CF: Veteran Hs'er Series 2014

Cultivating Creativity in the Classical Homeschool, by Briana Elizabeth

I’m a bit privileged in that I get to read everyone’s posts for Sandbox to Socrates before they go up. Not because I’m an editor, but because I’m nosy and I love seeing what everyone’s up to. Something that I was going to talk about in this article on creativity in the homeschool was scaffolding, and I would like to point out that everyone’s posts were about scaffolding their children’s inherent creativity.

In Lynne’s post, she talked about how she bought the boys all of the regular art supplies, but her boys didn’t like them so much. However, she gave them the opportunities to use things that they had in non-proscribed ways and then praised what they came up with!

Which in a very unexpected way is what scaffolding  and creativity is about.

This is Bloom’s Taxonomy, which shows the orders of learning. If you look at the top purple part, the definition of create is “Combining information, concepts and theories to form a unique product. Requires creativity and originality.” Lynne’s boys embody creativity, just not the kind she was used to seeing. She was open, put aside her ego as to what she thought ‘creativity’ should look like and let them express their own true creativity.

So, how do we scaffold our children’s creativity? We give them the products, we give them instruction on how to use the products, and then we stand back.

That’s not a lot, and yet, it actually is. Scaffolding is a structure around something being built; then the scaffolding is taken down. It’s a temporary structure. It’s empty. It will be filled with what your child builds.

Creativity is also how you can tell if your child has learned what you’ve been teaching, so it is something that you want to pay attention to.

So, how can we promote creativity in our homeschool?

If we’re just talking about artistic endeavors, we pay attention to what they are drawn to, and we show them how the materials are used. We could give them a project, like here’s how you set up a still life, and here are stamps to press into the clay,  and then stand back. At my house I have children who play instruments, others who write poetry, and some who are artists in the traditional sense of paints and pencils.

But, if creativity is the apex of learning, how do we bring that into ALL of our schooling, not just ‘art’ classes?

Is giving the child a full ‘art’ package really allowing them to be creative? Or are we just dragging them through an artistic experience and counting that product as the achieved goal? Is paint by numbers really an expression of a child’s creativity? Is it really about shadow, light, tone, and correct perception? Or is it about being able to match numbers to colors and applying them correctly? Are we requiring disembodied  projects and calling them creativity because the student has done precisely what we expected them to do in a fill-in-the-blank way?

What really drove this point home for me was reading Laurie Bestvater’s The Living Page: Keeping Notebooks with Charlotte Mason.

pg 64 “The main principle, the hard one to keep in view in our end-gaining society, is that Charlotte Mason’s various paper activities are essential instruments as opposed to artifacts; for process, more than product.”

And on page 65, she says, “Does this represent a complete unschooling, anything goes, Summerhill approach where the child is free to write or mark the page in any way he chooses? No, clearly no; teachers may still, indeed must, specify–a written history, narration or a particular map copied, or a poem composed in ballad form, is a productive and essential limit but the sifting and presentation of the content and noticing are all the child’s.”

Then on page 66, Bestvater quotes Mason’s Philosophy, pg 149, “…to a child who perceives these things miracles will not be matters of supreme moment because all life will be for him matter for wonder and adoration.”

This also can be heard in Mr. Kern’s oft quoted, “You become what you behold.”  Or Remembering, Thinking, Communicating, as Stratford Caldecott said it. It is the Lectio, Meditatio, Compositi  as Ms Rallens teaches us. If we’ve truly beheld something, we become it, we communicate, we create. So do we take a lesson and build a project around it? No. We build a scaffold and respect the child enough to let him create on his own.

First, I know that they need to have the base knowledge, the Remembering, Lectio part. Then they need to obtain the skills. They need to learn the poetic tropes, the scales, the color wheel and paints. Then they need to have the time-this is where the Meditatio, Thinking, Understanding comes in. You can’t command it. You can exercise it, you can practice, you can plan, you can build skill, you always keep working at it, but how those connections are made in your head, that is the unknown. How a child will represent what they have learned is so individualistic and unique, and isn’t that the beautiful part? Do we really want to turn that into paint by numbers? Isn’t that just fill-in-the-blank’s eclectic sister?

