Daddy’s Thoughts about Homeschooling

dadandbunTranscript of an interview with Rick Hopkins (my husband)

Q. What was it that first got you to consider homeschooling your children?
A. My wife Diane was the first to feel impressed to begin homeschooling. She saw the problems our children were having in school; she investigated, and she didn’t like what she found in the public schools. Several of our children were having trouble with the school environment, their peers, the expectations, the school procedures, etc. At the time I was out of touch with our children’s emotional state. I felt open to change and the desires of my wife. I was involved in working as a design engineer and was very busy in my own life and, like most fathers, did not have contact with the children during the day. I became very supportive of our homeschool from the beginning.

Q. What wrong attitudes or beliefs did you have to give up or work through to do this?
A. I thought that school was the same as it was 20-30 years ago when I went to school. I assumed that the schooling I received was really good for me (I had never even thought about it before). We hadn’t considered that there was another way to meet the needs of our children. Although I always believed we could do anything we were inspired to do, I just had never considered the avenue of “homeschooling” before. We accepted this eagerly after having it confirmed in prayer. We had no idea who else homeschooled, we had no support group, we didn’t know how our church felt about homeschooling—but we knew the Lord approved of this decision for our family.

Q. How do you perceive your role as father these days?
A. I have a great responsibility to teach and train my children and bring them up in the right way. Education is a vital concern in my effort, and I think it should include the following four areas:
1) Gospel centered teaching, based upon scripture.
2) I believe that I need to teach and train them in the U.S. Constitution and American patriotism. I believe that our liberties are being severely eroded.
3) I feel a responsibility to teach basic life skills. My sons need to learn to be good providers and stewards. I do this by working side by side with them as often as possible. The work ethic is paramount; scouting and survival skills are needed to become independent. My daughters similarly learn domestic skills from Mom, as well as helping out in our business. I also want to expose my children to other basic life skills: gardening and working the land, using the computer, raising animals, building and constructing things, cooking, child care, giving service to others, etc.
4) Next is the responsibility to teach them academics. The foremost of these are reading and writing. Basic math skills are next. I believe other subjects are important also—science, language, geography, etc.—and I encourage them explore their interests in each. My object is to spark their interests in the area of their God-given talents and help them prepare for their life’s contribution to society. We make regular visits to the library, take many field-trips, and experience hands-on activities. I take the lead in teaching our scripture study, and I do what I can to help them with life skills. My wife tries to cover the rest in homeschool.

Q. What changes do you see in yourself since you began homeschooling your children?
A. My views on what’s really important in life have drastically changed. I am more sensitive to the heartbeat of the family now. We began homeschooling our children eight years ago. This was born out of a sincere desire to save their souls and come closer as a family. We began our bookstore business ten years ago. I had worked as a Mechanical Engineer previously. This changed my daily work to be more service-oriented. We all work very hard together in this business, which helps family solidarity and our need for each person in our family (we depend on each one for the business success). We are better able, I hope, to teach our values to our children now that our lives are more interwoven.

I feel I have increased testimony in my life now more than ever before. I try to question everything I do to be sure it is consistent with the Lord’s will, and not just accept a habit because that’s the way it’s always been done. Instead I truly want it to be the way God would have it be.

Q. What is your long-range goal for your family? What is your dream? How are you working to bring it about?
A. Here is my dream—to please God and to fulfill my life’s mission. This includes living righteously, helping my family do the same, and being involved directly in service to God. I want to overcome my personal problems and false traditions so that I will continue to repent and change in the direction He wants me to lead. I want my children to see that this is what they too should do (by my example). All of my goals are centered along this dream.


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Stop Talking

milk-chocolate-271176_1280Yackety-yack! We moms sure love to talk. I sometimes wonder what we sound like to our little children! I wonder, if after the first sentence directed at them, they might catch a word here and there but not grasp the whole meaning of what we are trying to communicate. They love us, and they listen attentively at times, but I don’t think they always “get it”!

