Messed up in Math

Question:

Our granddaughter goes to public school and she is struggling so hard with math. The school has really messed her up and is teaching her things backwards. When we try to help her it confuses her. They are teaching her to do math problems from left to right, to do all of her borrowing before she even starts to subtract right to left. She hates math because of it and it is so hard to get to work on her math homework. We tell her how important math is and how she will use it the rest of her life. Do you have any suggestions that would help us?

Answer:

It depends on how much time you can commit to this, but if you are able, the ideal would be to take her out of school during math period. Usually math comes first in the school day, so working with her first thing in the morning, and then taking her to school might be a good option.

Math is a basic skill that must be mastered in order to move on with her education. If they are “messing her up” in math, it is pretty important to get her out of that situation, if you cannot work with the teacher to make a change. If not, tell the school you will be taking her out for private instruction in math, and get the textbook they are using and the schedule they are on, so that you keep her up to date. If the math book is faulty, then you’ll want to use Singapore or Saxon instead. Test her—both companies have free placement tests online—and find out just where she needs to start. If you can work with the math book, and it is just the teacher that is doing things confusingly, then using the math book will help her transition back into her school class eventually. Focus 10 min. daily on doing math facts, if your granddaughter is not proficient in the basic facts. If you work with her daily on math, you will be very surprised how much more you can accomplish with one-on-one tutoring in the same amount of time the school takes!

If she is feeling resistant, do things to make it fun and help renew her attitude. Math is truly fun, and she needs to feel that enjoyment again.

Here are a few ideas to motivate her:

*Make a chart with bubbles (dime size) that represent a goal (15 min. steady work, 10 problems completed, math facts done for the day, or whatever goal is appropriate) and stick a dime on each bubble when it is earned.

*Let her choose to do evens or odds (problems) for the day, if it feels like she has too many math problems to do.

*Use hands-on items to illustrated the problems, such as Legos, beans, coins, etc. (I taught my daughter to subtract using shampoo bottles while I was taking a shower!)

*Work on the chalkboard. It is easier to do math when it is big-sized and involves the fun of writing with chalk, too. You can hastily illustrate story problems to make it even more fun!

*Give her “points” for right answers, with a goal in mind. For example, if she wants a certain item or privilege, she could earn it by diligent effort.

*Use real life math to help her see how useful math skills are. Use receipts to practice rounding off numbers and adding a column, keeping the total hidden to self-check.

*Let her correct her own work using the answer key herself (with you nearby observing). Often this grown-up thing to do will make a child more careful with their work.

*Time her math facts practice with a stopwatch. Saxon has this built into their program and it is truly motivational to keep a graph recording the times, seeing progress more visibly.

*Use math facts games to make it more fun. I recommend Sum Swamp, Math Wrap-Ups, Multiplication Songs, Quarter Mile Math and others.

*Work math problems on a big sized scribble pad with colorful markers.

Best success!

Teaching an Older Child to Write

Question:

I have a 9th grade daughter that really struggles in writing. She does not like writing so it has always been a battle and I have not pushed it nearly enough. Now I find she is really behind in writing and I am feeling panicked because writing is so important to every other subject. Do you have any suggestions of how to help an older student learn to be a better writer? I really feel like I have failed her.

I do have your Journal and Language Arts program and will be using that with my 4th grade son soon. Should I use that to get my daughter started too?

Answer:

Yes, I would start your daughter on the Journal program too.  It is a great way to learn to write!  You can use a notebook with wide ruled paper (or have her type it on the computer, teaching her how to use the spell check feature).  Every day, have her write a journal entry of at least 3 paragraphs.  At first, do not comment on grammar, spelling, neatness, correctness. Just get her writing. She can write about anything she wants—no restrictions on topic or use of slang, etc.  You are just trying to get her writing.

So, for the first week, have her write her 3 daily paragraphs.  If this is too overwhelming, start with sentences—such as 5 sentences, and then move up your requirement every few days or week, until she is writing 3 paragraphs per day.  If she is totally stumped, get Kids Talk and have her choose a card to write about each day.  Note: this is not her private journal, which she will keep on her own. This is her “School Journal”.  She can choose any subject, but you have to be able to read it.

