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 2. As you know, Saxon books are not cheap but they are excellent. 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.

For 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.

You 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.

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!

(Written when my children were younger.)

Public School or Homeschool?

Question:

I am homeschooling my son and most of the time it is wonderful. We stay very busy running here and there so he can be with other children. Even still, at times, there is some isolation and I wonder if it is the ideal choice for him?  Which is better: public school or homeschool?

Answer:

I’ve tried both worlds (public school and home school) and here is what I deeply believe: young children need to be in the security and moral environment that home provides, with a loving mother teacher. No school can replace that. No education can surpass that. It is not available in any other way, and nothing can make up for a lack in those beginning foundational years. They form the child’s character, his view of the world, his testimony of God, his feelings about his own self worth, his habits. As a wise leader said, “No other success can compensate for failure in the home”.

Children need mommies—that is the way God set it up to be. No one loves your child as much as you do. No one cares as much as you do if he grasps a math concept or holds his pencil correctly. Those are small things, but the big things–faith in God, respect for authority, self-discipline, manners, compassion–these things are best taught by someone who loves the child more than life itself. Generally, only one person qualifies for that job description and it is YOU, mother.

Now, on the practical side, it is mother’s job to make sure her multi-dimensional child is getting his needs met: spiritual, mental (academic), physical, social and emotional. And that requires much more than just following an academic program. Homeschooling really should be called “home nurturing” in my opinion, because to grow a child, you have to concern yourself with all elements. If you choose to use the public school to fulfill the mental (academic) and social needs of your child, you are still in charge of the rest, and there is precious little time left after school to nurture them, particularly if you have to do some “undoing” of habits or attitudes that have been picked up in a peer dependent environment. I think it is possible to raise a wonderful child using the public schools. It just requires so much more work, and there are far more casualties! I am not a big risk taker when it comes to my children.

Isolation is a very real issue, and it is not good for children. However, I do believe children need more unstructured time, even time alone, than we realize. Those are the times when you get to know yourself, to think, to dream . . . plus to develop ways to keep yourself happy and involved (hobbies, reading). But too much isolation from other people makes kids sad and lonely. Mom is great, but Mom is not enough. For some children, siblings are not enough either. For these children, it is up to a homeschooling mother to create play groups, attend a support group, get involved in a co-op school, set up a “club” for their child where other children come weekly to learn a skill (art club, horse riding club, etc.).

So what does school away from home provide? Is it worth it in your child’s case? That is the question that you have to ponder and work through. If you see that public school can do something for your child that he needs, then your options are to put him in to get that need met (perhaps part time) or to meet that need yourself.

For myself, here are the answers I came up with, both negative and positive traits of public schooling, all mixed together:

Public School:

Academic/Mental

  1. easy on Mom because the responsibility for their learning is left with the school
  2. child gets another teacher figure in their life besides mom, which may be helpful
  3. kids may work better for another teacher
  4. moves at a slower rate . . . wow, much slower!
  5. takes the fun out of learning because of the “hurry and wait” mentality
  6. hard to specialize learning to each child’s level; child gets lost in the crowd
  7. better than nothing, if that is what you are teaching in your home school due to sickness, overload, lack of education of the mother, lack of time, etc.
  8. homework can take up the evenings, and you end up teaching them anyway, only under duress and not the stuff you wanted to teach them, generally.
  9. bells or schedules can interrupt true learning and teach children not ever to get deeply involved.

Spiritual

  1. offers zilch as far as learning to know God, to trust God, to keep his commandments
  2. school may have some rules on manners or respect for authority that would teach an unruly child if their own mother was not able
  3. if teacher reads classic literature to the class, there may be some worthy truths taught in those stories
  4. figure that early American history will be dished up without one mention of God’s amazing intervention in our behalf!
  5. no teacher can tell the real stories of how George Washington was “bulletproof” and God-protected, according to his enemies, and how his the answer to his prayer at Valley Forge made us Americans rather than Englishmen today.
  6. remember that Humanism is the religion of the school.