Eavesdrop with me on this family’s wordy mother. Three-year-old Susie just entered the living room with her glass of milk, holding it with both hands, tipping a bit. Mom begins:

“Oh no, Susie! You’ve got to sit at the table with that glass of milk and not come onto the living room carpet because you might spill it and milk is horrible to try to get out of carpet. You’re tipping it now, Susie! Milk can smell really bad if it is spilled in carpet! I’ve told you a hundred times to sit at the table with your food. You are not allowed in here over the carpet with any food. Remember Grandma’s old blue car that accidentally had milk spilled on the floor of the car? It was impossible to get out and always smelled funny. Now Susie, you really need to take that glass of milk out of here now.”

Did you stick with it? If so, I am sure your eyes were glazing over, just like Susie’s. She might still be standing—tipping glass in hand—listening to her mother, but Susie is probably “lost in space”.

How much more effective to just briefly, kindly, and concisely say: “Susie, go to the table!” Now, that is a clear and simple command that can be followed! And followed-up on!

“Yes” and “no”, without elaborate explanations, are just right for kids under about 5 years old. Boys, who tend to be less verbal than girls, especially need us to “cut to the chase”. When children get a little older, sometimes they will truly need an explanation. You can tell when the “why?” is defiant (“why can’t I?!) and when it is truly a curious (“why is that?”), needing a brief explanation. But they almost never need a lengthy explanation. I fear we do overkill with our words and explanations.

Perhaps we mothers could do better if we stopped talking so much!

To our mutual mothering success!


May I recommend:

Teaching Kids to Interrupt Politely

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The 21 Rules of This House

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Knowing Your Way Around Time

the-yearIt is a tricky for little children to understand the idea that the year rotates around, and starts again with a new numbered year. My “year chart” can help. Print it off and post it on your schoolroom wall, and go over it often with your 4-8 year olds. Asking them questions and talking about the months of the year will help them practice and gain understanding of the passage of time. Put the birthdays of each family member in your year, too, as that is a big event for young ones. And any recurring annual events.

I teach that the year begins at the top of the chart with the division line between December and January. Then it advances one year forward in number (2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 . . . ) every time we pass that mark again, like a spiraling circle. A slinky toy or other coil or spring makes a good hands-on object lesson to help them see how each circle (year) connects to the next.

I also point out that the seasons divide the circle evenly. December, January, February are the 3 months that make winter; March, April and May are the spring months; June, July, August are summertime months and September, October and November make up the autumn season.

Here are some of the kinds of questions that I ask:
*What month is your birthday in? Point to it.
*When do we go swimming? (summer)
*What month do the leaves begin to turn red? (September)
*How many months are there in spring? Name them (March, April, May)
*In what month do we send valentines? (February)
*How many months are there in the year? Count them. (12)
*What month are we in now? (November)
image*How many more months until Christmas? (one)

Singing the “Months of the Year” song (found in Musical Notebooks)  as you point to each month’s name and picture helps a lot. This is basically the names of the months put to music.

A great trick for older children who have mastered the names of the months is to hold their fists side-by-side and say the names of the months as they touch the knuckle bones, or the “valleys” between the knuckles. The “knuckle months” have 31 days. As an adult, I still use this trick to figure out how many days in a month.

Thirty days hath September,

April, June, and November;

Thirty-one the others date,

Except in February, twenty-eight;

But in leap year we assign

February, twenty-nine.


Children can catch on quickly with this visual explanation of the year. It makes a child feel capable and smart to know where he is in time!


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Soak in the Joy!

archeskidsWe just went to Arches National Park for a quick sight-seeing trip. At the last minute, some of our grown kids jumped in too, so our 7 passenger van was full to the brim and scraped bottom if we went over a big bump. What fun we had, singing as we drove along! The joy in each other’s presence was wonderful! The scenery was majestic! All felt right with the world.

