Taking “Pre”school Literally

Deep down in my soul I am a teacher.  I always have been.  As a child, I was excited to get discarded workbooks to pencil my way through.  As a 5th and 6th grader I complained because I didn’t have homework, and subsequently created my own. I am taken with curriculums and learning theory.  I feel delighted (and overwhelmed) at this digital age where so much learning is right at our fingertips.  I love watching the spark in a child’s eyes as she discovers that one nugget of knowledge that brings her great delight. I love reading and creating curriculums. It seems no wonder homeschooling is a fit for me.

As you can imagine, I jumped right in, head first with my oldest, starting with sensory activities and even writing my own tot curriculum.  Oh how fun! As my son turned three, I felt even more delighted – PRESCHOOL! Homeschooling could begin in earnest. My son is very bright. He craves information, reading and books.  He has always been very advanced verbally and learns quickly.  While I am a firm believer in experience-based learning for littlies and putting very little emphasis on formal reading education, I was eager to make that first big curriculum purchase.  So I did. And it didn’t work. It simply was not a fit for my son or me.

As I continue to wrestle with homeschooling style, making schooling a priority in our schedule, learning how to view every-day activities as homeschool, recognizing areas of struggle where I need to challenge my son’s growth, how to follow his lead a bit’ I realize I am in the perfect place! 

This is PREschool! Traditionally, preschool was intended to be a time of transition. It was not intended to be academically stimulating, but to help a child adjust to a school day, structure, being away from mommy, working with other children, etc. When I truly think about it, I wonder why the preschooling years at home have to be any different.

I’ve taken a step back, and I’m so excited to have the next year or two to prepare myself and my son for schooling.  As we learn through every day life, I can study him and see what makes him tick.  I can watch for the types of learning activities he does well. We can experiment with different schedules, and even try samples of various curriculums from time-to-time.  We can read different kinds of books and go on various field trips. We can try and experiment and ease into this thing called school. We can find our rhythm.

As I have taken this approach I’m already learning some great things.  I believe we will always have a more relaxed style of homeschooling that may include pre-made curriculums and it may not.  I’m learning how to be more observant of my son’s needs educationally and developmentally.  I’m learning how to keep a general overview of learning progress and individualized goals rather than following a specific schedule to meet generalized goals and objectives. I’m learning how to plan fun things without spending hours making lesson plans and burning myself out.  I have the time to earnestly seek and pray for God’s guidance. He knows exactly what He is calling my son to do and He knows just what knowledge and tools my son needs in preparation for that work.  (I could do a whole blog post on that topic alone!)

All the while, he’s learning about native plants and animals.  He is learning about ancient sewage systems and toilets (I know, gross, right?). He is learning how to help around the house and cook, how to pray for others, how to dress himself and the list goes on! 

If you have a little one and are eager to delve head first into homeschooling, I challenge you to step back. Stop worrying about if your little one knows her letters or can write her name.  Don’t fret about which curriculum you will use or how many minutes you spend on homeschool a day.  Rather, enjoy this time as a true PREschool season. Find your rhythms. Play with your schedule. Experiment with different things. Set yourself up for a time of great joy as you step in to this beautiful thing called homeschool.

 

Glistening Rain

The countdown was on. It was the month of August in Australia and spring officially starts on September the first. I had, already, with much thought and care, planted my spring garden seeds into containers. Our kitchen area created the perfect glass house  effect as they sat by the large plate window in the warm, winter sun by the snug, wood fire. However, this winter, day after day, we caught only small snatches of sunlight and clear, azure skies. Scattered showers and gusty winds had thrown their mantle of misery across the wintery landscape. The yearning for spring grew deep in my heart as the days passed by in a blustery gust of cold and wet.

Finally, in great excitement, the last day of winter arrived. It was bright and clear, warmth kissed the brown earth and the promise of spring  was upon us. I was on a mission. The calendar said spring was here for this coming week. In a flurry of anticipation, I busily organised the day around planting and weeding and tidying up the vegetable garden area. My husband, Michael, was conscripted to the cause, and off we traipsed into the heat of the day. We have two garden beds, sixteen feet by eight feet; both of them neatly bordered with wooden railway sleepers. The area surrounding our garden beds is covered with dusky coloured pavers and fully fenced. A flourishing passion fruit vine  clambers slowly over the fence; while rounds of dry cut wood stand neatly stacked to the side, ready for chopping. At the back lay scattered piles of chopped wood, unwanted bark, saw dust and scraggly weeds struggling to grow up between the pavers. Last season’s pumpkin vine lay dry and prickly through the tangled growth of tall grass and spilled out towards the garden.

