Archive for July, 2009

A Labor of Love

Are your children familiar with that phrase? What is a labor of love? It’s something we do because we can’t help but do it- because we love to do it- because perhaps we need to do it in order to live, just like breathing in and breathing out. Homeschooling should be a labor of love.

It makes absolutely no sense economically. If you could earn $30,000 outside the home each year, plus benefits, and you homeschool for a total of 25 years from the time your oldest begins kindergarten until your youngest graduates from high school, you’ve invested more than $750,000 plus benefits and compounding. For most of us we could round that number off and simply call it 1 million dollars and we wouldn’t be too far off. Some of you could earn $50,000, $75,000 or even $100,000 each year in your career field. I know many doctors and lawyers who have given up their practice to homeschool their children. For them the cost is several million dollars.

Tutorial education has always been, and remains, the most expensive, most exclusive education money can buy. Whether you hire a private tutor, or whether you become that tutor yourself, it is a monumental financial investment. In short- it makes little monetary sense. But as the MasterCard commercials might say in the tagline: A home school education- priceless!

To know your child, to watch them learn to read, to help them learn about the world around them, develop social skills, find their purpose and nurture their gifting is a priceless experience and it demands a labor of love. Don’t doubt for a moment that your investment is worth every penny you’ve invested. You’re changing the face of your family’s legacy- a change that will impact several generations.

Talk with your children about the phrase “a labor of love.” Ask them what things in their lives are a labor of love: taking care of a beloved pet, practicing every day for swim team, ballet or baseball, learning to play the piano or guitar? These are all things that don’t make sense in the practical realm but make all the sense in the world when we love pets, swimming, ballet, baseball, piano or guitar. They’re a labor of love.

Now talk with your children about the labor of love that is God’s investment in our lives. Time and time again we stumble, fall, fail or wilfully disobey. Yet time and again He picks us up, dusts us off and reassures us how much He loves us. It is a labor of love to care for His creation- and his creations. He doesn’t need to do all of that. He could simply make us robots and force us to love him and obey him. But instead He invests Himself even to the point of death on a cross out of a labor of love for each one of us.

Talk about these verses with your children which talk about God’s love for us…

Psalm 136:2

1 John 4:7

John 3:16

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Garbage in, Garbage out.

Do you know that saying? Sometimes it’s abbreviated to GIGO. A play on the old accounting procedure, “first in, first out, or FIFO” it addresses the simple truth that computers unquestioningly process whatever input data you give them regardless of whether that data is accurate or not.

As homeschoolers we sometimes operate in GIGO mode. We unquestioningly begin processing whatever the latest homeschool convention speaker or homeschooling book tells us to process. We hear a speaker who paints grandiose word pictures of climbing the highest academic mountain- of having our children be fluent in ancient mythology, 3 foreign languages, philosophy, physics and Latin and we immediately go home and turn our homeschool classroom upside down as we begin to process the garbage that’s been input into our mind.

Or we read a homeschool book that preaches nothing but courtship, no television, no birth control, only a vegan diet of organic fruits and vegetables and only homemade clothes washed in homemade laundry detergent. We immediately begin processing the garbage that’s been input and not surprisingly- we get garbage back out in our life.

Now there’s nothing wrong with ANY of those things I’ve listed above- IF the Lord is directing you in that direction. But to mindlessly process every piece of mental garbage that is put in your mind will always produce garbage on the output cycle. Someone else’s revelations can never automatically become your revelations. The person the Lord is most likely to speak to about what he wants you to do in your life or your homeschool isn’t a homeschool author or speaker; it’s YOU!

Your children need to learn about GIGO too. They need to learn that if they allow garbage access to their mind, they’ll always get garbage out. They need to read great books, dream great dreams, think great thoughts, listen to great music, associate with great people and do great deeds. If they want to avoid garbage out, they have to avoid garbage in from the company they keep to the curriculum they study.

Today is a great day to talk with your children about GIGO. Challenge them to try making a delicious lunch out of mud and rotten banana peels, sour milk and dead houseflies. They’ll laugh at the silly images that recipe makes them see- but they’ll get the idea. You can’t make anything great when you begin with garbage. If you want to produce great things, you must begin with great things.

Take a look at these verses that have to do with the things which are in our heart and how they affect us; talk about them with your children today…

Mt. 15:18-20

Lk. 2:19

Mt. 6:21

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A Bird in the Hand

Do you know that old saying? “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” It means that you shouldn’t fret over the things you don’t have, but rather you should be thankful for what you already have safely in your hand. There are many uncertainties associated with any undertaking and homeschooling is no different.

