Blessed Be the Interruptions, by Briana Elizabeth

 

When my twins were three months old, I got pregnant with Child Number 6. He was born almost within the same year as his twin sisters. So, at one point in time, I had three toddlers in the house while I was trying to school their three older siblings who were 5, 9, and 13.

I would be lying if I told you I remembered those days. They were a sleep-deprived blur. They were days of crunchy things underfoot, endless nursing, laundry never being done, dishes almost never done, and my husband gone 16 hours a day because he was building a business to support us. We were ships passing in the night, and when he did crawl into bed, we almost always had a kid or two sleeping between us and our touching feet became the most comforting of hugs. We were in the thick of building our family, and he needed to know that I was holding the fort down while he was out there slaying dragons for us.

Through all of this, and despite all of it, those older three were homeschooled. Not only were they homeschooled, but they became excellent students who learned Latin, and Logic and are pretty well-read.

I have NO idea how I did it. None. I remember fighting over The Scarlet Letter. I remember fighting over Traditional Logic. The younger one even learned to eventually read and do basic math in those years. And I did it in a 1000 square foot house.

Much more, I remember buying chickens and how much fun my children had learning about them and caring for them, and then how we learned to butcher them together because we were trying hard to be farmers. They remember eating all of the peas out of garden before I got to harvest one. We remember a baby squirrel jumping on one of the twins and her giving a blood curdling scream that sent me racing into the yard to find her, and then putting that squirrel in a cage and learning how to feed it. They remember fishing, and learning to ride bikes, and life being very home-centered because that was all I could manage. We remember lots of days at the park.

What am I trying to tell you? That it will be OK. The children will learn, and just “sticking to the basics” is fine. The house will recover. Believe it or not, your marriage will be strengthened, because you trust your team member even more and take pride in what you’ve built together.

So, I’ve some ideas to help you do something with those toddlers while you ignore the laundry, and the dishes, and the crunchy things underfoot.

Create a flow. Call it a habit, call it a loose schedule. Whatever you do, don’t let it dictate to you what must be done. It’s only there to establish a routine to your day. Now is when we eat. This is when we rest. Now is when we learn. This is when we read aloud.

Get a baby yard. They will not die if confined. Do we? No, with confinement we learn creativity. Boundaries are safe things. Even use baby gates to fence off one safe room for them.

Minimize the toys that you put in the play yard/room. Can you imagine what your house would look like if you allowed three toddlers to keep every toy anyone ever gave them? Pack some up and rotate them every week or two.

Make yourself a busy board or two. Think of what fun this could be to make together! They are wonderful things that help fine motor skills, encourage problem solving, and are very Montessori. Make them smaller and switch them out if you can. Make tactile books for them with different surfaces. Get them a broom and dustpan and show them how to sweep.

Bring them into your schooling when you can, for the read-alouds (let them be busy in the room while you read aloud), and for art and especially for singalongs and nursery rhymes. Pull up their high chairs to the table and give them some paper and some watercolors. Make sorting games. Have your older children help you make these! What fun they will have helping and screwing things onto the busy board. This is a wonderful lesson in parenting, too, and for appropriate expectations for children.

Don’t forget to have fun days and school on the floor or in blanket forts! Let the older ones have some time schooling independently where they can, but always remember to check their work! I always had mine bring me their work them they were done.

Adjust your expectations. Stop comparing your season of life to a mother who has older children. Give yourself grace: this is a hard thing you are doing, and instead of criticizing yourself more, how about you pat yourself on the back more?

Find God amidst the pots and pans. St Teresa of Avila told her nuns, “Don’t think that if you had a great deal of time you would spend more of it in prayer. Get rid of that idea! God gives more in a moment than in a long period of time, for His actions are not measured by time at all. Know that even when you are in the kitchen, Our Lord is moving among the pots and pans.”

Know that this is your vocation and that this hard time will only be like this for a short time in the scheme of things. All of my children were out of the house for a weekend recently,  and let me tell you I was bored and lonely. I know that those days seem far off to you, but they are right around the corner. My youngest is only 8. I remember back when they were small thinking that if I was alone in a room for a day I would have done nothing but stared at a wall in silence and been content to do just that. This too shall pass.

Remember to bend when a child asks you for something. Your day is made up of a hundred small requests and demands on your time. God as our parent is always barraged with questions and requests from us, and is always patient and long-suffering.

This is a high calling, to be a mother. Don’t let it pass without letting it change us into the people we want to become.

 

Brianbrianaa 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.

Taking Courage: Homeschooling a Child With Disabilities, by Jodi L.