As I lay in bed that night, my soul just filled up with such joy at the blessing of having my family around me! I found myself whispering, “Thank you, God”. My 7 children are growing (or have grown) into wonderful people who I love and respect, who are caring and good. My husband is constant and considerate. I couldn’t hold any more joy than I felt at that moment. I wanted to pack it away, preserve it somehow for an uncertain future day when loneliness threatens, or sadness prevails. I wanted to just freeze that moment in time, when so much love surrounded me, and soak in the joy of it!

I wonder if we pause enough, as mothers, to “soak in the joy”—to realize how loved and blessed we are! We marry and have our children and life gets busier and busier as we try to care for them. It can seem overwhelming and hectic. climbingcliffWe don’t often stop and realize what a coveted position we are in as the “most wanted” person in the house, as the center to our children and to our husband. We are engaged in the most important work—nurturing human beings—and the love that surrounds us just becomes second nature. Perhaps we don’t even realize that we have bathed in it, until it is missed.

Crayon-scrawled love notes, a husband to talk to, baby’s wet kisses, someone to share our day with . . . share our life with . . . these are the evidences of the love that surrounds us every day.


Soak, soak in the joy of it!


May I recommend:

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Kids Can’t Spell?


Ammon shows off a big beet he grew

It is an all-too-common problem. Kids can’t spell, teenagers can’t spell, even many adults can’t spell. Thank goodness for spell-check on the computer. It has helped the problem enormously!

Learning to write is pretty important, as we use if daily in our communication. Nothing blows “lookin’ smart” faster than misspelling a common word. It’s like saying “ain’t”—only on paper!

Spelling the English language is very tricky! Just consider the ee sound. There are eight ways to spell the ee sound: chief, seat, beet, receive, key, he, Judy, ski. Now you can see why English is a bear to spell.

Should you teach your children all those long spelling rules? Generally, I say no. By the time a person can understand those detailed rules, they are usually old enough to have figured out how to spell. Who can remember or make sense of such a rule as this: “Double the final consonant before a suffix beginning with a vowel if the word has only one syllable or is accented on the last syllable and the word ends in a single consonant preceded by a single vowel”!  Not me!

image-1There are some rules that I teach when a child is good and ready (meaning that he is regularly misspelling these words in his own writing and could remember and benefit from a rule to go by). Teaching commonly misspelled words will help your writing tremendously, and many are simple to remember with memory clues.

Some very common spelling mistakes (below) can each be learned in 5 minutes. They are worth memorizing.  I make a flashcard with the word on the front and the clues on the back.  I read the clue to my child, then expose the front of the card when he has spelled the word, so he can self-correct. It doesn’t take long until these are mastered.

To, Two, Too

Two is the number 2, that’s easy enough. So eliminate that one by learning it first!

Too has two o’s; it has more than enough, which is the meaning of the word too, as in too much fun, too many cookies, etc. Too means “also,” too!

To is the word that we see most commonly. It only has one o, and it means “in the direction of,” as in “to the store,” we also use it with verbs, such as “to dance.”

It is, It’s, Who’s, Whose

It’s and who’s are contractions of the words it is and who is .

It is = it’s

Who is = who’s

The apostrophe shows that some letters have been squeezed out by the contraction. (That’s my way of explaining it to my kids. They have been through enough pregnancies with me to know what a contraction is!)

Its and whose show ownership. Its paws, for example, when talking about your cat. These words don’t need an apostrophe any more than the word his, which also shows ownership. Ask yourself, “Whose coat? Who’s there?” If you can separate the words into who is, then you want the word with the apostrophe (who’s).

Watch Out for the Schwa!

Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 5.59.30 PMWhat is a schwa? That is the upside down and backward “e” that you see in dictionary spellings. This is the symbol for the uh sound you hear when you say the word A-mer-i-ca. A schwa comes about in a language simply because people talk fast and get sloppy about articulating every syllable and vowel sound. Usually we hear the vowels (a, e, i, o, u) turn into a schwa on the unaccented syllable. This is okay for reading because you can quickly figure out that the word has a softened to a shwa sound in such words as America, above, other, etc. But it makes spelling a nightmare! Which letter should you use when all you hear is uh? Most people will use a u since it makes an uh sound. But that guess is usually wrong.

