Setting Up a Family Schedule

climbingcliff

Some of my kids at Arches National Park

As much as I hate to be confined to a schedule, I have to admit that it is very liberating to the whole family to know what to expect. If I don’t follow a schedule, life goes somewhat like this: get up late, work on something that is high priority (in my nightgown), get waylaid on a long phone call while the kids wreck havoc, fix breakfast when the complaining gets too loud, get dressed because it’s too late to exercise now, try to pull homeschool together late and unorganized, fix a quick (rather than nutritious) lunch when the complaining gets too loud (about 2:00 p.m.), feel discouraged because I’m so far behind, etc. Get the picture? It is a downward spiral because you get to bed late because you are so far behind on fixing dinner, and so you are off to a worse start the next day.

Reality is that I never exactly meet my own time schedule. It does serve to keep order in our home, however. If school is scheduled to start at 8:45 a.m. and I see that my watch says 8:30 a.m. while I am still in my nightgown, I really pick up my feet and move. A schedule is not to make your life miserable as much as it is to motivate you to carry out your own good intentions.

Here is our current (ever-changing) schedule for the school year. In the summertime, we have a family work time in the garden during the first hour of homeschool. Then I only require personal scripture study and journal writing, a math lesson, and some reading (the 3 Rs). I always have several boxes of library books. We try to flow with the seasons since we live in an extreme climate, so we begin our summer schedule as soon as the weather warms up enough to be outside. We sometimes don’t begin full-time school in the fall until the first serious storms force us back inside and back to the books. Here is our schedule for the school year:

HOPKINS FAMILY SCHEDULE

6:15     Wake up, personal prayers
6:20     Family scripture study
7:00     Chores
7:45     Breakfast
8:15     Personal grooming, bedrooms in order
9:00    Homeschool until noon
11:45    Mom checks that all schoolwork is done
12:00   Lunch preparation (assigned child helps)
12:30   Lunch
1:15      Lunch cleanup
1:30     Quiet reading (or listening to tapes) for children
Naps for Mom and little ones
2:00    Free time  (Can do jobs for $, play with friends, etc.)
5:15     Dinner preparation (assigned child helps)
6:00    Dinner
6:45    Dinner cleanup, dishwashing
7:30    Family Prayer, prepare little ones for bed
8:00   Children up to 10 years old go to bed
9:00   Children 11–15 years go to bed
9:45    Teens 16+ go to bed, Mom and Dad talk
10:30  Mom and Dad go to bed

 

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The "1/3 Plan" for Kids

onethird_plan_smallWhen I first began homeschooling many years ago, I heard an elderly educator give her “One Third Plan” for how to plan a child’s day. I was intrigued!

Once I took my children out of public school into homeschooling, I really wondered what I was supposed to be doing with them all day long. I wanted with all my heart to raise them right and to teach them what they would need to be happy, faithful, upright people who benefited the world in which they lived. I couldn’t keep them busy in homeschool from dawn to dusk, but I didn’t want them free playing all the time either. I thought long and hard about it, so when I heard the “One Third Plan”, I was all ears!

According to this dear speaker, a child’s “workday” (aside from grooming, eating, sleeping, devotional), was to be divided into 3 parts:

3partplan1-Study

This was homeschool—reading, studying, learning, experiments, writing, doing projects, practicing music, and other mind-developing pursuits. This can be the most fun part of the day. When my boys were young, they always begged to do home school instead of outside work on a hot day!

2-Service

Another 1/3 of a child’s day was to be spent doing for others: helping those in need, doing chores for the family, working in the garden (to sustain the family and share with others), serving neighbors, friends, and community. This is the hallmark of a true Christian, and it is essential children learn to serve others while they are young. Talk about who needs help at the dinner table, brainstorm what to do, and then engage them in your efforts to do for others, and they will learn at your side.

3-Work

The last 1/3 of the child’s “workday” is to be devoted to developing his own little business, and working for his own money. We spend our adult lives daily dealing with money, and meeting our needs through working, producing and purchasing. Learning to work and learning money handling skills as a child is vital. When a child can see the fruits of his own labor and knows the freedom of spending his money as he wishes (even wasting it and learning the hard way), a whole new dimension of accountability and confidence settles over his personality and there is tremendous growth!

