7 wonders of the [homeschool] world

I know there are a lot more than 7 wonders, but I tried to narrow it to 7 themes that all others would fit under.

1. Reading. Teaching your own child to read is the first step on the road to lifelong learning. I call it the Golden Ticket. In my opinions it is the greatest gift you can give your children outside of salvation. And you can do it all by yourself (with some good phonics books).

2. Graduation. You homeschooled your own child. They made it. You made it. And you didn’t need a school system to pull it off. That’s pretty wonderful.

3. Affordability. It’s not expensive to educate your child yourself, unless you choose to spend the dough. It doesn’t take $4000 per child per year to educate your child. Score.

4. Individuality. There’s seemingly no end to this one. Individuality of lessons, religion, methods, children, diets, schedule etc. are but a few ways that you can customize each child’s learning experience. This is wonderful, not spoiling. Everyone should have the opportunity to learn in such an environment.

5. Rabbit trails. When something interests your family you can swerve your lessons right into it. You can’t do that in a classroom setting

6. Camaraderie. You are able to form close relationships with own family, a “values in action” exercise because your children see how you live day-to-day.  And home educators are a tight knit and friendly community. No one is more willing to share wisdom, information and materials than homeschoolers are.

7. Seamlessness. School and life are not separated, they are celebrated. All of life becomes learning and all the world becomes a classroom.

What’s on your “seven wonders” list?

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.

The Case for Excellence part 1

In American society today there  seems to be an allergy to excellence, at least to the Christian idea of excellence. On the one hand you have children afraid to look “smart” in front of their peers. and on the other we have the Martha Stewarts working hard to convince us that perfection is possible. Kids are texting and losing what little grammar skills they may have once possessed while they try hard to be “gangsta.” The excellent is, for the most part, not valued or praised or even seen as something to strive toward.

What is the Christian idea of excellence? I submit that it is not simply getting good grades. It is your internal character and not your “book smarts” that make a person excellent. For example, Daniel in the Bible was described as having an excellent spirit in Daniel 6:3. This fueled hatred among the leaders of the land and that’s how he ended up in the lion’s den. He was not excellent because he was the smartest. He was excellent because of his character.

Christians should set the standard in education. American Christians are blessed beyond measure. We enjoy liberty in every area. Nothing has been held back from us. We have to most to be thankful for—and the most responsibility. We should always strive to work toward excellence. God’s idea of excellence. As we become more and more excellent on the inside, our outward fruit will be excellent as well. We will work harder, be more diligent and make more of an effort to be a good example to others, in word and in deed (Col. 3:17).

The point is not knowledge but wisdom and fear of the Lord. As a Christian my goal is not simply to fill my children with facts until they are ready to pop. They must be able to correctly apply knowledge in real life.

My next post will finish up by discussing the process of excellence and applying scripture to our educational goals.

Reasoning with young children (part 3)

In the final part of this series I wanted to end with some practical application, because that’s what I enjoy.

Imagine the classical music playing in the background as you gather your little chicks for a day of lessons. As you finish your opening prayer your little cherub-faced angel is looking up at you longingly for some words of inspiration. You pontificate as your child sits at your feet, enraptured by your wisdom. Yea, right. Let’s get real…

Reasoning with young children is a little like swimming for the first time. It’s scary but you can’t wait to do it again. You don’t have all the answers (who does??) and you don’t feel fully prepared (you probably never will, honey). The phone rings, the littlest ones get into stuff they shouldn’t and you sometimes have a bad day. How do you manage to carve out some time to reason with your kids?

Reasoning takes place anywhere, anytime. It can be with a simple discussion about grasshoppers or a memory verse from church. Next time your little one asks you a question, I challenge you to ask them some questions back. See if they can answer their own question, at a basic level.

Also you must pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to make you instant in season and out of season. Kids come up with conversations at the strangest times and you would hate to miss out on a wonderful opportunity.

Build time to reason into your daily plans. Don’t fill up with facts and activities and leave no time to ponder things. Give them time to respond with their own thoughts, even if they must take a day to do it. Let them think and get back to you. But don’t forget to get back to it!

Get rid of notebooks with fill-in-the-blank answers. They will never learn to reason that way. Ask your own open-ended questions. When they are young it is very easy to do.

Take time, as you can, to prepare beforehand. I know this can be a struggle sometimes but when you read the lesson ahead and write some points out to reason together it will boost your confidence and you will be more productive.

Keep your Bible and 1828 dictionary close. They will be invaluable to your family as you reason together.

Reasoning with young children (part 2)

Another benefit of reasoning from God’s Word with young children is that it really takes the pressure off me. I have one job to do, and it is up to God and my child to do the rest.

Mustard_tree

My job is simply that of planting seeds. I am to make sure my children have the rudiments, the seeds of every subject. It is not my job to freak out about how they will ever learn all they need to know to “make it in the real world.” No child, no matter how “well educated,” learns everything before they reach the magic age of 18. That’s what living is for, to continue learning and growing.

