults.” I believe that more and more as I follow Charlotte Mason methods. I just read the original tale of Beauty and the Beast to my children during story time at school and was thrilled that they enjoyed the beautiful fairytale while being exposed to incredibly rich literary language and wonderful examples of moral character. Try reading more classic literature like this to your young ones, and then decide for yourself if anything offered at preschool or any other school could ever equally lay the foundation for one day forming a highly educated young person.

Instead of being taught how to play at baaing like lambs with a teacher at preschool, little children can join in the play of older siblings at home in complicated imaginative play like Robinson Crusoe or Treasure Island. Instead of learning from the weak literature presented at preschool, little children can benefit from joining in with some of the higher studies of older siblings at home–poetry, history, nature study, Bible, art, and foreign language–family friendly subjects (rather than skill dependent ones like math and handwriting). Or in homes where all the children are still young, they can thrive from intelligence valuing homeschool lessons developed just for them– like the lessons we do at Jesus’ Precious Little Lambs :).

Give Your Child Free Growing Time!

Preschool at home is anything but a scene of orderly peace on some days, but it is the better growing place. The children grow with vigor and individuality apart from the preschool environment where there is no letting alone, no immersion in rich literary language, no influence of older siblings, no significant time in nature, no masterly inactivity, no thinking for themselves, no growing time. Provide your little ones with a quiet growing time at home.

In this time of extraordinary pressure, educational and social, perhaps a mother’s first duty to her children is to secure for them a quiet and growing time, a full six years of passive receptive life, the waking part of it for the most part spent out in the fresh air. ~Charlotte Mason

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  • Reading instruction was another important topic covered in this month’s reading. It is too technical to cover here, so I encourage you to read for yourself Charlotte’s methods for doing reading lessons with children ages 5-6 (p.199-230). Especially helpful if you are not sure how to teach reading at home or if the method you are currently using is drudgery! I personally will be using Delightful Reading by Simply Charlotte Mason, a great curriculum that follows Charlotte’s methods to a tee.
  • Do you want to be a part of my Charlotte Mason Friends Book Club? Read pages 225-300 in Home Education and bring some thoughts to share on the Little Lambs blog by May 15th. Together we can inspire others to bring the atmosphere of a living education into their home too!

Our Praying Mantis’ Hatched!

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We Found this Egg Case in Our Yard and Kept it in a Jar Since Last February

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Look at All of Them!

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Praise Dance at Circle Time (Kids Idea)

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Rainy Day Art

Yay, Noah made something besides “traffic” (scribble)!!

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Watering the Radishes

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Smooth and Easy Days with Our Children

Charlotte Mason Friends Book Club, Home Education (Vol. 1) pages 75-150

Habit Training

“My kids drive me crazy! I could never homeschool them!” is an honest confession that I have heard from some mothers. Others put it milder, “I need some me time while my kids are at school. I need that break.” If mothering was easier, even blissful, I wonder how many would take a second look at homeschooling? The reality is moms understandably need a reprieve from the noise, the half cleaned up messes, the silly chatter, disobedience, possessions not properly cared for, cupboard doors left open, instructions going in one ear and out the other, dirty laundry left on the floor again, requests and demands, lack of courtesy, the style and tastes in discord with her own preferences–all the normal things kids do that grate on mom’s nerves. And doesn’t it seem like it gets worse with time as the kids get older? Is there any hope for smooth, peaceful, and enjoyable days as the norm with our children, or do we just cope through weary days by taking breaks, hot baths, deep breaths, and drinking strong coffee?

Today I hope  to show how parenting can be smooth and easy by sharing the secrets of habit training set forth by Charlotte Mason, my esteemed mentor. Our children’s habits of thought and action will effect not only who they are today, but ultimately form who they become someday, and parents have the power to influence every one of those important habits acquired in childhood. We know that thoughts and actions, whether purifying or defiling, all follow the same natural law: one after another develops, matures, and increases after its own kind. Good habits will beget goodness in our children and homes, and goodness provides the pleasure of family life that is desired by the heart of every parent. Parents sow seeds of good habits into the open souls of their children, which shall germinate, blossom and bear fruit. The Lord gives parents seeds of truth to sow, and the love and patience required to continue tending the garden of their children’s hearts.

“Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character,” the maxim goes.