My job is to give them the tools and the opportunity. I show them art, we read poetry, and we listen to great music so that they are filling their own wells. 


So far, what I’ve discovered is that we resist the extreme pull to produce all but the final product for the child. I think this last part is the scariest and – for a parent – the part that requires the most respect of the child. We let them put their own connections together, we give them to room to work their own knowledge with their own skills and we get out of their way. We drop our expectations of what their creativity should look like. We let them fully be persons of their own.


Briana Elizabeth has been at this homeschool gig since her 23 year old son was in 7th grade, and his psychiatrist told her that he had to be homeschooled. Her son never went back to public school that year, and the following year, she pulled her 4th grade daughter out of public school. Her five other children have all been homeschooled entirely. It was baptism by fire, but she wouldn’t trade it for the world. Through the years, she has in the end, not only educated her children, but herself, and homeschooling has brought about a whole paradigm change of living for her family. The education that had seemed only possible for the elite was possible through classically homeschooling.


CF: Veteran Hs'er Series 2014, Veteran Homeschoolers

Making Connections, by Lynne

My friend Lisa called me the other day to talk about lesson planning. It turned into one of those conversations that I’m still ruminating over several days later. We live in state that requires us to tick off a box to say that we will cover certain subjects — reading, spelling, geography, math, etc. So when I’m choosing what we will work on in a year, I definitely choose materials that will cover all those areas.

But covering all those subjects is not my primary goal in home educating my children — not by a long shot. Here’s my goal: Facilitate learning for my children so that they will have an understanding of humanity, in its myriad facets, by the time they graduate high school. What does this mean? Well, as Lisa and I discussed, it has to do with making connections.

We were talking about the differences in how we approach literature study. I attempt to choose some (not all) of our reading selections to roughly line up with our history studies. I choose historical fiction and folk tales, for instance. I was telling her that in doing it this way, without even trying, we are bombarded with identical themes and reinforcement of information. Lisa doesn’t worry about lining up with history and just chooses good, classic literature as the base, with tons of other reading as the topping. Lisa was concerned that her (brilliant and adorable) daughter might not make connections between some aspects of history or other subjects without having them explicitly pointed out to her. I told her that I thought she didn’t need to worry about that at all.

People who read the classics will acquire the ability to make connections just by reading those books. It doesn’t really matter which titles you choose. In my limited experience of reading timeless literature, I have found that an entire education is contained within the pages of these volumes. If you spend your energy on reading books that have endured throughout decades and centuries, you will see the story of man unfold. You will see the path of human history. You will see the references and influences of other great literature. You will experience history in a first-person voice. You will learn geography through rich descriptions of landscape and setting. You will understand that humanity is continually in conflict. You will understand that love and sacrifice are what make life worth living.

I’m not excluding modern literature in that assessment, either. There are some recently published books that I know will stand the test of time and become legend in their own right.

Can you learn math through great books? Maybe; maybe not. Math is important. I’d spend a little time learning the basic functions of math to help you out with your daily life and finances — unless you plan to be an engineer or an architect or an estimator, for example. Then, I’d pursue higher math. But what you can learn from great books is to not be concerned with money over people, not to be a spendthrift, not to count your chickens before they’re hatched. These are valuable lessons, too.

In any case, I assured Lisa that her daughter would be able to make these connections on her own. I’ve never seen a more enthusiastic library patron than Lisa’s daughter. With the amount of information she has absorbed through reading, I think she’ll be just fine.

We also talked about education with a purpose. Lisa and I spend a significant amount of time thinking about how we want our kids to learn, what we want them to learn, where we want them to learn. We aren’t haphazardly throwing materials and information at them. We are carefully planning and voraciously reading in order to provide our kids with a solid base that will get them through college, should they choose to go, and more importantly, through the rest of their lives.

