About Homeschooling, Education is a Life, Uncategorized

Who’s Keeping Score?

Post on any social media group where homeschoolers gather and you’ll find plenty of advice for compiling a transcript and making sure that your child has the extracurriculars, standardized test scores, and all the rest of the hoops that college entrance requires. There are people out there like Mike Rowe, a famous example of someone who will tell you that college isn’t for everyone. I think that intuitively parents sense that college may not be the right path for one or more of their children and trying to push them into it is stressful for everyone.

I guess what I want to address is the peer pressure aspect of it all. I would have loved to just keep my kids on a straight path like college attendance. Sure, we homeschooled them, but now they are going to be “normal” and go away to a four-year school like all our neighbors. This time of year it is especially in your face- dorm shopping sales, pictures of college campus visits on Facebook, and the curriculum catalogs that promise that if you buy their text, all will be well. Everyone still seems to assume that college attendance is the ideal and anything less is a failing on either the child or the parent for not inspiring them to attend.

I don’t want to dwell on my own family too much, for several reasons, one is this: what works for our family may not work for yours. Our family is full of fantastic academic under achievers, and that goes back at least three generations on both sides. We are a family of hands on specialists. We get going with something and don’t stop until we’ve conquered it. The traditional two years of Gen Ed classes can’t compete with starting life and getting good at your passion. I think if one of us had a career goal that required a degree he/she would do well at a university because of the requirement.

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I’ll use myself as an example. In my third grade, public school classroom my teacher had paper hot air balloons for each class member. As you completed quick math fact sheets, your balloon was raised higher on the wall until at the end of the year everyone else had their balloon on the ceiling while mine was very low to the ground. I didn’t care. I spent the end of math class writing stories and couldn’t care less about memorizing math facts. Coincidentally, part of math that year introduced calculators so it really seemed like a waste of time to learn facts that you could look up in seconds.

I’m not saying that learning or formal education is not necessary- it is. I just want to live in a world where more people pursue their passion and not just go through the motions and get a degree, graduating not having any idea what they want to devote their working years too. Many times that can be alleviated by taking a gap year and working at something. I’ve seen it go a couple ways. Either you discover that what you thought was a dream job isn’t or it is and now you are motivated to get qualified for that field.

In some ways, this is an introductory article to what I hope will be a series that tells the other side of homeschooling. We all hear about the academic over achievers getting accepted to fantastic schools. Statistically, and in my own experience I know that there are plenty of homeschool students who are average and who graduate high school going straight into the job market, trade apprenticeships, or Community College Certificate Programs.

 

 

 

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Education is a Life, Uncategorized

The Kitsch-en

“I can’t believe you have the patience to homeschool.”

“I could never do that.”

So often, it is not the actual act of planning lessons and teaching subjects that defeat us. It is the coffee that no one else seems able to make, but they are sure willing to drink it. It is the dirty dishes and the greasy stove that cast a shadow over what was otherwise a delightful meal.

I’m excited to see the beauty of these daily tasks through new eyes and the reminder that joy is present in the drudgery if I can open myself up to a new way of seeing.

 

“To be really great in little things, to be truly noble and heroic in the insipid details of everyday life is a virtue so rare as to be worthy of canonization.”

Harriet Beecher Stowe

 

Pursue immortality, searching for forever,

lemon

But postpone to consider where momentarily time delays,

silverware

Repeating always, labors never finished,

salt

Abode of classic timelessness, residing in the kitchen

blue20coffee20reflection

Hidden in unwelcome chores, nonpareil moments lay

coffee20bubbles

As bubbles gleam thoughts form and too, ascend

water

Swiftly comes dissatisfaction, focused outwardly on substance

fire

Searching, searching, never seeing beauty in the fire

steaming20coffee

Awaken tendrils softly, contentment rising onwards

grease

Does reflecting grease portray unrivaled stardust from within?

volunteer

Resentment of vulgarian tasks procures no advantage.

Opportunity begrudged by me is celebrated by another.

