Why teach from Biblical principles?

It’s the way Jesus taught.The Pharisees didn’t like his approach much. They wanted facts, rules. He got to the heart of the matter. He was able to sum up the 10 commandments in two principles. His approach frustrates the flesh but gives life to the spirit. There are more examples of His teaching methods than I can list here but I recommend the book Teaching Techniques of Jesus by Herman Horne.

It’s good to begin at the beginning. You must get to the foundation of a subject in order to master it. Beginning with principles is the first step toward subject mastery.

You can teach multiple levels because you are teaching the seeds of the subjects , so you can easily adjust it for different ages. More seed for older children, little bites of kernels for  younger ones.

There is proven success teaching from Biblical principles. America’s founding fathers were educated by principles and were able to reason from God’s word. Their excellent reasoning and ability to form our constitution were a result of their Biblical education.

The subjects are alive in His word and it makes each subject exciting and important when you see how it fits into His Story.

You learn how to learn by beginning with the foundation of a subject. The steps to discovering Biblical principles apply to any subject at any time and carry across the curriculum.

Portable teacher’s desk

These little craft caddies are so handy. Since we usually have school at the table and the desk is in the other room, I put together all the little things that I need through the day. Some things in this cute caddy:

  • glue sticks
  • stapler
  • 3 hole punch
  • reward stickers
  • E-Z grader & red pen
  • Dry Wipe markers, eraser & cleaner
  • Sticky notes
  • brads & paper clips
  • tape
  • hole reinforcements
  • scissors
  • small Bible

I also created a paper caddy with an accordion folder. In there I have all kinds of papers and handouts. It’s grab-and-go easy. These two little tools make homeschooling a little easier for us.

We are history

History to many people seems like a dusty book that you bring out and teach your kids when you have to meet state requirements or because you “have to.” History is not that at all. It is not a stale timeline or disjointed facts from long ago. It’s alive and it’s happening all around you right now.

History, or His Story, is going on every second the clock is ticking. Yesterday is history, is it not? History is a record of all that has happened since God created time. But it really has always been because God’s story has always been. So we focus on man’s history but really it’s God’s story.

Why do I say we are history? Because we are in time, we are God’s story, we help further His story. One day my family, if no one else, will look back on what I’ve done and hopefully they will see that I furthered His Story in some way. I want them to be able to say that I had some hand in God’s plan for mankind, that I made a difference–even in only one life.

I know God is the only one that can truly know what impact my life has had here, and I look forward to those words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” But I think there should be a trail behind me for others to follow. My history, intertwined with God’s, can lead others to the Truth long after I am gone.

Unique ways to test your kids

TEST, v.t. To compare with a standard; to try; to prove the truth or genuineness of any thing by experiment or by some fixed principle or standard; as, to test the soundness of a principle; to test the validity of an argument.

Webster’s 1828 Dictionary

Testing is something I believe in. As a Christian and believer in God’s word, I take examples and commands seriously. God says to test Him (Mal. 3:10), test spirits (1 Jn. 4:1) and to test our faith (2 Cor. 13:5). According to Webster’s definition, I have a standard, a fixed principle (God’s Word, the principles of the subject, the rudiments) that I am to judge my children against. It is my right and responsibility to make sure they are adequately mastering the principles I am trying to teach them.

Evaluating your kid’s proficiency can be a “testy” subject among home educators. To formally test or not to test? There are valid reasons on both sides of this issue. Whether you are a tester who is tired of the routine or a non-tester who may be thinking of an occasional assessment, these out-of-the-box ideas may get you thinking about testing in a different light.

  • Have them write and act out a play demonstrating understanding of concepts.
  • They can explain what they have learned to a grandparent or friend.
  • Older students can write (and grade) and essay test for you to take on what they have been learning.
  • Make an art project illustrating principles and ideas of the subjects.
  • Make a board game with ideas they have learned.
  • Put the questions on index cards spread on the floor. Let them jump from card to card to answer the questions.
  • Write a newspaper article or newscast. This is great practice for fact-filled learning.
  • If you need a traditional test, let them verbalize the answers instead of writing them. Younger students think much faster than they can write, so verbal tests can ease their testing anxiety.

Any of these activities can give you a great idea of how much they have learned without traditional paper and pencil testing. You may do many of these things now and not think of them as evaluation tools. Next time you need to test, try one of these and see if your kids don’t ask you to test more often!