What “birds” do you have in your hand right now? You have your health, your children, the right to legally homeschool those children, a house, mobile home or apartment in which to teach them, at least some basic tools with which to teach them, and the desire to teach them. That’s quite a few “birds” already.

What birds remain “in the bush” for you? A large, well-organized, dedicated homeschool room? A bigger homeschooling budget? High speed internet? A new computer? More money for field trips? A supportive spouse, parents or in-laws? Those would all be lovely to have and perhaps someday you will have them. But don’t miss out in the present tense by spending all your time wishing for things you don’t have. You have everything you need to homeschool successfully right now- safely in your hand. Give thanks today for the “bird in your hand” instead of spending all your time wishing you had the “two birds” that are in the bush. You’ll be amazed at how a thankful spirit will brighten your homeschool experience.

Talk with your children today about that old saying and invite them to look “the birds in their hand” compared to their “birds in the bush.” Perhaps they’ve been longing for a new videogame system, new baseball equipment, a new bicycle or a new computer system. Remind them that while they’re pining away for what they don’t have, they could be enjoying the many things they do have- already safely in hand. Every minute spent wishing for something new is a minute that could have been spent enjoying what we already have.

Talk with your children with these verses that remind us to give thanks for what we already have…

1 Chr. 16:34

1 Thess 5:18

James 4:13-14

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Just Give Me a Ballpark Figure

Is someone in your family having second thoughts about homeschooling? According to several large studies conducted during the past decade, homeschool students, on average, score 30% to 37% better across the board in all subject areas than their public school peers. This holds true regardless of race or gender. That’s just a ballpark figure of course- your student may be more like 50% better than his public school peers!

It’s good to know these basic truths about homeschooling in case you’re asked. It’s also good to know them and to ponder them in your soul when the going gets tough- which it does for all of us from time to time. Homeschooling is the hardest, best thing you’ll ever do.

But more important than academic achievement is the developement of character. Homeschooling is least of all about a well trained mind. Rather, it is first and foremost about a well trained heart. It is about teaching children to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with their God. (Micah 6:8) It is about wisdom more than knowledge and character more than test scores.

Have fun with your children today learning about ballparks! Here’s a delightful website that will tell you everything you always wanted to know about ballparks: http://www.ballparksofbaseball.com/

Work with your children today on establishing “ballpark figures”. What does that mean? How can they estimate a “ballpark figure” for something where they don’t know the precise answer. For example. If you look at a photograph of a man standing near a tree, you can measure the height of the man with a ruler or a finger, then repeat it up to the height of the tree and get a “ballpark figure” of the tree’s height, assuming the man in the photo is approximately 6′ tall. Learning to “guesstimate” a ballpark figure can be very handy in quickly checking a grocery bill to make sure it’s approximately right, etc. Just round off the prices of several key items and add them up in your head to get a “ballpark figure” of whether the bill is approximately correct.

Prayerfully consider these verses that have to do with education and teaching children…

Deut. 11:19

Psalm 34:11

Psalm 78:5

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Back to Square One

What is square one in education? What is the foundation upon which all education is built? Reading.

Read to your children today and every day. Prayerfully consider these thoughts on books and reading…

A book is a garden, an orchard, a storehouse, a party, a company by the way, a counselor, a multitude of counselors ~ Henry Ward Beecher ~

A library is a hospital for the mind. ~ Anonymous ~

Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. ~ Joseph Addison  ~

The  failure to read good books both enfeebles the vision and strengthens our most fatal tendency– the belief that the here and now is all there is.  ~ Allan Bloom  ~

Children are made readers on the laps of their parents. ~ Emilie Buchwald ~

There is no substitute for books in the life of a child.  ~ Mary Ellen Chase ~

Happy is he who has laid up in his youth, and held fast in all fortune, a genuine and passionate love of reading.
~ Rufus Choate ~

There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island. ~ Walt Disney ~

When  I get a little money, I buy books; and if any is left, I buy food and clothes. ~ Desiderius Erasmus 1466-1536 ~

Read in order to live. ~ Gustave Flaubert ~

The person who deserves most pity is a lonesome one on a rainy day who doesn’t know how to read. ~ Benjamin Franklin ~

When I discovered libraries, it was like having Christmas every day. ~ Jean Fritz ~

Today a reader, tomorrow a leader. ~ W. Fusselman ~

Be as careful of the books you read, as of the company you keep, for your habits and character will be as much influenced by the former as the latter. ~ Paxton Hood~

