Of lanterns and lighthouses

I love to plan. Seriously, I LOVE it. Home educating quenches that desire in me because I have to plan on a regular basis. Score.

Even though I really enjoy it, sometimes I think I can get by without planning. For some moms, loose plans or [gasp!] no plans aren’t a big deal. I am not one of those moms.

Lesson plans are the way the big picture gets done. They are a map to get you to your destination. Mrs. Smith says that goals are the lighthouse and lesson plans are the lantern. I love that! They are what enables you to move along the path without getting distracted and without losing sight of the big picture.  They keep you moving along toward your destination.

This summer I am trying to be more diligent about evaluating (more details to come) and planning for the year. I sleep better at night knowing not just where we are headed, but how we are going to get there.

I look to my lighthouse and get my bearings. Then I take my children by the hand. The lantern helps us avoid the rocks and other obstacles on our particular home educating path. I can’t see very far ahead but I don’t need to. I trust the Keeper of the Lighthouse has it all under control.

25 uses for index cards

I am in love with index cards. Have been for a long time. They are just so, well, handy. There are whole books devoted to using them in your homeschool, but here are a few ideas to get you started.

  • Flash cards. That’s a no-brainer, right?
  • Matching games.
  • Making puzzles.
  • Making 3-D objects.
  • writing out lesson plans.
  • collecting ideas for a paper or a book. they can be shuffled in any order until you are happy
  • Phonics: putting parts of words on cards to match up together.
  • Mental math. Put answers on cards and scatter on the floor. Read problem aloud and when they solve it they pounce on the right answer.
  • Life size board game. Put directions on index cards and create a path through the house. Use big dice and the kids become the playing pieces, following the directions on the cards.
  • For preschoolers: pictures on the cards help them communicate their feelings. They can point to the face that matches how they feel.
  • Use them like soccer warnings. They get cards as discipline. Green, then yellow, then red. You can assign discipline as your family sees necessary.
  • Create a flip book.
  • Write chores to check off.
  • Cut a slit in the end and wind stray ribbon on it. The slit holds the end of the ribbon.
  • Keep a grocery list in your pocket.
  • Lay several out and draw a road on them. Now your boy has a portable road he can assemble anywhere he goes.
  • Make bookmarks for a friend.
  • Recipes. Put one on the quick bread you give to a friend.
  • punch holes and they become lace up cards.
  • Keep a card file organized by month. Use it for birthdays, seasonal chores and other monthly duties.
  • Use them as little canvases for mini fridge art.
  • Make a countdown calendar. Number and decorate the cards and put them in order. Fold one card to make an easel and lean the cards on it. Each day the kids can move the card to the back and see how many days are left.
  • Make a speech. Practice it and then give the speech in front of friends and family.
  • Write or draw your clothes on the cards–Bottoms, tops. Mix and match to create new fashions from your same old clothes.
  • Write your memory work on the cards so you can put them in your pocket for memory work on the fly.

The most powerful creative tool

The most powerful tools you can have in your homeschool arsenal is–are you ready for this–a schedule. Many creative types see that word and run the other way. Before you write the idea off hear me out.

Why do I say a schedule is a tool? Because it gives you control of your time. Because it helps you. It helps you keep on task and lessens frustration. That’s one handy tool.

Why do I say it is powerful? Because it controls time. Well, your time anyway. It’s an amazing little tool with slots for all your tasks, big and small. A schedule seems to magically create time out of thin air, giving you time to create guilt free–time to think and explore and experiment.  And it can transform your day from chaos to calm and that is powerful.

Why do I say it is the most powerful? Because everything else rests on this. You don’t get enough rest without it. You don’t have all your supplies ready without it. You don’t have a clean workspace without it. You don’t have school without it.

A schedule is the single most important gift you can give your family. Maybe you call it a routine. Maybe yours is written or maybe it’s just in your head. However you do it, if you will commit to using a schedule you will see that your creative time is used more wisely, that you are more productive and less distracted when doing a creative project. Your materials and supplies will be ready. Your workspace will be ready. Your mind will be ready.

There are a thousand ways to do a schedule. Find one that works for your family and try it out for 6 weeks and see if I’m not right. See if you aren’t more creative and less stressed.

Making the most of public speaking

One thing all kids need is confident public speaking. The ability to persuade, inform and entertain is a priceless ability, and homeschooled kids have many terrific opportunities to hone their skills–and tools to help them do it better.

TED talks are very popular, and with good reason. If you aren’t aware of TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) then visit their archives for public speakers and topics that run the gamut. They are interesting to watch, especially when looking with a speaker’s eye. Older kids and high schoolers can glean a lot from a TED talk. Things to watch for: the choice and use of visuals, the length, the manner of speaking. YouTube is another place for tons of terrific videos of speakers on any subject you can think of.

To gain public experience, there are opportunities everywhere. Home, church, clubs, nursing homes, teams–there are lots of places to get in some speaking times. Maybe you could head over to the local retirement home or homeless shelter. Or create a video on a topic you enjoy and teach someone something. Create a need and fill it with a speech.