 

My oldest child was in the 2nd grade when we decided to homeschool him. It was a difficult decision, one fraught with fear and anxiety. Jack, who has autism, was barely verbal. He had to be taught one on one, required a schedule, and couldn’t entertain himself. I wondered where I would even begin when it came to curriculum. Among the many questions I had, the most ominous was: Could I give that much of myself? Was there enough of me to go around? Jack’s autism was going to make things complicated, and I wasn’t sure I was qualified. I did have four other children at home to consider: a kindergartener and first grader, whom I was already enjoyably homeschooling, as well as a toddler and a baby. How on earth could I balance all of this?

The school was trying the best they could, but it was crystal clear that the system was not designed for children with moderate- to low-functioning autism. They were constantly asking for advice in their effort to improve Jack’s school experience. We worked together to come up with rewards, picture schedules, and adaptations to the curriculum and the environment.

Still, the stress on Jack was causing nonstop meltdowns every morning and afternoon. Jack was refusing to eat at school. He was miserable, we were miserable. I felt sometimes as if I barely knew who Jack was. The only peaceful time we had was at bedtime. I wasn’t sure bringing him home full-time was the answer to a better life for Jack, or if it would just multiply all of our miseries. I prayed fervently about it. One thing was certain: I, as his mother, who knew Jack intimately, was more in tune with his needs than strangers, even if they were well-intentioned strangers.

Just one year, I thought. I mustered all the courage I could, then I launched off into the unknown.

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The first year was an experiment. My main focus was to find out how Jack learned, and what he was interested in learning, and using that to motivate him. It took trying out a few different curriculums and a variety of household schedules to find something that worked. I had to adjust what I was doing with my other children as well, to accommodate Jack and his needs. Nothing is ever perfect, but we found a place where we could function, remain sane, and even have clean underwear. Who says you can’t have it all?

In my search I found that some curriculums were too wordy, others were too abstract. I hunted down the most concrete and simple math and language arts curriculum I could find. This curriculum-hopping was a bit expensive at first, but I didn’t get too attached to any one curriculum. It was still cheaper than the private school tuition we had paid in previous years. I left science and social studies to what I could find for free, and that included mostly student-lead, hands-on activities. I then plugged them into a schedule.

Through trial and error I learned that it worked best to have a “flow” chart rather than a schedule with specific times. Remarkably, Jack’s most peaceful and focused time was in the evening when his siblings were all in bed, and we would sit down and work on math and language arts. This first year was the biggest learning curve, but on the whole, it was a success. I had a happy kiddo whose tantrums had decreased by 75%. He started interacting more with his sisters and brothers, learned how to help around the house, and started making jokes and laughing more.

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I learned more about myself that year as well. I learned that, while I disliked schedules in the beginning, they actually helped me be more productive during large chunks of the day. I discovered that Jack needed everyone’s behaviors to be predictable, which meant we all had to be on a schedule. The day-to-day had been difficult at times, but the year on a whole saw many improvements in Jack’s quality of life, as well as ours. So we committed to a second year.

The second year had a different focus. I knew what curriculum I felt most comfortable with and how to use it as a tool to aid me in educating Jack. I knew much more about Jack’s personality and what made him tick. I wanted this year to be the one that saw growth in his independent work habits and found activities where he could work with his siblings. I needed to find ways to combine materials so that I could work with my 1st and 2nd grader at the same time, on the same thing. I wanted to transfer the chunk of school time that had been previously happening at night to early morning.

I also learned to humble myself and ask for help. I reached out to friends of friends who knew quite a bit about autism. I let other people help me. I discovered that my insurance company would cover ABA therapy in my home, so I had therapists come in and help with areas I knew I couldn’t reach, such as increasing Jack’s vocabulary and independent self-help skills. I also enlisted my other children to help me teach Jack some basic games.

Homeschooling isn’t singularly about academics. It is about developing the personhood in each of our children; it is about relationships, and fostering virtue, within our family setting, to create successful adults. This year I worried less about whether or not Jack was keeping up in the academic sense, and concerned myself more about the adult he would become. I had to redefine what I considered to be of value (and what I considered a reflection on myself) by letting the house be less “kept” than I would like. This is humbling when a therapist is coming to your house every day!

Our second year was also an overall success. So…we committed to a third year, and a fourth.

At various times over these years, our homeschool theme could have been taken from G.K. Chesterton: “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.” However, as we come to the close of our fourth year, one that even included the birth of a baby, I consider it all to be a success. Every trial and failure taught us all a little bit more about ourselves. All of us have grown, academically and spiritually. We are closer together than ever. We are all a little tougher, a little stronger.