Once she is writing daily and it is going smoothly, then it is time to ease her into self-correcting. Start by teaching her the spell check feature on your computer—misspelled words are visible as the underlined words.  Teach her how to check the word using the spell check feature.  Have her copy and paste the corrected word onto a spelling list document. This spelling list should be studied daily, along with the new words being added to it daily from her writing.  On Friday, give her a spelling quiz.  Any misspelled words from the quiz go onto next week’s spelling document.  Have her print the corrected version, hole punch it, and store it in a binder.

If she is doing her writing by hand in a journal,  have her write in either pencil or erasable pen so it can be corrected, and when you check her work, put a little erasable tick mark in pencil at the beginning of the sentence that has a misspelled word, and let her try to figure which word it is.  Often she will say, “Oh, I thought that was misspelled” and identify the word.  Have her correct the word and add it to the spelling list as described above, and study for the Friday quiz.  A book I really recommend is How to Spell it, because no matter how the word is spelled, she will be able to find it in this handy book, and correct the spelling.

Keep working on having her identify and correct her spelling for a few weeks.  If she is misspelling a large number of words, then just choose the most common words to correct.  Work at it gradually until she learns those words and can spell them correctly in her writing, and then move on to correcting more words.  Don’t overwhelm her. Nobody wants to write if they have to go back and correct every third word! Ten spelling words per week is plenty.

As soon as she adjusts to having her spelling corrected and to working on looking things up (before she misspells them), you can move on to the next step, which is getting her punctuation correct, and making sure she capitalizes words properly.  You can find the rules for punctuation in my Journal and Language Arts program.  I also recommend Writing in Style as a good overview.

Keep going with this, working through the mechanics of good writing, all via her daily writing (on her choice of topics).  Don’t worry about topic. My son spend an entire year writing about knights and medieval times and how to build catapults, and his writing still improved dramatically!  The topic doesn’t matter, and allowing them total freedom to choose a topic keeps their interest high.

When she is accustomed to daily writing, and is able to correct any errors you note when you check her daily writing, she is ready for a good writing program.   I like the Wordsmith series, starting with Wordsmith Apprentice.

Just ease into it, step by step, and you’ll soon see her writing improve dramatically, and maybe she’ll really enjoy it and want to write stories, poems and more.

You’re on your way!


 

Mastering “Greater Than” and “Less Than”

Here is an easy way to teach your children how to remember the “greater than” and “less than” symbols in their Math lesson!

 

First, draw one of the symbols,  like this:

mastering greater than

 

Now, make that symbol into a big fish’s mouth like this:
mastering greater than

 

The fish has a BIG mouth that loves to eat the most he can get:  the largest numbers.  So the big, open part of the mouth always faces the largest number.
mastering greater than

 

If a child can remember to have the fish’s mouth face the direction of the larger number, so he can gobble it up, he’ll never get confused again with “greater than” and “less than” problems again.

Is it a "b" or a "d"?

Question:

My kids are having a hard time in reading and writing  lower case “b” and “d” and are always mixing them up.  How do you help kids keep this straight?

Answer:

I teach them “b”.  Leave “d” alone—it will take care of itself once they learn “b”.

Have your child say the word “ball” with you—and then you write a “b” so they see it and make the connection.  Pronounce “buh” (the phonic sounds of “b”) over and over.  Now, have your child reach up and touch your mouth when you dramatically enunciate “buh”.  You start with your lips tucked way into your mouth.  Run your child’s finger across the line your lips make when you are ready to say “buh”.  It is a definite line.  Write the line on the chalkboard in front of him.  Do it again, having him touch your mouth. Now have him write that line vertically on the chalkboard or paper.   That is the way a “b” always starts: with a line at the lips, and a line on paper.  (A “d” is written with the ball portion first, but don’t explain that—it just gets them confused. Just teach “b”).

When I taught “b”, I would watch my children silently writing and see them tucking their lips in to pronounce the ‘b” sound, and trace their finger over the line their lips make, and then write the stick line first on their paper. The rest comes more easily.  Saying “start at the top, down to the line, now up and around” can help walk a child through writing the letter “b”.   But knowing that memory clue of the line first, that matches the line on their mouths, seemed to help mine the most.

Once they totally master “b”, “d’ takes care of itself.  It’s just the opposite of “b”!