My children have had a host of little businesses, from selling eggs, to growing pumpkins, making jewelry, running clubs, and teaching classes or lessons. They have done simple assembly work, house-sitting, taking care of pets and more. They have also babysat and weeded and had other hourly jobs, teaching them the necessity of discovering what you love to do, rather than trading your time for something you find dreary. Hourly jobs also taught them that education was going to make a big difference in their future lifestyle as an adult.

Late afternoons, when the workday is done, there is time for friends and free time. Evenings when Daddy comes home—it is time to eat dinner together, visit with each other, read aloud, play games, crochet, listen to music together, draw, build legos, and enjoy relaxing.

The culture we live in is one in which kids are seriously over-entertained, and isolated from conversation with family members. Pop in a DVD. Play X-Box. Listen to your i-pod. Text your friends on your cell phone. While I haven’t always followed it, I have often thought of the “One Third Plan” over my years of raising children. It wouldn’t hurt American children, even a little bit!

 

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Egg Carton School

eggcarton1

I am always looking for ways to “fun up” learning, and this one is a hit . All you need is an egg carton to make practicing facts fun. For little ones, you can practice color or number recognition, or beginning letter sounds. Elementary age children can drill their addition facts or times tables, or practice more advanced phonics sounds. Even 12-year-olds think it is fun to do their math facts practice this way.

Simply write the information you want drilled on stickers and place them inside each egg carton cup. Add a token (a nut, penny, marble, button or small stone) and have your child shake, shake, shake! When they open the carton and find the nut, they name the number or say the phonics sound.

If you want to drill math facts, put 2 tokens in the egg carton. Now shake! Open the egg carton and add (or multiply) the 2 numbers that have tokens in their egg cups.

Here are some games to make and play:

Color Recognition for Toddlers

Use markers or tempera paint to color the inside of each egg cup.

Number Recognition

Use numbers 0-11, and one token.

Easy Addition

Use numbers 0, 1, 1, 2, 2, 2, 3, 3, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 2 tokens.

Multiple Digit Addition

Use numbers above and 3 tokens, so you will be adding together 3 numbers.

Advanced Addition

Use numbers 4, 4, 5, 5, 6, 6, 7, 7, 8, 8, 9, 9 and 2 or 3 tokens.

Multiplication

Use numbers 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 7, 8, 8, 9, 9, 10 and 2 tokens.

Letter Recognition

Use alphabet letters and 1 token, asking your child to say the letter name (not the sound it makes).

Phonics sounds

Start with simple consonants: b, d, f, h, j, k, l, m, n, p, r, s. Next use the rest of the simple consonants and more complex consonants, and later, the phonics units (such as th, sh, wh, qu, ee, ai, ea, eigh, ch, ay, igh, ou).

Scramble some eggs, and take time to play!

 

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Adrift on a Sea of “To-Do’s”?

shipadrift

When we have little ones in our home, or are homeschooling our children, it can feel like we don’t have much time to call our own. Sometimes I feel like a ship adrift, being tossed around on the waves of all the things I have to do. I can’t ever get to the end, no matter how frantically I paddle. Have you ever felt this way?

Throw an anchor overboard! It can stop the tossing tide from making your life crazy.

There are anchors in every day. They can be mealtimes, or baby’s nap, the time your husband comes home, or when your teenager leaves for work. These are pretty stable, even if they don’t follow a specific clock time. Even when your day is unpredictable, those anchors nearly always happen and they can help keep you on course. Here’s some of mine:

Family scripture study
Lunch
Nap
Dinner

Moms are hard-pressed to work on a punctual time schedule, but we can use those anchors to get control of our time. I have decided that between our early morning family scripture study (my first anchor) and lunch (my second anchor of the day), I need to exercise and I want to teach homeschool. Those are my top priorities. I have a very long to-do list that tries to wiggle its way into that time . . . making phone calls, checking email, helping my husband with the business, grocery shopping, doing dishes or laundry, mending, church work, going to dental/medical appointments, reading the book I am interested in, etc. But if I focus on those two priorities during that time slot—exercise and homeschool—and accomplish nothing more, I will have had a very successful morning!