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Recently I had the opportunity to enjoy a sunrise with Jack, as we shared some humorous banter over my coffee. Jack was laughing, the rising sun was warming our living room, and my heart suddenly overflowed with gratitude for the opportunity to be there, sharing that moment with my son. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

“In the world you will have tribulation, but take courage, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33.

 

 

Jodi is mom to six kids, ages 12 years to 11 months. She has been homeschooling for five years, four of them have included her son with autism. Her interests and hobbies include allergy-free cooking, r13403663284_0c3085af92eading, hiking, canoeing, and camping. It is more likely that you will find her buried in laundry, however, than doing any one of these.

 

When Homeschooling Isn't Going Well: 101 Questions to Ask Yourself, by Sheryl

 

We’ve all had those awful homeschooling moments. The ones where you look around at your kids and realize that everyone is going through the motions, but their education isn’t where you want it to be. Tears are flowing, projects are left unfinished, grades drop, and your visions of the perfect homeschool vanish.

When my crew is in the thick of homeschooling, it is easy to just put our “noses to the grindstone” and do the next thing. I focus on getting work done but rarely question the work itself. This has come to some disastrous results. At one point, I suddenly realized that I had been reteaching my daughter how to count to 10 for years. Something was wrong. I had to put everything on hold while I spent time in agonizing self-reflection to pinpoint how to proceed with getting her learning disability diagnosed and altering all of our lessons to reflect reality. It was a harsh change from my dream of what school would look like, and it was apparent that something needed to change. But what?

Self-examination is required if we are to look critically and find the source of the problem, but true self-examination is difficult. It requires us to analyze every aspect of our approach, including our methods, assumptions, and biases. It requires deep honesty and a courageous willingness to challenge our own beliefs.

Nobody likes to have their assumptions challenged, and we certainly don’t want to have our self-assessment reveal that we are contributing in any way to our children’s struggles. It is easy to avoid doing this work, but challenging our assumptions, objectives, and yes, even homeschooling itself, will push us to become better.

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Get a pen and notepad or download our assessment form. We are going to mercilessly examine your school. For each question below, you will look at the following areas.
You will need five columns.

1. The original question

2. What are your assumptions?

3. In what do you base that belief?

4. Should you challenge this belief? If so, how?

5. To do.

Okay, ready?

The basics: Academic Reassessment

    • Are you on track to complete the school year?
    • Look at each subject independently. Are your kids struggling or mastering material?
    • What methods are working best?
    • What causes the most tears?
    • What creates the most joy?
    • How do the kids feel about school in general? Are they excited, content, anxious?
    • What one subject do you most feel that you need to tweak to fit your homeschool?
    • What is holding you back?
    • What do you really not want to change?
    • What materials did you pay too much for?
    • Look at each outside activity independently. Is it a good fit for your child?
    • Are there any signs of learning disabilities? What are they?
    • What subject are you not spending enough time on?
    • What subject are you spending too much time on?
    • What should you drop entirely?
    • Do you know your children’s learning styles? Do your lessons reflect this?
    • Is your record keeping system working well for you?
    • Are you pushing or challenging your students?
    • Are your children exploring on their own?

Leave room for imperfection. Not all students are capable of straight As, and purchased materials don’t come with charts that factor in exactly how to handle that month of drastic illness you suffered. It is okay to not be perfectly in sync with where you want to be, but strive to find a balance point.

Home Reassessment

    • In general, how is your home running?
    • How many days are you out of the house?  Do you feel okay with that number?
    • What one area are you struggling most in? (cooking, cleaning, laundry, time management, outside activities)
    • Are you delegating well?
    • Are your school supplies well organized and easy to reach?
    • Is there clutter that is distracting you or the kids from schoolwork?
    • How well is your routine working for you?
    • What time of day is best for your students? Worst?
    • What doesn’t work well for you as the teacher? As Mom?
    • Do you find yourself scrambling right before lessons to find the supplies you need?

If your time management is out of order, take a moment to do a bit of backwards planning and see where your time hogs are. This will help you to determine exactly what to keep, what to drop, and where to buckle down and simply work faster.

Relationship Reassessment

    • Is there a specific subject, topic, or time of day that seems to create the worst attitudes?
    • Are you feeling distant from any of your children?
    • How well do your children interact with one another?
    • Is your child’s relationship with your spouse positive?
    • Are there discipline issues that you need to focus on?
    • Are the kids healthy?
    • Would you describe your children as happy?
    • Are there any physical or emotional impairments that should be considered?
    • What is the role of religion in your home? Is this helping your relationships?
    • Are you demonstrating good manners and consideration?
    • Do your children have friends who are a good influence?
    • What are you doing to help your children to build strong friendships with others?
    • Are special projects and field trips helping or hurting your relationships?