Eagerly I turned the soft moist soil with the garden fork, stooping  to pull out each undesirable weed. Michael was happily occupied with methodically stacking previously chopped firewood and noisily cutting up old timber palings. My mind was whirling with the happy thoughts of all I would accomplish in the week ahead, from cleaning the pavers to eradicating the old pumpkin vine. I was enthusiastic and dedicated. I spent my day preparing the dark rich soil and planting out thirty corn plants and twelve zucchini plants, leaving the other seedlings in their containers to mature some more. I finished by spreading thickly a layer of yellowed sugar cane mulch across the garden bed.

I spent a few days hovering over each tiny plant, fussing with all the love of a mother over their tender care. I was enjoying the arrival of spring, the brightly coloured flowers blooming in my front garden, the sunny skies and the warmer weather. Unexpectedly, a roll of deep thunder echoed across the skies, a blast of cold air hit and blackened clouds unfurled themselves; rapidly blotting out the brightness of the sun and stealthily darkening the garden. I looked anxiously outside with a sense of foreboding. Abruptly the heavens opened and the outpouring of icy cold rain launched itself like arrows swiftly to the earth. It was torrential and I peered nervously towards the vegetable garden. The rain turned into tiny pellets of white ice. It was now hailing. Then back to teeming.  Would my seedlings survive? Would the leaves be damaged? Was the rain too fast, too heavy and too much? I stood there praying. With a blast of chilly wind the darkened clouds parted and the sun shone through swift and sure. Each rain drop fell, glistening like jewels to the ground. Rays of light in thin shafts beamed a radiance through the rain, creating  an enchanting wonderland. It was a world sparkling with beauty. I stood in awe.

The past year has found me feeling very vulnerable, fragile and weak like those little plants before the raging torrents of trials, copiously flowing from the skies. I have felt flattened and knocked and left wondering when it was ever going to cease. The brightness of God’s promises had lit up my heart with an iridescence of joy like streaks of light across the darkened corners of my mind. His word shone like gemstones shimmering through tears. Just as my little plants not just survived but thrived through the storm; so too I have hope, hope in the  abounding love and goodness of the Lord towards me. The lustre of His word glitters with a sheen upon your heart as well as mine. Will you believe Him? Will I ? 

Neh 8:10 “..Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”

Ps 34:17-19 When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.

James 1:2-4 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Looking Back: Reflections of a Homeschool Graduate

 

This week my daughter started studying at the local community college.  I can’t believe how time has flown.  After her first day of school we spent some time together talking about what she remembered about her childhood as a homeschooler.  What did we do well?  What did she remember the most? What did she wish we would have done better? I was taking notes, thinking about writing on the topic, for this blog post, when she asked for the computer and started writing down everything herself.  Then she volunteered to be our guest writer for the day.

What follows is her own words, maybe you could call it a concluding evaluation of 12 plus years of homeschool well spent.  In it you will see, through her eyes, a small picture of what homeschool is like in our home.  I hope it will inspire and encourage you to keep going, keep pressing on.  I noticed as we were talking that she mostly remembered the things that I didn’t call school, but were part of the rich, home environment of life long learning I tried to create.  Academics were always a part of our homeschool, as I knew they were an important foundation to further learning.  But workbooks and textbooks were only a small part of the home education experience.

Teaching this girl was not always easy, but as I look back, I can’t remember many of the struggles.  Instead, I have a heart of gladness and joy when I think of all that God has done in her.  It was worth it.  I have no regrets.

Lest you think I am all done with homeschooling, I must tell you that I still have a 14 year old son home learning with me every day.  By the grace of God, he will also finish up strong in a few years.

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Looking Back:  Reflections of a Homeschool Graduate

By Araya Frohne

Age 17

I have been homeschooled my whole life, until now. In the paragraphs below, follow me back through my memories of homeschooling, and get a taste of what life was like in our house for the last 12+ years.

The homeschooling scene opens at the little house where I was born… I am four years old.

Araya, would you like to do some school?”

School? Yeah, lets do some school.”