Habit training is the answer to securing smooth and easy days for parents simply looking to enjoy their vocation of parenthood more, a Christian family looking to instill Christian character in their children, or a homeschooling family looking to avoid the weariness of the homeschool room–whoever you are, I promise this information will be relevant to what you want for your family. Everyone wants to have an easy life, its a natural desire, and there is a way to bring you and your children on the same page, making your days together a joy rather than a frustration. Charlotte Mason says, “The mother who takes pains to endow her children with good habits secures for herself smooth and easy days; while she who lets their habits take care of themselves has a weary life of endless friction with the children. All day she is crying our, Do this!’ and they do not; ‘Do that!’ and they do the other.” Don’t live in frustration, study and implement Charlotte Mason’s principles of habit training with me, and after much diligence, we shall delight in the sweet fruit of our labor all through the years to come with our children.

Charlotte warns that too many Christian parents expect that they can “let a child grow free as the wild bramble, putting forth unchecked whatever is in him––thorn, coarse flower, insipid fruit,––trusting, they will tell you, that the grace of God will prune and dig and prop the wayward branches lying prone. And their trust is not always misplaced; but the poor man endures anguish, is torn asunder in the process of recovery which his parents might have spared him had they trained the early shoots which should develop by-and-by into the character of their child.” Divine grace doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t take the trouble to understand how to best educate and train our children. Divine grace is exerted on the lines of enlightened human effort.

Habits Are Why I Homeschool

There are lots of reasons why I homeschool, but habit training, which ultimately develops character in my children, is at the top of the list. I think about all the habits in which I am training my children and could not possibly imagine any other other option than having them at home with me all week in order to train them up successfully. Lets take just one small segment of the day–mealtime–and list all the things that I (and perhaps you too), daily without miss, train my children to do: remembering to go potty before a meal, keeping cups off the edge of the table, sitting forward in their chairs, not wiggling, serving others first, not interrupting in conversation, use voices at an appropriate volume, allowing no potty talk or fluffing at the table, keeping silliness and (annoying) noises to a minimum, waiting patiently for food, using please and thank you, asking daddy about his day, sharing details with daddy about their day, waiting patiently for everyone to finish their meal before being excused, cleaning up after themselves, asking to be excused from the table, washing their hands and face and dishes at the sink. When I think about what habits we are trying to instill in the course of a whole day, it is astounding– it is so so so much!! Obviously habit training is time consuming when taking the whole picture into consideration (see Charlotte Mason’s entire list of habits).

So does habit training end when kids are school age and can no longer be under our constant supervision? Habit training at home does not end, it only evolves into bigger and more important goals as children grow, which poses a compatibility problem with the typical school day schedule and homework. And how capable are our young ones of holding onto to what we teach them while they are away at school? Is school supposed to take over habit training so that your child learns from her peers or the teacher while away from us? I could never expect a teacher of an entire classroom to have the time to continue my child’s personal habit training for me. Its simply unrealistic to believe that a teacher could properly and consistently train each student in the habits they personally need to acquire (or that the teacher even has the same views/emphasis/priorities about habits as I do anyway). As for peers having worthwhile character developing influence on our children, we only have to recall my posts reviewing the book Hold Onto Your Kids to know that is an alarming myth. So I wonder why most of us send our children away 6 hours a day, where habits we’ve been working so hard on at home become dangerously unguarded for the most part, and find our ourselves surprised when our child is constantly coming home with new contrary habits that require an immense effort of constant undoing? Sounds like a weary never ending battle.

Charlotte Mason’s List of Habits
Decency and Propriety Habits
Cleanliness
Courtesy
Kindness
Manners
Modesty and Purity
Neatness
Order
Regularity
Candor
Courage
Diligence
Fortitude
Generosity
Gentleness
Meekness
Patience
Respect
Temperance
Thrift
Mental Habits
Attention
Imagining
Meditation
Memorizing
Mental Effort
Observation
Perfect Execution
Reading for Instruction
Remembering
Thinking
Accuracy
Concentration
Reflection
Thoroughness
Moral Habits
Integrity
Priorities
Finishing
Use of Time
Borrowed Property
Obedience
Personal Initiative
Reverence
Self-Control
Sweet, Even Temper
Truthfulness
Usefulness
Physical Habits
Alertness to Seize Opportunities
Fortitude
Health
Managing One’s Own Body
Music
Outdoor Life
Quick Perception of Senses
Self-Control in Emergencies
Self-Discipline in Habits
Self-Restraint in Indulgences
Training the Ear and Voice
Religious Habits
Regularity in Devotions
Prayer
Reading the Bible
Praise
Reverent Attitude
Sunday-Keeping
Thanksgiving
Thought of God

The purpose of habit training should be to secure beauty, order, and goodness at home and in each others eyes. “A mother whose final question is, ‘What will people say? what will people think? how will it look? and the children grow up with habits of seeming, and not of being; they are content to appear well dressed, well mannered, and well intentioned to outsiders.” Homeschool is stripping me of a lot of my “appearance” hang ups and helping me to focus in on what really matters–internal beauty and goodness starting at home.