I really don’t care what my children score on some test. It’s meaningless to me. My kids do okay on most standardized tests because they’ve been exposed to a variety of material, but those scores are not my goal. My goal is to have kids that are familiar with the general scope of human history, the path of scientific development, and the everlasting themes of language and literature. Those things will remain with them always and provide them with the groundwork to grow and learn even more.

Photo courtesy of Vickie Mathews at


Lynne–Lynne has enjoyed homeschooling her two sons for the past three years, after their brief stint in the local public school.  Her older son is a humorous fellow with high functioning autism who thrives in a home education environment.  Her younger son is a sensitive soul with a great deal of patience. The boys, Mom, and Dad, along with the two guinea pigs, live in Northeast Ohio.  Lynne holds a Master’s Degree in French Language and Literature.  She is also a Harry Potter fanatic, enjoys line dancing and Zumba, spends hours scrapbooking, and loves organic vegetables.  You can visit her soon-to-be revitalized blog at

Arts & Crafts Explained

Arts and Crafts Explained: Colored Pencil Lesson Roundup, by Apryl

Pictures from students who participated in Apryl’s Beginning Colored Pencils lesson:



Apryl–Born and raised in Tennessee, Apryl is a southern girl at heart.  She lives out in the country with her husband and her three daughters. She is an artist, photographer and a homeschooler.  After having an unfulfilling public school education herself, and struggling to find peace with the education her girls were receiving in the public school system, she made the choice to homeschool.  When they began their homeschool journey, the girls were in the third and sixth grades.  Now she is happily coaching three teenaged daughters through their high school years.  You can visit her blog at Following Him Home

Student Spotlight

Student Spotlight: Imperialism (Essay of Definition), by Nathaniel

Imperialism, according to the 11th edition of the Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary, is “the policy, practice, or advocacy of extending the power and dominion of a nation, especially by direct territorial acquisition or by gaining indirect control over the political or economic life of other areas.” Its meaning is closely tied to that of empire, imperious, and by extension, the concept of command. It appropriately stems from the Latin root for empire, imperium, since the Romans established the first true empire of the ancient world and set the model for empires to come for centuries. It has been used most frequently to refer to the dramatic expansion of British dominion during the mid-19th century.

Imperialism is the “policy, practice, or advocacy” of certain actions. “Policy” refers to the belief that certain actions are right or correct. “Practice” means that those actions are actually implemented. “Advocacy” refers to the furtherance of such ideals through publicity and explanation often accompanied by personal practice. The actions and ideals referenced by the definition include power and dominion through either direct territorial acquisition or indirect control. Direct territorial acquisition refers most often to a military takeover. Indirect control refers to political, economic, or social influence without specific authority which nonetheless directs the course of affairs in a nation.

The term “imperialism” is derived from the Latin root imperium, meaning “empire” or “dominion.” It shares a stem with “imperator,” meaning emperor, or one who exercises authority. It has a sense of domination, and, appropriately, imperiousness. It has negative connotations when one considers the effect of territorial acquisition on the inhabitants. The word evokes greed and avarice, but at the same time a sense of order and regimentation. Like wooden pillars holding up a stone vault, the empire rests on uncertain colonies whose core may be rotting despite the marble exterior.

The term applies to ancient Rome, but not to ancient Egypt. Why is this true? The answer lies in the definition. Egypt was geographically only interested in the land along the Nile, not in direct territorial acquisition. She was not invested in direct control of other territories either. She did trade with other countries, but she was typically content to let the other countries rule themselves and send tributes. Rome, on the other hand, began as a small village, grew to a republic, and eventually became an empire which directly dominated the areas surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, extending east as far as the Black Sea and west as far as France and Britain. Rome maintained direct control and believed strongly in the peacekeeping duty of the empire, which the citizens believed represented civilization and order. People called this doctrine the Pax Romana, or peace of Rome. Those emperors most distinctly Roman were those most motivated toward direct territorial acquisition and expansion.