Self Reassessment

How is your own attitude? Our kids feed off of our energy, and our attitude can set the mood for the entire family’s day, week or even year. Remember, be completely honest with yourself while doing this assessment. Our kids learn more from what they see us do than what they hear us say.

    • Are you healthy?
    • Would you describe yourself as happy? Would others?
    • Are your daily actions demonstrating what you believe to be true?
    • Are you available to help with lessons when needed?
    • Does being needed frustrate you?
    • Are there changes that should be made in your diet or exercise routine?
    • What are you most afraid of? Is that fear impacting your life right now?
    • What methods or materials are you using simply because they are easy?
    • What are you neglecting?
    • What one thing should you stop doing?
    • Is there one subject that you can delegate?
    • What distracts you?
    • Are you hovering or empowering?
    • How comfortable are you with the amount of preparation you need to do?
    • What are you doing really well?

The hard part: Goal Reassessment

These may seem like fluff questions, but they are really at the heart of the matter.

    • Why are you homeschooling?
    • What is it that you want to achieve at the end of your child’s school career?
    • Is your child on track for college entry?
    • What should your child know by the end of this year? Be realistic and specific.
    • What teaching philosophy do you believe in most? Do your lessons reflect this?
    • If you could pick only one priority, what would you teach your kids?
    • Are you accountable to anyone?
    • What is the most important change you need to make?
    • Is homeschooling right for your children?

Just do it

This is where the rubber meets the road. You now have a list of things that you would like to improve. Things that can help revitalize yourself, your home, your school, and your kids. It’s a long list. It is challenging, and it may involve some pretty major changes.

At this point you must remember that the purpose of re-assessment isn’t to point out all  your failures or inadequacies; it is to find the areas where you can make positive changes. None of us feel like we are “doing it right.” We are all concerned that our child isn’t progressing perfectly in one subject or another, and we all have areas in which we need to improve. No one is capable of making giant changes all at once. Choose just a few areas that you feel will be the most beneficial to your kids’ school experience and focus on only that.

Reassessment is just the first step in the process.  Are you ready to find out what changes you need to make?  Download the assessment form and get started.

 

Sherysheryll–Sheryl is living her dream in the house on Liberty Hill where she is a full time wife, mother, and teacher. She is passionate about turning children’s natural curiosity into activities that will inspire, enlighten, and entertain. Learn more about her adventures at libertyhillhouse.com

A Step Off the Bow, by Briana Elizabeth

 

A few years ago, I dropped history as the spine of our homeschool.

I know, I know, this is a controversial thing to do amongst classical homeschoolers. If you would permit me to explain why….

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It started as most life-changing things do, as a trickle. There was a huge thread on a classical homeschooling board about philosophy, literature, history, and homeschooling. Then there was the book I was reading, The Philosophy of Tolkien by Peter Kreeft. And, finally, there was a catechism class I was teaching, and that is where all the pieces started to come together.

It was a class of about sixteen eighth graders. All public school children, stuck with me, the homeschooling mom. They were a rowdy bunch, but my way of teaching is to have discussions with them, and for the most part, they were happy with that. As discussions go, there were rabbit trails, and personal anecdotes, and the volley back and forth of ideas. Of course as a teacher, I bring in references to other things: science, literature, history–whatever would elucidate my point, and to make an abstract more concrete for my students. At that time, the CCD class was in the medieval ages, exploring the idea of social justice, and I threw out a reference to Robin Hood. In return, I got a blank stare. Hmmm. I asked if they’d seen the Disney movie, and sang a bit of the Chanticleer’s song. Nothing. “Stealing from the rich to give to the poor?” I asked. A few eyes lit up; okay, we might be getting somewhere.

That whole discussion eventually set me on another path of discussion and into a thunderstorm of thought. Did they know fairy tales? I asked what fairy tales they knew. Not many. From there, I started asking about books, and apart from new modern hits, they had read almost none. This is why teaching them was so hard. I would bring up a well-known reference, one that should be a culturally understood reference, and they didn’t know it. It had been happening often enough to be noteworthy, and I wasn’t making the connections of why, but as I kept asking, the whole of it was becoming overwhelming. It would be no exaggeration to say that they had to start with nursery rhymes to backfill why they didn’t know.

I actually went home after that class and drank. I had just spent an hour with children who had no literature in their lives, no connection to the inheritance of Western Civilization they were a part of, no idea who we were as a people, and no poetic imagination.