This quote may help you, as it has me:

When we teach the principles of God’s Word, the rudiments or “bare grain” of any subject, we do not know how the individual will mature or how the body of wisdom and knowledge implanted will be expressed by future generations. But, we are assured if we teach whole, complete principles, and “sow” them in the good ground of a diligent student, that these seeds—will produce fruit after their own kind, and God will give them a body—and identity and individuality—that pleases Him. Careful sowing, watering and weeding cultivated the Truth sown. (A Guide to American Christian Education p. 127)

I do not know what my children will need when they are grown. I don’t even know what I will need tomorrow. But with prayerful preparation, diligence and faithfulness I know I can prepare my children as God would have me to. And that preparation includes reasoning with them from the time they are very young.

It is important to allow your children to reason. These are their property, their own thoughts that they have discovered. When they discover that ability your school time will never be the same. When my children are able to reason, however simple it is, I make a point to remind then that that thought belongs to them. I didn’t give it to them, they did it on their own. Intellectual property is a powerful force. Any insight they gain through reasoning for themselves can never be taken from them. This will strengthen their faith and their ability to reason effectively with others as they grow up.

Reasoning with young children (part 1)

There is a philosophy of education that takes the perspective that reasoning is for older children. Younger children are to be filled with facts and enticed to learn with interesting topics and presentation. I don’t happen to agree.

Mustard Seeds

On the surface, this sounds reasonable enough. How on earth can you reason when you have nothing to reason with? You need a certain amount of knowledge to be able to reason, to think things through. So what about reasoning with a second grader? A kindergartener? Is that even possible? I exhuberantly shout YES!!

The beautiful thing about reasoning from God’s Word is that it is God’s Word. It is alive and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword. It is not head knowledge. It speaks to the heart, to the spirit.  A child can hear the voice of God, just as adults can.

In A Guide to American Christian Education, Mr. Rose discusses the seed principle, that is, when you use the Principle Approach you plant the seeds of the whole subject in principles, not disseminating facts in an evolutionary, fact-based method. You can see in the salvation message that a child and a full-grown adult hear the same Gospel, feel the tugging of the same Holy Spirit and receive the same salvation. It is only the expansion of the idea that is different. It is the same with math, science, HisStory or English. When you are reasoning those subjects from God’s Word then your child, even a young child, can reason at a rudimentary level. The principles are planted and God can grow them into mature plants for His glory.

The most powerful thing I can really say is that I do it every day in my own home. I know that I would have missed out on some wonderful discussions with my children if I had simply been filling their minds with facts and fun. Since we are looking for principles and reasoning together, I cannot imagine doing anything else. And it gets better each year, because they are able to reason deeper and we can take the discussion into uncharted waters. God is good!

And another thing…

…about that game show bothers me. To see a grown man looking pitiful, not knowing the answer and hoping a kid does, just didn’t sit well with me. Grown-ups looking to children for answers isn’t my idea of good television. Or good family harmony.

And this thing of having lots of facts at your fingertips. Einstein didn’t do that. Don’t keep in your head things you can easily look up. The goal is not to raise an encyclopedia, but a child who can look things up in one, and then skillfully apply the knowledge he finds there.

Disjointed, useless facts held together with jokes and smarty pants kids isn’t my idea of a good time. But then again, what do I know. I’m not a 5th grader.

Practical use of critical thinking

Last week I had some coveted down time and sat down with the remote (mistake #1).  As I flipped through the channels I came across the game show “Are you Smarter than a 5th Grader?” (mistake #2). I admit I really knew nothing about the show but it seemd cute and my third grade daughter thought we should check it out. As I listened to the questions from the pre-tween set, I found myself growing uneasy. Some of the first and second grade questions my darling daughter didn’t know the answer to. Since I’m the educator around here I took that personally.

I slowly started thinking about the questions and allowed my inner critic to speak to my inadequacy and it rattled off an impressively long list of my shortcomings. But then something rose up inside me. I refuse to compare my success as a teacher to a game show, and a lame one at that. Facts (especially useless ones) are not a gauge of learning. My children may not know silly facts but they are learning to reason, learning to hear the voice of God, learning to love their neighbor.  And those are things facts can’t do.

I turned off the TV and read a book, satisfied that I am doing right by my kids. They are right on track in every way. Thanks to Jeff Foxworthy for reminding me of that.

Individuality comes out of the closet

When we did our study on homekeeping in October we reasoned from one scripture each day as we colored from this book.  Each day they delighted me with their insight and we enjoyed the study very much. We simply read a scripture and talked about it while they colored. The girls they colored in their books had rainbow hair many days and we had a great time gently reasoning from God’s Word together. I came across some notes I had made while we were talking, my beautiful daughters and I. They are 8.5 and 5.5.

The scripture for that particular day was Proverbs 31:22 and they were reasoning about clothes and why we need them. This is their list.

Clothes:

  • protect us (like a coat or protective gear)
  • cover us (first by God in Genesis)
  • keep us from getting embarrassed (when we are modest)
  • get us certain things (like wearing a uniform)
  • make us unique

I could not have done a better job myself. As for the last one, my oldest daughter has quite a unique perspective on fashion. I love it because she’s comfortable wearing what she likes and not what’s necessarily trendy. You never know what she will come out of her room looking like. (Don’t get me wrong. She’s not a clown, but rather, um, eclectic in her choices.) But she thinks she looks good and her grace and confidence help her to carry off an outfit I never could have worn at her age.

She’s a modest young lady as well, so if I want to question her fashion sense, most times I just smile and let it go. She’s happy being her own person–and that makes me happy too.