Our hero and heroine receive a treasure map. With great bravery, they set out to cross raging rivers, climb high mountains, slay fierce dragons, and keep their fellow adventurers committed to their noble task. Forsaking comfort, sleep, and disposable income, they live the adventure to seek the treasure of a lifetime.
Who are these heroes? Why you and your spouse, of course.
While you are battling a fire-breathing dragon after a sleepless night awake with a sick child, you can wonder if the treasure is worth it.
Our own adventure began in the late 1980s when home education was still thought of as quirky. We were unlikely treasure hunters with Mike in seminary, barely two nickels to rub together, living in student housing.
With our eyes on the prize, we plunged in. The creator of Sing, Spell, Read, and Write was a professor at Mike’s graduate school so I went to her workshop and purchased the kit. Copying, coloring, and laminating the letter pages, I made a border in our small dining area so that Katie Beth could see them while she ate her breakfast each morning, waiting for her to show interest in those letters.
Meanwhile, we read beautifully illustrated, well-written picture books by the ton, played at the playground, planted a garden, went strawberry picking, made jam, and explored the nearby woods all with baby Julianna in tow. We loved to sing in the car, talk to cows through the window, and make silly animal sounds while we did their peculiar walks.
“Maybe I should read, Mommy,” Katie-Beth urged as I struggled to keep my eyes awake. I was pregnant again and oh so very sleepy. Could I teach Katie-Beth to read and potty train Julianna with a brand new baby?
We faced other challenges like blending the letter sounds while we were learning to read. It just didn’t come quickly for any of my children. Patience was the answer to that dilemma.
We faced the raging river of teaching something I didn’t understand myself. After praying for an idea, I went to the children’s section of the library and checked out books on the topic. After some quick reading, I understood enough to confidently teach a third grader. That came up over and over, until I learned to relax and learn with my children. After all, learning is a grand adventure!
There was a time when learning math involved memorization. Today we tend to shy away from memorization or never get around to it. I’m here to tell you that, even with calculators and computers, we still need to memorize certain facts in math.
This is always the number one thing math teachers tell students to memorize. It is also the number one thing that math students claim they can use their calculator for instead of memorizing them. Here’s the truth. Calculators are slower than your brain. On any given day it will take longer to enter 7x6= into a calculator than it will for you to remember that the answer is 42. This may seem like a sacrifice your students are willing to make but let’s put it into perspective. Most good math programs have students doing 30 or more problems per day. If every problem takes longer because of typing into a calculator math class can get extended much longer than it needs to be. Further, when students take college entrance exams, they are timed. Test takers need every single second they can get.
Human error is another problem with calculators. I call it “fat fingers”. It’s amazing how easy it is to hit the wrong key on your calculator. If you are not carefully watching every digit entered, you won’t even know you made the mistake. If you are watching every digit, you’re taking a lot more time.
Being able to quickly do your multiplication portion of math problems will improve retention of concepts. If students are fumbling through punching multiplication factors into a calculator, they are being distracted from the concept they are learning. This distraction makes it more difficult to learn and remember.
There are many different methods for memorizing multiplication facts. The simplest way to do it is to just start writing them. Flashcards and memorization charts are also very useful. I took an idea from my mother’s school days, back in the 1940’s and created a great little mini-book called Multiplication Memorization Circles. If you get our newsletter, this is the March newsletter Freebie. (You can sign up for our newsletter here)
Memorizing multiplication facts can be started as early as second to third grade. If your students are older and haven’t done it yet, do it now. It’s never too late.
I have been using Google Maps quite a bit recently as two of my daughters were house hunting. Each of the MLS listings had a Google Map that allowed me to see where it was located.
I would look at the other houses on the street and often switch to Google Earth to see it in a photograph.
Soon I would find myself on nearby streets exploring and discovering streets, houses, and neighborhoods I never knew existed.
It got me thinking.
I realized that Google Maps would be a great way to explore the neighborhood and the world.
Here are some ideas to get you started and I'm sure you can come up with many more.
Explore Your Neighborhood
After exploring other neighborhoods, I realized what fun it would be to explore our own neighborhood. You simply type in your address to locate your house.
It's so funny to see your house on Google Earth. One time we had left some toys in the yard and could see them in the photo.
