Looking Forward to Change — A Message to Those Heading to Academy or College

It’s that time again! Summer break has already started or is just around the corner, and for some of you going back to school in the fall will mean transitioning out of homeschooling and off into to academy or college. My topic today is geared toward you specifically, although your parents are welcome to read along.

1. Even though you don’t know me, I’m proud of you and your hard work, and your dedication to your studies, family, and friends. Nothing worth having comes easily, and you’ve proved yourself through hours of study, outreach events, and kindnesses to those around you. Heading off to a new school and environment requires continued courage, determination, and the perseverance not to give up when deadlines loom; and, class requirements take more out of you than you ever thought possible. Keep up the good work!

2. All that character you and your parents have focused on building? It’s going to be proven in a big way once you’re out on your own. Decisions to continue to take your education seriously, or to avoid spending time with those friends who have suddenly begun making poor choices regarding drugs, alcohol, pornography, etc., are going to make a huge impact in your future. In the moment it can be hard to see how certain things will affect you positively or negatively five, 10, or 15 years down the line, but take it from someone who has lived a little longer than you: poor decisions can haunt you for years afterward. By that same token, wise ones can benefit you, and be a source of reassurance and strength in the years to come.


3. Know that you’re not alone. You have these intense feelings, emotions, and thoughts (about the big project that is due tomorrow, or significant others, for instance) that you’re absolutely certain no one has felt before. Ever. Especially not your parents? Think again. There are a lot of similarities between you and your parents. You do share 50% of your DNA with each of them after all. They might understand more than you’d think. They also raised you since you were born, and understand you better than anyone alive on this earth (It took me years into adulthood, and having several children of my own to realize the truth of this!) Your parents have wisdom and insight into many situations that you are facing. They’ve probably spent countless days and sleepless nights praying over you that you were unaware of — and you know how important sleep is now, right? They love you, and want your best.

4. Know that you’re not alone (part 2). As much as a parent loves their child, nothing can compare to the love that God has for us. He knows you on a molecular level! He knows your family history farther back than even your grandparents can remember. He knows your strengths and weaknesses. He knows and understands the very essence of who you are, and He wants to fight for you. Your heart is precious to Him. So, why not spend time talking to him about the next big test, a failed relationship, or future job plans? (You wouldn’t be the first person to change their major in the middle of the year).

5. And finally, work hard on your studies, but don’t forget to make time for fun events with friends who will uplift and encourage you. The friendships and memories you make here will most likely last for years to come. Sometimes former homeschoolers can seem like the “odd man out” to uninformed persons. Use the social opportunities to reach out to others and show them you’re anything but “awkward” and “unsocialized.” 😉

I pray the coming year brings growth and wisdom, and helps you discover more about who you were created to be. While this journey into independence may be a little scary at first, I have confidence that you will soon adjust, and even thrive! And, if you do make mistakes or fall flat on your face, know that God is always there to help lift you up. So are your parents, teachers, and school counselors. They love you and are in your corner.

Here’s to new adventures in the coming year!

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

See also Psalm 27:1, Psalm 56:3-4, Proverbs 3:5-6, and 2 Timothy 1:7.

Our Wildflower Pilgrimage Experience

The Large-Flowered Trillium starts out white, then ages to a beautiful light pink. I love the petals’ “ruffles.”

Through the years, our family has taken many guided tours, mostly in national parks. We always learn something new, and it’s a great way to get out of doors on a field trip. This year we were following the Apologia “Flying Creatures” curriculum, and my kids’ assignments included completing the Bird, Insect, and Wildflower Pathfinder honors. So, when a friend suggested attending the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage in the Great Smoky Mountains, we jumped on it!

The title “Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage” is something of a misnomer only because it doesn’t just cover wildflowers. Experts in ornithology, entomology, biology, forestry, ecology, and herpetology join botanists. Artists and photographers are included to teach nature journaling and photography classes. Park rangers and managers round out the experienced staff.

Yellow Trillium were everywhere in the park. it was beautiful!

We chose to focus on wildflowers, birds and nature journaling, though we were sad that the salamander tour filled up so fast! I spoke with a birder who had attended the salamander walk, and he reported that they had seen 11 species of salamander in one morning!

My kids thoroughly enjoyed the wildflower walk, and having an easy-to-use wildflower guide with clear pictures was exceptionally helpful! This particular book is organized according to when flowers bloom, so the smaller kids only had to flip through a small section of the book, rather than the whole thing, to successfully find a match to what they were viewing along the trails. (Most guides are organized according to flower color.) All together, we identified more than 40 wildflowers or flowering bushes/trees.

The only May-apple blossom we found: Our guide had been searching for one in vain until our tour — we felt privileged!