Since the relative complacency of the Middle Ages, the idea of imperialism has manifested itself in the Ottoman Turks, the Spanish, the French, the British, and many others especially in the 20th century. It was most notable in the British as they expanded into the East Indies and China. Imperialism depends on the idea of domination and land acquisition but not just conquering. An empire is not an empire without a certain diversity in the conquered people. The identifying ethnic characteristic of an empire is a wide range of people and tribes being joined together under the control of one strong nation. This is another reason that the Egyptian civilization does not qualify as an empire. Egyptians, as a people, were fairly homogenous. The Romans, however, were a people united only by language and dress. Their heritages differed from Celtic paganism and ritualism to Judean Christianity. Any common culture was an adopted one, which is the essence of an empire.

Americans derive the word signifying territorial ambition and domination from the Latin, and we derive the meaning from the Romans. Our own civilization has an unusual distinction in this context. Subsequent to the conclusion of the Westward Expansion, America has not moved to acquire any new territory except Hawaii, and we make motions to help any countries with which we have militarily interfered to regain self-rule. We cannot avoid the fact that America has progressed through the stages of colony, confederation, and republic, and only awaits a revolution in our form of government to make it an empire. However, with acceptance of the values of an empire comes rejection of the democratic values held by Americans to this day. When we become an empire, we are no longer America.

Nathaniel is a homeschooled senior, preparing to enter college to study mechanical engineering next fall. His favorite school subjects are Calculus and Greek. He’s a folk musician who performs at small venues locally, and he is also part of his church’s worship band (playing electric guitar, keys, and occasionally banjo, when the opportunity arises). Nathaniel is also involved in Civil Air Patrol. For further socialization he works part-time at a taco shack.

Education is a Life

The World is Our Schoolroom: August 22nd Edition

More beautiful photographs of children learning wherever they are!

This is a weekly feature at Sandbox to Socrates, and we are looking for submissions!  Each week we will pick the top 5 photos and feature them on our blog.  You can submit your photos by linking to them in the comments below, or by posting them in our Facebook Group. Please only submit photos that you own and that everyone in the photo has given permission to be published on our blog.

*The Facebook Group is a closed group, but open for anyone to join.  This means that while anyone can join the group, posts are visible only to the members of the group.

Uncategorized, Veteran Homeschoolers

Follow Your Heart, by Briana Elizabeth

Have you ever talked to a homeschooler who had high school children who were doing amazing things? Not just extra-curricular hobbies, but starting non-profit organizations, running farms, taking outreach classes at universities, performing music on the weekend, or running their own businesses?

I’m privileged to know a few, and they are inspiring. They were so inspiring, they made me start questioning my own children about what they liked to do. Not what they would like to do (future), but what they like to do (present). It was something I had never asked because I had separated classical schooling from hopes and dreams. Education had nothing to do with careers and dreams, did it?

For a while, I sat on that information because truthfully, it overwhelmed me. But I also must admit that they didn’t tell me anything I didn’t know before.

My oldest daughter wanted to be a cosmetologist. After my initial trepidation, I worked at getting her into a vocational school as a share time student (meaning she did her academics at home, and went to school for her shop classes).

she passed the state board exams, also

She did have to go back to public school full time for the last year because the state licensing board wouldn’t acknowledge her homeschool diploma, and that wasn’t a fight I was willing to take on at the time.

Doing hair when her sisters were in a school play

She is now working at an amazing organic hair salon and very happy with her decision, even though she had to read The Scarlett Letter three times between her homeschool lit classes and her senior year English class.