Truthfully, the last thing we want is for our kids to drive us crazy, but the solution for preventing discord sounds like counter logic: keep your children with you. The irony is that, the more children are sent away so we can have a break, the more they will drive us crazy, because they become less responsive to our parenting. The more we send them out of our watchful care, the more our children will accumulate contrary habits from outside influences, plus we will have less time together to work on habits at home that create harmony. Harmony in the home is a treasure worthy of your life’s pursuit. Habit training is a full time job, too precious and personal to delegate out to anyone else.

To me, the crucial nature of habit training is what makes homeschool so necessary and so appropriate for families who value character education as a #1 priority. That means that no matter how inadequate we feel we are are at teaching certain academic subjects, for those of us who hold the educational priority of character development at the top of our list, home is still the very best place for our children to receive their education. My philosophy about education is that above all else, it shall secure the step by step progression of my children’s character development. If my children’s education teaches math and language and science, but is ineffective at forming character in them, it is a failure.

A Real Education is About Character

Charlotte began her teaching career with zealous enthusiasm believing that there wasn’t anything a teacher could not influence her students to do, and that it was the teacher’s fault if any child was not succeeding in school or out of it. The disappointing thing was that she found nothing extraordinary happened. The kids were good and came from good families on the whole, but it was clear that they still behaved very much as it was their nature to. The good meek little girl still told fibs. The bright generous child was incurably idle. The dawdling child went on dawdling, the dull child became no brighter. She felt disappointed and like they were playing at education, getting on a little bit with sums and French and history each year, but she wondered: would not the application of a few hours later in life effect more than years drudgery at any one subject in childhood– for who remembers the scraps of knowledge he labored over as a child? “If education is to secure the step-by-step progress of the individual and the race, it must mean something over and above the daily plodding at small talks which goes by the name.” A real education is about character development, much more than it is about academics. Who cares what you know when you grow up if you haven’t the character to make any use of it?

Whether you choose to or not to take any trouble about the formation of your child’s habits, it is habit, all the same, which will govern 99/100ths of your child’s life. Is it really possible for parents to form in children desirable habits of doing and saying, even of thinking and feeling? Although there is some goodness in the heart of every child, they are all incapable of steady effort, because they have no strength of will, no power to make themselves do that which they knew they ought to do. Children, immature of will, do not do what they should do, or think what they should think. People, especially children, think as they are accustomed to think. Adults have the will to stop some trains of thought that they object to, but it requires great effort. A child has feeble moral power, a weak will, and is unused to the weapons of spiritual warfare. “He depends upon his parents; it rests with them to initiate the thoughts he shall think, the desires he shall cherish, the feelings he shall allow. Only to initiate; no more is permitted to them; but from this initiation will result the habits of thought and feeling which govern the man–his character, that is to say…….The child is born, doubtless with the tendencies which should shape his future; but every tendency has its branch roads, its good or evil outcome; and to put the child on the right track for the fulfillment of the possibilities inherent in him, is the vocation of the parent.” Overseeing the development of character in our children is our primary job as parents. Are you willing to get some job training, and then faithfully lay your life down for your child that your job may be well done?

Habit is the Strength of Ten Natures

Every child is born with a weak will and a strong nature (disposition or personal natural tendencies of behavior), but the good news is that, as Charlotte Mason says, habit has the strength of ten natures. Suppose that the doing of a certain action 20 or 40 times in unbroken sequence forms a habit which is easy to follow, and then persist in that habit without lapses for many years, and the habit now has the strength of ten natures. How does the doing of an act or the thinking of a thought 20 times in succession, make that habit so strong that it becomes a part of a child’s nature? Charlotte studied the physiology of habit to find some answers.

Muscular tissue is constantly regrowing according to the modes of action required of it. As a child learns to write, his muscles are adapting to the action required of them and the better he gets, the less his mind must be engaged to tell him how to do it–the action is becoming automatic. The greatest growth and adaption of muscles takes place with the greatest ease in youth. Dancing, swimming, sports, etc. are all learned best when young or by an adult whose muscles have kept up the habit of adaption through regular exposure to new physical activities. Charlotte says, “But teach a ploughman to write, and you see the enormous physical difficulty which unaccustomed muscles have in growing to any new sort of effort.” Hour by hour children’s muscles are forming their habits, and this is why Charlotte says it is important to even keep watch over habits of enunciation and posture. She says, “The poke, the stoop, the indistinct utterance, is not a mere trick to be left off at pleasure ‘when he is older and knows better,’ but it is all the time growing into him becoming a part of himself, because it is registered int he very substance of his spinal cord……And to correct bad habits of speaking, for instance, it will not be enough for the child to intend to speak plainly and try to speak plainly; he will not be able to do so habitually until some degree of new growth has taken place in the organs of voice whilst he is making efforts to form the new habit.”