The case for excellence part 2

Excellence is not a light switch. It’s not something that you wake up one day and you suddenly are, like a birthday. It’s more like getting grey hair; it happens one strand at a time.

The process of excellence is important. Like a baby chick must struggle to shed its shell, the struggle to learn is necessary and rewarding.

Knowing

this, that

the trying

of your

faith

worketh

patience. But

let

patience

have

her perfect

work,

that

ye may be

perfect

and

entire,

wanting

nothing

. James 1:3, 4

The trying of our faith increases patience. This increased patience (fruit of the spirit) brings increased perfection, or wholeness. It is a glorious chain reaction that we would never wish to short circuit in our children. He has struggles for them in their learning, in their reasoning, in their finding their way in their own faith. If they never get the chance to reason from Scripture for themselves they will never get to the wholeness, to the security of their own faith in Christ.

And this is true excellence. Ownership of your own faith, not your parents’ faith. Internal government, governing self with Christ’s superintendence and the Holy Spirit’s faithful guidance. The ability to give an reason for the hope that lies within you (1 Peter 3:15).

My goal is to this: to give my children every opportunity to struggle, not to be a stumbling block but a coach that pushes you farther than you thought you could go. I love that scene in “Facing the Giants” when the Coach Taylor shows Brock that he had more in him that he thought possible, driving him to crawl the entire length of the field with another player on his back. Once Brock got a vision, once he saw what was possible, he was like a new player and he influenced all the other players.

I want my kids to push and struggle and fight with all their might. I want them to give their all and lay exhausted in the end zone, amazed at what their God was able to do through them.

What sweet satisfaction, this excellence.

Individuality of subjects

The first Biblical principle we study, and the overarching principle as well, is “God’s Principle of Individuality.” This principle can be seen everywhere, and we focus on seeing it in the subjects.

If God cares about individuality, then if we study the subjects individually we are enjoying the distinctiveness of each subject. There is a rich history, diverse vocabulary and important principles that each subject contains. A goal of learning with the Biblical Principle Approach is not fact mastery but subject mastery (through principles).

We are not discussing facts but principles, so multiple grades are able to learn together. There is no need for complicated lesson plans for each child. A little modification and all your children can learn at the same time.

How can we understand the unique vocabulary and rudiments of a subject if they are all lumped together? Each subject has its own language and foundation. It is important for children to learn these in order to master the subject.

When you understand the rudiments of a subject, along with its vocabulary, you are able to see how the subjects naturally overlap and fit together. There are common principles that bring the subjects in harmony and bring a richer appreciation of all the subjects.

For more reading on the subject, these two PDF handouts are available for download.

Selected Quotes Concerning the Individuality of Subjects

My personal notes concerning unit studies vs. individuality of subjects

I have nothing against unit studies per se, I just prefer a distinct subject methodology with natural subject integration. What I mean is I do not rally around a topic but around the principle of a subject. I may pick a certain topic that several subjects will naturally fit into but I do not try to contrive lessons to fit a topic.

Once or twice a year I will do a study on a subject and the subjects will naturally integrate, such as a study on Bach (which we are starting this week). HisStory, geography, literature, English and music are all naturally covered as we read through the book, adding to our enjoyment and understanding of the life and times (and character) of Bach. The subjects add to our understanding of cause and effect, of the things that made Bach who he was. They are not disjointed facts but parts of the whole under the principle of individuality. We see how, where, with whom and when he lived contributed to his character. Along with this study we continue our math, Bible and science separately.

The subjects are beautiful and unique. I don’t want my children to miss out on the treasures that each subject contains. 

I hope this post will spark some conversation regarding the topic.  I will begin over the next several weeks to go over each of the individual subjects, beginning with history. Our Thursday chat will also correspond to the weekly subject.

Homeschooling high schoolers with confidence

I enjoyed Cindy Rushton’s last seminar so much I wanted to tell you about her seminar coming up this weekend. It’s called “Does Homeschooling Through High School Scare You?” Her workshops are live chats and a web site with links to articles and lots of info that you can have access to in the future. Here’s what she says about it:

Cindy Rushton

Want to homeschool–but wonder about what to do about High School? Do you want practical, real-life, proven ideas for teaching throughout the high school years? Or, maybe you could just use a big dose of encouragement? Real help is available from real homeschool moms who guarantee to help you to homeschool the easy way through the high school years. 

 There are two ways to enjoy it. You can attend live for F*R*E*E. That’s right. It’s free to attend live and get in on all the great door prizes and goodies she gives away. Or you can buy a ticket. This will give you access to the recorded audio, chat transcriptions, spacial giveaways and lots more from the membership site.