My middle son took a completely different route. One of my favorite pictures of my now 15-year-old son is of him as a toddler, asleep with earphones on. We were on our way to Maine, and he was unhappy unless he had those headphones on. That was the start of his intense love of music.

music calming my little savage

We held off on buying him his first guitar, but after we did, he saved his money and bought many more. He then acquired a banjo, a mandolin, and a ukulele. He also plays bari sax, and tenor sax with the school band and marching band as an after school activity. (Our district allows homeschool kids to join certain public school activities.)

first guitar

His other loves were Legos, robotics, and designing things. He now is an amazing musician, and wants to be a luthier and an engineer. We were amazed to find out that perhaps the country’s best luthier lived in our county, and soon my son will be taking classes with him. He’s also making sure he works hard on his other academic courses because he knows he wants to head to college.

if you don’t play every day, you lose your calluses

I also have twin 12-year-old girls, and from the time they were tiny, they were as different as night and day. One loved baby dolls with all of her heart, but the other wanted nothing to do with them and would look at them disdainfully and toss them across the room.

my ladybug queen

The one who loved babies wants to be a teacher and a mother. The other one wants to be a kennel owner, and for a long time wanted to be a vet.

chicken whisperer

We work with animals every chance we get. It would be no surprise to those who know us that when we can, we’ll be hopefully buying a farm.

champion puppy whelping team

My youngest son has always been physical. He is very aware of how his body moves, and the space he takes up. It doesn’t take him long to learn complicated physical things, and he has always been this way.

Yep, he did it.

He is now in football. We are all excited about going to his games, and cheering him on!

practice, practice, practice

Where he goes with his love of physical activities is up to him. I could see him in martial arts competitions, mountain climbing, and even in the armed forces, though lately he’s expressed a desire to be a police officer.

My youngest who is 8 asks me once a week if it’s a good thing to be an artist. Ever since she was a toddler, she’s been drawing and coloring every chance she got. She has free reign of my paints and paper, and of my pastels, and pencils, and she is on her path.

My oldest son that I classically homeschooled through 10th grade is deep in his two loves: cooking, and mechanics.

Here’s the thing: If there is any educational style that befits any child no matter their path, the classical model is it. I want my plumber to know Longfellow. I want my banker to know Faust. Classical education is about the true, the good, and the beautiful. It is about developing virtue, and I honestly can’t think of one profession that doesn’t need both.

So how do we incorporate both? With ample amounts of time, and for this, homeschooling is the best. My son who is a musician was able to learn all of those instruments by my giving him the time to learn them. By truly living multum non multa. By weeding out all of the unnecessary, be that books or co-ops, so that they have time to pursue what they love, and so that they also have time to fruitfully rest. It may not be easy, this path, but it is amazing, and delightful, and deeply gratifying.

Briabrianana Elizabeth has been at this homeschool gig since her 23 year old son was in 7th grade, and his psychiatrist told her that he had to be homeschooled. Her son never went back to public school that year, and the following year, she pulled her 4th grade daughter out of public school. Her five other children have all been homeschooled entirely. It was baptism by fire, but she wouldn’t trade it for the world. Through the years, she has in the end, not only educated her children, but herself, and homeschooling has brought about a whole paradigm change of living for her family. The education that had seemed only possible for the elite was possible through classically homeschooling.

Biomes, Science

World Biomes #6: The Deciduous or Temperate Forest, by Cheryl

Previously: The Ocean

The fun part of this study has been that I never know where we will end up! I select a biome; I pick up all the books our library has, and any we have lying around at home. We read. We learn about the biome’s animals and plants, but we always come across a topic in general biology or ecology that I did not expect to cover. This time we had a detailed lesson in food chains and animal life cycles! They are topics we have covered in this study already, but we were given some new vocabulary words to describe the food chain, and we discovered some new things about animals and their young.

Forest by Sean Callery covers eleven animals in three food chains. It describes the life cycle of each animal as well as it’s place in the biome’s food chain.

Temperate Forests by John Woodward and Deciduous Forests by Jennifer Hurtig both give great overviews of this biome.