As each day passes by, if we focus on the most important “to-do’s”, all the extraneous and less important time-consumers just end up falling away. There is no time for them. Even though I enjoy several of those activities, or feel obligated or pressed to do all those things on my endless “to-do” list, my priorities cannot— they must not—take the place of what is truly important in my life. Besides, doing lesser things does not give the satisfaction that comes from making progress on the things you value most.

It helps to get a clear perspective on what really matters. I ask myself questions like this: “If I were to die in 2 weeks, what would I want to do with my final days?” It also helps to pray about priorities, getting another viewpoint than our own. Heaven’s light shed upon our plans makes us think clearer. Another consideration is that some things can only be done once in life, and you cannot go back and re-do them. Such things as marrying the right person, having children during your childbearing years, giving your children a happy childhood, teaching good habits to your kids, training them to love God and be good Christians, etc. are one-shot deals, and should receive top priority.

Did you notice that bedtime is not on my list of anchors? That is because it needs working on at my house! But, it should be the most important anchor of the day, because it determines how you are going to feel the next day! If you have young children, it is crucial to set a bedtime as an anchor that you can depend on. Even the most loving mother can turn into a witch as the hour gets late and too-tired, accident-prone, crying children are still running around. If you can set a bedtime, both for yourself and your children, life gets in control much faster!

Jot down your anchors on a piece of paper, creating a time block between them, and you will have a great guide for each day. Reality sets in when you can see on paper that if you do your priorities, you can’t stretch yourself much thinner! The page you create could be a template for a daily calendar. If you can’t fit something in without bumping out your priorities, it probably isn’t realistic to say “yes” to that time commitment.

Here’s how it looks:

stormsoflife

 

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An Elective Summer

I hate to stop homeschooling for the summer. Not many of my friends feel the same way, but for me it takes so much momentum to begin again that I’d rather not stop at all. Homeschooling keeps the children in an excellent pattern of waking for scripture study, doing chores, and then getting on with their schoolwork every morning. There is still lots of time in the afternoon to swim, play with friends, and do all the summery things children look forward to.

Besides that, children lose so very much in skills over the summer. All you have to do to prove it to yourself is open a math book. Nearly 1/3 of the entire book is catch-up for what was lost over the summer vacation. I began my little Emily at age 5 in Saxon 1, the first grade book. She sailed along fine and arrived at the end of her book in February when we began Saxon Math 2.  But, I did feel it was wasting my money when nearly half of the Saxon 2 workbook (part 1) was review. We did bits and pieces of the lessons but Emily pronounced them all “too easy!” Math is not her forte so she probably represents most children. What we were faced with is the public school’s need to bring children back up to date that have done no math all summer long. Skills such as math and reading are easily lost if they are not practiced!

This summer my teenage boys are working, so I only have four children at home all day long. We decided to have an “elective” summer. Since this school year was pretty bare maintenance at my house due to pregnancy/birth of my seventh child, we didn’t do much in the way of “fun stuff”. I asked my children what they were interested in learning. Since three of the four children are girls, they chose: sewing, cooking, crafts (photo albums, art projects, stenciling, tole painting, etc.), piano and gardening. We named Monday: Sewing Day. Tuesday is Cooking Day, and so on. The children look forward to each day with great enthusiasm. I find it tricky to get anything done when I have a new baby but knowing that all I have to accomplish is this one thing makes it possible. The house isn’t staying very tidy, but we are spending some great time together learning. On our first Sewing Day, even my little 4 year old Ammon was able to cut out the pattern pieces for his shorts and sewed them up on the sewing machine with my help. I was amazed at what he was capable of doing!  The children were so excited to learn a new skill and have worn their projects proudly and often.

bagels2For Cooking Day, we are learning basic skills such as making bread, tortillas, soups, etc. We also use cooking day to mass produce meals for the freezer to free us up from having to cook dinner on evenings when we’d rather enjoy being outside. A team of children working side by side with mother’s direction can produce 10 casseroles assembly line fashion rather quickly—and it’s fun! Daddy likes to come home from work on Cooking Day because there is always something fresh baked—cookies, cinnamon rolls, or bread. We try new recipes and experiment with favorite recipes to see if we can make them healthier without ruining the taste, a tricky endeavor! Cooking gives children confidence as well as kitchen skills. The other day I was nursing the baby at lunch time and my big children were not home, so Emily (6 years) made lunch all by herself and it was good. She made her choice: vegetable sandwiches, washing and slicing all the fixings herself. Good job!