Interestingly, habits which do not appear to be in any sense physical–a truthful habit, an orderly habit, a habit of inattention–also make their mark upon a physical tissue, and it is to this physical effect that the enormous strength of habit is probably due. The brain is always modified by the work it has to do. “….it is as if every familiar train of thought made a rut in the nervous substance of the brain into which the thoughts run lightly of their own accord, and out of which they can only be got by an effort of will.” The cerebrum of man grows to the modes of thought in which it is habitually exercised. We find ourselves automatically prompted to think, feel, or do what we have been before accustomed to think, feel, or do. At first an action requires all our attention and volition in order to perform it, but by frequent repetition, it becomes part of us, and is performed without volition or consciousness. Thoughts headed in the same constant direction in the tissues of the brain traces out a rut or path, a line of least resistance, along which the same impression, made another time, will find it easier to travel than to take another path. The habit of action or thought now has right-of-way in the traffic of the brain. So parents who diligently oversee their children’s habits of doing, saying, thinking, and feeling; and allow little opposing traffic from outside influences, are laying down rails on which our children’s whole lives can run smoothly. The deeper the ruts, the better.

Soooo what does all this mean?

Charlotte explains, “Why, that the actual conformation of the child’s brain depends upon the habits which the parents permit or encourage; and that the habits of the child produce the character of the man, because certain mental habitudes once set up, their nature is to go on for ever unless they should be displaced by other habits. Here is an end to the easy philosophy of, ‘It doesn’t matter,’ ‘Oh, he’ll grow out of it,’ ‘He’ll know better by-and-by,’ ‘He’s so young, what can we expect?’ and so on. Every day, every hour, the parents are either passively or actively forming those habits in their children upon which, more than upon anything else, future character and conduct depend.”

How are bad habits to be cured? By time? Rewards? Punishment? Not at all; the only way to cure a habit is by supplanting it with the contrary habit, and “the mother must devote herself for a few weeks to this cure as steadily and untiringly as she would to the nursing of her child through measles.” If you would like a real life example of a mother doing this, and without nagging or reproach, make sure to read Charlotte’s Habit is Ten Natures (page 120). The fatal mistake in habit training is to relax your efforts–to overlook a little dawdling or white lie or tardiness–because your little sweetie has been trying so hard. A little relaxation means the formation of another contrary habit, which must be overcome before your child gets back to where he was before. Remember, a habit by definition is something that has become easy and natural, done without thought. There is no need to take pity on a child as if her habits still require great effort–she is doing it now without even realizing that she is! Again, read a real life example of the fatality of “letting your child off once” in Habit is Ten Natures (pages 122-124).

I don’t have time my friends to discuss all that Charlotte says about training each specific habit, but you will find that Home Education specifically addresses each of the habits listed on the chart above. If you are interested, you should think about reading the book or even the whole series, as a Charlotte Mason education is largely about character development!! Or if you enjoy taking the easy route :), simplycharlottemason.com has compiled what Charlotte has to say about habits from all 6 of her volumes, into one very useful handbook called Laying Down the Rails: A Charlotte Mason Habits Handbook.

Habit Training is a Pleasure

“The boy who has been accustomed to find both profit and pleasure from his books does not fall easily into idle ways because he is attracted by an idle schoolfellow. The girl who has been trained to speak the exact truth simply does not think of a lie as a ready means of getting our of a scrape, coward as she may be.” Habit training has huge rewards, and to succeed, parents only need to be tactful, watchful, persistant, and prayerful. To form a good habit takes a few weeks, to guard it takes never ending watchful care. However, guarding habits already formed is not hard work, it just takes persistant watchful effort. Forming a new habit takes a lot of diligence and so we should only choose one or two at a time to work on with our children (choose one off the chart that is most needed in your child).