 

Poem by Madeline McQuilling

Education is a Life

Sheltered Homeschoolers, by Lynne

A health care professional recently told me that by homeschooling, I was sheltering my children and inhibiting them from experiencing the real world. My older son and I were sitting in this person’s cozy little office for the very first time, so this person did not know us or anything about the way we homeschool.  I think a lot of people are confused by the term homeschooling and equate it with online public school.  They imagine that kids are just sitting at home all day, staring at a computer.  This is as far from our experience as possible.  Of course, as soon as the doctor said this, I was turned off and immediately started thinking of nasty comebacks in my head. I didn’t say them out loud because my son was with me.  The only one that was fit for mixed company, and that I should have said, was, “I’ll sit here in your cozy office all week while you drive my kids around to their umpteen activities, and then we’ll talk about sheltered.”  But, I didn’t.  I politely smiled and nodded until we could get the heck out of there.

As soon as we were in the car, my (Asperger’s) son asked me if we ever had to go back there because he didn’t like that guy.  I reassured him that I didn’t like that guy either, and we would never be going back there. The audacity of people who know nothing about homeschooling, yet state their opinions about it anyway, is always shocking to me.  I wouldn’t presume to tell anyone that their choices were wrong unless they specifically asked for my honest opinion about something.  I had not asked this doctor to comment on our homeschooling.  It was just mentioned when he asked where my son went to school.

This got me thinking about the whole idea of being sheltered.  While I’m sure some families do homeschool to shelter their kids from certain things, like bullies or things that are counter to their religious principles, I am 100% convinced that my kids would be far more sheltered from reality if they went to our local public school, which is in a moderately affluent suburb. How is being in the same building with the same kids and the same adults day after day experiencing the real world?  Is it preparing them for that feeling of being trapped in a job you hate because you have to earn a paycheck?  Other than that, I can’t see how school and the real world are at all similar.

Another common criticism that I hear about homeschooling is that the kids won’t learn how to take direction from someone else if Mom is the only one teaching them.  Once again, this usually comes from people who know nothing about actual homeschooling.  Homeschooling moms are not dumb.  And, they also need a break from time to time.  That’s why we pounce on any outside classes in which our kids show an interest.  My boys are exposed to their religious school teachers, piano teacher, theater teacher, horseback riding teacher, and co-op teachers on a regular basis. Then there are the countless one-off classes and camps they have taken over the years.  Other homeschooling families use tutoring, online classes, or community college classes to cover certain subjects, thereby exposing their children to different teaching styles.  Kids are also not dumb and recognize that they can learn from someone other than Mom.

So, I’ll gladly continue to shelter my kids by taking them to plays, orchestra concerts, museums, historical sites, game club, playdates, and all their other activities while simultaneously providing them with a deep, rich classical education.  If school is the real world, we’re glad to be sheltered from it.

Image: I also sheltered my kids at Universal Orlando this fall while the other kids were learning about the real world in school.


Lynne–Lynne has enjoyed homeschooling her two sons for over 5 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 www.daysofwonderhomeschool.blogspot.com.

Education is a Life

Calling for Backup, by Apryl

This piece originally ran on May 23, 2014.  Enjoy this Throwback Thursday!

Sometimes in the homeschooling journey, we run into subjects we cannot or do not want to teach. Sometimes our children need more interaction with the world at large. Sometimes mom just needs a small break. When these times arise, calling for backup is warranted.

Outsourcing is an important part of homeschooling, especially as your children reach the teen years. Depending on your area, income level, and family preferences, outsourcing opportunities can look very different from family to family. I will be discussing some of the ways our family has met these needs.

Volunteering

Volunteering is a great way to expand your child’s view of the world. There are so many unique ways your family can serve others in the community. My oldest child, in particular, has been a very active volunteer.

When she was twelve, we managed to talk our vet into letting her help at his office. She was able to observe surgeries, interact with adults, and learn a bit more about the profession. This experience allowed her to realize that she really did not want to be a vet like she thought, but she also learned that she has a very strong stomach!

Her love of animals, and that iron stomach, have led her to be a volunteer at a rescue center for birds of prey. There she has learned so much and developed a great relationship with the woman who runs the center. Now she is a pro at cleaning up bird dung and handling mouse guts.

She has also volunteered at two different libraries, one that was part of a metropolitan library system and one that is a small town library. Working at a local food pantry was another volunteer position she had and she learned so much about people there.

The girls have all spent time volunteering at nursing homes. They have gone with homeschool groups, scouts, and our church and have done everything from putting on a show to doing arts and crafts projects with the patients.