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I started asking my children, do you know Little Red Riding Hood? Pinocchio? The Steadfast Tin Soldier?

Their answers weren’t much better. But why? I mean, I’m a homeschooler. How did we end up with this huge, gaping hole? Shame on me. Then I realized, we had ended up here because historical literature had always been a priority, pushing out classic literature. At one point, I had five children under five, plus the older two whom I had pulled out to homeschool were in older grades, so that when we ‘started’ schooling we jumped in at fourth grade and seventh with nary a nursery rhyme to be found. Then, when I was done with their schooling for the day, and taking care of the littles, you can imagine what extra reading got done. “None” would be the right guess. I had left that portion of the older children’s education up to the public school.

So, out of my reaction, we dropped history.

For us, it was the right thing to do. I am only one mom, their only teacher, there are only twenty-four hours in a day, and I need to sleep. So did they. I couldn’t have five separate read-alouds for five different grades. Because I wanted what we read to matter, it couldn’t be swept away in an ocean of three hours of daily reading; it would all get mushed. So something had to be prioritized, and literature was what I chose. Why? What I was reading gave me the answers.

“Philosophy makes literature clear, literature makes philosophy real. Philosophy shows essences, literature shows existence. Philosophy shows meaning, literature shows life.” Peter Kreeft, p22 The Philosophy of Tolkien.

And, a few paragraphs later he says, “Literature incarnates philosophy. You can actually see hate when you read Oedipus Rex. You actually hear nihilism when you read Waiting for Godot. As the acts of the body are the acts of the person, as a smile does not merely express happiness (the nine-letter word does that) but actually contains it, so literature actually contains or incarnates philosophical truths (or falsehoods).”

“All literature incarnates some philosophy. All literature teaches. In allegory, the philosophy is taught by the conscious and calculating part of the mind, while in great literate it is done by the unconscious and contemplative part of the mind, which is deeper and wiser and has more power to persuade and move the reader. Allegory engages only the mind while great literature the person, for allegory comes from the mind, while great literature comes from the whole person.”

“Literature not only incarnates philosophy: it also tests it by verifying it or falsifying it. One way literature tests philosophies is by putting philosophies into the laboratory of life, incarnating them into different characters and then seeing what happens. Life does exactly the same thing. Literature also tests philosophy in a more fundamental way. It can be expressed by this rule: a philosophy that cannot be translated into a good story cannot be good philosophy. “

Peter Kreeft, pg 22-23, The Philosophy of Tolkien, emphasis  mine.

Can’t historical literature do that? Yes, it can. But choices had to be made. Caddie Woodlawn or Narnia? Guns for General Washington or Pinocchio? Toliver’s Secret or Little Women?

All of them are good, but what is best? Choices had to be made.

Did I want them to learn history through historical fiction books, or did I want them to learn everlasting truths through literature? Could the historical fiction do both? Yes, it can, but it doesn’t always, and those classic children’s books were classics for a reason: they embodied human nature, they fed the moral imagination, and they nurtured poetic knowledge.

Most classically home schooled children will pick up Robin Hood when they study the medieval ages, so again, why was I bothering to drop history as our spine? For me, it was where the emphasis was put. And, I have to say that as they enter the middle grades and high school, literature and history re-intwine, but in a different way.

Then I started learning about Humane Letters. My intuitive decision to drop history as our spine was right. As I learned later, it was right because I needed to replace it with Humane Letters. Humane Letters is the study of philosophy, history, theology, and literature.

“Truth is symphonic.” said Hans Urs von Bathazaar.  The symphony is the whole of Humane Letters; philosophy, history, theology, and literature.

At this point, though I know there is a difference between the Humane Letters and the Liberal Arts, within the classical homeschooling community (outside of Norms and Nobility) I’ve rarely heard either of those terms differentiated. I would love to hear a discussion on the terms and their implementation with emphasis on curriculum choices in the classical homeschooling community, but that’s a discussion for another day.

With a liberal arts emphasis you also eventually hear of Adler’s great books or Dr. Senior’s ‘good books’. From reading his books, I don’t think Dr. Senior would recommend Adler’s idea that the Great Books be read apart from instruction or in a vacuum. He was much more of a Christian humanist.

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In his article The Great Books: Enemies of Wisdom, Frederick Wilhelmsen brings a strong argument against the Great Books and, in turn, against some of the neoclassical homeschool curriculum.