Once you see your home, you simply expand outward, exploring your street, streets nearby, and soon you will discover streets, stores, and large homes you never knew existed. This is super fun for the adventurous child. Now, of course, when you are finished, you have to get in the car and go see things in person.
We found a beautiful street that looked like a dirt driveway from the main road, but it was dotted with lovely old historic homes. We had so much fun seeing them and imaging who lived in them now and who had lived in them long ago.
Visit Dream Vacation Cities
Some children love a tidy room and others...well...hmm. Let's teach children & teens to organize and clean their world in a fun way. Scheduling can be enjoyable, too.
When we organize, clean, or work on schedules, I try to stay lighthearted and make it fun. I always have a treat afterward like watching a movie or going to the park.
You see, these things are not my favorite things so how on earth would I expect it to be my children's favorite things, but they are part of life so I want to do them with a cheerful heart. My children will see things the way I do, so in training children, my attitude is the most important thing.
Also: how well my children clean their room or stay on schedule or organize their things has NOTHING to do with their value. I never want to belittle my children over these things, but I want to lead them from success to success to success.
In my family, there are messies. I won't name them in case you know them or meet them in person. Messies need more training, but they can learn to keep things mostly tidy. Free spirits can learn to stay on a loose schedule. Everyone can learn to clean.
Here are some blog posts and a podcast on organizing:
Smart Storage to Eliminate Clutter
Organizing Your Homeschool
Say the word "math" and some homeschool moms tremble!
Are you one of those moms?
Many of us have bad memories of math. We might have struggled to understand it or if we understood it, we might have had trouble with making silly mistakes.
Or maybe we just don't remember math. After all, how often do you figure out the perimeter of a circle or square root of 624?
If you are a mom with a distaste for math, I want to encourage you that you can teach math to your children with a cheerful heart.
Nope! Possible! Probable!
You see, math is a such a blessing for our children. Math helps their minds to think logically and builds pathways in their brains. Starting the day with math is like stretching or working out the brain first thing.
So, how can we overcome the dread?
Well, let's start with some basics about math. Math is incremental. That means that you have to learn one thing well before you learn the next thing. So if we don't understand something completely and are not able to do it fluently (more on fluently later in this blog), then we will struggle with the next topic.
Mastery at each step is more important than finishing the math book by the end of the year. Some children can zip through math and others take two years to fully understand and complete a math textbook. Many students can race through grade three math, but need more time on grade four math.
Tips for Math Mastery & Fluency
We are studying American history this year in homeschool co-op.
The week we learned about Jamestown, we decided to build the settlement out of pretzels and cereal.
Would you like to see what we did?
I will take you step by step through our process.
But first, true confessions. Our fort walls looked awesome but they didn't stand up on their own. Next time, Laura and I decided that we will bake a dense cake to stick the fort walls into so that we have a nice sturdy perimeter.
Aside from that, everything was perfect. We had such a great time creating the buildings and the fort.
We used pretzel sticks to make the log buildings, pretzel logs to make the walls, cheese crackers for windows and doors, and frosted mini-wheats for the ceilings. We used royal icing for glue, making everything edible.
Ready for a whirlwind tour? Here we go.
Remember that history can we fun! We certainly experienced that fun making our edible Jamestown fort.
Captain John Smith looked dashing in a white shirt, maroon tunic, and purple cape. Pocahontas was lovely herself in a deer skin dress. Okay, it wasn't real deer skin.
It was American History Homeschool Co-op day. We had finished reviewing the Renaissance and Reformation. We had finished learning about the Native Americans and the Spanish explorers. Now, it is was time to learn about Jamestown.
We decided to add some drama to the day by acting out the story of Princess Pocahontas saving Captain John Smith's life.
The week before, we had made Native American vests and headdresses. The children put them on to become members of Powhatan's tribe.
The director, homeschool Mom Molly, read up on the story an reminded the children of the story before they started planning the drama.
As a young homeschool mom back in the early 1990s, I read a book on how to create your own unit studies by Valerie Bendt. I was so excited, but I was too nervous to use unit studies for the whole year.
Light-bulb moment! What about starting with Christmas unit studies? I liked that idea and for several years we did "normal school" all year except December.
What fun we had in December. We celebrated Christmas in Colonial America one year reading lovely stories, making berry ink, writing with feather pens, trying out recipes from Mount Vernon, George Washington's home, playing "Made for Trade," and writing little stories set in the American colonies. Since hospitality was important in Colonials Days, we studied hospitality for our devotions.