Physical

  1. school is not the environment to nurture healthy eating habits
  2. candy abounds, is used to reward kids
  3. lunch is the time to compare who has the best junk food
  4. kids are rushed to eat in a noisy environment and don’t really eat a full meal, a lot of food is just thrown away
  5. a packed lunch is a test of “cool”. Socially acceptable=pudding cups, fruit snacks (that are really thinly disguised gummy type candy), chips, candy bars, cheetos, soda pop to drink (I am not kidding!)
  6. group games, sports at P.E. is fun for them and gives them exercise (usually not daily, however)
  7. learn to play as a team
  8. “Say ‘No’ to Drugs” program (might teach them more than I want them to know, however!)
  9. physical body reigns supreme (rather than moral character and goodness)—lots of emphasis on beauty, body, prowess in sports, coordination, decorating the body with name brands, styles
  10. sitting for long periods
  11. go out in fresh air daily to run around for recess, which is more than some homeschool kids get

Social/Emotional

  1. school is where the kids are, most definitely
  2. there are good kids in every class, so there is possibility for finding friends
  3. peer dependency is sick and affects every word and action
  4. a good teacher can teach a child to be orderly, quiet, diligent in completing their work
  5. lots of negative stuff comes from the kids, as many American children have been raised on PG13 movies, and other worldly influences
  6. to be cool, you have to be in the know (movies, TV, music, pop stars, fads)
  7. lots of practice on getting along, which is a good thing
  8. lots of practice on tolerance of other people and their beliefs and mannerisms
  9. bullies
  10. even though much of the socialization is negative, kids are around other kids at school
  11. bad behavior is not condemned (cattiness, sticking out tongue, burping aloud, making rude comments,
  12. criticizing others, laughing when someone is hurt, etc.)
  13. group mentality nearing hysteria takes over at times. For example, if the teacher asks the group a question, children look around to see what their peers are saying, rather than thinking for themselves.
  14. negative energy builds up. That is why many young kids cry or argue when they are picked up from school.

This is just my brainstorm of ideas. Some schools are much better than others. Your own child has unique needs. Only by studying out his needs will you be able to know who can meet them best (public school or homeschool, or some other option). We only get one shot at raising our children, and those foundation years have a tremendous effect on the outcome! I pray we will all choose wisely!

 

First, a Relationship

First we have a relationship, then we have an educational method.” —Karen Andreola

And so it is.

As homeschool moms, we sometimes get involved trying to figure out what philosophy to follow, what type of teaching we should do, or what curriculum we should select. We eagerly read books, buy curriculum, and “try on” educational methods as if we were shoe shopping. But no “shoe” fits until we have a relationship. No method can make up for a strained relationship with your child, your student. Until the relationship is working right, the educational approach doesn’t really matter very much at all.

So, instead of focusing on what educational philosophy or curriculum you are going to use in your homeschool, think instead of how you are going to build your relationship with your child. Brainstorm ways to reach each child’s heart. Co-operation and a desire to follow you will come naturally when the relationship is strong! As you bind your children’s heart to you in love, you will be creating the very best environment for learning, no matter what method you end up choosing.

Here’s some ideas for knitting your hearts together:

*Listen and give eye contact when your child talks to you.

*Take a walk and hold hands.

*Give a sincere compliment.

*Smile.

*Lay on her bed and talk while she is getting ready to go somewhere.

*Look at what he has put on his bedroom walls and comment positively.

*Say “yes” whenever you possibly can.

*Give her a shoulder rub when you are sitting together.

*Ask him to cook with you, and let him choose the meal.

*Sit on the floor next to your child while she is building with legos or playing dolls.

*Tell another how capable (or kind, or helpful, etc.) he is—loud enough so he can overhear you.

*Resist the urge to set something straight (his hair, his room, the way he set the table, etc.)

*Actively encourage your child in following his special interest by getting him the necessary supplies, mentor, books, and opportunities.
(This, more than anything else I have done, has spoken “love” to my eager, curious sons.)

*Read aloud together.

*Remember your child is young and trying to figure out life. Be forgiving.

*Go swimming together.
(Sometimes we moms are a bit reluctant to get our hair wet or to put on a swimsuit, but it really is a playful, bonding time.)

*Don’t criticize ever. If he needs instruction, do it privately and kindly, reassuring him of your love.

*Make something together—a candle, a skirt, a clay sculpture, a pizza . . .

*Listen.

*Listen.

*Listen.