All of my girls will be volunteering at a summer camp this year. They will be mentoring and teaching younger kids in a science camp.

In order to find volunteer opportunities in your area, just ask around. Don’t be afraid to ask local businesses and services if they can use help: the worst they can do is say no. You will have more luck with older children and teens than with young children, but even when they are small you can volunteer as a family.

Religious Activities

Church is a large part of our lives, and I consider the things we do there as part of our outsourcing. The kids have attended Awanas, worked in the nursery, sang in the choir, helped with events, and attended regular services. Again, they have learned things they could not pick up at home such as relating to the elderly, caring for small children and infants, meeting some of the needs of the poverty stricken, being part of a choir, and socializing with larger groups of people. They have also learned more about our faith, and grown stronger in it.

Park and Play Groups

This option will depend on how many homeschoolers there are in your area and how far you are willing to drive. Most larger metropolitan areas will have park groups. A group of this sort usually meets on a regular basis to play, go on field trips, or organize things like field day. Don’t limit these to smaller children. We were lucky enough to belong to a teen park group that met once a week just to hang out and play. On warm days we met at a large park that could handle 20+ teens and other days we would meet at various homes. The kids developed some very close friendships, and also got some much needed exercise. They often played things like zombie tag, or “everybody’s it” tag, dodge ball, Frisbee, or just ran around and had fun.

Groups like this also have the ability to organize group field trips, often at a discounted rate. We were able to see plays at school rates, attend an astronaut school, visit museums at school rates, take farm tours, and more.

It did take us a while to find a group that we felt comfortable in. We have had the most luck with inclusive groups. While we are Christian, we have found that exclusive groups simply weren’t a good fit for our family.

Online Classes

Sometimes you need a class taught by someone else. There are many reasons for this, from a parent needing a teaching break, to the parent just not feeling comfortable in their ability to teach a subject. We are fortunate that so many classes are available online. There are paid and free options, with the paid options giving you more time with a real instructor.

Our personal experience with online courses have been with both self-directed classes such as ALEX math and Kahn Academy, and with a class that had a live instructor and certain class times. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Self-directed courses allow more flexibility in scheduling and pace. However, if you run into difficulty, it can be hard to get help. With live classes, you will have an instructor that can help the student, but you are also tied to the class schedule. We have found both types of courses to be valuable to our homeschool instruction.

MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) should also be considered as part of this option. This is a rapidly growing area in which you can find self-directed courses on just about every subject you can imagine. There are both free and paid options from universities and teachers around the world. Some of the most popular MOOC providers are Coursera, EdX, and Udacity.

Co-ops

Co-ops are parent co-operatives in which parents come together to teach (or hire someone else to teach) classes to homeschooled children. Co-op styles and structures vary greatly and it is important to find one that fits your family’s needs. There are religious and secular co-ops, inclusive co-ops and co-ops that require a signed statement of faith. There are co-ops that are entirely parent taught, and there are co-ops that hire professional teachers for their classes. Some co-ops focus more on extra-curricular classes, and some are more academically focused.

We have attended three different co-ops over the years. Our first was a very small, parent taught co-op that focused on extracurricular classes. This was a good way for the kids to do some fun things a few times a month. Since it was so small, however, a little bit of drama between families made the entire co-op uncomfortable. We ended up leaving.

Our second co-op was huge. It was in a large city with a very large number of homeschoolers. It was run like a large one-day-a-week private school, and there were waiting lists to get into classes. We weren’t there for very long due to a move, but it was a good way for the kids to get a few classes in, like acting and choir, that I couldn’t do well at home.

Our third and current co-op has been a huge blessing to our family. Now that the girls are all in high school, there are some needs that I find hard to meet at home. Our current co-op is fairly large. While it is a Christian co-op, it is inclusive and does not require a statement of faith. We attend one day a week, and the kids change classes during the day much like they would at public school. Parents are required to volunteer and the classes are taught by paid teachers. The quality of the classes and teachers is very high, with many classes taught by former professors and degreed teachers of their subjects. The girls take all of their foreign language classes there, along with some very interesting electives like Ballroom Dance and Fencing.