Each of my children is keeping their own photo albums and we enjoy sitting around the table gluing photos into our books and writing comments and dates by them. We decorate our pages with stickers and fancy writing. It is a fun way to keep memories alive and the children feel proud of their books. This is a good choice of project, because if you don’t get your children to keep up their books, you will find yourself swamped with unlabeled, unidentifiable photos in a few years—I know from experience!

One day was a little rocky because the baby was fussy and needed most of my time and attention, but we did manage to have some short piano lessons. Emily and Ammon learned where middle C is on the piano, and memorized a simple little tune. Julianna got a longer lesson and some songs to practice. Not exactly what Mozart would have done, but at least we are getting started on some long overdue desired topics in homeschool.

thumbnailYou can make each elective topic into a notebook, collecting information as you go along pursuing your interest. Or, use a binder with five dividers—one for each topic. Our sewing notebook contains the children’s measurements, numbers of patterns that worked well with notes of how they had to be adjusted, sale flyers, and pictures from ads of outfits to inspire future sewing projects. We also keep a large zip lock bag containing a square piece of fabric from each project that they sewed so that they will be able to piece a quilt from all their projects someday. I did this when I was a teenager and still enjoy that quilt and the memories of sewing projects, clothes I’ve made.  Over the years, our cooking notebook eventually developed into the Hopkins’ Healthy Home Cooking book that we sell! My son Nathan has collected so much information in his Spanish notebook that it is the size of a dictionary (well, almost!).

Besides these electives, I require my young children to do a math worksheet daily and practice their phonics flashcards or read to me from their readers. Julianna (12), practices typing or piano daily, as well as doing part of a math lesson. These skills have to be kept up. But these things can be easily done in 1/2 hour to an hour and then the fun can begin.

Nathan in his helicopter ( . . . in his dreams!)

Nathan in his helicopter ( . . . in his dreams!)

My teenage boys love juggling, Spanish, fixing engines, and computer animation. My girls enjoy cooking, making up dances and skits, sewing, gardening, and drawing. These are just a few of the things they are interested in learning more about and study with great motivation.

If you want to have an “elective “ summer, start a brainstorm list with your children. Then chose the five things they want to do the most, one for each day of the week. You can pick another five after a month if you want to. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Woodworking
Drawing
Electronics
Quilting
Cross-stitch
Canning
Gardening
Calligraphy
Raising rabbits or chickens
Photo albums
Herb study
First aid
Pottery/Ceramics
Knitting
Spanish (or any foreign language)
Playing a musical instrument
Cartooning
Drama
Sculpting
Scouting skills
Tropical fish
Story
writing
Wood
carving
Knot tying
Haircutting
Singing harmony parts
Baking

Have fun!

 

 

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It’s Gotta be Fun!

Question:

This is our second year of homeschooling. Our first year we homeschooled our kindergarten son and were very actively involved and had learning experiences outside of the house. This year, we enrolled him in an online academy. We have not yet finished our first week of lessons and I already hate it! The lessons are long and tedious. Much too academic for our style from last year. Also, we have no more time for our beloved outings to the park or the zoo. I feel like a slave to this program because of the load of work and no real learning going on. My son is starting to hate anything to do with the word “school” or “lesson”! Any advice on this would be really appreciated!

Answer:

In my opinion, school has to be fun! It has to be enjoyable and pleasant; something to look forward to each day. If your learning experiences don’t fit that description, I would say you took a wrong turn, and you better turn around fast. This is not to say that we won’t do challenging work, and stretch our brains, and think deeply, but that the overall sensation is satisfying and happy. Tedium doesn’t belong in the world of a 6 year old boy. He won’t learn anything but to “shut off” whatever interests he had in learning new things if he is continually pressed and wearied by too much academia at his age.