Out comes the little green chalk board, and a piece of white chalk… Out comes the little wooden easel, and we begin. The chalk squeaks on the board, as a big A appears, followed by B, C, D, and so on. Next we do numbers, 1-10. As quick as it started, it’s over for the day, with the promise of more tomorrow.

I don’t know how often we did “school” in the very beginning. It probably varied. But I do know I thoroughly enjoyed it, and thought “school” to be an exceptional game. Mama always explained things so that they were easy to understand, and she stopped before the excitement wore off.

Fast forward a couple years, to the big brown house we moved into the year I was six. (The same house we currently live in.)  Flash cards in hand, at the other end of the hall Mama kneeled. Mama flipped to the next card: “a A”.

Aaa, aye, awe,” I crowed.  “Yes!” Mama replied, and I would take a great big hop in her direction. . When I got enough sounds correct to reach her, she wrapped me into a great big hug.  Thus we proceeded through stacks and stacks of flash cards, until I thoroughly knew every sound that every letter in the alphabet makes.

Times in our little school room hold fond memories for me. There was an alphabet chart all around the ceiling, little blue curtains with brightly colored children on them, and a tiny wooden table for me to study at. The single window looked out on the driveway. One day in particular I remember peeking out the window and seeing giant white fluffy flakes drifting down from the sky. The day’s school routine stopped right there, and we switched to carving Ivory soap while watching the snow accumulate, and sipping a warm drink.

Math was fun in those days. Everything in the school room had a hand-made price tag on it. Mama and I took turns buying and selling those canned green beans, tomatoes, books, and other miscellany while I learned about money’s values, and how to count change.

One particularly fond memory from that era is of a unit study we did on Egypt. We learned about mummies, built pyramids from sugar cubes, and grew our own little Nile river from rye grass seeds and small river rocks.

Nature study was a big part of our homeschool. Mama would take us out each day with sketch books and colored pencils, and we would observe and draw what we saw. Some days we would stop right outside the front door, and examine the garden for something of interest. Other days we visited parks. Sometimes we studied birds, other times it was grass, dirt, or worms. Later, we began journaling about our nature study in split page notebooks. One half of the page was for drawing, the other half was for writing.

As I grew and matured, I became interested in inventing things. My contraptions, I called them. One contraption I remember in particular was an orange plastic Tonka size dump truck. It was just the right size seat for my brother or I, and I took advantage of that by tying a piece of string around through the windows in the cab and giving rides.

Mama always let us go work on projects as soon as our book work was done. I really enjoyed the hands-on creativity our project time provided. One year I consistently finished all my academics before breakfast. After breakfast I would look through a book full of science experiments and start making something that struck my fancy. I once spent at least a month building and tweaking  a pop bottle rocket launcher. I collected empty 2 liter bottles from friends, fashioned my own launcher from a few pieces of PVC pipe, and built my own rockets. When I called Mama out to come test my invention, the rocket went so high we never saw it again. As a side note, should any of your youngsters wish to try making a pop bottle rocket, or some other creative science toy- check out sciencetoymaker.org. The website was developed by a science teacher, and the projects are all easily completed with household materials. That’s where I found the design and/or ideas for many of my after-breakfast projects.

Music was a big part of my education from when I was very young. Mama took me to a Kindermusic class, where I learned the fundamentals of music. A couple of years after graduating from Kindermusic, I began piano lessons. 4 years later, I began teaching myself violin, then I began violin lessons. After 7 years of piano lessons, I decided to stop and focus on violin. Last year, after a year of being extremely sick due to Lyme disease, I could no longer tolerate the pain from playing the violin, and sadly decided I needed a break. During that time I resumed piano lessons, and took piano for several months. I am now resuming violin lessons, and focusing my energy on regaining good technique.

In sixth grade, a good family friend came and taught me writing classes each week. She expected quality work, and taught me the joy of writing. I learned to write poetry, how to write a proper response to a reading, and ended with a ten page research paper. Ever after, I have enjoyed creative writing immensely as both a way to process thoughts, and an outlet for information.

I didn’t particularly enjoy math, though I liked it best when I went from Alpha through Zeta with Math-U-See.