 

 

Self-Discipline for Mother: the Crux of Homeschool

My 7 children

Note: This article is intended for homeschool moms that have been at it a long time. I share these feelings with other veteran homeschoolers as a motivation to improve. New homeschoolers may feel overwhelmed at the prospect of doing homeschool at all, let alone improving what they are doing. This article is not meant to discourage anyone, but to inspire to higher ideals. If you are a beginning homeschooler, please skip this article for a few years!

When my first son, Daniel, moved out on his own, I found myself looking at homeschool and mothering with a new perspective. Although he was 19 years old, I was still getting around to the things I’d put on hold while I had babies, moved, planted my garden, endured chicken pox, etc. The music lessons, the family vacations, the trips to the museums, the mountain hikes, reading classic books together—somehow they all never happened like I’d hoped they would. (We did do a lot of them, to be sure.) Truly, life is what happens to you while you are making other plans.

I don’t really have regrets because our relationship is very close and strong. Over his childhood years, we did do many good, positive things together. We talked, laughed, worked, confided in each other, discussed life and God’s laws, shared favorite scriptures we found with each other. Our hearts were knit together in love. There are skills that children learn in a close relationship that are priceless. No other experiences of life draw us nearer to heaven than those that exist between happy parents and children.

But as I watched him clean out his closets while he packed, I winced at the things I had hoped to teach him as he was growing up such as woodworking, first aid skills, writing succinctly without frustration, taking notes and studying effectively, and so much more. Basically, I wish I had given him every opportunity to learn and develop himself (every mother’s dream!) I wish I had a plan and had carried it out no matter what distractions developed in my life.

Homeschool is only as good as the mother’s ability to discipline herself. If you can’t get up, get dressed and be on time every morning for school to begin, you will likely find yourself with unruly children that can’t discipline themselves either. Getting dressed can be a problem! I want to do it right; meaning exercise, take a hot shower, dress nicely for the day, brush my hair and put on lipstick, straighten up my bathroom and bedroom, etc. Since the opportunity rarely avails itself, I find myself thinking that I will just attend to this spill, explain that math problem, or fix my girl’s hair while still in my nightgown, and then I will go get showered and dressed. Operating in that mode means occasionally I am still in my nightgown until noon. Arrgh! I have learned to just get dressed! I slip on a skirt and top and am done with it. Not a fashion statement, but at least I look together. It has a very positive effect on the homeschool for Mom to be dressed and start at the same time every morning. For one thing, she can expect the same from the children.

I know from sad experience that if homeschool does not start on time (whatever you deem to be the time, 8:30, 9:00 AM or whenever), it usually will get thrown off track by everything else (doorbell, phone calls, toddler’s messes, etc.) and not really get underway until 10:00 or 11:00 in spite of your good intentions. Children need a solid 3 hours a day if they are going to get a basic academic foundation. That’s not possible to manage if you don’t get started on time, dressed and ready to learn. That is one good thing about public school: children must be there dressed and on time! We could take a lesson.

I listened to my son Nathan at 16 years old, trying to substitute for a parent and teach devotional to the family one morning. Oh, it takes years to learn to teach well, to be patient with children, to know how to keep interest, to rely on your belief in God. Children need guidance! They need supervision and teaching and nurturing and love. Our responsibilities are great. Each parent must choose what is most important for their children to learn, but learn they must! It is our God-given duty to train and teach, and to prepare them to the best of our ability.

Mothers are still on the hook as far as disciplining ourselves, when it comes to the content of the studies. If every morning of homeschool is a scramble to assign something, you can bet you will feel disappointed when your children graduate into adults. There is barely enough time to teach them what they need to know if you have an organized plan!

The older my children grow, the more I feel opposed to the “unschooling” approach (in children are allowed to follow their interests freely, with no constraints). I wasted two years of our homeschool this way. Why? Freedom looks so appealing! It looks easy for Mom, especially if she is childbearing. There is no flack from the children because they are basically doing what they want all the time. (I don’t complain when I get my way either!) There is usually no accountability or stewardship, meaning neither Mom nor child has to feel guilty. The sad news is that while they are under your thumb, it seems to work okay. As soon as they get out in the world, they see their inadequacies and academic weakness in glaring clarity! A person doesn’t have as much influence in the world if he can’t speak, write, think and reason clearly. He doesn’t have much confidence if his peers are debating Plato while he is struggling to read!