“But behind these pious intentions [the Great Books]–as good as they might be– repose three presuppositions, sometimes not expressed formally, but always exercised in the classroom: (1) disengaging the meaning of a text equalizes philosophizing; (2) the teacher is little more than a midwife whose role consists in leading the student to read texts and who is supposed to disappear, so to speak, behind the texts; (3) these books speak to the reader across the centuries altogether without any need to locate them within their historical contexts. Wisdom is not in the professor and wisdom is not in the tradition; wisdom is in the Books.

Let me attack these presuppositions in turn:

(1) Intellectual delicacy is needed to understand that the first prejudice is a fallacy. The understanding of the meaning of a text is not equivalent to the exercise of what Dr. Joseph Pieper felicitously called “The Philosophical Act.” Quite evidently, no one can become a professional philosopher who has not mastered the skills involved in reading a text. But a scholar who is not a professional philosopher–for instance, an intellectual historian–can do this very well without his being able to affirm the truth or detect flaws in a philosophical argument. Philosophical reasoning, on the contrary, consists in forming presuppositions into premises yielding conclusions. This habit is by no means reducible to the first set of skills. The philosophical act, therefore, can be exercised upon a text, but it does not have to be: it might be exercised on the report of a text, on a problem presented in isolation from texts, or on any issue which demands philosophical penetration.  The explication des texts hunts for “meaning” not “truth.” “[snip] The great books approach tends inevitably towards producing the skill needed to read intelligently a philosophical work, but it does not, of itself, help turn a man into an incipient philosopher.”

(2) Weighing the second prejudice, we must note that the very location of philosophy as a discipline shifts from the personal nourishment of habits of thinking about the real mastery of a number of philosophical classics. Concerning this latter, little need be said; Bergson once wrote that it takes a lifetime to master as many as two great philosophers and the very best we can do with the rest is to gain a gentleman’s awareness of their role and importance within the development of Western intellectuality. It were better to know one of them thoroughly than to know all of them superficially. No deep principal guides this observation: it is based simply on the economy of time given an undergraduate in a handful of courses dedicated, in a hurry, to his philosophical education.  [Multum non multa?]
[snip]

St. Thomas Aquinas spoke of a kind of sin – probably a minor sin – which is “curiosity,” wanting to know what may be worth knowing in itself but which is foreign to the destiny a man has given his own life. He was thinking of the cleric who ignores the things of God and busies himself with “pure” philosophy. But long before Aquinas, Plato pointed out that a mark of the philodaster, the false philosopher, was his knowing “many things” but knowing none of them in depth.”

[snip]

(3) Weighing the third of these prejudices–the conviction that books make sense to students without being located within the historical context that gave them birth and in abstraction from the living tradition in which they play their part–we must note that a kind of philosophical fundamentalism asking to its religious counterpart has insinuated itself into many departments of philosophy given over to Great Bookism. Yet very few, if any, philosophical masterpieces speak by themselves to the contemporary student. This is specially true when they are read, as they are, in translation.” pg 328

Please, go read the whole paper. I have brought out what is relevant to this article, but the whole is full of gems.

I must admit that when I read this, I had three reactions. The first was great sadness–where do we go to receive this education for either our children or ourselves? Secondly, I rolled my eyes. How does Wilhelmsen propose we begin to rebuild this lost education? Who are the rebuilders? How do you rebuild the educational system of an entire country? And thirdly, I was angry because it seemed he would have us burn all of the good for the pure. Nevertheless, I agreed with his diagnosis.

So, how do I apply what I’ve learned?

I adopted the curriculum put forth in David Hick’s Norms and Nobility. A friend who read it, and who classically homeschools, described it as elegant. It is.

I will write about the practical changes I made in my next blog post.

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.

What Is This Rest, And Where Can We Find It? by Briana Elizabeth


There have been a few blog posts around the internet lately on a phrase that Andrew Kern is famous for, “teaching from a state of rest.” It’s one that has left many a homeschooling mother scratching her head for hours; frankly, I’ve only been able to understand it as a few ideas have come colliding together in my own heart. Though there are many soft and grace-filled posts on the state of rest out there, this is not one that is soft. Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adopted sons, and partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life. Sometimes grace comes in the form of a clue-by-four: this post is for those who need a little more definition in how this works out in our lives, people like myself.

Other blogs have wonderful posts on this idea and how to attain it, but I’m going to come at it from another angle: that rest starts with observing our unmet expectations and what those expectations mean, and what they shine a spotlight on. I’ve written before on Sandbox to Socrates about homeschooling being a spotlight on what can be wrong in our households; in this case, homeschooling can be a spotlight on what is wrong in our hearts.