Animal Homes by Angela Wilkes is a book we found in a Chick-Fil-A kids’ meal. I love that they place books in their kids meals! We have a few lined up for the next parts of our study!

Investigating Why Leaves Change Their Color by Ellen Rene and Fall Leaves: Colorful and Crunchy by Martha E.H. Rustad taught us about decidious trees and how leaves make food.

Animals of the Deciduous Forest

Animals we found in this habitat include the white crab spider, gray langur, Bengal tiger, woodpeckers, blue jays, white-tailed deer, opossums, black bear, vampire bats, red-tailed hawks, stick insects, giant pandas, chipmunks, lynx, snow monkey, koalas, hornbills, wild dogs, chameleons, and my daughter’s favorite — the sugar glider!

We took a field trip to the zoo where we were able to see white-tailed deer, chameleons, wild dogs, bats, tigers, black rat snakes, and red-tailed hawks.

Deciduous Trees and Plants of the Temperate Forest

We learned to identify oak, maple, and elm trees by their leaves. We also looked at the ferns and mosses that grow in the forest.


Food Chain, Producers, Primary Consumers, Secondary Consumers, Predator (Tertiary Consumers), Decomposers, Torpor, Ruminants, Pigments, Chlorophyll, Carotenoids, Anthocyanins, Tannins

Fun Fact

The deciduous forests lie between the tropics and the Arctic and Antarctic Circles. While some biomes experience one or two seasons each year, the temperate forests have four very distinct seasons.

Fun and Easy Activities

The Chick-Fil-A books are great for a few reasons: they are quick reads, they have good information, and they have easy activities! We made birds’ nests out of paper bowls, grass and leaves from the yard, and a little glue.

We also made leaf prints. We picked leaves from the yard, laid them on watercolor paper, covered them with a paper towel and gently hammered them. My daughter loved the beautiful prints it made. I think we will repeat this in the fall with many colored leaves to see what happens!


I got a little carried away with this lapbook! Match Animals to their Homes, print two Pockets (one for your Animals and one for your Bird pictures 1, 2, 3), identify the leaves of Deciduous Trees, mark the forest areas on your Map, review vocabulary, and identify the Parts of a Leaf. Don’t forget to color your Cover Page!


Next time: The Mountains!


Checherylryl–Cheryl is a singing, dancing, baking, homeschooling mom of three. She has danced her whole life and taught ballet and theatre for most of her adult life. Her favorite pastime has always been cooking and baking, and as a Pampered Chef Independent Consultant she gets to share that love with others. Home educating her three children has been and continues to be one of her greatest learning experiences! It is an adventure she is ready to continue.

CF: Veteran Hs'er Series 2014, Education is a Life

The Universe Provides, by Genevieve

Above photo by Martin Petkovsek

I may be certifiably insane.

When my eleven-year-old told me that she would like to raise dairy goats for showing and for family milk, I didn’t blink. Never mind that we knew nothing about dairy goats. Never mind that we lived in the middle of suburbia. Never mind that she was…um…a child.

The Reverend Jesse says that the universe shops all great ideas. It’s up to you to respond. Do you latch on and bring it to fruition, or tell yourself, “No one would want to read about a boy who goes to wizarding school anyway.” So we sold our house and bought a little property outside of town. For her twelfth birthday, Madeleine got two little Nigerian Dwarf doelings.

While we may not have known anything about raising dairy goats when we started, we learned quickly enough. The universe provided, when we befriended one of the foundational breeders of Nigerian Dwarf goats. I could not have envisioned it when Madeleine first came to me with her idea, but she was soon being mentored by the definitive expert of the breed. Little did we know when she was advising us on our first goats, that she would continue helping us with every facet of our little enterprise to this day, eight years later.

You can imagine what happened next.

The does had babies and their babies had babies and those two goats increased to thirty. She now had  a proper herd, and the feed bill to go with it. Using some of our excess goat milk, we made our first batch of soap which was a big hit with friends and family.