I have often found it amusing and interesting when looking at homeschooling statistics to find that 80% of first year homeschooled children are boys, usually between the age of 7 and 10 years. I think there is a real message in that for us. Little boys are wiggly creatures that need to climb trees, build things with their big muscles, dig holes, wrestle and tumble, ask questions, and discover the world of nature. It is somewhat cruel to put their bodies in front of a computer or book for long hours. There is a lot to be learned without ever opening a book. And when little boys are tired, they will gladly lay on the floor and listen to Mom read aloud some classic literature that vividly engages their mind. And there is time in their day for a few hours of schoolwork, if it is interesting, involves lots of interaction, discussion, hands-on projects, pictures and stories and learning tastes delicious to them!

Please go to the park and the zoo and the museums! Get lots of books from the library with bright pictures, books about space and animals and trains and everything else you can think of to give him a feel for the joy of learning. Teach him how fun math is. Play number games and math games after he has 1/2 of his math page done, as a break and a reward. Read aloud to him. Let him do all the messy science and art experiments you can think of!

Most of all, enjoy! Learning is so very satisfying!  You can feel very confident that he will grow, progress and learn if you give him a happy, interesting learning environment.

 

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A Way to Grade

pen-162124_1280Here’s one mother’s clever way of motivating her children to do excellent work!

Contributed by Carol Johnson
Gainesville, Florida

I had heard all the arguments for and against grading your children in homeschool, and had decided not to grade. Going along with the theory that they will learn better when something is interesting to them; I teach them until they understand, or until I completely lose their interest. I couldn’t figure out how to use grades in this form of “school.”

However, like most people, my children weren’t learning self-discipline without any consequences. They had been excellent students, but now they were developing bad school and study habits. As a result, I implemented a grading system that works in their four problem areas:

• Attitude
They complained and fussed about every assignment. Even the “fun” ones. This was getting difficult to deal with as a teacher.

• Completion
If I wasn’t watching, my children would tuck the assignment away without finishing it. Most often, they would not complete their assignments unless I was standing over them. If I left, they put them down and did something else more interesting. I found myself constantly nagging them.

• Speed
My kids love to dawdle. Whether I was in the room or not, they took much too much time over each assignment. They loved the idea of time limits, this meant they didn’t have to finish the page. When I assigned it as “homework” they would not do it without me nagging them (back to the second problem).

• Accuracy
. . . However, when they rush, they tend to be less careful.

Without grades, they had no feedback about how they were doing. With this grading system, they like knowing they’re learning and able to do things “right”.

Actually, I’ve used this “system” two different ways. When I started, I used this for every assignment they did. I have a simple little database set up on the computer, that I use as their student logs. At the end of each assignment, I would put in the grade as they watched. They could get anywhere from 1 to 4 points per assignment, and that averaged out for a daily grade. If they got a perfect 4 points for the entire week, we’d give them some type of reward—as a parent, not a teacher.

This was very effective. After using this system for a few months, the kids had really gotten much better. After four months, they were doing so well, I stopped grading them. Ironically, they didn’t like the change. At their request, I started it up again this year, but I only grade them per day. I no longer give them a treat for a perfect 4­— that’s just expected.

Life in our school is great these days— I am feeling a lot less frustrated! We do workbooks for math and language arts, but then we do unit studies for everything else. It has really worked well for us, and my children are excellent students. We all really enjoy school. We have a lot of fun—that’s probably why I think my kids weren’t taking me serious enough. I do the logs for my benefit, more than theirs.

 

 

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A Spoonful of Sugar: My Philosophy of Homeschooling

I am often asked about my philosophy of homeschooling. I have come to think Mary Poppins knew best, when she told the children that, “a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down, in the most delightful way!”

I truly don’t think learning could ever be as nasty to take as medicine, but apparently some teachers seem to dish it out rather distastefully, unfortunately. Think of high school math, chemistry, ancient history . . . In homeschool, we have the privilege of dishing it up deliciously, with a “spoonful of sugar”, so to speak.