If a mother is not able to discipline herself to plan out the education of her children, her children may be better off academically in a private school or another setting. Of course, education was not the issue when I took my children out of public school. They could probably get an adequate education there. I have other concerns about the public school system. But I do not want to hinder my children’s development in a helter-skelter homeschool either. I want to do better than that.

Children need to be accountable for their work, to be able to show what they’ve done and receive your approval or correction. This seems to be the hardest part of homeschool for me. I can start on time (usually), I can get the course of study planned ahead (usually), I can write up their assignments in their planners, I can even search out the best materials so that my children will enjoy learning and feel enthusiastic about it. But, when lunch time rolls around, thoughts of “checking up” seem to vanish. If you don’t follow up, children may not always finish their work, or work as hard as they should. Questions will go unanswered. Learning won’t seem as important as it really is. You will have succeeded in training them that it really doesn’t matter so much.

We all need the opportunity to give an accounting of our efforts. We are only “half-homeschooling” if we are not following through to make sure the job is done. I have tried several different approaches to motivate my children, and have them check off charts, to have a sense of completion. The school year can slide right into the next year without much progress if you don’t keep track and work diligently.

So as Daniel left home, I turned to consider how ready my other children will be as they start their own lives. I know mothers all say that the time flies by and the children are so soon gone—now I understand it! There is so little time to teach them. It takes self-discipline for Mom to create the plan and follow-through so they will be given every opportunity to develop. It seems they are just learning to read, and you feel you have forever. The next time you notice, they are 8 years old, reading fine, and eager to learn everything. Next glance, they are teenagers and a bit resistant. How you wish you had taught them more when they were eager 8-year-olds! Suddenly, they are grown and homeschool is over for that child. We have only 10-14 years to prepare them for life. It is a grave responsibility! I feel a deep resolve to sacrifice my time and discipline myself to give them the best education—spiritually, academically and socially. May the Lord bless all of us homeschool mothers to catch the vision of our important work!

The King of Me

Self-control is so sorely lacking in our society! Troubles caused by lack of self-discipline range from littering to illegitimate babies to college shootings. We must start very young in teaching our little children to master themselves. They can never call God “Master” until they can call themselves the “King of Me”.

“The Bible teaches us to discipline our children and to love them. These are not opposites. They blend together. Loving discipline will grow in the child into self-discipline. And that is a prerequisite for the life of learning we hope he will lead.” (Ruth Beechick)

It starts by learning to obey Mommy when a child is not yet even able to talk. Teach your children that they must learn to be masters of their bodies and their minds. Coming first time when mother calls, sticking with a chore, not eating candy until after mealtime, saying “please” and “thank you”, or sitting quietly in church and during family devotional are all good practice. They really can learn to do it, little by little!

I like my little ones to memorize this clever poem to remind them who is really in charge! Making a paper crown with the words “King of Me” on it is a good reminder too.  You’ll realize great benefits by teaching your child to govern himself!

King of Me

I said to my feet, “Keep still!”
I said to my hands, “Just stay!”
I said to my all-over-everywhere self,
“I’m in charge of you today!”
I’m ruler of my mouth,
And I’m the “King of Me”
So when I tell me it’s quiet time,
I’m quiet as can be! 

 

 

 

 

Mama's Boy

This very old story is one of my favorites and I’ve kept it and re-read it from time to time to help me remember to see life through my children’s eyes, and to never forget the power of a mother in the home.   —Diane

Tommy began to get the feeling even before Billy punched him in the ribs. It was afternoon, and Miss Deering was putting number work on the blackboard.

“Lookee here,” Billy said, displaying a small, plastic jeep, shining new, from the top of his pocket.

Tommy looked at it with interest, wishing he could have one just like it.

“And lookee here,” said Billy, showing a bright top and a sack of marbles, still in their red mesh bag. They were beautiful marbles of clear, polished glass, and caught the light in small pools of blue, yellow, crystal, and red. Tommy’s fingers wanted to touch them, but he didn’t reach out. Billy always had new things—new pencils, new erasers, and new toys.

“Where’dja get them?” Tommy asked.

Glancing around, Billy leaned closer. “Come with me down to the five-and-ten after school, and we’ll get you some.”

“I haven’t any money,” said Tommy.