We also learned to decorate and set the table Colonial style: symmetrical with pewter, silver, pineapples, greenery, and formality. We ended our studies with a colonial tea where the girls had all their colonial crafts on display. Their friends loved the tussie-musssie, wooden fans, and dolls. Of course, we had to dress up. We gave little booklets to family members for Christmas that year with their stories, poems, and colonial drawings.
That year led to more years. One year was cookies with picture books about cookies and Christmas. Of course, we made several kinds of cookies to freeze and later give away. We also made cookie mixes in jars to give as gifts. We had so much fun baking together and our studies included making gift tags, wrapping up plates of cookies festively, and delivering gifts to family and friends.
More Christmas Unit Studies
That word just made you smile or cringe if you have children.
Either you have joy in your heart because your children faithfully do their chores, meaning that your work load is lighter so it's easier to homeschool.
Well, we shouldn't really talk about all the negative reminders, jobs that remain undone and bad attitudes.
If you cringed when you read the word "chores," I hope this article will encourage you. Don't give up! Children can change. You can change how you do chores in your family.
People often ask how we do chores in our family. This article is just me writing down all the questions I usually am asked and all the answers I usually give.
How we do things is not the "RIGHT" way, it's simply what works for us.
I was discussing Plimoth Plantation by William Bradford in the high school English class I teach at a homeschool co-op. One of the teens remarked, "Wow! Their life was so different. They worked so hard." Another replied,"Yes, but they seemed so much more thankful about everything than we are." So started a big discussion and we all concluded that hard work wasn't necessarily a bad thing and seeking pleasure 40+ hours a week isn't such a great thing.
My students confirmed what I have always believed: joyful hard work is a blessing to all involved. God created us to work hard and chores can be a little taste of the blessing of working hard. Yes, doing chores builds character, but they also build confidence, create a sense of satisfaction, and can be fun.
Okay, let's get to the questions.
Why Do You Have Children Do Chores Everyday?
My favorite curriculum: living books and classic literature.
I love books!
Our homeschooling is centered on timeless novels and works.
We love to snuggle up and read a good book like Swiss Family Robinson or A Christmas Carol aloud.
Everyone in our family is always in the middle of a good book. It might be an inspirational classic like Hinds Feet on High Places. Or a Golden Age cozy mystery by Agatha Christie or G.K. Chesterton. It might be a well-worn book that's been read over and over again like Ben Hur or Little Women.
We love books! However, we had wasted time reading some poorly written novels or books with unwholesome content. Over the years, I have weeded out the bad, discovered hidden gems in used book stores, and put together my own reading lists for my children to read whatever they want to read. I have lined my bookshelves with these living books and novels.
And I am always updating and adding to these lists.
Where to Find These Lists
"I'm interested in homeschooling my own children after talking to your son," a young man said to my friend Laura.
This son was a distractable student and Laura was excited to hear what he had to say to others about about homeschooling. She was excited to know that he was very grateful for the time Laura had invested in his education.
What about other grads? Were they thankful, too?
Most of the homeschooler grads I know want to homeschool their own kids one day. Or they do already.
I asked a few homeschoolers and homeschool grads to share why they are thankful that they are being homeschooled or were homeschooled in the past.
I told them to be brief.
Let there answers reassure you that it is worth the sacrifice to educate our children at home.
One thing I really appreciated about homeschooling was the flexibility in the school-day schedule. I wasn't forced to work exactly one hour on math, one hour on science, one hour on writing, etc. It freed me to finish quickly if I could or take more time to understand a difficult subject. The only thing my mom made us time was reading. She required us to read a book at least an hour a day. Homeschooling also allowed me to get a little more sleep than most public schoolers probably would and it allowed me to have a relaxing morning routine. (After all, I didn't have to wait for a bus to drive me to classes!) In high school, I was able to wake up at 6, have my quiet time, go for a run, and shower before starting my first subject. That helped me cultivate the habit of spending time with Jesus to start my day. In those precious times of intimate quiet with the Lord, I fell in love with Him. If you're homeschooled, don't waste this opportunity to make Jesus the center of your schedule. You won't regret it.