I have been homeschooling for 24 years–my goodness! And I can truthfully say it has been quite fun! We were meant to have joy. Happiness is the design of our existence. Learning is fun! Being with your children can be happy times. Teaching them the truth in every subject–from the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ to science to math–brings joy! Watching your children grow and learn and enlarge their talents is wonderfully satisfying.

I can’t think of a richer, fuller, more fun and joyful lifestyle than to have your precious, impressionable children as your best friends who prefer your company. What better daily work could you choose to be involved in than learning about God’s world and his laws and how to grow into a beneficial influence for good among mankind on this earth? I think this lifestyle can bring us to say that we live “after the manner of happiness”.

This doesn’t mean that we don’t often feel overwhelmed as mothers, or feel the burden of our enormous task before us. It is a challenge to homeschool your children, but it can be fun and most rewarding. All homeschooling families have that day that never seems to get started, and there are days when math frustrates my teenager to tears. But, as parents we have assurance that there is no job as meaningful, or as worthy, than to be committed to doing the best for your children so that they have what they need to develop into righteous men and women prepared to go forth and make a difference in this world!

bakebread3There is tremendous joy in moving steadily forward to the realization of this goal. There can be joy and fun in every day of homeschool. The way I see it, my children and I get all the fun. I feel pretty bad for my husband as he doesn’t have a fraction of the fun we have. Together my children and I explore the nearby river bottoms, we sculpt things out of clay, we read an exciting new library book about how Mt. Rushmore was carved. We cook and invent new recipes together, and sing and laugh in the kitchen until we can hardly read the cookbook for the tears from laughing. We read stories about how it pays to be honest. We play math games, and learn to be polite and sensitive to each other. We laugh over the baby’s funny antics, we memorize scriptures, and collect wildflowers to press, we find different kinds of leaves, and all race outside to see a newly discovered rainbow together. We read book after delicious book, making friends with all the inspiring characters of great literature. We take care of our chickens and ducks and cow. We grow huge pumpkins. We discuss politics. We learn to identify God’s signature in all of his creations. We talk and talk and talk and talk together. We are together. Don’t you feel sorry for my husband, too–that he misses out on all of this fun while he is at work?

Let’s talk about ways to maximize the joy and happy times. What can you do to increase your chance of enjoying the homeschooling lifestyle, which is just really another name for “close family life”.

1. Commit Yourself

First of all, I think it takes being committed to the noble calling of Mother/Teacher. That means taking your children’s education seriously enough that you say “no” to the things that would distract you. My friends are invited to come in the late afternoon. I don’t make dental appointments in the morning. I try not to talk on the phone during school time. I just try to keep that time sacred in the sense that the children know that school is important and won’t be bumped, unless there is an emergency. Interruptions and distractions lessen our chance of having a joyful time together.

2. Catch the Vision

It takes catching the vision of the delightful occupation and lifestyle of raising righteous, intelligent children; spending each day’s best effort training and teaching them. Remember that love is spelled “T-I-M-E” to a child. They want and need your time and attention. Learning how to live, development of character and virtues, their disposition and attitude–these are the things they learn from their teacher and companion. That companion is most ideally you. Spending your time with them is how they become like you. If you aren’t perfect, then you can point to the Savior, foremost, and then to all history’s great heroes as models. This is why studying history and classic literature is such a wonderful way to learn: we can be surrounded with greatness in spite of our own weakness.

Daniel, my oldest son, comments (or complains) from time to time that I have raised clones of my daughters. He’s wrong: in many ways, my daughters are better than me. But, he is right in the sense that we are our children’s mentors, their tutors. Whether for good or bad, they watch and follow us. The greatest and loudest sermon that can be preached on the face of the earth is practice. No other is equal to it. R. Evans has said:

Abstract qualities of character don’t mean much in the abstract. It is how we live, how we serve, how we teach our children, what we do from day to day that both indicate what we are and determine what we are; and all the theory and all the speculation, all the quoting of scripture . . . don’t in the final and saving sense amount to very much.