“Don’t need money. You just take them. I’ll show you how.”

“That would be stealing.”

“Naw! All the kids do it. They got lots of stuff down there.”

“I don’t want to. My mother wouldn’t want me to,” said Tommy.

“Yah! Ha! Mama’s Boy,” jeered Billy, forgetting not to whisper loud.

Miss Deering looked at them, which meant not to disturb the class.

When Tommy tried to be still the feeling came stronger and stronger. He looked out the window, but that didn’t help. Only there was dirty snow and black smoke and chimneys and ugly brick walls. It wasn’t like Still Valley where you could see the foothills, except for the cottonwoods along the creek bed.

All these things crowded in on Tommy until he couldn’t stand it—even the things in the room, the wigwams and the green trees and the reared-back Indians that the second graders had painted on wrapping paper with poster paint. All at once Tommy had to get out, or he was going to bawl. He had to see mother.

Miss Deering’s voice reached out to stop him when he left his seat and went toward the door, but he went right through the sound like wading the little canal when the current was swift. Sometimes she just let him go, but today she followed him out to the hallway where he was putting on his galoshes.

“Tommy, come back,” she said. “You know it won’t do any good to go home. Your mother won’t be there until five. Why won’t you stay until school is out?”

Tommy didn’t answer, just went on fastening his galoshes.

“Don’t you want to be promoted? If you keep going home every day in the middle of the class period you will not learn all you should. You will have to stay in the second grade a long time, and people will think you are dumb!”

Still Tommy didn’t answer. It was just words that the teacher was saying. The sound of her voice beat up in his ears in waves, like irrigation water backing up against a dam. She put her hand on his shoulder, but he wriggled free and ran out the door and down the steps.

Maybe mother would have a headache and would have sick leave, like she did one Saturday, when she was home all day. She pulled him in bed with her and he was warm and comfortable, almost like being in Still Valley again.

It was nice there, especially in summer when the cottonwoods floated gauzy seed pods down, and when you could lie on your stomach on the bridge and fish for pretty rocks, or look into the glassy water until you could see yourself speeding upstream.

Mother’s fingers were sometimes butter-sugary from making cake, and you could lick the bowl. You could go with her to see if the setting hen had stolen her nest in the woodpile. Mother knew why a four-leaf clover had four leaves, and where God was, and why the old sow grunted instead of talking.

“Heavenly Father, make mother have a headache,” he prayed as he went along, and then almost skipped. He almost remembered that she had been sick a little before she went to work. He was sure she would be home this time.

But mother didn’t have a headache, and she wasn’t home. The furniture was there—the new pink davenport and the overstuffed chairs that you couldn’t put your feet on, but the house was empty. Tommy ran through it shouting: “Mother! Mother!” so loud his ears rang when he quit, but there was no answer.

The little hand on the clock was between two and three, so Tommy took it down off the shelf and sat with it between his knees on the living-room floor, because the kitchen had cold breakfast dishes on the table, and the beds looked like old hens at molting time, and the bathroom had damp towels on the floor.

Tommy waited and waited and cried awhile because he thought she might not come at all, and it seemed like a million years until the little hand was on five and she opened the door.

“Mommy!” he said, and was so dazzled he couldn’t tell what she looked like.

“Tommy Haran!” she said, snatching the clock from him. “If you break my alarm, I’ll never get to work!”

It was then that he noticed the two straight marks between her eyebrows, and that her hair was tight in little iron curls and her mouth was sticky with red stuff she used to “keep herself up.”

When she saw that he sat so still and that his mouth was dumb with the lump in his throat, she hugged him and said: “I’m sorry.” She even smiled, but her face was like the apartment when he came home. Her features were there, like the furniture, but she was gone.

“We have to hurry now—get the house cleaned, supper and to bed with you. Mother’s having company—some of the girls from the plant.”

“I don’t want them,” said Tommy. “Call them up and tell them not to come.”

“Why, Tommy! That wouldn’t be polite. Besides, this is your daddy’s last night on swing shift, and he’ll be home evenings after this.”

They weren’t girls, though, when they came. They were big ladies, like mother, and they sat in mother’s living room and laughed and all talked at once, and sounded like the pullets when you jumped suddenly into the coop and said “Boo!” Tommy was shut in the bedroom and he still wanted his mother.

