Waiting Despite the Push

In today’s world it seems everyone here in the U.S. is pushing to start their child early in school. Some even feel a parent should start some type of formal education before the age of three. Yet, is that the best for our children?

I cannot count how many times there are questions on the homeschool Facebook group about ways to start school with a child who is 2 or 3 years old. I’m not sure why there is such a desperate need to get started on learning, or I should say formal learning, today.

I remember when I started kindergarten. It was expected I might know how to count to 10 and maybe know my ABCs. I was not expected to know much more than that, except maybe my basic colors. Today’s 5-year-old starting kindergarten is expected to already know numbers, letters by sight, and even some basic reading words. What is the hurry? Are children graduating knowing more than we did in the past?

In reality, our graduating seniors know significantly less than 12th graders even 50 years ago. Our college entrance exams (ACT/SAT) have been “dumbed” down in order to keep the statistics high enough. So, why rush in beginning formal education?

There are important reasons why not to start. I will start by sharing the first one that comes to mind.

Seventh-day Adventists are given wise counsel not to begin formal education until a child is 8 to 10 years old. For boys, I would suggest formal learning later is better. We have wise counsel from Dr. Raymond Moore, also, in his book, Better Late than Early.

Other countries such as Denmark and Finland delay their children’s entrance into formal schooling. They do have some early pre-school programs, but they are play-based and child-centered. This means the child is allowed to play and learn instinctively in a natural manner. THIS is how our children learn and how the brain best develops. This type of play-based early education is what builds better brains and better learning skills in later years.

Research has also shown that children who delay formal schooling have less behavior problems. They are better able to sit and focus when their bodies are ready for learning. Early formal schooling has not shown any advantage in later reading scores.

I realize that in today’s world it is often necessary for both parents to work. Daycare costs a good deal of money. If we can send our children to school earlier, it is less money out of our pockets. Is it worth it in the long wrong? And, we are choosing to homeschool, so this “save money” reason to send to school early is not even considered.

Another argument for early education is the effect of poverty on child development. This is the stated reason for Headstart program. Some others use the reason that children with neglectful parents need to be in the school system so they will not be penalized academically. Again, neither of these would give a cause for those homeschooling. I’m hoping for those parents who need help in improving parenting skills that they will seek help.

Do we feel our children will be behind if we delay formal education? At the end of this article, I’ve listed some of the research on the benefits of delayed academics. Hopefully this will help a parent give a good reason if they do not simply wish to follow the counsel we have been given over a hundred years earlier, in addition to Dr. Moore’s research.

I wish to share a bit of my own personal experience with my youngest. Even though I had read all of Moore’s books and Ellen White’s recommendations, I had a child that was born with some challenges. I thought this warranted the need to begin formal education early. Yet, no matter what I tried, nothing was learned. In fact, the early push produced nothing but frustration and anger.

After I wised up and decided to wait, I began some formal education about age 8. Things were moving slowly, but I did not push. He did not learn to read until age 10. I had all types of professionals threatening me with legal action because I was not putting my son into public school and he was “behind.”

By the time he graduated, he had learned the basics and had developed a more well-rounded education than many of his public-school friends. Nothing was pushed. We tackled topics when he proved ready for them. Delaying formal academics allows your child to learn when they are ready, not when the public says they should be ready.

Each child is different. Those who are wanting to learn to read at 4 should be allowed to do so IF THEY ARE LEADING. Teach by informal methods, using games and fun activities. By keeping learning fun in the early years, the child will develop a love of learning that will extend their whole lives.

A closing thought is in reference to an article I read about the gifted/talented. We lose many of our G/T children by pushing early formal learning. By allowing our children time to play and learn naturally, we foster the brain’s ability to develop more synapse connections and increase creative thinking.

We homeschool our children so we can help them become all that God wishes them to be. I hope each parent reading this today will realize that it is not important to “keep up with the Joneses” in our teaching. Allow our children to be children. They grow up fast enough.

Resources:

Organizing Our Days: The Part Reading Plays


Fall is my favorite time of year. The changing colors, a cozy sweater, a good book, a warm cup of tea: These things make me happy! So naturally, I am excited to share my love of reading with my children, and this season is the perfect time to spend more time reading together.

I started reading to my oldest right out of the womb. You could say I was reading to him before he was even born, since it has been proven our children hear our voices while they are still in utero. In the first few months of his life, I would read my own books out loud. Usually these were devotional or parenting books that I was squeezing in now that I held this precious bundle in my arms with so little experience under my belt.

I don’t remember how old he was when we started reading picture books to him, but I do remember that as time progressed he was able to sit for longer periods of time as I read more to him. Now he is one of the readers in our home, and reading is a big part of our family’s day.

I spent a lot of time praying over our schedule and working the layout to be one that enabled us to teach each other throughout the day. This means my oldest spends up to 30 minutes reading and teaching his younger brother, and then my middle son has the opportunity to instruct and work with his little sister. These are fun and hands-on learning opportunities! I am learning from my children throughout the day, and I see them eager to learn as they have opportunities to learn from and teach each other.