I love homeschooling. It's real life. It's a lifestyle of learning. It's families growing closer. It children growing up to be world changers. It's the opportunity to explore so many possibilities. It's a blast!
My husband and I are firmly committed to our local church. We have lived this way since we both gave our hearts to Christ as teenagers.
We love ministry! As our children grow up, they join us in ministry. They help in the nursery, teach Sunday school, mix sound, play on the worship team, sing on the worship team, mentor other believers, lead Bible studies, and serve in practical ways all before they turn 18.
Shouldn't they get some high school credit for that?
I believe that they should!
Teens lean so much with hands-on ministry. Our teens have learned about sound technology, singing, music, child development, counseling, mentoring, web design, making flyers, creating brochures, leading meetings, building, decorating, hosting conferences, speaking at conferences, and more!
Ministry has not just been an opportunity to serve others and the Lord, it has been an open door to knowledge and wisdom they will reap the benefits of for years to come.
So how do you turn ministry into high school credit?
It's a brand-new school year. You want everything to go perfectly.
Oh, and did I mention you have a brand-new baby. A precious bundle of joy that lights up your life. And keeps you awake all night. You are sore and your body is still recovering.
Is that you?
This school year can still be the best ever!
For the beginning of the school year, I recommend delaying the start or modifying it.
School can start a month late and go a month longer, or you can skip most breaks and still have it end on time.
If you have high school and middle school children, have them do the work they can do independently. Have them check in with you two or three times a day and just give you a quick summary of what they've completed.
For younger children, if you must school, focus only on reading and math. Have them read aloud to you and read on their own. If they can do math independently, let them do math and have an older sibling check it. Or dad can check it each night when he gets home.
Then, it's time for movies. So many educational movies and documentaries out there that would be fun to cuddle up and watch. We love the Drive Thru History videos, as well as Dave Barton's government sets. There are so many educational cartoons like Liberty Kids or Peanuts This is America. You can watch a few sessions each day for the first month.
My memories of teaching children to read always include me nursing a baby as I went over letter sounds or blending with them. I worried that I was somehow robbing my children.
Here's what the Lord showed me.
Western Culture (European, Australian, and American music, art, literature, architecture, and religion) is our heritage in America. It is wonderful to pass on our heritage through enjoying great artists like Monet and Rembrandt, classical music like Beethoven and Shubert, and cathedrals and castles.
In addition, in our family, we love enjoy a large selection of Western literature.
Western Literature has its roots in Ancient Hebrew, Roman, and Greek writings. The Holy Bible, The Aeneid, Aesop's Fables, The Odyssey, The Iliad, and other classic works have been repeated over and over in future literary works.
The roots of Western Literature are Hebrew, Christian, and pagan as far as religion goes. Classics such as The Iliad and The Odyssey are filled with idolatry and all the sin that occupies the worship of demons. Hebrew and Christian literature, including The Holy Bible, reveal the One True God and the worship of Him.
I share this because you need to know that just because a book is super-old doesn't mean it's wholesome. I find that when we read certain books like The Iliad or The Odyssey, we read abridged versions to avoid the sexual content. This is hard for me because I HATE abridged! However, I found some wonderful authors like A.J. Church from the 1800s who write with advanced vocabulary and vivid description, retelling these stories with clarity and accuracy, except avoiding the smut.
Whirlwind Tour of Classic Literature
"Cancel the lunches? No way!" My son was indignant. "That's the best part of history co-op!"
"We won't cancel. It's just that some of the Moms are complaining," I replied.
The next morning at 20th Century History Co-op, I asked the children and teens if they enjoyed the lunches. They raved and raved about them, proving to be as emotionally enthusiastic about them as my son.
You see we were studying world history of the 20th century with HIS Story of the 20th Century and we were making food each week that corresponded to that place and time period. We were gathering recipes and trying out new dishes.
It all started when my friend Laura and I were studying geography and wanted to get the dads more interested in what the kids were learning.
"They love food," we decided and started making meals from other countries as we studied those countries. The dads loved it!
The next year was American History and the kids still wanted to cook and eat recipes. Now, we would have to gather up American History recipes. So we did.
And we ate!
Of course, we had to find the recipes and in the research we were learning, but don't tell anyone that. We loved cooking and baking up recipes, often modernizing them to use blenders, mixers, and already-butchered meat.
Why Food Makes History Fun!