I teach my children to spell words with schwas by pronouncing them clearly and phonetically. Instead of saying other, I enunciate clearly: “AW-ther.” Become is pronounced “bee-cAWm.” They learn to spell the exaggerated pronunciation and can remember it even when the word is spoken with the schwa.

Memory tricks are also a great way to help children remember spelling. I was taught to spell together by remembering to get her so we can be together. I still remember that clue. Tomorrow can be confusing . . . how many m’s? You won’t misspell it once you remember that it means to (or on the) morrow. I still say aloud NECK-e-sary when I want to spell necessary. The neck helps me remember that there is a c in it, even though it doesn’t sound like it.

Keep at it, they’ll get it! (So will we moms.)


May I recommend:

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Writing in My Homeschool

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Self-Sufficient Little Ones


My granddaughter Rebekah (4)

“I want to do it myself!”

Sound familiar?

Starting at about one-and-a-half years old, children yearn to be capable and strongly resist any attempts to do things for them. You can launch your little child into feelings of healthy self-sufficiency and capability by making life a little easier to manage for them.

Look Who’s Feeding Baby

Begin with your baby that wants to feed himself. Instead of spooning the food in his mouth and fighting him for control, try something we stumbled onto years ago. Scoop the food into a clean plastic jar lid (mayonnaise size is good). Mashed potatoes, yams, applesauce, oatmeal and other thick foods work best. Give the lid to the baby in a highchair and he’ll pick it up and eat/suck/lick it out of the lid himself, quitting when he has had enough. You can offer him a few lids, with different foods in each, and finish up the job with a spoon if needed. Baby learns quickly to feed himself right along with the family.

selfreliancedshoesNo More Backwards

Toddlers want to dress themselves, but it can be a frustrating experience as they always seem to get things backwards and inside out. You can help little ones have success in dressing themselves by marking on the back of their clothing. A black dot made by a permanent marker on the inside back of their underwear, pants, dresses, skirts, etc. will make it easy to spot which direction to go. I mark the back because that is where most clothes have tags and they can eventually learn that the tag goes in the back.

On clothes that come in pairs, such as shoes, gloves, and slippers; you can write the first few letters of their first name on the left shoe and the remaining letters on the right shoe. Most little ones recognize their name and can line up their shoes right. You can also teach them that the buckles go on the outside so they never touch each other when they put their shoes together. Lining their shoes up before they put them on means less tears and fewer times with backward shoes. (We live in troubled times, and making a child’s name available to strangers out in public may not be a good idea. But you can still write their name in small letters that aren’t visible unless close up.)

Put in a few low hooks in your child’s closet, or where you hang your coats, so your little children can hang up their own jacket. It only takes 5 minutes to install the hooks and saves 500 minutes of picking their coats up off the floor because they can’t reach.

Easy Laundry

selfreliancedresserI sort laundry into bins with the children’s names on them, and then they come every morning during our chore time before breakfast and get their bins. I don’t fold the clothing. They are expected to do that when they put it in their drawers. Too many times I have watched mothers neatly fold stacks of clothing just to have the children crumble and stuff them in their drawers.