My dad believed in dreams too, so he took Madeleine to the bank and handed her a $100 bill to open a company bank account. Now she had a product, but where could she sell it?

You might think that the Texas Renaissance Festival is an unlikely answer to that question. We have a history with the place. I grew up there, passing the hat while my dad played music, and swimming in the lake after hours. When I got older, my father built a booth (mainly so that he would have more freedom to play instead of keeping the tight schedule that festival musicians adhered to.) I’m not sure he ever sold a single item, but it was a great triumph when his three-story booth was declared “the tallest building in the kingdom.”

Soon, that victory paled in comparison to his new dream. The dream of being king.

Well, not the actual king responsible for the actual kingdom. That would be FAR too much work. But a gypsy king…

Therefore, I was not surprised when Madeleine informed me that she was applying for her own booth at the festival. “It’s not like it was when we were growing up.” “It’s so competitive to get in now.” My friends warned me not to get my hopes up.

Once again, the universe provided. Madeleine teamed up with her mentor to devise new products and to present them in the most appealing manner. I didn’t think anything would come of it, but since she was only sixteen, I told myself that the application and proposal process was a great homeschool project.

Two days after turning this in, she received an ecstatic phone call, “You’re in! You’re in! We loved your samples, you’re in!” I tried not to panic.

Homeschooling provided a perfect environment for the work ahead. We still needed to produce 10,000 bars of soap, and staff our booth… with children? Madeleine’s mentor and her daughter joined our paltry workforce and helped with everything from ideas to sales. Everybody pulled together and worked hard to make this happen.

Well, some kids worked harder than others…

When Madeleine first decided to apply, we had no idea that the festival had recently acquired a new general manager. The universe provided again, giving us an ally with a vision of a festival with Dancing Dog Dairy right smack in the middle of it (both literally and figuratively).

But the universe didn’t stop there. Unbeknowst to us all, the manager assigned us the exact location that my dad had reigned over as gypsy king so many years before.

Looking back at the past nine years from the first glimmer of an idea, to our fourth year at TRF, the benefits become clear.

All of the children have gained poise and confidence in the show ring.

They’ve learned new skills.

They’ve developed strong work ethics,

and made good friends,

in high places.

Homeschooling allowed my children to start fulfilling their dreams while continuing their education, instead of having to wait until after college graduation. Just as we had no idea what was in store for us when we started this journey, we are equally unclear on how it will end; but one thing I’ve learned about childrearing, homeschooling and running a business is that it really helps if you’re insane,

and I know exactly who I inherited it from.

GeGenevievenevieveis a former public and private school teacher who has five children and has been homeschooling for the past thirteen years. In her free time she provides slave labor to Dancing Dog Dairy, making goat milk soap and handspun yarn, which can be seen on Our Facebook Page and at Dancing Dog Dairy .

CF: Veteran Hs'er Series 2014

What I Would Tell New Homeschooling Parents, by Diane

Today we offer a guest post by Diane, a friend of Sandbox to Socrates and a homeschooling mother of two decades’ experience.

It is very hard to explain to a homeschool mom with young children, or a homeschool mom with only a few years of experience, exactly how to do the things that you’re doing when you’ve done it for so long. Just a curriculum list won’t cut it, because the curriculum itself isn’t doing the instructing.

I also think that your ability to teach in this classical manner is VERY dependent on your own educational experience. What are you bringing to the table as a teacher? If your own education was lacking, you are going to have a much harder time executing this than a mom who was classically educated as a child.