Habits make life easy and thank goodness for that. What if we still had to think about how to carry out simple small talk, take a bath, write, or read? We would be worn out. Habits make tasks perfectly easy and natural. Charlotte describes forming habits in children as no laborious task “for the reward goes hand in hand with the labor; so much so, that it is like the laying out of a penny with the certainty of the immediate return of a pound. For a habit is a delight in itself; poor human nature is conscious of the ease that it is to repeat the doing of anything without effort; and therefore, the formation of a habit, the gradually lessening sense of effort in a given act, is pleasurable. This is one of the rocks that mothers sometimes split upon: they lose sight of the fact that [a good habit is a real pleasure].” What becomes tiresome in parenting then is not habit training, but the undoing of habits by outside influences such as children at school, or the undoing of habits by inconsistent training at home, and having to begin all over again. The more time you are able to devote to training habits and guarding character, the greater your pleasure in your children will be.

“There is nothing which a mother can not bring her child up to.” –Charlotte Mason

Your child has been sending you signals all along that “I need you mommy!!” Have you noticed? The way he gets clingy at times or the way he lights up when you spend quality time with him. The way he behaves well when he is just with you, but when your attention is diverted to something or someone else, he starts acting up. Whether he can express it or not, deep down he knows that you and daddy are the only ones who can help him grow up into who he is to become. If you could hear his heart, he would be crying out, “I need you so much mommy! All these habits in life that are so easy and automatic for you, are very wearying to me, because I am a child and everything is brand new for me. Won’t you hold me close through it all? Will you keep holding onto me through the years so that I can grow into the man God wants me to be? I need you so much to help me grow into maturity!” Please don’t think that signals of dependance quieting down in your older school age child means that he is ready to be independent from you. More likely it means that he has acquiesced your need for time apart, and since the void for attachment doesn’t just simply disappear, he has started to look elsewhere, like peer relationships, for someone to guide him, and essentially train him up. Yikes!! Please review the posts Hold Onto Your Kids Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV as they go hand in hand with today’s topic of habit training.

You know you have always said that your child comes before anything else in your life. He or she is your priority above anything else. Does your lifestyle back up your conviction? There is nothing that you can not bring your child up to. Now the question is……….how will you rearrange the commitments in your life to make time with your children your top priority?

Someday after we mothers have enjoyed many years together with our children in sweet fellowship, our children will come to realize how much they have been preserved from by growing up under our ever protecting wing, and I foresee this as the day that they will “rise up and call us blessed” (Proverbs 31:28). You are the virtuous woman who is taking great pains in your duties, and you shall take pleasure in the sweet fruit of your labor.

If this post has helped you, please share it with another parent you care about–or all the parents you know!
 
Do you want to be a part of my Charlotte Mason Friends Book Club? Read pages 150-225 in Home Education and bring some thoughts to share on the Little Lambs blog by April 15th. Let’s inspire others to bring the atmosphere of a living education into their home too!
 

Daffodil Heaven. I Heart Daffodils.

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Easter Garden Baskets Are Probably My Favorite School Project of the Whole Year

See March Lesson Plans for more details. We used Irish Moss (Sagina Subulata), purple Campanula Get Mee (Campanula Portenschlagiana), and an indoor plant that I don’t know the name of. I wanted something frilly to keep indoors since last year we did hearty succulent plants (the advantage was that the basket lasted all year).

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Reminders of the Cross Sitting Pretty in Our Kitchen

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The Wise Man Built His House Upon the Rock, The Foolish (Wo)Man Built His (Her) House Upon the Sand

This was our Bible story in circle time this week since being hard working helpers is our theme this month. The blocks represented work we do and aspirations we have, and how we build our lives on the rock of Jesus Christ by doing “every task heartily as unto the Lord” as the Bible says, or on the sand by doing things “unto man”. With the first two blocks representing Tayler’s dreams of doing gymnastics and becoming a nurse someday, we discussed with very practical examples, what it would look like to build her dreams on the rock verses the sand. The next block represented building a life of doing kind things in a showy way so that man rewards us (sand), or doing kind things in secret as the Bible says to so that only our Heavenly Father knows and He will reward us (rock). The last block represented school, and how we prepare our hearts and attitudes through early morning devotions and using God’s promises in the Word when frustrations arise (rock) or doing it all in our own strength (sand). Their favorite part was making the storm come and knocking down blocks built on sand of course. You should have heard the peals of laughter. Its so fun to be 4 years old.

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I Love Mud!

That is all Tayler kept saying as I watched her help herself to playing in the mud. Then I asked, “Has your family ever let you play in the mud before?” “No,” she replied. Ooops?