“Mother! Mother!” he shouted until the cackling all stopped, and mother came through the slit of light from the opened door. “There’s a Tiger in the closet,” he said, so she left the door open a little crack, and said “nonsense.”

“Children are certainly a headache,” she said when she went back to the living room. Maybe Heavenly Father had answered his prayers.

“Tommy’s always been such a mama’s boy,” she went on, and Tommy, hearing her, wiggled with shame. “You know he gets so homesick for me he just gets up and leaves the schoolroom every day. Just like that—nobody can stop him.” They all cackled again.

“His father wants me to quit work and stay home,” his mother continued.

“That would be a mistake,” said a lady, and her voice sounded like she thought she was smart. “He’ll have a mother complex if you don’t look out.”

“That’s what I think,” agreed his mother. “Besides, I want to get a few things.”

“Do you think you’ll go back to the farm after the war?”

Tommy held his breath, listening.

“I’ll say not! Never a new thing, and nothing but work! I didn’t know how bad it was until we moved. I finished paying for my overstuffed last pay day. Now I want to get two tables and two blue lamps—”

Tommy’s stomach hurt with disappointment, and he cried a little because he couldn’t remember what his mother looked like with her hair loose and her eyes soft, but the next day he didn’t come home. When the feeling came, he chewed his pencil and thought fast about the blue lamps and about her thinking he was a mama’s boy.

And after school he went with Billy down to the five-and-ten.

 

— Alice Moore Bailey

Chivalry, It's Up to Us!

My daughter Emily (17) came home from high school thoroughly disgusted. Emily is a very upbeat, happy spirit and she loves everybody and everything, so it shocked me to see her upset. She only attends 2 classes at our local charter school, and is very studious and diligent in her homeschool assignments. She tells me regularly that she loves homeschooling best, which brings me great delight!

Anyway, Emily was upset. Turns out that she had to go to a Senior Graduation meeting and when she arrived at the building, the boys didn’t think to open her door, but just walked in, in front of her, letting the door slam in her face. As she got to the classroom for the meeting, the seats were all taken—by boys! Many girls stood through the long meeting, and the big, strong football players lounged in the chairs without even a glint of recognition on their faces.

“Where are the mothers?” is always my war-cry! It takes mothers (and fathers) teaching kids to be respectful and mannerly, and if moms are occupied otherwise, the whole generation suffers from a plague of rudeness!

The next time Emily was summoned to a Senior Graduation meeting, the teacher had written on the chalkboard, “Boys: Give Up Your Seats”. She was a rather old-fashioned teacher, and apparently it had bothered her too. But, even with the posted notice, the boys did not all give up their seats. But the big surprise was that there were enough who did that there were empty seats in the classroom. There were also girls standing, who refused to sit down. (What!????)

How can boys possibly learn to be chilvarous if girls will not even allow them? How did this gentlemanly thing go so hay-wire?

Moms, Dads: it is up to us! Let’s teach our boys that someone female will bear their children someday and make a family for them to be loved by, and to come home to, and to work for, and to give their life meaning. Please, let’s teach our girls that boys honor that someday possibility by treating the whole feminine gender with respect and kind consideration, and to shun it is to do themselves (and other women and girls) a disservice.

Rudeness doesn’t have to be the order of the day. It is all in the hands of parents—what we model, what we teach, what we expect.

 

Homeschooling: You Can Do It!

Are you feeling a bit overwhelmed with homeschooling? Have you just made the decision to homeschool and wonder how to jump in to this adventure? Could it be one of those days when you’d like to pack your kids into the van and drop them off at the registration desk of the local p.s. (public school)?

We all have those days! Well, most of us. I know some moms who seem to have been born with a “Homeschool Mom” badge on (you know who you are!) but for most of us, there are those days! I think we all struggle to juggle all our duties: mom, wife, homeschool teacher, church member/worker, good neighbor, and more. But as you get organized and catch the vision, it gets lots easier and the fun will outweigh the “overwhelm”.

Come with me and build your homeschool from “survival” to “super”! Each day can get better. Nobody gets there overnight. It takes practice to learn to homeschool well. I’ve been at it for 2 decades and finally feel like I am beginning to get a little comfy in my teacher’s “hat”. . . and suddenly I’m running out of kids to homeschool! I would feel it a privilege and an honor to be a part of strengthening your family and your homeschool!