Attending a nature journaling class gave us an opportunity to sit in the shade and be creative. It was a perfect afternoon activity when the sun was hot and the kids were worn out from walking. The kids learned how to embellish their pages with stamps, fancy writing, and even pop-ups.

In the fall of 2016, fires devastated Gatlinburg and the Smoky Mountains, so the forests’ response to the fires was of particular interest to many on the tours this spring. We were delighted with a spectacular wildflower display; apparently the destruction of brush and undergrowth in the forest allowed sunlight to reach more deeply into the forest, and some flowers produce more after a fire anyway. God provides for the smallest detail in His creation. It was a beautiful spiritual lesson and reminder of grace and protection.

It was on our birding tour that I discovered my 10-year-old son needed glasses… Oops!

The kids realized out on the trail why we have been listening to recordings of bird songs: it’s often easier to hear the bird and then find what you know you’re looking for! Completing the Pathfinder honor was a breeze, with help from a guide. With help, we identified 18 birds by sight and an additional six by sound only. Some of these birds my kids were familiar with, like the brown-headed cowbird, red-bellied woodpecker, American robin, and downy woodpecker. But, others were brand new to them, such as the golden-crowned kinglet, yellow-throated warbler, white-breasted nuthatch, northern parula, ovenbird, black and white warbler, black-throated green warbler,and blue-gray gnatcatcher. Along the way we also identified more wildflowers: white-fringed phacelia, trout lilies,and spring beauties.

Our final guided tour was presided over by a Native American; she taught the wild edibles class. Her personal experience was invaluable for the kids to hear, and they appreciated the Native American items she brought, such as beads, porcupine quills, and clothing. We also learned that it’s important not to boil the stinkbugs with the staghorn sumac for tea! 🙂

In the wild edibles class, we learned that squaw root is often the first thing bears eat in the spring. It works as a colon stimulant.

A sick child and car troubles precluded us from attending our last two guided tours, but I felt like the entire excursion was definitely worth the trip and expenses. There is no substitute for an experienced guide along to help the kids positively identify plants and animals in the wild. The more exposure the kids get to these things, the more those plants and animals become like “friends” every time the kids find them. When we returned home, the first thing my kids did was to take a jaunt through our local woods, searching for trillium and lady slippers. That’s my definition of success!

Tips for Taking a Guided Tour with Young Kids:

  1. Be prepared for long walks. Check the printed guide and ask about the terrain. Some walks are labeled “easy” or “along a path”; on those walks a jogging stroller might be something useful for very small children. (But ask first!)
  2. Pack a small, lightweight backpack for every child. Include water bottle, rain poncho/jacket, hat, lightweight pocket guides or laminated fold-out guides, journal or small pad of paper, pencil, binoculars if birding, a magnifying glass (lightweight), and a quiet snack.
  3. In your backpack, a roll of toilet paper and baggies might be very useful for small bladders and those kids who drink all of their water in the first half-hour!
  4. Dress appropriately for the weather, and wear good walking/hiking shoes.
  5. Prior to the trip, it might be helpful to practice walking along a trail looking for flowers and listening for birds. Quietly walking and being observant is a skill, not a natural trait for most children. Preparing them ahead of time for what is expected helps!
  6. Birding tours are probably best suited to older children. My younger kids enjoyed the wildflower tour and the nature journaling class the most. Wildflowers don’t fly or run away, and they are easier to spot!
  7. If you are wanting pictures of the flowers you spot, you probably should tote along an actual camera. It’s difficult to steady and zoom in with a phone camera.

    Catesby’s trillium is considered a rare species, limited to the Southern Appalachians. My kids found this one near our home.

    Searching for lady slippers and trillium close to home

    A pink lady slipper found near home after the trip

    Wild geranium was in full bloom during our late-April excursion to the Smokies.

    The crested dwarf iris provided a lovely complement flower to the yellow trilliums along the roadsides.

    A Jack-in-the-pulpit was a fun find along a river.

Charlotte Mason Preschool

Charlotte Mason was a huge supporter for starting formal academics later. She spoke about the benefits of short lessons, rich living books, and lots of time spent outside. I love how her method of teaching supports early childhood development. It is my goal that my early learner is in love with learning! Currently I am working with my three-year-old, and want to share what a Charlotte Mason preschool looks like in our home.

After we have morning time with my middle schoolers, I send them off to their individual studies and work with my three-year-old. We read a short Bible lesson and then do her calendar board. Some days she will play with felts or do other hands-on activities during morning time. After her Bible and calendar time, we move to her “core” work.