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This Could Be You

A Beautiful New Homeschool Family

….”I have no desire to homeschool my kids”. These are the very words spoken from my mouth just two months ago! God has such a sense of humor! I now have a blazing passion for homeschool that I had no idea existed within me!  I was happy to send my kids off to public school for their education even though it was a very long day for them and Max (my sweet middle son) would come home most days upset from his day.  I liked many aspects of the school and just thought Max got dealt a bad teacher and next year would be better, I was certain! Garrett (my eldest) liked school and always had a good day and had nothing but good things to say about his class and teacher! I really had no terrible experience to throw us into homeschooling, so our decision to homeschool came from the heart rather than the aforementioned.
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So how did we find our passion to homeschool? This blog! I thank God for Miss Lynn who follows so close to God, is so passionate about her family, who reads and researches tirelessly on this subject and writes on this blog for all who will come, read and be inspired! Or perhaps at the very least it gets you thinking of how you can better teach and parent your children! Before knowing of the amazing book list that Lynn posted, I never would have known about the book “Hold Onto Your Kids” or have any incite into what our kids are really exposed to through peer relationships.  This was a big part of why I wanted to pull my kids back to us and teach them in our home!  I wanted to free them from peer pressure, unhealthy relationships, from being taught watered down literature, memorization of facts, dittos! And lastly not having any zeal for learning! My eyes have been opened to see that with God at the front of our school, my children will grow in Him each day and He will be the center of their world! Which after all is just as important if not more so than the academics they will learn.  We are looking forward to diving into some great books together, cuddled up on the couch on crisp fall mornings, spending our time with one another and them not missing out on any part of each others lives!  I love the thought of them being so close to one another! They will also not miss out on their little baby brothers days as he quickly grows into a toddler.
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I hope each of you continue to gain wisdom and knowledge from this blog! I know I am! “
–Mary McGee
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What a gorgeous family! Look at the holiness emanating from them. You have no idea what an honor it is to see a homeschool family literally birthed into being through the work of God on this simple blog. You have no idea how I hope that you also will see what God can do in your family through homeschool. I pray that God will move on you today to see with eyes that can see and ears that can hear.

Mary, a New Old Friend

“I feel like I have no friends” was my rumination of late. Noah’s friends are going off to preschool and everyone seems to be parting ways. As I focus in through the years on what is really important to me and my family, and how these goals will be accomplished, I find that the road can become lonelier with the “alternative view” choices I am making. From Christianity to health and nutrition to homeschooling–just to name a few–I have hiked so far off the wide and broad mainstream road that it can be hard to find other hikers on my trail anymore. But I would never have it any other way because I think my narrow path is entirely good– its leading me to life!! (Matthew 7:13) Of course friendship is certainly about diversity as well as sameness, but I get wistful for those who would understand my zeal, share in my crucible. My prayer has been that my family doesn’t have to live this life alone, and that God will bring just the right friends along to “do life together”. In the meantime, I was definitely planning on enjoying this alone time with God, because it never fails that these times grow you the most.

However, I knew God had some beautiful plans for my garden of friendships. Suddenly and without warning God revealed his faithfulness with the blossoming of a precious friendship. He brought two moms together who were both really praying for Godly friends! Even though 1,800 miles apart, my friend Mary and I have connected over the miles finding that we have much in common. Its all so uncanny, it could only be God! We knew each other from attending church together for many years in the past where we had a casual friendship between us, but time and distance caused us to eventually become out of touch. Because of my sister Tara’s loyal allegiance to my cause here on the blog, she posts some of my blogs on her facebook page (thank you Tare Bear!). Consequently, a couple months ago Mary came over to my blog and was pleasantly surprised to find out what I have been up to lately with homeschool. She said she was in agreement with what I had been writing about motherhood, and that things I had written blog were speaking to her. I was touched, but I had no idea how much the Lord was dealing with her. If anyone has a strong relationship with her children, I would say it was Mary. But even so the Lord was starting to convict her about being there for her sons more, not letting anyone who didn’t share their values teach her children, and bringing her back to the whole reason she had kids–to raise them up.  Then one day last month she left a shocking comment on my blog: she had decided to homeschool after reading through my Hold Onto Your Kids book reviews! I couldn’t believe that someone was that effected (and yet that is why I was writing them right?), and that God had used the reviews to accomplish what was my highest dream for this sacrifice. Someone’s life was about to really change, and it happened to be my sweet friend miss Mary, her husband Doug, and their 11 month old, 6 year old, and 9 year old boys! I can’t tell you what a blessing this was!