It would be a good thing to attend even if you don’t have kids in high school yet. We are all looking to the future and her seminar may be just what you need to hear.

Click here to read all about it and to sign up. Hope you will consider going. Her seminars are always lots of fun and chock full of great information.

Paring down and gearing up

As we prepare to get back to our lessons next week, I’ve been prayerfully considering what to do and what to avoid this year. These are some things

Sun Flowers

I’ve realized:

  • less is more. I don’t have to teach a lot to teach a lot.
  • it depends a lot on my preparation as a teacher. I am not confident when I just open a book and try to teach. I must internalize what I am teaching.
  • My kids need things in small bites, and our schedule reflects that.
  • I don’t need lots of stuff (like teaching aids and such). It clutters and actually distracts us from learning.
  • I must be sold out. I can’t be half-hearted in educating my kids.
  • I need to plan things. I’m not good with a vague idea of how the year will go. If it’s not written down, I probably will not do it.
  • I have to be careful not to overplan (see #1)

I am seeing what I can keep, what I can do differently and what I can simply let go of. That process really charges me up for the next year. I feel things are fresh again and I’m ready to take on another year.

Getting out there…

…is the third installment of the Back to Homeschool Week.

Socialization seems to be the default objection for those who disagree with the notion of home education. This has got to be the weakest argument that one can make regarding school choices–unless you live in the middle of nowhere and have no church, community, family or friends.

My children get plenty of social interaction, and they get it in doses they can handle. They are in choir that reaches into the community, Missionettes and have many friends. Oh, and they take a drawing class with grandma and 6dd attends a group piano lesson. Our family lives here so they get to see cousins, grandparents and other relatives often. We visit some small shoppes regularly and they know the owners and customers. Too much socialization makes my kids tired and grouchy. And it’s hard to get schooling done. They need a balance of quiet time at home and time with people of all ages, preferably in a service of some kind, like visiting the nursing home or taking cookies to the firehouse. And a fun sleepover is great too.

We don’t do co-ops right now. They just don’t appeal to me at this time. We take field trips when they are appropriate but we don’t usually take trips “just to get out of the house.” My kids like the routine of home and we enjoy our school time together.

How I home educate

I’m not sure what to say here, because if you read this blog at all you know exactly how I educate my kids. But I’ll try to sum it up in a nutshell. For more details, poke around in my archives.

As my name indicates (and my tag line too), I use the Biblical Principle Approach. That means I view things governmentally, that is, who or what is in control. We see that all subjects originate from God and how we fit into HisStory. How does this work day to day?

Capitol Cornerstone Ceremony

Our lessons use a natural 4-R process of learning: research, reason, relate, record. We use a Christian classical method, I guess you would say. The lessons spring from Biblical principles and we expand them as the children are able to reason more deeply. Our focus is not on topics, or even subjects, but on the principles and rudiments of each subject. Once a child understands the basic principles and rudiments he has the tools to master the subject as an independent learner.

I absolutely adore BPA and will never use anything else (and believe me, I’ve tried!). Once I learned how to teach mychild using Biblical principles it’s hard to do anything else, even with the hard work it requires of me.

 I have a wide gap between my kids (4th grade, 1st grade and 3yo), so I have to rely on the principles during our lessons. I expand them to fit the ability of each of them. My 3yo loves to sit with us and “do school too,” so he sits in his own chair and I give him work to do (coloring, file folder games, etc) because if he’s not in the room with us something will go wrong! We have some school, take a break, have a little more, and then after lunch we do foreign language and enrichment. I try to break up the day into small bites so we don’t get burned out with a big chunk of time. It works for us.

We try to do a variety of things–writing, activities, reading aloud, whatever will spice up the lesson without being busy work. I try to keep lessons simple and not get carried away with activities. I find I tend to focus on the next thing and not the point of the lesson, so we keep things simple.

We also educate year-round, so we take off the month of December to focus on Christ’s birth. We take off many days throughout the year and it is working well for us. I like not having big chunks of time off to goof around. I plan my lessons all along, according to a basic plan I create in August each year. I can tweak it as necessary throughout the year. 

We are heading into our fifth year of home education and in a lot of ways I still feel like a newbie. But that’s part of the joy for me. There’s always new ground to cover, new joys to discover and new challenges to overcome. And there’s nothing more satisfying than seeing my child “get it”, when their eyes light up at the satisfaction of learning. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.