I found a wonderful Charlotte Mason based preschool curriculum called The Peaceful Preschool. It is a literature and project based curriculum that is letter themed. I love the rich book suggestions and gentle hands-on projects for each letter of the alphabet. These activities include read alouds, phonics, counting skills, fine and large motor skills, practical life skills, and art skills. There are 26 weeks or 52 weeks of lessons depending on how much time you want to spend on each letter.  All of the lessons are pre-planned and include a weekly grid, book, activity, and field trip suggestions. It makes it really simple and restful for me as a teacher and offers flexibility for my child’s interests.

I chose to spend two weeks per letter so that we could move slowly through her learning. I love that I can add in my own manipulatives, activities, and books as we go along, depending on her interests.

Along with her letter themed activities, we are also learning about nature study. The Charlotte Mason method of education has a strong focus on time spent outside and in nature study. We love to go on walks; play in the dirt; and spot birds, flowers, and plants, and then learn about them. These nature activities can also be tied into the letter themes to round out their learning.

One thing to remember about early learning is that it doesn’t have to be fast-paced with lots of formal learning. Children learn through play, enriching books, simple activities, and lots of nature time. Keep it simple, let them grow within their developmental abilities, and provide a loving environment.

Homeschooling as a Single Parent, Pt. 7


How Do I Afford This?

Homeschooling “on the cheap” is covered by various sites. It has also been covered by this blog in the past. Yet, because this series is about homeschooling as a single parent, I felt I needed to at least address some ideas on how to be able to afford to homeschool when funding may be tight.

With the internet, a printer, and a good local library, it is possible to homeschool for almost free. Unit studies are very popular ways to homeschool inexpensively. There are literally hundreds of free unit studies available online. There are some paid sites such as CurrClick that offer a free study each week. There are sites like HomeschoolFreebie which offer daily free resources. They also have paid resources that are often offered at a discount. Khan Academy is a well-known free site for many subjects. YouTube offers countless free educational videos and even audio books. Your local public library often offers free learning kits also. It is an extremely valuable resource.

There is a time exchange when you want to save money on homeschooling. When you have free resources, there is no one there organizing the lesson plans. That means it will require more time of the mom or dad to do the planning. Sometimes it is easier to find time than to find money, though.

I should say that the most “bang for the buck” I have found is Old Schoolhouse Magazine, which offers curriculum that is Christian in nature on every subject, and dozens of electives. They offer very easy payment plans also (sales are advertised often). Even though my children are finished, I still maintain my membership in this site since learning never stops. They also offer lesson plans. This is truly a one-stop place for all grades and subjects.

Other curriculums that are low-cost: Pray & Prepare. This is an excellent program that is not Adventist, but teach many of our doctrines such as Saturday Sabbath, unclean meats, and even modest dress. It is low-cost and has activities for all age groups. It is truly a program for the whole family.

Blessed is a Man/Far Above Rubies are high school programs that are specific for gender. They are college-prep programs that require a good deal of reading and writing/research. Again, they provide activities and ways to count high school credit. The parent only has to pick and choose according to interest and needs.

Before leaving this topic, I will also share about the K-12 program offered all across the country through the public school system. Because of the growing number of families who are pulling their children out of the public schools, a home-based public school program is now being offered country-wide. Word of warning…it IS public school. They do offer a number of perks like a free computer, a printer, and funds for internet access. They also offer funds for extras in some areas. When considering this option, ask yourself why you are homeschooling. From the friends I have seen using this program, it is a lot of work. There is also a teacher who oversees the work. Many times I have seen families extremely stressed in trying to finish the work by the end of the school year. Even though the cost is free, there are other costs to consider.

There are other options with information available on the blog and other lists. This post is simply a reminder of some ways to cut the cost of homeschooling. Having low funds needs never be a reason to not homeschool.

Homeschool Student Interviews – Part 10

My name is Russell, and I am 13 years old and in grade 8. We live on five acres in northwestern Alberta. My favourite things to do here are dirt bike and work on my grandparents farm. I have a younger sister, one dog, and a mom and dad. My favourite place to travel is northern California to see my cousins. I’ve also been to Florida, other provinces in Canada, and Belize. My favourite time of year is fall.

1 ) What is your name and what country/state/province do you live in?

My name is Russell Whitmore. I live near Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada.

2 ) How long have you been home schooled?

Nine years, since kindergarten

3 ) What do you like most about being home schooled?

Freedom to travel and do other things

4 ) Is there anything you dislike about being home schooled?

Would like to see more kids my age

5 ) What is your favorite thing to learn about?

Science

6 ) What are your favorite hobbies or activities?

I like to dirt bike and work on the farm.

7 ) What would you like to do when you grow up?

I don’t know what I’m going to do yet.

8 ) What is your favorite project that you have worked on for school?

The A-Z animals in Africa project I did in grade 6, and a solar system presentation on Mars