Mary came to visit at my house on her last day of vacation in California, and the two hour conversation was a whirl of homeschool hopes and dreams and fears. The very next day she headed back home to Texas to start homeschooling with not much more than a hopeful decision to guide her. We have been emailing back and forth since then, and so I have been able to witness the initial roller coaster of emotions as well as the miraculous triumphs. She has already had to defend her educational position to a stranger, face the fear of “hurting” a son yearning for his school friends, form a new family vision through lengthy conversations with hubby, pull her kids out of all they knew as school, begin assuming the responsibility of teaching some lessons pronto, work through the loneliness of having no roots or connections in Texas……….and this is not even the full list. Wow, her faith has proven to be a bedrock. I am in complete admiration of your bravery Mary.

After emailing Mary lots of random info to fuel her enthusiasm and get her started in the right direction, there came a big turning point one day last week. Mary emailed, “So with everything you have sent me I am still feeling somewhat (OK, a lot) inadequate, I am so close to just having them go to school again this year….It’s not because I feel it is so much better, but I just don’t know how to teach the major subjects, and keeping them somewhat on track or ahead which is what I would love!!” I gulped as I realized she was hanging in the balance, and needed the RIGHT information fast. Enough with the helpful philosophy books, the online homeschool resources, my recommended curriculum suppliers–she needs a picture of how exactly she can teach subjects day to day in her homeschool. God was directing my own homeschool research so quickly and directly all of a sudden, that I was able to provide some guidance just before it seemed the doors might be closing on Mary’s desire to homeschool. Of course all I had to offer was a seedling vision of how I plan to homeschool my own children during the elementary years, but I had quite a good feeling that what I was finding in this Charlotte Mason education could be a good fit for her too. I told her that a Charlotte Mason education hearkens back to simpler and sweeter times, old fashioned farm life, using hymns instead of “twaddle music”, and even the reproduction of Victorian era children’s literature that has an amazing command of language. It reminds me of living out Little House on the Prairie, doing school like they used to in the old one room school house again I said. That was my romanticized description that I think struck a chord with my fellow homesteading dream friend. I assured her that a Charlotte Mason education is a gentle education, but very comprehensive in the coverage of the academic subjects. I directed her to several links on the Simplycharlottemason.com website, the very best resource I have found for practical step by step homeschool planning.

And then I waited. I was dying to hear how she felt about Charlotte Mason style of homeschooling, that I have come to prize as God’s gift of a true education to all who have eyes to see and ears to hear……….

After spending a whole morning on the Simplycharlottemason.com website, Mary’s next email got right to the point: “I’m in LOVE!……I am hooked!” I was elated.

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I want to share with you the links I gave Mary, that brought her from intimidated to confidant about homeschooling in a matter of hours. My blog has been feeding you a lot of philosophy to strengthen your heart, but now it is time to assess whether your heart is capable of the plunge. You should not be comfortable enrolling your child into school without first having considered and ruled out homeschool for your family.

Please don’t rule out homeschool until you have looked over Simplcharlottemason.com! Its that good. The SCM website holds your hand through each subject of each year of homeschool and makes it all really practical. No guesswork, no wondering how you will cover everything, no worries–its all mapped out for you.

Some of you are saying, “Homeschool? How could I possibly teach my child everything he needs to know?” Take a look at the SCM website and find out that yes, I think I may be able do homeschool, or no, this is an impossibility for me. Some of you are saying, “My child is really struggling with our current method of homeschool!” Maybe its because you are doing charter school, or you are doing a packaged boxed curriculum that is like school at home. Charlotte Mason is really different, really freeing, so give it a chance! This might be what you are looking for. Some of you are saying, “I am pretty happy with what we are using in my homeschool, but I am open to learning about a method that it really effective.” This is for you too!

A simple chart of Charlotte’s methods for teaching each subject
http://simplycharlottemason.com/basics/started/charlotte-mason-method/

A weekly sample schedule
http://simplycharlottemason.com/planning/weekly/typicalweek/

Curriculum Guide
http://simplycharlottemason.com/planning/scmguide/

4 Steps to Get You Started

https://simplycharlottemason.com/how-to-get-started/

Love this quick orientation to Charlotte Mason Homeschooling (quick as opposed to the CM books recommended on my blog)
http://simplycharlottemason.com/books/getting-started/

Here is a great mini e book (and other resources) for forming character developing habits to ensure smooth and easy homeschooling days. Habits are an important part of the Charlotte Mason Education. Its like she thought of everything.
http://simplycharlottemason.com/books/smooth-easy-days-with-charlotte-mason/

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I am REALLY astounded by Charlotte Mason. Every time I go back and look more on the SCM site, I am more hooked and excited. A Charlotte Mason school is like all the things I already love about life–children, books, nature, handicrafts. I love the idea of a diet of good books, I love handicrafts, I love getting out into nature often, I love that there is no testing, I love the wisdom that pours out of every CM quote I read, I love the organization that SCM has put into making it all very practical, I love only school in the morning, I love the old fashioned feel, I love the focus on habits. It feels soooo perfect to me.