Simply as background information: I was fortunate enough to have a classical education before anybody even called it that. I studied Latin in high school for all four years, so teaching Latin to my own kids is easy. I’ve studied both French and Italian since second grade, so that’s two more languages I can teach with no problem. My exposure to classic literature was very thorough. I hated it as a kid, but I can’t tell you how grateful I am now. I never had to “pre-read” any of the classic works. I’d already read them. In my high school, you couldn’t graduate without taking a literature class every year, and the discussions were deep and thorough. Four years of mathematics was also required, in addition to four years of lab science, and four years of Latin, plus one other foreign language. Logic was taken during our junior and senior years. We took art history for two years, which required a study abroad in Paris, so that we could see all of the important works of art for ourselves. Music history was also taken for two years, and we had to attend the symphony and opera more times than I can count. I hated the opera. LOL Not any more.

So, my point being that my own educational background, combined with the fact that I’m now finishing my 20th year of homeschooling, means that much of what I do is instinctual, and not quantifiable. I don’t think I could explain it in a way that would enable someone else to glean anything from it. And providing you with a list of curriculum I use wouldn’t really be that helpful. You would need to spend a few days in my school to see how it works.

And truly, give yourself time. Over the past 20 years, I learned by experience how to stop children from dawdling through their work, how to make it interesting, and how to carry out my educational plans. I will say that if your children are not being obedient, and not doing their tasks, you need to get control of it. You will never have success as a homeschool mom if your children don’t listen to you and respect you as their teacher. Having a neurotypical child take hours to get through one subject (in which they understand the material and can do the assignment) is completely unacceptable. So if that is happening in your house, don’t bother reading up on educational theory and Socratic discussions, because that is not what you need to focus on.

If your own education was lacking, then you need to remedy that as well. You will need to do A LOT of studying and preparation so that the discussions about literature come to you naturally. I have never followed a “literature guide” because I don’t need one. I had it modeled for me by every teacher in my youth, and it’s second nature for me now. If that wasn’t your educational experience, then you will need to work to get there. Read Susan Wise Bauer’s book, “The Well Educated Mind,” if you haven’t already. It’s a great help for parents who are struggling with their own lack of a classical education. Take some courses on your own that will help you feel more confident in your knowledge base. That goes a long way toward being successful in teaching in this way.

So, personal experience in homeschooling, combined with your own knowledge, are what makes teaching this way easier to do. Start with developing order in your home and school, because teaching in the midst of chaos is a recipe for failure. And I don’t just mean a clean and organized home and school (although that is important, too). I mean that your children have the degree of self-discipline necessary to do their work, pay attention, participate, and be respectful. They should be able to do what is age appropriate, and not inject additional chaos into the environment. No learning is accomplished without a certain degree of self-discipline. And in turn, as a teacher, you owe your students the respect of having well planned lessons (not running around looking for things at the last minute…”Where did that book go? How come there are no scissors here? Why is the copier out of ink? I thought we had eyedroppers? We can’t finish this experiment without an eyedropper.”), being prepared, and knowing your material enough to make it interesting and engaging. In a great deal of homeschools, there is more lack of self-discipline on the part of the teacher, than the students. And you can hardly expect your children to learn anything other than what they see their mother model to them on a daily basis.

So, that’s the end of my ramble. I’m sorry if it sounds harsh in spots…I don’t mean it to be. But I do like to tell younger homeschooling moms the truth, without sugar coating it. You are the end-all and be-all of your children’s education. You hold the whole thing in your hands. In the final analysis, what is comes down to is DOING it. All the theory, and reading, and curriculum in the world won’t mean a thing if you don’t execute the plan. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to follow every theory and recommendation perfectly. It doesn’t have to be done with the newest, shiniest, best curriculum out there. But it does have to be done. Teach your children with love, with honesty, with integrity, and from the heart. Do it every day. Be faithful to your goals, ideals, and personal standards. Teach them that reading is wonderful, that learning is exciting, and that knowledge is inspiring, and you’ll be successful in your educational endeavors.

And that’s the best advice I can give you after 20 years at this gig.


Image Credit:  Laurel F from Seattle, WA (Tea) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Giveaways, News and Notes

GIVEAWAY WINNER: Congratulations, Kristin D!


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