Clubs and Sports

Most communities have various clubs and sports organizations for children. You often do not have to be part of the public school system to participate. I know our rural area has Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, basketball, soccer, softball, baseball, rowing, swimming, summer camps and more.

In some areas, you may also be able to participate in public school or private school sports teams. The laws vary from state to state. Some homeschool organizations even have their own sports teams.

Other Sources

Finally, don’t forget some of your most valuable resources: friends, family and neighbors. Grandparents, older siblings, aunts, uncles, neighbors and friends all have talents and abilities that they may be willing pass on to your children. My father-in-law has taught the girls about gun safety, archery, botany, and more.  A friend organized a writing club for our children, and a friend of a friend ended up being our piano teacher.  The people in your life can become wonderful mentors to your children.

Most of all, don’t let the thought of being responsible for your child’s entire education intimidate you. You are essentially the director of their education, and you can find the resources you need to accomplish your goals, regardless of where your own strengths and weaknesses are.

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. 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.

Education is a Life

Self-Education: How I Do It, by Jane-Emily

Georgiana’s post about self-education got me thinking about the many projects I’ve taken on over the years.  I’ve been homeschooling classically for ten years now, and I’ve spent a good bit of my time filling in my own gaps and continuing my education.  In fact, the more I looked at the classical curriculum, the more gaps I realized I had.

I am the product of a mediocre public school education. When I went to school, teaching grammar was not in fashion.  I got only the sketchiest idea of American history and even less of world history.  The first good math teacher I had was for Algebra II in my senior year of high school, and it took a good community college math course for me to realize that I’m not inherently bad at math.  I did go to an excellent state university, but I was ill-prepared for the work. I missed quite a bit because I wasn’t at the level I should have been.  I felt woefully underprepared to teach my own children.

I did have a huge advantage, though.  I decided early on to classically homeschool my children when my oldest was just three.  I had the gift of time – years in which I could expand my own education while my daughter did the early-grade work that I was confident in teaching.

First, if I have to give just one piece of advice, it is that developing a habit of reading widely and with intent will help you the most.  It is very easy for me to retreat into comfort reading of fluffy mysteries and other light material, which has its place but should not be all we moms read.  Choose books that widen your horizons, that you can learn from, and have one going at all times.  (I usually read more than two books at once and always have a fluffy one for relaxing along with more serious reading.  If you aren’t a multi-book-tasker, adjust accordingly.)

The rest of this post isn’t so much advice as it is talking about what has worked for me.  You may find that audiobooks are the answer to the Great Books Question* or that watching MIT lectures online is your thing.

Now for the nitty-gritty.  Georgiana was absolutely correct when she said

When I decided to self-educate, I wanted to learn everything but soon realized it was a trap! Unless you have a blank appointment book and scads of free time, there aren’t enough hours in the day to master all the subjects at once. With so many amazing interests to pursue, you must choose wisely.

I usually worked on on thing at a time, although I was always reading books as well.  I can’t live without reading.  But when it came to math or Latin or logic, I could only do one at a time.  I used a lot of summers this way because that was when I had a little more time and energy to work on something that needed concentration.  I prefer to do exercises with pencil and paper, so I have used spiral notebooks for note-taking and practice sets.

Math: Luckily for me, Khan Academy came along right when I needed it!  It was fun to practice arithmetic and fractions on the Khan website and earn badges (the site has changed a lot from when I was using it heavily, but this has reminded me to jump back in).  I strengthened my skills and cleared up some points that had always confused me.   Then, when it was time for my daughter to start real algebra, I went through the entire textbook over the summer so that I could be sure that there were no nasty surprises waiting for me.  When we did geometry, she and I filled out flashcards together, each making our own set of postulates.

Latin: I was a somewhat reluctant convert to Latin.  I kept reading all these articles about how great Latin was, and I was skeptical – as I’m sure many are!  But I thought Memoria Press’ Prima Latina wouldn’t be too much of an investment, so I tried it out.  I was hooked!  I learned so much myself from that course for 6-year-olds that I decided I’d better do Latin in our home.  For that I needed to learn some Latin, so I invested in Henle I for myself and started doing the exercises.  I did a lot over a summer–even on a road trip while sitting in the car–and I learned quite a bit about how Latin works.  Henle is a Catholic text that prepares the student to read Caesar’s Gallic Wars, so the exercises really made me laugh; the sentences are nearly always either something like “Mary prays for the people” or “The centurions slaughtered the Gauls at the gate.”  If I were to do it over again, I might choose the Cambridge Latin program instead, but Henle was quite enjoyable and inexpensive too.