I was a never-ending reader. Even when I should have been doing math, sometimes I would have a book open on my lap. As I look back on homeschooling, this is actually where I learned the most. This was my history class. Reading was by far one of my favorite activities. Everywhere I went, you could assume I had a book with me. We even have a photo of me hiking whilst reading a book (and I wasn’t posing!). Some of my favorite books were stories of Adventist young people growing up in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

The summer after ninth grade, I joined a canvassing team in Ohio. We worked for ten weeks, selling Christian books door to door. The first few weeks were amazing. Then one morning I became dizzy, and my health began slipping down hill. I somehow made it through that canvassing program. The poor leaders kept wanting to send me home, and I kept refusing, and insisting that I would get better, I would somehow finish the program. Three Emergency Room visits, and ten weeks after the summer program began, my mom flew in, and we spent a week recuperating  at a friends home before we flew home. 15 months, and countless doctors later, it was decided that I had Lyme disease. We began treating it, and it became clear we were doing the right thing, however treatment showed slow improvement. During those two years, due to cognitive decline, academics came to a standstill. My home education, however did not.

The September after I came home from Ohio, a man ran over our little mix-breed chihuahua/miniature pinscher rescued dog. He felt so bad that he came back the next day, and offered us a Jack Russell Terrier puppy. After much prayer, we accepted. Soon after, Cookie, our new 3-month old puppy, began alerting me to some of the neurological symptoms the Lyme disease was causing.

In the middle of puppy training, my family went to Guam. Cookie stayed home with the grandparents.  My dad teaches at the local Adventist university, and he had earned a winter sabbatical. We went to the island of Guam out in the Pacific Ocean, so my dad could build something for Adventist World Radio. Living in a new culture and environment for a quarter was definitely an educational activity. I learned a lot about island life, not only on Guam, but on other nearby pacific islands. On the way home we spent a week in Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia.  We helped at the elementary school where my mom had a been a teacher in the late 1980’s, walked through tropical jungles, saw waterfalls, and camped for a few days on a deserted atoll way out in the ocean. Out there in the Pacific I learned more about the joy of mission work than I ever did in the states.

When we returned home, a friend who runs a service dog training program offered to have me go through a new program she was developing, as a beta tester. Thus began the most exciting, enjoyable homeschooling I have ever done: dog training. In the last two years, the dog and I learned to work together as a service dog team, and I witnessed a crazy, hyper-active Jack Russell Terrier pup become a calm, focused, well-behaved service dog. When I was my sickest, that dog gave me a reason to get out of bed. When I felt slightly better, she gave me a reason to walk.

Now I am no longer technically a homeschooler; Cookie and I attended our first day of Community College this week. I am excited about the new possibilities, and the new learning environment. But I will miss homeschool. I will miss the time spent with my family. I will miss being able to hop up and go babysit someone’s kids at a moments notice. I will miss the flexible schedule. I will miss the time to read at leisure, and the hours of curious creativity and invention. I am thankful for the last twelve years. I learned many life skills that I might not have learned otherwise. But you know what? While I’m no longer a homeschooler, I’ll actually always be a homeschooler. Because what stands out the most to me in the last years of home education is not the math or the history… it’s the creative, extracurricular activities.

There is only one thing I wish I had done differently in being homeschooled: I wish I had cooperated with more of my mom’s creative educational ideas. I wish I had let her do more unit studies with me, more lapbooking, and more notebooking. I wish I had grasped the mundane academic studies more quickly, so we could have done more creative, advanced projects.

In conclusion, I wish to thank my parents for all the time, effort, and perseverance  they put into my education. I want them to know that their prayers and patience were not in vain. The love for God, creativity, and quest for academic knowledge they encouraged in me has sprouted into the well rooted plant of life-long learning.

 

Falling Apart

 

Someone reading this needs this as much as I do.

Starting out as a new mom at the beginning of 2003 I immediately felt the stress of having to “keep it together”. I felt as though if I didn’t, if I asked for help or fell apart then I would be a failure. I even felt like a failure to ask God for help. We had so much trouble getting pregnant and having fertility treatments that I felt like I was complaining if I told God I was struggling. Why do we do that to ourselves? The Lord tells us in Matthew 11:28 “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

I started being a stay-at-home mom two months before our first son, Eli, was born. Eleven months later we had our second son, Tyson.