Of course, Charlotte Mason is not the only method of homeschooling out there. If what you read doesn’t sound good to you, don’t give up. You just have to find what works best for you. Here is the best comparison of homeschooling methods I have ever found yet online:

http://www.homeschoolmarketplace.com/e-zines/ejournalapr2706.htm

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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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Holiness

Raising G Rated Kids in An R Rated World

Once you get sick deep in your gut about one thing in this world, it can open your eyes to see that all the worlds ways are mad and merciless, and no matter which arena you look (health, politics, business, family, school, etc.), there is corruption. Do you ever find yourself wanting to scream, “that is SO wrong!!!,” ………when you find out about pink slime or watch Food Inc., or think about how prices of everything organic are driven up making it a burden for families just to eat healthy while junk food is dirt cheap, or how the huge money loving pharmecuticals manipulate our healthcare and FDA, how unethical conduct in the business world is rampant, how the media is full of everything irreverant and disrespectful, how Americans are driven by an insatiable need for more stuff which drives us to increasingly lose sight of family values in all our money making pursuits? Or how about the way government schools require total conformity, discourage parental involvement, and are churning out masses of defiant and immature citizens stripped of the ability to think for themselves. These are a few of the things that make me sick. You probably have your own list.

All this mania drives me to God, the author of everything that is the opposite of sad and sick.

If you want to escape all this corruption, if it makes you want to wretch, good. Let it make you want to run to God! He is the only one you can count on to protect you and your family from the harsh realities of this world. How else can you protect your precious innocent children? When you think of your tiny ones, you think purity, innocence, undefiled, and exceedingly precious. Does it grieve you when you look around you and see that the world is robbing children of that gift at an earlier and earlier age? My mission as a mother and a home maker, is to fashion a home that promotes holiness so that my children may grow up uncorrupted, being “Holy as He is Holy.” That they may have a beautiful set of unscarred childhood memories. That they may escape the sinful mindsets that sneakily infiltrated my own young life, even managing to get past the guard of my own faithful parents.  I want my children protected from the pain that accompanies sinful choices. Satan is working full time to lure our children into his lair by engraining a worldy mindset into them as they socialize at school, as they are bombarded with media, as they sit in our own homes under the tutelage of parents with unrenewed minds. Yes, by our own parenting. If we are not in the Word of God constantly, our minds are unrenewed, unable to think God’s higher kind of thoughts, and there is no doubt about it, we will be totally and completely susceptible to the corrupting mindsets of the world. If we do not agree with the crazy ways of the world, then why wouldn’t we do everything we can to be set apart, following higher ways, being holy–especially for the sake of our children?

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2

God has given us everything we need for living a godly life…….he has given us great and precious promises (His Word!). These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. 1 Peter 1:3-4

Protecting my children was a huge determinant for why I decided to homeschool. The article, Raising G Rated Kids in an R Rated World, spoke to me during a time when I was beginning to feel a holy burn inside for protecting my children. The author, Jill, says, “You see our job and goal is to train up our children in the way they should go……….. Thank God there is only ONE way. That way is narrow and few will enter into it. Why? Because it is hard to go against the world in all you do. It is hard to shut the world out and raise your children as if what is going on outside your home is not happening.” You may disagree with some of my standards for ensuring that my kids stay protected, but I will share a few to get you thinking about these things before they “sneak” up on your child. I don’t feel that little children need to watch TV or movies, that older children need cell phones, that video games do a lick of good for anyone, that kids should have a computer or TV in their own bedrooms, that kids should be going to play or sleep over at the houses of other families unless extremely well known and holding similar standards, that kids should be cared for or taught by anyone on a daily basis who does not share your standards. The last standard is one big reason why it is not possible for me to send my children away to be taught by the world’s teachers, and why I passionately embrace homeschool. Anyway, these are all personal convictions and yours may be different, but whatever they are, I encourage you to set them high. Its is easier to lower them later, than to raise them later. Besides, you may find that you love what God is able to do in your household through your high standards. In the beginning it may feel as if striving for holiness is binding, like what can we do?? No, it is not easy to shut out the world, but in the end, I believe that the happiest families are those who pay the price for true freedom. “He whom the Son sets free is free indeed!!!” John 8:36

Holiness is Truly Beautiful

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