Logic:  I’ve tried several logic texts.  The more math-y they were, the worse I did.  I eventually had some success with Peter Kreeft’s Socratic Logic, a text for adults. I ordered it from Amazon, grabbed a notebook, and worked through the book and exercises, mostly over a summer.  I also read through my daughter’s book,  A Rulebook for Arguments, which I really liked.

Science: We talk a lot about science in our house.  My husband is very interested in physics, astronomy, and technology, while I like chemistry and astronomy.  Mostly what I’ve done for self-education has been to read popular science books, such as Richard Muller’s excellent Physics for Future Presidents (I think all high-schoolers should read it) and Oliver Sacks’ lovely Uncle Tungsten.  There are so many really interesting, enjoyable, and educational science books out there to benefit us.  Head on over to the library and see what you find.

History:  This one was fairly easy because I really enjoy reading history.  I sought out history books that would help me with whatever period was coming up in the my children’s curriculum.  Although American history is still not my strong suit, I did enjoy watching Joanne Freeman’s American Revolution lectures from Yale.  They are fabulous and really fun to watch!

I also got Susan Wise Bauer’s three volumes of world history for adults.  They are excellent.

Literature: I’m a librarian and a literature major, so in a way this has been the easiest area for me.  On the other hand, like anyone else, I sometimes balk at the prospect of reading Aristotle!  For a long time, I would pile up Great Books that I meant to read, but somehow I just wouldn’t get to them very often.

I’ve improved my serious reading skills by doing several things recommended by Susan Wise Bauer in The Well-Educated Mind.  I’m better now at keeping notes and reading deeply.  I also enjoyed Mortimer Adler’s classic how-to-read manual, How to Read a Book, and I even found (in a homeschooling store) a workbook titled How to Read ‘How to Read a Book‘ and went through that.  Note, though, that Susan Wise Bauer covers literature and biography, while Adler talks about science and history and doesn’t deal as much with literature.

What really worked for me was not a Coursera course (I would love to…someday) or willpower or a book club. I saw people online joining reading challenges, and I liked that idea.  It’s a blogging thing, so I had to figure out how to start a blog, and then I joined a bunch of challenges.  Somehow, having a list of things to achieve makes it easier and more fun.  Having a little online community of people interested in the same sorts of books and doing the challenges really helped me become more ambitious in my own reading, find interesting new books and ideas, and stick to it instead of retreating into reading mostly fluff.  It’s easier to tackle an intimidating work of literature if we do it together, as a readalong; I’m currently participating in one for The Faerie Queene.  I read so much more serious and/or classic literature now!  Having a blog forces me to record my thoughts clearly, and I can look back at the hundreds of books that I’ve read in the last six years and feel accomplished.  A blog certainly is not the answer for everyone, but do keep some sort of record of your reading so you can see what you’ve accomplished.

Now that my children are teenagers, I am really seeing the payoff.  I can keep up with one kid’s algebra work and spot problems.  I can do a home chemistry course and enjoy teaching it.  I can talk modern history with my older child and explain background or fill in gaps. Just the other day we had a conversation comparing Dante’s use of Christian and Greco-Roman figures with Spenser’s.  So I’m here to tell you: if your kids are little (or if they’re not), take time now to train and fill your mind–for your own benefit and for your children.  Before you know it, they’ll be asking tough questions about history and science.  Besides, it’s a good feeling.

 

 

 

*The Great Books Question is, of course, “How do I read Plato when I have all these kids to care for and a house to run and all I really want is some chocolate??”

Image courtesy of FreeImages.com

 

Jane-Emily–Jane-Emily is a classically homeschooling LDS mom of two girls, and a librarian at the local community college, very part-time. She loves to read and will pick up almost anything. She also loves to sew and mostly does quilting, heirloom sewing, and smocking. And she’s a Bollywood addict. Jane-Emily is our Webmistress.