One of my favorite homeschooling scriptures is found in Deuteronomy 11: 18-19:

“Lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul and ye shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up”.

pinocchio-595453_1280We listened together to the original book of Pinocchio in the car as we did our errands one summer. This is nothing remotely like the Disney version. This is the real story of a very naughty and naive puppet, who without the influence of a mother and unwilling to listen to those who would advise him, gets into horrible and constant trouble. As soon as he gets out of one ordeal and feels repentant, Pinocchio meets up with evil companions, a fox and a cat. Pinocchio is on his way to repent to his puppet-maker father for his naughtiness, and has 5 gold coins to give him. Unfortunately, the conniving fox and the cat convince the trusting and naive puppet to bury the gold coins in the ground, so that he can grow a money tree laden with thousands of gold coins. Over and over again, I heard my children exclaim while we were driving and listening, “How can he be so dumb?!” Whether a puppet or a real boy, all children need guidance! They need teaching and virtues and values to live by. No one loves and has such interest in your child’s outcome as you do.

Here I would put out a plea to fathers. I am not asking you to tutor your children, in the sense of teaching them classes. Life seems to be way too busy for fathers trying to earn a living. But, you can work side by side with your children while you are cleaning up the yard, or fixing the car, and in the process teach them so much about how to live and how a man should act.

3. Use the Best Tools

Get the best tools you can for the job. You can’t run a carpenter shop with a dull saw, a broken hammer, and bent nails. Neither you nor I want to go to a dentist with an outdated, old-fashioned hand power drill. Yet many mothers try to wrench an education out of garage sale books that are outdated and dull.

I love to go to yard sales and sometimes I find great stuff. But when it comes to teaching my children, I want the best I can get. These children grow up so very fast. The number of teaching hours and books they can work through is a finite amount. Your career is short. If you do a good job with homeschooling, you are going to work yourself out of a job, because children grow up. I want the healthiest, most life-giving food for my children’s growing bodies. Even so, I want the best quality food for their minds.

food-563110_1280I’d like you to imagine that you are a 9 year old boy in my homeschool. Today we are studying China. You can take your pick of resources, or learning tools. I have a comprehensive, black and white textbook that I picked up at a thrift shop. I know you could learn a lot about China from it if you tried hard. Or, you could choose to learn from many interesting things: a CD of Chinese singing, a costume from China, a video, a doll in Chinese dress, color photos of the Great Wall of China. “Let’s try these chopsticks and Chinese food for lunch.” Excellent resources makes learning so much more effective and joyful. (See my recommended resources for homeschooling in the “What Resources Do I Use?” section of this website!)

4. Take Advantage of the Power of Patterns

Patterns, good habits, and routines make life go smoothly. If you get children into a good pattern, they can operate on “cruise control” and they will go about their day and their work without much urging from you.

writing-110764_1280All of us have probably known someone who holds their pencil wrong and struggles to write. It is just like the tree without a stake that bends in the wind until it has grown into an inflexible trunk. Good patterns taught early to children can make a difference in the amount of joy you have in your homeschool.

My children know the pattern of the school day from the time they are toddlers. They know that the day starts with scripture study. They know that they do chores while breakfast is prepared. They know that after breakfast, they bathe and dress and come to school. They have wall charts in the school room that show the younger children exactly what to do each day. They come into the schoolroom, get their daily work out, and do it.

Summer and vacations always prove to me just how important the routine and pattern is to children. It seems my children can follow the pattern faithfully day after day all winter long, and yet a week of goofing-off seems to take another week of so much stress and reminding the children, just to get back on track. If you want peace in your homeschool, teach your children some good patterns. Be very consistent in training them what you expect every day in homeschool, and you will find that they enjoy the pattern and managing their own time, and you will get far more accomplished in learning together.

One of those good habits needs to be obedience to parents. Without this, it is impossible to be your child’s teacher. This job is best begun at birth, and finished by 8 years old.

5. Build Meaning into their Schoolwork

Accumulation of information is not our goal in teaching homeschool. We want to help our children grasp God’s great plan for mankind, and how we fit into it and what their special part will be. Busy work isn’t the way to do that.