With toddlers and children up to age 8, I label the drawers with a picture so they know what goes where. Little children are fully capable of putting away their own clean laundry neatly and returning their bin to the laundry room. When they are little, it doesn’t matter so much if they are do a good job of folding their clothes as t-shirts and pajamas don’t wrinkle much anyway. As long as they are in the right drawers, life still goes along pretty smoothly when it is time to get dressed.


toothbrush-141105_1280I get my little ones in the habit after every single meal to do “hands, face, teeth”. Often they trot in and do it themselves, or I just mention the words and off they go. Of course, “hands, face, teeth” means to wash your hands and face and brush your teeth. After they do this little routine, they come running to me with their toothbrush and I “check” their teeth. A dentist told me that children cannot do an adequate job of cleaning their own teeth until about age 12. So I have them brush their teeth, and then I rebrush them as I “check” them. Anyway, the whole ,”hands, face, teeth” business is an excellent habit that even toddlers can be taught after every meal. It keeps sticky hands off the furniture, keeps them looking presentable, and insures that their teeth are kept clean.

Little ones can do a great deal to help themselves and it brings them feelings of being capable and independent. Just taking a few minutes to make life more manageable really pays off.


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Teaching Kids to Interrupt Politely

abigail_frowningYep, you read it right. This is a “how-to” for teaching kids to interrupt.

We moms love to talk, and sometimes it is hard to get a word in edgewise. A little guy that has to go to the bathroom needs a polite way to cut into the conversation. Here’s how!

Teach you little ones that when they need to interrupt, they should approach your side (not stand between you and the person you are talking to, but off to the side). Then, without speaking, just put their hand on your forearm and wait silently and patiently. No tapping. This signal tells you that your child needs to speak to you. When you can courteously find a break in the conversation, say “excuse me, please” to the person you are talking to, and turn towards your child. Now (and only now), he can interrupt.

It is such a delight to see little ones who have been trained to interrupt in this very polite way. I know we have all felt a bit put off when we are deep in conversation and the person we are talking with abruptly gives their full attention to a loudly, interrupting child. It teaches the children not to respect others, neither their mother nor others present. It perpetrates the notion that the child is the “center of the universe”, and all things should rotate around him, at his demand.

If the mother chooses to ignore a loudly interrupting child, the situation gets more out of hand, as conversation is impossible, and it is uneasy to watch the mom being yelled at, tapped, bugged, etc. as she seemingly is oblivious to her children. Not much respect shown for the children, in this case.

Once you teach your children how to interrupt, you’ll be amazed at how polite and well-mannered others think your children are!

To your child-raising success!


May I recommend:

Never Reward Negative Behavior

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Gray Hair


Abigail planted a lipstick kiss on Grandaddy’s cheek!

Respect for the aged. It seems to be going extinct these days in America, and yet it makes such a difference in society. It is a basic, important part of training children to teach them to honor those who are older and wiser. Gray hair is a sign of wisdom, and endurance through life’s trials. (That’s why I won’t dye mine!)

“Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the Lord.” Leviticus 19:32

With the whole culture going the other direction, how can we teach our children to give honor to the aged? One of the things I’ve reminded my children while they are growing up is that we all feel the same inside—it’s just our changing body that looks different. We’re still inside of our bodies whether we are young or old, and we’re still “us”! If you look at an older woman and imagine the young, energetic, smiling young woman that she was, perhaps you can relate to her better. And know that one day, your own lively personality will be looking in the mirror at your own aging body.

Here’s some guidelines we can teach our children:

How to Honor the Elderly

*rise up when an old person enters the room for the first time out of respect

*be careful not to race around when an elderly person is present. They are not so sure and steady on their feet and little children running around near them makes them fear falling.

*jump up quickly to offer your chair when an older person comes in the room, or gets on the bus.

*offer to get their drink or dessert and carry it to the spot where they are sitting

*listen without interrupting or correcting

*be sensitive to the fact that they tire easily and noisy situations are hard for them

*don’t forget hugs and “I love you”

*don’t call them by their first name. They are not your peers, but far more experienced and deserving of special treatment.

*remember that loneliness is often their unwelcome companion. Phone calls, cards, and visits are much appreciated.

*ask their advice. They have seen far more of life than others and their experience is very valuable.

Ah, what a world it would be if we all honored the aged! It all starts with teaching the young.

May I recommend:

Chivalry, It’s Up to Us!

Sweet Civility!

The 21 Rules of This House

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