Education is a Life

The Panicked Feeling of Being Behind, by Lynne

Every year, about this time in May, I start to feel a little panicked because THERE’S NO WAY WE’RE GOING TO FINISH ALL MY PLANS!!!

I’ve been homeschooling for six years, and I still have the mentality that we must accomplish a certain amount of work in the same time frame as the traditional school year. I’m unsure why this is.  We have regulations in my state, but nothing that requires me to follow the same schedule as the local schools. No one is going to come knocking on my door to see if we covered the entire biology book from September to May.

For the past two years, I’ve really tried to let go of the idea that we have to finish certain curricula in a nine-month timeframe.  We’ve carried math, science, grammar, and history over into the next “school year.”  And nothing bad happened.  In fact, we’ve been able to get a lot more out of each subject by taking our time and not hurrying through just so we could tick a box on our list of accomplishments.

So, why do I still feel that panic?  I think my own traditional schooling has ingrained the traditional school year into my being.  Posts on social media from friends with kids in traditional school add to it as well.  When I start seeing Field Day posts and school trips to the Zoo, I think, “It’s the end of the year!”  Then I realize we are only halfway through that book on African and Middle Eastern history in the Middle Ages, and my brain instinctively screams that “WE ARE BEHIND!”

Behind what?

That’s a good question.

I don’t follow anything at all like the scope and sequence of the local schools, so I just have to remind my brain that everything is fine, and we’ll finish the book when we finish the book. Did I want to finish the math book by May?  Well, yes, I actually did, but does my son thoroughly understand the math by taking it a little more slowly?  Of course, he does.  It’s fine. All in due time.

Not only do I get panicked about the traditional school year, but I also have high school looming over my head.  My soon-to-be-7th and -8th graders do not seem to be fully prepared for high school level work.  Maybe they will be by then; maybe they won’t.  I’m trying very hard not to panic about that, as well.  I tell myself that they’ve come a long way in the last six years, so the next five should show major improvements.  And anyway, there is no law that says a kid has to go to college at age 18.  If they don’t feel ready to graduate from high school, they can spend an extra year or two working on things.  I don’t think it will come to that, but it’s always an option. (Or a secret dream of mine to keep them home longer.  Shhh.  Don’t tell.)


Lynne–Lynne has enjoyed homeschooling her two sons for over 5 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 www.daysofwonderhomeschool.blogspot.com.

Education is a Life

When It All Falls Apart, by Briana Elizabeth

Somehow, in September of 2015, we’d had an amazing 8-week semester. It was one of those glorious periods where everyone was ready to hit the pavement running, and we just didn’t stop. Everything meshed just the way it was supposed to, and we even went further than I had planned. Not just in work, but in ability. The kids worked hard for things that were far above their ability, and they attained it.

November 2015 I was diagnosed with Lupus.

It now all made sense. The extreme exhaustion, the constantly being cold, the rashes and hives, the swollen joints that some days just would not work. The brain fog that made me question whether I was an adult most days.

School had been a struggle for me, but after those eight weeks of amazement, I crashed. I crashed hard. I limped through November and into December, and after Christmas I didn’t get off the couch for a week. I went from the couch and sleeping to bed and sleeping. In Lupus talk, it’s called “a flare.” My joints were on fire, I was freezing all of the time, I could hardly cook a meal, and I spent most of the day sleeping and reading or trying to knit so that my fingers wouldn’t stiffen into wooden blocks. Little did I know that the worst was yet to come, and my family was going to suffer some serious trauma that we’re still trying to work through. I had no spoons left. Not one.

This is when I seriously started to think about putting the kids back into school. You probably don’t not know me well enough to understand the severity of that admission, but it was severe. I was sick, and I knew that things were serious. Enrolling them in school was the only responsible thing to do because I was too incapacitated to homeschool them. I started to reconsider my refusal of medications (another huge consideration for me), but again I searched for a different way out of this pit because I knew that I was young and those medications are serious. I begged God to show me how to fix things. If taking meds was my way out, then I would, but I needed to know that I had done everything possible, everything within my ability, before I went that route.