What do you want to talk about? Maybe a poetry reading, an original story or reciting memory work. Almost anything you can think of would make a good topic. Sermons and great speeches from the past are great practice for unsure speakers.

Even speaking at home can be helpful for shy speakers. An audience that is familiar, loving and supportive can go a long way to boosting the confidence of a kid who is apprehensive about public speaking. If it would help, practice with an audience of stuffed animals.

I hope you’ll give your kids many opportunities to speak publicly. It’s a necessary skill that will take them far in life.

Practical application of timelines

This is a guest post by JoAnne Bennett, a dear friend and mentor. She was kind enough to provide the following post and I’m so glad she did.

We will use the time line for the facts which must be memorized for that unit.  As we do an overview to introduce the unit, I emphasize that these are the most important events.  We will add other significant events as they are discovered and discuss their relation to the major events.

We usually draw separate time lines for political events and for spiritual developments during that period of history.  For literature, we will do one for the author’s life time and another for the setting of the story or the main character’s life.

photo courtesy Jon aslund

photo courtesy Jon aslund

The applications for time lines are numerous.  Perhaps the most indispensable is to show relationships between events.  One method is to use parallel time lines on the same page to show cause and effect.  You can then draw arrows from one line to the other to dramatize the relationship. For example, make a line for a Washington’s life and one for the historical events of that time.  Note how the events around the man affected his attitudes and accomplishments.  If he responded positively, the events could cause him to rise to greatness.  Point out that in every crisis God raises up a man to meet the needs of His people.

Another way to use parallel time lines is to color code specific periods or events.  When we studied the Middle Ages, we designated historic events on the basic time line.  Then we entered the periods of art and architecture as colored parallel lines: Byzantine was blue, Romanesque was red, and Gothic was yellow.  It was easy to see the political turmoil of the fifth and sixth centuries in Europe had a relationship to the simplicity of art and the elaborate adornment of the Gothic developed as prosperity came to the nobility through the feudal system.

Time lines give order and perspective to the events we study.  When we look at the “coon skin cap” and the “whale” stuck to our time line, it would be simple for even small children to reason that the time span is too wide for Jonah together.  Notice also how the important events get closer and closer together until, by the end, labels and pictures will overlap. God is certainly moving faster as we near the end of “the days of man.”

Another use of time lines is for periodic review.  No matter what time period we are studying, I will occasionally call for a “pop test” of  U.S. history. This is based on a time line we did which includes crucial developments such as Columbus in 1492, Pilgrims in 1620, Revolution in 1776, Civil War in 1860′s, World War I & II, etc.  When we hear some news story which compares an event to the Great Depression, I want my children to be able to tie that to something concrete in their minds. Having them draw a time line to recall those facts has been the most efficient use of our time.  It is much faster than writing an essay question or having mother devise a fill-in-the-blanks test — and it is quicker to grade.

GO FORTH AND DRAW TIME LINES

Take the ideas I have presented and personalize them.  Improvise! Improve! See how many varieties you can use!  I believe you will agree it is one of the handiest tools in your “teacher’s bag.”

JoAnne Bennett is a seasoned Biblical Principle Approach mom. She has two grown children and three grandchildren, with one more due to arrive in June 2009. Since raising her own children, she teaches and mentors other home educators. Her internalization of Biblical Principles and application of a BPA philosophy makes her an important resource for home educating moms. You can find out more about her at her Web site, Academic Advantages.

Hope for the next generation

My oldest daughter (10) entered this year’s essay contest from our state’s Christian homeschool organization. The topic was “The Role of Christians in Government.” When I saw the title I knew she just had to enter. It took a lot of prodding but I finally got a paper out of her. She typed it up, then saw that it had to be hand written, so she copied it and we put both copies in the mail. A couple of days before Capitol Day we got that all-important email: she won!

The judges thought her essay was the best one entered in any age category. They wished the high schoolers could have written as well. Here is her essay in its entirety.

According to Webster’s 1828 dictionary, the word government means “who or what is in control.” In the Garden of Eden that Who was God, and He governed us internally. Then sin changed things and now we need more external government. That’s where Christians come in, offering God’ s idea of government.

One of the roles of Christians in government is to follow. Follow Jesus, that is. Always follow your leaders unless they do not line up with God’ s Word. Be a good example to other followers.

Another role is to pray. You need to pray for the right candidates to be elected. You also need to pray that the leaders we have will make right choices, according to 1 Timothy 2:1&2. Prayer sometimes makes the difference between life and death.

Still another role Christians have in government is to lead. When you lead as a Christian, you reflect God. God’s leadership is wise, consistent, righteous and just. In fact, the Bible in Job 34:17 says that you should not lead if you don’t agree with God’ s justice.

Christians get ideas regarding government from the Bible. The Founding Fathers called the Bible “America ’s political textbook.” Christian leaders should look to godly leaders in the Bible for insight and wisdom.

It is a great responsibility to elect our own leaders. We should vote carefully. The most basic role of Christians in government is to show others how God wants us to live, no matter what role we are in.