There is a great homily on Audio Sancto called  Sloth: the Vice of Homeschoolers. When I didn’t understand the meaning of the word sloth, I was pretty taken aback by that title.

sloth

noun ˈslȯth, ˈsläth also ˈslōth

: the quality or state of being lazy

: a type of animal that lives in trees in South and Central America and that moves very slowly

Sloth is often summed up as laziness, but a truer definition is not doing what we are supposed to be doing, when we are supposed to be doing it. The cure for being slothful is knowing our place (you will hear more on that in the audio homily), which is doing what you are supposed to be doing, when you are supposed to be doing it.

Meaning, if your house is spotless, but the children’s education has fallen off the pier, that is sloth. If you have been running around like a chicken with her head off, but you are supposed to be resting, you are being slothful. If you are bound up in unmet expectations of your child’s education, are buying heaps of curriculum in hopes that it will be THE thing that gets them into Harvard, if your heart is anxious (when you are supposed to be resting in trust) you are being slothful. If you are piling worksheet after worksheet in front of your child because more of any work = success, you might be slothful.

Sometimes when sloth doesn’t look like laziness, it is shining a spotlight on our idols. What makes us anxious? Impatient? Angry? Bitter? Most of the time, it is unmet expectations. Unmet expectations of what? That our children would be gifted students and they are ‘only’ average? That the work would be easier? That our days would look like some fictionalized ideal in our heads? That the monotony of the day wouldn’t make us think that if we were out there, with a career or job, we would be doing something useful with our lives? That someone, anyone, would be a better teacher than we are?

Do we have more pride in our teaching ability, rather than trusting our children’s needs being met through us? Are we anxious and fearful of doing the wrong thing because everyone else is doing something different? Comparisons lead us to constantly question ourselves and the paths our families are on. Are we questioning our vocations as mothers and homeschoolers because the outside world looks prettier and more rewarding when our egos are are bruised because we’re ‘just’ stay at home mothers?

Look, sometimes we DO need to just clean up the house, and get the meals on the table, and put our noses to the grindstone, to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps because we’ve fallen. But even then, there is rest. There is rest because of trust. There is trust in the calling, in the vocation in our lives that is marriage and the upbringing of our children; trust in the love of Christ because he will not lead us astray; trust that when we DO get off track, He writes straight with crooked lines.

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In the end, with sloth it all comes down to ego, to what we think what should be–and wasn’t pride the first sin? Us forgetting who God is and our place. In Him.

So. How do we teach from a state of rest? By repenting. Sometimes when we think of repenting, we think of sackcloth and ashes. But that’s not what it is. It means to turn around, to change your mind. Doesn’t that sound much easier–to walk toward something better? But part of repenting is acknowledging that we need to change our minds. Let’s not be so stuck in our ways that we are unable to change our minds.

“‘The beginning of salvation is to condemn oneself’ (Evagrius). Repentance marks the starting-point of our journey. The Greek term metanoia…signifies primarily a ‘change of mind.’ Correctly understood, repentance is not negative but positive. It means not self-pity or remorse but conversion, the re-centering of our whole life upon the Trinity. It is to look not backward with regret but forward with home–not downwards at our own shortcomings but upwards at God’s love. It is to see, not what we have failed to be, but what by divine grace we can now become; and it is to act upon what we see. To repent is to open our eyes to the light. In this sense, repentance is not just a single act, an initial step, but a continuing state, an attitude of the heart and will that needs to be ceaselessly renewed up to the end of life. In the words of St Isaias of Sketis, ‘God requires us to go on repenting until our last breath.’ ‘This life has been given you for repentance,” says St Isaac the Syrian. ‘Do not waste it on other things.’” Met. Kallistos Ware

The Secret of Homeschooling, by Melissa

 

When I first thought about homeschooling, I envisioned happy children, eagerly learning from the vast array of materials I would lovingly provide for them. Crafts, field trips, music lessons, our world of home education would be glorious. They’d excel at everything, all veritable geniuses and perfectly behaved children, and my home would be filled with the sounds of children’s laughter, the smell of home-made meals, and always neat before my husband came home.

I don’t know whose children I thought I’d be homeschooling, but it evidently wasn’t mine. I also seemed to believe that homeschooling would cause me to have a complete personality change.

Needless to say, I’m the same woman I’ve always been, just with the added responsibility of educating my children.

If my inherent personality flaws weren’t enough, then LIFE had to happen.

Winds of change have gusted through our life, some wonderful (new babies) some ill (chronic pain disability, job loss). I’ve had people ask, half in awe, half in horror, how I can possibly keep homeschooling through it.