What a school thinks about its library is a measure of what it feels about education. ~ Harold Howe ~
Professor Emeritus at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a former U.S. Commissioner of Education

The end of reading is not more books but more life. ~ George Holbrook Jackson ~

Books are the bees which carry the quickening pollen from one to another mind. ~ James Russell Lowell  ~

The pleasure of reading is doubled when one lives with another who shares the same books. ~ Katherine Mansfield ~

Books, to the reading child, are so much more than books — they are dreams and knowledge, they are a future, and a past. ~ Esther Meynell ~

The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.
~ Dr. Seuss ~

Choose an author as you choose a friend. ~ Sir Christopher Wren ~

Books are truly the foundation of all education. If you’re using a homeschool curriculum that isn’t built around great living books- consider changing. Anything other than books is merely a hollow substitute for real learning.

Apart from whatever else you’re doing in your homeschool classroom today- set aside time to read. There’s no such thing as “too much” reading. Read long and read often.

Discuss these verses with your children…

1 Timothy 4:13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.

Jeremiah 30:2 This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: Write in a book all the words I have spoken to you.

Joshua 8:34 Afterward, Joshua read all the words of the law—the blessings and the curses—just as it is written in the Book of the Law.

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Is Your Back Against the Wall?

When we hear that phrase we usually thinking of being desperate, frantic; down to our very last hope. If you’re a homeschooler, chances are you may have felt like that once or twice, whether it was in terms of finances, family support, curriculum choices or classroom discipline.

I’m going to suggest that you KEEP your back against The Wall at all times. And The Wall, of course- is the Lord. Isaiah 26:1 says In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah: We have a strong city; God makes salvation its walls and ramparts. And Psalm 91:2 says I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

God is our fortress and refuge and salvation forms the walls of His great city. Anytime we try to homeschool in our own strength we are at the mercy of more powerful forces: culture, family, critics, media and government. But when we get our back firmly planted against The Wall of God we become stable; we take on His strength and His stability.

Take some time today to build some walls with your children. Boys and girls love to build. Use wooden blocks, cardboard blocks, cardboard boxes, Legos, lumber- whatever you can find. Talk with your children as you build together about the strong fortress that is our God; about the mighty walls that build the city of God. Tell them ways in which you lean against His strong walls and depend on Him for your strength. As you build the the wall consider talking with your children about the story of Nehemiah. If you’re not familiar with Nehemiah’s story today is a good day to read his story in your Bible!

Now go back and read Isaiah 26:1 and Psalm 91:2 with your children and discuss those verses with them. Ask them if there are any areas in their life where they are feeling a little frantic or desperate and help them think through ways in which they can put their back against The Wall which is our God in their situation.

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Ants in Your Pants

Homeschool mothers are famous for having ants in their pants; a condition characterized by being unable to sit still for more than a few minutes without wiggling around and wanting do something different. I’ve talked before about homeschooling being a “long obedience in the same direction”. It requires a little consistency.

Five in a Row, for instance, has been used successfully by more than 250,000 children over the past 15 years. It works if you’ll do it the way it was intended. But whether it’s Five in a Row or some other program, you need to give it a fair chance to work before you begin fidgeting around and changing things- or worse yet changing curriculum entirely!

Now if you’ve used a program the way it was intended for several months and it’s simply not getting the job done that’s a different story entirely. If your children aren’t learning or are failing to retain information, if you find the material difficult to use, time consuming to prepare and if the program causes you to clash with your children rather than enjoy your children on most days- then by all means change! Just make sure you give it a fair chance first.

Homeschool students get ants in their pants too. They fidget and wiggle and can’t sit still- especially the auditory and kinesthetic learners. For young children that’s not always a bad thing. For busy young bodies who can listen while they move around it may be more effective than forcing them to sit in one place motionless for extended periods. And for kinesthetic learners they need to be doing something physical with their hands- hopefully something related to the lesson activities.

Let’s learn something about ants today, shall we? If you live almost anywhere in north America you should be able to go out and observe some ants today. Just sit quietly and watch. Drop a few tiny bread crumbs- keep watching. Consider buying an ant farm for long-term study; chldren love ant farms! Or make your own ant farm from this set of plans- http://home.howstuffworks.com/ant-activities1.htm

If you’ve never doen the lessons from Truman’s Aunt Farm by Jama Kim Rattigan you’re missing out. Pull out your Five in a Row Volume 3 and enjoy!!

Read Proverbs 6:6 and see what your chidren think the verse means. Discuss it with them.

Now read it in conjunction with Proverbs 30:25 and see if that adds additional understanding.

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