I want to tell you how I teach my children to write. I have tried a lot of methods over the years. We have done worksheets, and games and penmanship practice and creative writing workbooks. But teaching the children to write with a God-given purpose has proven far more successful than anything else.

homeschooling-journalThis is my son Ammon’s journal. He began keeping his journal when he turned 5 years old. I start by having him tell me a sentence that he wanted to write in his journal and I wrote it down for him. Then he drew a picture of what he said. We progressed to writing the sentence in yellow felt pen so that he could trace over the letters in pencil. As he matured and learned to write his letters, I helped him spell and write his own sentence. Incrementally, year by year, he learned the mechanics of writing: letter formation, capitalization, punctuation, spelling, good sentence structure, writing a paragraph, and other English skills.

 

This writing is meaningful. At the end of each year, we take these journals to the printer to be bound. I remind my children as they write, that their children and grandchildren will read it someday, and learn to know them through their journals. I often remind them of how delighted their children will be to read all about their life and adventures. It helps them feel motivated to do neat work. We also share their finished journals with grandparents and friends.

I find my children making lists of important things they want to remember so they can write them in their journal. This journal is becoming an important family history for generations to come, and my child is learning to read and write as well. If you can get your child to catch the vision of where he is headed in homeschool–that we aren’t just doing English, but that we are writing a book for our posterity, for example–then there is a greater chance for joy in learning.  (See my Journal and Language Arts program.)

6. View Opposition as Good Practice

Training children is rigorous work. I don’t think any of us thought it was going to be so hard as it is. Yes, parenthood also has its moments of great joy. But each child is born with an independent will and trying to help them bridle and use it for good can be an exhausting job. If we could just see opposition or difficulty with our children as good practice, practice in learning or teaching to obey, practice in refining our communication skills, practice in being better Christians. . . perhaps we wouldn’t feel so bad about the hard times. We are in a family to learn. We have to experience the “whole enchilada.” Trying to duck out of it doesn’t seem a practical way to become more Christ-like.

Whenever people find out that I homeschool, it seems that their pat answer is, “Oh, I don’t have the patience for that”. I have found myself secretly wanting to answer back to them, “When do we plan on developing the patience with our children? Better now than later.  Let’s do it until we get it right.”

7. Look to Truth

bridge-19513_1280If we are looking for joy, we must look to the Lord. I have never experienced greater joy than when I feel that warm, clean and full-of-light feeling that comes from the Spirit. Whenever truth is taught, the Spirit promises to witness to it. “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth . . . ” (John 16:13). As we inculcate scriptural principles into every subject, we will be blessed with the joy that comes from having the Spirit testify of truth. No subject is boring when the Spirit is present!

We are in such a unique position. Never before in the history of the earth has mankind lived in such a time of revealed truth! We have access to truth. When we teach astronomy, we have Abraham’s great understanding of the galaxies and solar system to enrich us! When we discuss political issues of the day, we have the scriptures to tell us that God approves of our Constitution. When we teach countries and peoples, we have the scriptures to remind us that we are all literal brothers and sisters and all are alike unto God—black and white, bond and free are invited to Him. When we wonder why we have to even study and learn anything at all, we can turn to the doctrines that all knowledge and intelligence rises with us in the resurrection. “Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come”.

I am a structured homeschooler. I assign my children their daily work that must be done. But, every subject can be enriched and a joy to learn if you are there learning right along with them. I also teach them the “law of appeal”. I want them to obey, but as long as they move to obey, and are respectful, they can “appeal”. So if a subject is not interesting to them as it is presented in the book or program I have assigned, they are welcome to ask respectfully for something of more enjoyment to them. And I try to accommodate. We want to enjoy this learning time together!

I do hope that you can add a “spoonful of sugar” in your homeschool, and that homeschooling will be a great joy for your family. Joy comes from the companionship of the Lord, the company of your precious family, and in knowing we have been a useful instrument in raising intelligent children that love the Lord. It has been an incredible blessing to me to homeschool my children!

 

May I recommend:

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It’s Gotta Be Fun!

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Oh, Susanna!

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Kid Talk

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