How? I don’t know. I just do. I have what I call “Dory days,” those days when all you can do is keep swimming. Not that you seem to be actually getting ahead in any way, shape or form, but motion, even if it’s not seeming to get you closer to your goal, is better than complete inertia.

The fact that I’m more stubborn than the average definitely helps. The fact that my children have inherited this trait is a mixed bag. It depends on if they’re with me, or against me. Tazzie, our soon to be nine-year old, deciding that he can’t read, doesn’t like reading, doesn’t want to read, absolutely has been working against me, but I’m more stubborn than he is. I think.

One thing I’ve absolutely had to do is pack up my idea of what ‘should be’ and deal with ‘what is’. A curricula that I thought would be wonderful just didn’t work for my kids. My careful plans were shredded by chaos. I’ve had to learn flexibility, patience, and to quit daydreaming of dumping my kids on the steps of the local public school, yelling, “They’re yours now!” and fleeing, cackling wildly.

For me, it’s the small accomplishments that keep me going.   For example, Princess, our seven-year old, finally *getting* how this whole phonics gig works gets me through trying to teach Tazzie long division. His constant cries of, “I don’t geeeeeet iiiiittttttt!” and the wash, rinse, repeat, of showing him, yet again, how it works.  If it wasn’t for the bright moments of what I think of as “the Click,” I’m honestly not sure how I would manage, but I suspect it wouldn’t be in completely socially acceptable ways. I know they’ll get there, eventually, though. After all, the Grand Canyon started out as a river over some rocks, right?

I have some good friends who just awe me with their homeschooling. Honestly, they intimidate me too. I think we all have those folks in our lives, who from the outside seem to have it altogether. They’re who we want to be when we grow up: we want to parent like them, teach like them, keep house like them.

The reality of that is, they’d probably be completely horrified by the idea.

And that right there, folks, is the true secret of homeschooling. There’s not a single one of us that’s convinced we’re doing this all right. There’s not a homeschooling family that hasn’t made some compromises along the way, who’ve had to identify what their priorities really are, and let other things slide. We can’t do it all, and we need to be honest with ourselves about that. We need to give ourselves grace. This is especially important when challenges hit. And challenges *will* hit, no matter who you are. They may be huge, such as relocating, job loss, health issues. They may be small, such as folks wandering around in bathing suits in the winter because laundry hasn’t been done in recent memory, or having toast and cereal for supper for the third time in a week because all available kitchen work space is consumed with science and art projects.

Having a sense of humour, giving yourself grace, and being patient and kind to yourself are survival skills when it comes to homeschooling. These are also valuable life skills to give your children, giving them a cornerstone for their future that’s as necessary as math and reading.

(This article is published by StS with permission from Melissa Charles)  Melissa, more commonly known as ‘Mom’ or ‘Imp’, hails from Canada. She spends her day Wife-ing to ‘Wolf’, and Mom-ing ‘Diva’, ‘Tazzie’, ‘Princess’, ‘Toddler Terror/Boo’ and the newest addition to the minion roster, ‘Cubby’.

When not home educating, attempting to control the chaos that is every day life, and dodging bears and deer, she can be found blogging one armed at Not A Stepford Life

Homeschool Lemonade, by Emma

 

When life gives you lemons…

This has been a hard year, probably one of the hardest of my life. We’ve had many losses and a great deal of tragedy in our family. We have come together as a family and have grown stronger, and I believe homeschooling has greatly contributed to this strengthened family bond.

My children are young, both elementary-aged. During this hectic, crazy year, they coped by sticking to our routine. Get up in the morning, sneak past Mama to play with the dog (while Mama pretends not to hear them). Grab a snack in the kitchen. Play for a bit until Mama drags herself out of bed. Start lessons, have breakfast and continue on with school. School usually ends around eleven, and the rest of the afternoon is spent reading, playing games, or sometimes watching a movie. It’s quaint, peaceful, and serene, the exact opposite of all the craziness going on around us. I am so grateful for the peace.

I sit here, trying to imagine what the year would have been like if the kids had been away at school. I picture tired children, stress, rushing around, and a disconnected family. I’m grateful for one less thing to deal with on my plate.

So once again, I am reminded to be grateful for the opportunity to stay home with my babies, and to teach math using princess dolls while dressed like a princess. To read Pinocchio while snuggled on the couch. To receive mid-day hugs and kisses when life becomes hard.

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Emma has been married for 7 years, and is mom of 2, plus one once-crazy dog. She’s been homeschooling for 3 years now in NC. In addition to being a wife, mom and educator, she is also a Graphic Designer.