Rest started to work. In February I started to be able to *moderately* function. I didn’t have many spoons, but I could manage to oversee the kid’s self-directed learning. My planning last summer had worked, and though I was currently unable to participate in their schooling, they were able to see my bullet-journaled lists and calendar for them, and when that failed, which it sometimes did, Do The Next Thing was the rule of the day. I made it through Easter, and let me tell you, I was hoarding spoons. I spent them  judiciously, and when I did, it was on my children and husband.

However, the day after Easter, I made a huge life change (bigger than ever before) and I have to say, I’m feeling so good, I’m almost at my pre-lupus levels of energy and health. My fingers and hands still get blocky, and I’m still cold a lot. But I can teach my kids, and last night I planned out another beautiful eight weeks. This time I’m going to focus on the self-care which is keeping me healthy, and I’m going to be able to be present, which is a gift.

It was a hard few months, but there were true blessings that came out of it. My kids own their education. Before I was sweeping them along. Now, it’s theirs, it’s a part of them, and if we have another time like that, they know how to soldier through it and drive in spite of it. They grew in both grace and grit.

When I was planning out the next two months and was checking the last eight weeks we’d accomplished way back in October, I was shocked to realize that they were almost done in all of their subjects. With this last section I’ve planned, they will have finished their respective grades of work, and I will have rising 5th and 8th graders, two 9th graders, and an 11th grader on my hands. No one is more surprised – or grateful – than I am. Then we’re joining Jen with her Middle Earth Summer, which I am very much looking forward to. A Hobbit Holiday is just what is needed after this year.

Homeschooling is a full part of our lives. It’s so interwoven that there is no beginning or end, except maybe when our last student leaves our home. And that home can sustain us or shatter us. I had always been a proponent of Do The Next Thing, and I knew it worked when life got bumpy, but I didn’t realize how well it worked when everything falls apart. So I want to encourage you: If it starts to spiral, just do the next thing. Make sure your kids know what the next thing is, and let them do it. They too will grow in grace and grit – and your heart will swell with pride and gratitude.

Image courtesy of FreeImages.com


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.

Education is a Life

The Basics of Self-Education, by Georgiana

If you’ve chosen to homeschool, then you already know the value of education. Perhaps, like me, you desire to give your children a better education than you received. The only problem is how to educate them in areas where your own experience is lacking.

Gaps in my experience began to show themselves when we started digging into history and literature. I already knew I had deficiencies in upper-level science, and don’t even get me started on the fact I had zero experience with Latin and logic. But what could I do about it? How could I lead my children into territory where I’d never ventured?

Self-education. I realized I didn’t have to mourn over the classic literature and languages I’d never been exposed to, but that I had the power to enlarge my own knowledge base and make a date with the Greats without having to be spoon-fed.

Self-education:

  • Enlarges your own vision and context of the world. It’s a personal journey that builds upon and enhances what you already know. There’s pleasure in learning for its own sake.
  •  Encourages those around you. What better example to your children than you cracking the books alongside them? Plus it establishes a base of knowledge that you can share. Remember, you can’t effectively lead your children where you’ve never gone.

There are a few things to keep in mind as you begin the journey, tips which will keep you from getting bogged down and giving up and will help you stay focused in order to make the most of your time.

Choose your subjects carefully.

When I decided to self-educate, I wanted to learn everything but soon realized it was a trap! Unless you have a blank appointment book and scads of free time, there aren’t enough hours in the day to master all the subjects at once. With so many amazing interests to pursue, you must choose wisely. Multum non multa. But how?

  • Look ahead to potential problem areas. These are subjects where you were shorted and either need to brush up on or start learning altogether.
  • Identify your children’s areas of interest. Even if your gap in science never bothered you before, you need to shore up the basics if you’ve got a budding Einstein under your roof.
  • Consider subjects that fascinate you. If you have a particular passion, dig in and learn everything you can. You might just pass the passion on to your children.

Decide which method to use.

If you’re a classical homeschooler, it’s easy to choose that method of learning for yourself. But also consider other options, especially if you need to learn it sooner (kids are approaching that age/level) or have limited time. Talking to experts, video classes, online instruction, and taking classes from places like Coursera are all valid options.

Establish a time.

As busy homeschoolers, most of us recognize the value of scheduling. If you’re anything like me, if it’s not scheduled, it’s not going to happen. When do you have the most uninterrupted time? For me, it’s while my kids are doing independent reading in history. If your kids are quietly busy, you can be too.