(C) 2009 Gabrielle Hawthorne

I share this not to get a pat on the back, but to demonstrate God’s faithfulness. When we instill Biblical principles in our children, they can think governmentally. It just becomes their way of thinking. I am raising the next generation of godly Christians who will hopefully lead and not blindly follow. This essay gives me much hope for America’s future.

And it was a real treat for her to win a prize for her hard work too! On Capitol Day February 10 we made a trip to Oklahoma City for her to receive her award. And when she received a copy of her citation a few days later she was over the moon. It’s a giant certificate with her essay printed in the body inside a blue folder. She will treasure it as one of her special homeschool memories. And so will I.

25 creative notebooking ideas

Notebooking is one of the best ways to demonstrate your individuality in your lessons. But sticking some worksheets in a binder is not true notebooking. You must generate the material yourself and it is a reflection of you, not simply a regurgitation of someone else’s thoughts.

In case you find yourself in a rut, here is a list of creative expression. You can also download the 25 creative notebooking ideas here.

  • paper folding
  • portraits
  • write a story and illustrate it
  • collage
  • mosaic with construction paper or magazine pictures
  • drawings
  • cut outs
  • silhouettes
  • rubber stamping
  • stickers to add to a picture or draw around
  • photographs
  • coloring pages
  • printable fonts that can be colored
  • pockets to put things in
  • door or flaps to hide things
  • pop-ups
  • paintings
  • rubbings or impressions
  • CD recordings of kid’s voice, documents, music, video, etc.
  • fold out pages for long projects
  • sew paper
  • create an award
  • cut words and letters from newspapers or magazines
  • create a small book and place in a pocket on a page
  • paper weaving

If you want to add to the list with something that you have tried, please leave a comment so I can add it to this list.

Christian History Lesson 1 part 1

To begin our study of America’s Christian History we must discuss some basic ideas.

The Christian Idea of Man

The Christian idea of man is the basis for our form of government. It is also the foundational principle that the other 6 principles of America’s Christian History and Government. It is the idea that man is created in God’s image as a unique individual. All men are therefore created equal with independent value. This is a wonderful principle to meditate on. If we are unique, equal and have value, then the state is servant to us and not master.

The Purpose of Government

The state was created for man, not the other way around. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are rights from God and the responsibility to keep them is delegated to the state. Today this weighty task is not respected by federal government, but rather it is becoming more and more irrelevant. Our government (state and federal)  is moving more toward a pagan idea of government.

The Pagan idea of Man

To the pagans (pagan meaning those who are not Christians) is that man has value as related to the state. The state has all the power to control, not protect, our liberty. We also have a society that looks to the state as keepers or even dispensers of liberty. It is a socialist idea that pervades our society today. Our citizens have not been educated on the Christian idea of man so we should not expect anything different.

I will go into more detail on the Leading Ideas (step 2) in the next post.

If I had only known…

This is day 4 of The Back to Homeschool Week.

If I had only known… 

…that I don’t have to follow the book. It’s okay to customize.

…that I don’t have to buy everything.

…not to bite off more than I can chew. I am an all-or-nothing person, so I tend to get in over my head. A LOT.

…to pace myself. This hearkens back to the last point.

…what the real point is. (Hint: it’s NOT academics!)

…how much fun it was going to be! Being able to reason with your kids, seeing them “get it” is way more fun than the few hours of free time when they would be at school.

My favorite soil softeners

A few years ago I purged all the “twaddle” on our bookshelves. I have been diligent since that time to fill our shelves with literature that would qualify as soil softeners.

Ms. Rosalie Slater referred to certain literature as “soil softeners,” or material that softens the soil of the heart for instruction in righteousness and planting seeds of Biblical principles. Here are just a few of the many soil softeners we enjoy in our home.

Garden Planting

Mary Jones and Her Bible is a beautiful story of a girl who worked and saved for years and walked 20 miles to buy it. It is such an inspiring story. The story teaches character such as diligence and parental respect and a love for God’s Word.

My Kingdom by L. M. Alcott is a 4-stanza poem about self-government that children can memorize. It softens the heart and opens the door to discussion about Christian self-government. By the way, she wrote it when she was 13 years old.

Little Pillows and Morning Bells by F.R. Havergal are one of my all-time favorites. I adore her and these simple children’s books are precious and full of ideas about God that children can understand. They are to be read before bed and upon waking. Plant the seeds of placing God first and last in your day.

One Morning in Maine by Robert McClosky is a lovely story about God’s creation and the power of nature. It will encourage stories of childhood summers and weather. You can see the majesty of God’s creation, His creativity and the power of childhood memories.

Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder shows the character of the pioneers and the strength of a godly family. It will insipre boys and girls alike to obey their parents, appreciate nature and enjoy the blessings they have.

The Autobiography of George Mueller is wonderfully inspiring. His character and conduct is something we should all aspire to.

Music by Isaac Watts. His Divine and Moral Songs for Children will teach your children about godly character in  a way kids love, set to music.