I didn’t do so well with the “keep it together” thing for at least six months but by that time I think I felt like it was time to put back on the non-stressed front. Again, why do we do that to ourselves? Satan has a way of making us doubt ourselves as a mother, wife, and homeschooler. This is not what God wants for his daughters! We should never doubt God and his power and strength to sustain us through anything and everything. “God is my strength and power: and he maketh my way perfect.” 2 Samuel 22:33 (Not that it will always seem perfect in our eyes but God’s ways are perfect in every way.) Why do we not always turn to Him first? Before we get to the falling apart stage our heavenly Father should have been confided in and consulted. If he is our strength and power then we can be at peace with all that comes our way.

Sometimes we can give ourselves a false sense of security. When you can tell the morning is starting off a bit different than usual, maybe someone’s attitude is off a bit. Do you stop immediately and ask God for a turn around? I don’t always. Sometimes I try to fix it myself first. I think it is a misunderstanding, if it is one of the boys, or with me I may think “calm down, breath, start again.” Where was my conversation with my Father? Why didn’t I ask Him for help first? Not help from my husband (I’m quick to ask for his help) but help from my Father. We, at least I, can give ourselves the false sense of being able to do this great task of motherhood alone and while we can busy ourselves with teaching our children and taking care of them we sometimes forget that there is someone who loves us infinitely more than we could ever imagine and he wants us to seek him and ask (Luke 11:9-10). Even when you have that mounting feeling of falling to pieces at any moment and Satan whispers, “you’ve got it, no need to bother Him”…seek God!

Have you seen your children frustrated and on the verge of falling apart because a project isn’t going well or as planned? Did you ache to jump in and help but they didn’t want or ask for help? Oh how our Father must ache to help us in our times of need.

Can you commit to going to Him first…before you fall apart? Instead, fall apart in His arms. He already knows your troubles, he just needs you to carry it to him in prayer. What a friend we have in Jesus!

1.	What a friend we have in Jesus, 
	all our sins and griefs to bear! 
	What a privilege to carry 
	everything to God in prayer! 
	O what peace we often forfeit,
	O what needless pain we bear, 
	all because we do not carry 
	everything to God in prayer. 

2.	Have we trials and temptations? 
	Is there trouble anywhere? 
	We should never be discouraged; 
	take it to the Lord in prayer. 
	Can we find a friend so faithful 
	who will all our sorrows share? 
	Jesus knows our every weakness; 
	take it to the Lord in prayer. 

3.	Are we weak and heavy laden, 
	cumbered with a load of care? 
	Precious Savior, still our refuge; 
	take it to the Lord in prayer. 
	Do thy friends despise, forsake thee? 
	Take it to the Lord in prayer! 
	In his arms he'll take and shield thee; 
	thou wilt find a solace there.

Search and Rescue

The sticky, slimy ooze dangles from loose floppy jowls. Suspended, it elongates, silently threatening to be flung with a violent shake of the huge reddish-brown head. Slobber is one of the disgusting realities of our time providing service for our community with Search and Rescue dogs.

One of our friends got involved in the Northwest Bloodhound Search and Rescue. Her dog, Stella, needed to learn how to find people by their scent. A Bloodhound is naturally good at following scent trails, however they need to learn many skills before they can become a certified Search and Rescue Dog. The handler working with the dog has to learn a wide variety of skills as well. So our family started to “get lost” for Stella and many other bloodhounds.

Getting lost on purpose is a lot harder than getting lost accidentally. It takes a lot of coordination by the handler to have the volunteer lay a trail that will help them and the dog learn to work together to find someone. The handler will usually have us meet them at a park, an area where there are lots of trails in the forest, or at a school. We then look at a map and see where we are to go. Sometimes the handler will walk with us and sometimes they will hand us a GPS unit and we follow the map. The handler makes notes on what the weather conditions are like. A GPS unit can track where we have gone and then they can compare it with where the Search Dog takes them. Sometimes we lay a trail and come back a day or two later to wait at the end of our trail. We have to be careful to not go near our trail at any other point. It gets rather complicated just getting to where you need to wait to be found sometimes.

So why does my family support Search and Rescue Dog training? It is rewarding to get to know the dogs and their handlers. Search Dog handlers are an amazing group of people who are willing to spend a lot of time and money on equipment and training their dog, giving their dog the best care, and responding to needs in the community. One of the best rewards is knowing that someone has been found when they were lost, that makes helping with Search and Rescue training and all that slobber worth it.