Make adjustments.

It’s okay to let a subject go. Let me repeat that—it’s okay to let a subject go. I’m a fanatic about finishing something I start, and it bothers me to the core to walk away from a project. But self-education doesn’t have to be that way. If a subject isn’t working for you, determine why. It could be something as simple as not using the right learning method or perhaps you chose the wrong level to begin. You can make a course correction or let it go altogether—you have the power to choose!

Keep in mind that self-education is for you, hence the “self.” You can dig deep and become an expert, or you can shore up the basics so you can help your kids gain a foundation. You can learn in order to teach or you can learn for pleasure. Now that you’re an adult, the choices and the responsibilities belong to you.

Do you self-educate? What subjects and methods have you chosen?

georgiana-daniels

Georgiana– Georgiana resides in the beautiful mountains of Arizona with her super-generous husband, and three talented daughters. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Public Relations, and now has the privilege of homeschooling by day and wrestling with the keyboard by night. She’s the author of Table for One and A Daughter’s Redemption, and is exceedingly thankful for her own happily ever after. You can find her blogging regularly at www.georgianadaniels.com.

Education is a Life

Majoring in the Minors, by Genevieve

When we hear that phrase, we think of someone who makes inconsequential details into issues of huge import. We all want to major in the majors. The problem is that as parents, particularly new homeschooling parents, we often have no earthly idea what the majors are.

I can tell you what they aren’t.

They aren’t how early your child learns to read and they aren’t how many hours a day your child does school. The majors aren’t how many grades “ahead” your child is or even your child’s test scores or high school grades.

I’m here to tell you that those are all very minor. Yet, it seems that these minors are the very things that new homeschoolers focus on the most.

I’m in a unique position. I have grown children who were homeschooled all the way through, and I still have children at the beginning of their homeschooling journey. I recognize the mistakes new homeschoolers are making because I’ve made most of them myself.

Two of my children are adults. I’m very happy with how they are doing. My oldest graduates with her Associates Degree in a few weeks. Her degree was completely paid for with an honors scholarship. She is likely to graduate with a 4.0 and already has transfer acceptance letters and scholarship offers coming in.

My second child has a full time job and his own health insurance and a 401k. He didn’t finish college, but he is on track to be making the same salary as his college-graduate coworkers by the time he turns 20.

So looking back on what I did right and what I could have done better surprises me.

I hear new parents pushing young children because grades are going to matter in the upper grades, and everyone knows that your future can be made or be broken by your high school grades.

Except that my scholarship-receiving child never even had a high school transcript. She never took the SAT or the ACT. Her high school grades mattered exactly not at all.

Grades are also not an important factor in my son’s success at work. His company has never seen his high school or college transcript, yet something is making him stand out. What is it? It’s the majors.

But what are the majors and how can we focus on them in the early years?

* Work ethic – I’m here to tell you that a kid who comes to office hours, stays late, never misses class, always has her homework is a kid who is going to get noticed.

The best way to instill a solid work ethic is to model it the child’s entire life. We don’t complain about deserving more than we get. We don’t spend our time bemoaning how society is out to get us. We just buckle down and get it done. We do our best even when it isn’t appreciated by others. In the end, our kids can’t help but do the same.  It becomes who they are.

* Enthusiasm – It is so refreshing to teach or work with someone who is enthusiastic about the task at hand. My oldest isn’t the most coordinated person. After a semester of PE, she went to thank her professor for being so patient with her efforts and her limitations. The professor said that she only wished every student she teaches could be as enjoyable and rewarding. It turns out that enthusiasm sometimes trumps God-given talent and ability.

* Humility – We have all worked with someone who is an expert in their field, but their lack of humility makes them just insufferable. I’m telling you that the combination of expertise and humility is virtually irresistible and opens many doors.

* Kindness – I saved the most important major for last. Of everything my children do, it’s the acts of kindness that make me the most proud. I believe that children who are treated kindly treat others the same way and that children who are treated respectfully grow up to respect others.

I’m challenging you to take a break from majoring on the minors. Don’t worry about test scores and grades and whether your child is currently ahead or behind grade level because, in the end, the kind and humble and enthusiastic kids with solid work ethics are going to grow up and conquer the world.


Genevieveis 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 .