These are easy little assignments, but if you take them seriously, you’ll notice a difference in the climate of your homeschool immediately. It will get happier. More fun. You’ll enjoy your children more. They will think homeschool is great.

We’ll eventually work on: setting up a schedule, creating a teaching plan, disciplining and getting respect for mom as teacher, motivating kids to happily do their work, making teaching and learning fun, and more. We’ll go with easy steps. You’ll see that YOU CAN DO IT!

The rewards?

*getting to know and like and love your kids

*learning something yourself (I have a college degree but I definitely learned what I know in homeschool, not in college!)

*greater family unity

*teens who listen to your advice because they’ve grown up respecting you

*academic excellence of which you will be amazed!

*more mature kids who are not so prone to peer pressure

*stronger faith in God and less worldliness

*upbeat happiness in your home!

YOU CAN DO IT! Your love for your child makes you the most qualified teacher.

—Diane

P.S. As soon as you do Assignment #1, you can move on to #2, and so forth. Just don’t overwhelm yourself.  Just don’t get stressed and feeling like you have to do more and more. You are already doing quite a bit, just to be involved in homeschooling (whether you are just starting, or “keeping on”). So, keep up what you are doing, and try to add one assignment at a time until you and your family feel the benefit and think you want more.

Homeschooling Assignment #1

A Child’s Self-Confidence: Handle with Care

 

Jennifer, a mom who reads my blog, wrote about what happened to her little boy:

My middle child went to kindergarten last year at what was supposed to the best public school in the best school district in Kansas, which is one of the top states in the country. He is a kinesthetic learner with incredible spatial skills, but is a slow learner when it comes to reading. Watching his classmates “get it” while he struggled, killed his self confidence. His teacher progressed through the curriculum according to plan, and my boy was left behind. Not only did he finish kindergarten not reading, but he did not believe himself to be capable of reading. His teacher NEVER raised with us any concerns about his reading—I’m not certain whether she even realized that he was struggling, because he is not the type to ask for help. Here we are now, homeschooling, half-way through 1st grade, and he is just now becoming confident enough in his reading ability to read to someone besides me. He still insists that he can’t read, but he’s reading cereal boxes, and he can answer for me when his little brother asks, “What does that say?”!  Yes, he is behind where other kids with his same manufacturing date range might be, but he is a unique little person who is learning and growing every day and I am proud of him and the progress he has made!

My heart sinks when I read comments like hers, because I have seen this happen too many times. And usually to boys, as they tend to be very hands-on and reading and writing comes later for them.  Just the thought of a kindergarten boy struggling to grip that pencil correctly and manipulate it to form legible letters is distressing—for some little boys, it is just so difficult!  And the girls their age often manage it easily, which only magnifies their deficit in their young heart. What pains me about Jennifer’s story is what happens to that little person’s feelings about himself—that wonderful self—and his feelings of capability.  Too sad!

I can remember when I was just a little girl, probably about 4th grade.  Our school pictures were coming up and I just wanted so much to have the “right smile”.  Back to that “norm” idea.  As if there is a “right” smile. I practiced in front of the mirror, trying to smile a movie star smile.  Is a 9-year-old girl even capable of a movie star smile?  No. “Too much television”, would be my diagnosis now, as a mother.  Too much of the world having an influence.  But I didn’t parent myself, so having that “right” smile was pretty crucial to me back then!  I practiced in front of the mirror, touching my face so I could memorize what it felt like to have that perfect smile.  When picture day came, and it was my turn to smile for the camera, I felt my face and made sure it was the “right” smile before the photographer snapped the picture.  Back in those days, you got one pose only—probably the same these days for school pictures.  When I got my pictures back, arrrrrrgh! They were AWFUL!  My pasted “right” smile was a facial contortion.  Plus, ALL my other classmates had a permanent record in their full sheet class picture!

The ache in this memory is the fact that a 9-year-old girl would even have the notion come into her head that she needed to try to be pretty, to have to try harder-than-possible to be acceptable.  I am sad that as a little child I had been trained early to worry about it!  It didn’t come from my mother, as she always had positive things to say about how beautiful we children were, and how we should be grateful that we even had a body that worked. So it must have come from the culture, the school environment, the early training out of ear shot of my mother.

One thing I have been surprised about in raising my homeschooled teenagers is that they never were afflicted with the self-depreciating attitude that children often display in the teen years (…my nose is too big, I’ll too tall, I’m too short, I’m too fat, I’m too busty, I’m not busty enough, I’m a wimp muscle-wise, I need to lift weights, etc.)

Actually I think it starts quite young, even back in kindergarten.  The teacher, wanting to make losing a tooth a fun and special experience for the children, inadvertently rewards those who lose a tooth by having them come up in front of the class, putting their name on the “Lost a Tooth” chart, taking their photo, giving them a special award, etc.  Seems like an innocent idea, but the seeds of peer comparison and self-depreciation are sown very early. I’ve heard more than one 5-year-old lament that they still had their baby teeth . . . as if it was a sin, or a reason to be sorry.

Children think they are fabulous—in the absence of negative peer review, and in the absence of being compared academically or skill-wise to classmates.  It is amazing to me to see the natural feelings of a growing child!  I used to worry a bit about it with when my first children came of age—to hear and watch them assess their bodies and make positive exclamations about how fabulous their bodies or their talents or their minds were!  It made me laugh nervously and feel embarrassed because in our culture it is not acceptable to mention how wonderful our body is!  And yet, viewing it from God’s perspective, it truly is amazing to see a child’s body transform into a teenage body, with all its resulting capacities.  Bigger muscles for boys means they can lift things and work like an adult and be truly useful to the family in that manner.  And it is natural for them to be excited and to make positive comments about what is happening to their body. “I’m so strong!  I lifted as many hay bales as Dad did!” Those type of remarks are often discouraged—we think they are un-Christian somehow, as if we are not being humble enough.  But truly, I think they spring from genuine awe and appreciation of the personal miracle that God has wrought in their lives.  And it follows that poise and confidence are the natural results of feeling secure and thinking well of oneself.

Self-depreciation is taught by our culture of critique as being appropriate.  Perhaps it sounds more humble, but it does a wicked work on self-esteem. When children repeatedly compare and criticize their body, their intelligence, their capabilities—it does irreparable damage. Better to gently teach your children to contain their expressions of delight in public, than to nullify their appreciation for the beautiful work of God in their growing minds and bodies.

One of my young teenage daughters used to lay on her bed and hold up her adult-looking leg for review.  “Look how perfect my leg is!”, she would exclaim.  It made me chuckle, as I am a product of this culture of self-depreciation, and it seems odd to delight in oneself.  But when I truly looked at her leg objectively, I was amazed too!  How God transforms a child into a beautiful adult is amazing!

I can guarantee you that my daughter wouldn’t have that attitude towards herself if she’d spent much time in the culture of the public school.  I know that for a fact.  I had been hospitalized and was forced to put my youngest at age 9 into school for a few months during this time.  The drastic change in her attitude towards herself was alarming to me, and to her siblings.  In just 3 months, she transformed and it was not for the better. One trait she quickly developed was “social awareness ” (gotta be cool!)  Long before she attended school, she had been given a soft, furry, white, full-length coat that was her very favorite!  She felt like a snow princess when she wore it.  It was beautiful! She came home from school, coat slung over her arm, on a very frigid winter day.  “Why aren’t you wearing your coat?”, I asked. Because it made her have “polar bear hips” she confessed.  She didn’t even have hips yet! Whoever put that cutesy little barb of criticism into her mind prevented her from wearing her very favorite coat that made her feel beautiful . . . ever again. Though she never would part with it. I finally took it out of her closet recently and packed it away, and the feelings rushed back to me. So sad! So wrong!

Moms, academic training is important, yes.  But a child’s confidence and recognition of their own self-worth is crucial to their happiness and well-being their whole life long!  Children are able to hear the truth, that they are a beloved child of God and hear His approval spoken quietly to their minds, UNLESS the negative voice of their peers and the practices of our society’s critique system is louder. Which it usually is.

It is a good time in history to homeschool . . . to protect our children’s faith, tenderness, and self-worth.  God times the growth of their body and mind perfectly in His wisdom. He loves them. He speaks approving words to their heart about their wonder and worth. Why shouldn’t everyone else?

A child’s self-confidence requires gentle, tender nurturing.  Handle with care!