We clock in more than three hours of purposeful reading on a daily basis! It’s lovely and not forced at all. The children all have personal devotions in the morning (15-20 minutes).  During our morning family worship, we take turns singing hymns and reading Scripture (20-40 minutes). In the late morning we begin school with cookbook reading (dinner preparations), applied math concepts, and character stories (30 minutes). We continue this pattern during our nature walk as we bring along a blanket and our nature lesson for the day (15 minutes). After our walk, we curl up on the couch and my son reads from his third grade True Education reader (15 minutes), then I follow with something from our Read Aloud Basket (15 minutes). We follow this with quiet time, and my older two can look at books or read/color during this time (15 minutes). In the evenings, we read from our Read Aloud Basket again for the longest period of read aloud time (30-45 minutes). This has become my favorite time of day, which says a lot because I’m a morning person and I have really struggled to find joy in the evenings when my energy is waning.

I hope this post encourages you to incorporate more time reading into your day in ways that can nurture a love for good books in your children. My next post I will be sharing more of an inside look to our Read Aloud Basket.

In the meantime, here is my favorite inspiration as we developed our Read Aloud Basket which we use throughout the day: http://www.theunlikelyhomeschool.com/search?q=Morning+basket

How often do you read with your children throughout the day? Please share your favorite read-alouds that your family could read again and again in the comments below.

Blessings,

Allison

 

Exploring a New Year…

 

The most frequent response I get when I tell people I homeschool has been, “Wow, I don’t have the patience for that,” or “You must be a very patient person!” My answer is that it takes a lot of patience to parent. Homeschooling isn’t that different, just extended.

One thing that has really helped me to be patient in our homeschool has been to remember my children are people first. When I remember that they are people, I can be more compassionate. Jesus told us to “let the little children come to Him” in a time when children were thought to be a nuisance and in the way. Things haven’t changed much in that aspect. Adults tend to want children to do what they are told, when they are told to do it, how they are told to do it. In fact, when I was a young girl if I was told to jump, the reaction expected was to ask “how high” as I was starting to jump.

One of the blessings of homeschooling our children is that they are able to develop their own sense of identity…except we don’t always appreciate that independence when it comes against us. It is possible to harness that independence, to use it to enhance their educational experience.

I don’t want a carbon copy of me. It would certainly be easier to predict their desires, interests, and actions, but it would be boring. My sons have different interests, different life goals, and they are still discovering them. My job is to help them discover their path in life, to discover God’s calling on his life. When I remember this, it puts life, and school, into perspective.

Our homeschool journey includes exposing the children to many different options. Sometimes we do weird, crazy things to explore those options. We’re often researching topics of interest, no matter how strange they may seem to be. You can use all of those options to teach all of the subjects needed. We’re stepping into junior high this year, and that makes it a transition year… It’ll be an interesting journey as we move forward.

My advice as we move into a new school year: Don’t be afraid to throw out the books sometimes and explore the weird things in life. Let the kids find their own passions and use those passions to teach what they need to know to succeed in life. Get hands on, and discover what’s available in your community to reach your child’s interests. Forget about the path you had planned, and let them discover their own.

Homeschool Fruit: Sharing…& More

One of the best things — a true fruit — of homeschooling, to me, is being able to glean information from other homeschoolers about how they are doing things, how they have overcome problems, and how they have gotten their kids excited about learning. We have a community that seems to be inherently supportive, and generally homeschoolers are eager to share what has worked well for them.

The “& More” in the title is about something I’d like to share with you, so we’ll veer from general sharing to a specific topic. I have several homeschooling friends who have talked to me about how their kids have problems writing essays, how they seem to freeze and their minds go blank. This really resounds with me. I’ve been a writer and editor for more than 30 years, but I am NOT a creative writer. It just doesn’t flow naturally. And, probably not surprisingly, neither is my son. I have a nifty little formula and writing style, though, for those of us who are a little more at ease with reporting straightforward facts, and I’d like to share it with you.

If you have a hesitant writer, introduce them to newswriting and the “Inverted Pyramid.” This is probably the most basic, building-blocks part of journalism taught in college, and yet it is also very graspable for a young writer — particularly middle-school age and up. The inverted pyramid is merely writing/reporting your story with the most important facts at the top, narrowing to the least important at the bottom. And, it is easy to start off with five basic questions.

Let’s create a scenario that you could work through with your child. Say you ask them to write a report on the church service this coming Sabbath. But wait…

SIDENOTE: Does it seem odd to have an assignment that incorporates the Sabbath? Think about the last time you read your local Union Conference magazine. Did you notice interesting articles about a special children’s service at one church? Or maybe a Sabbath outreach mission? Or possibly a Sabbath concert offered to the community? Somebody who attended wrote those. I see multiple benefits to a Sabbath report for our kids, including better listening and observation skills in church, and maybe even the planting of tiny seeds of interest for future communication work within the Adventist Church. Back to the report…

Besides making sure they take their notepad and pen to church, have them write down the 5Ws the day before:
Who … was involved?
What … happened?
Where … did it happen?
Why … did it happen?
When … did it happen?

Now they have a ready-made list of things to look for. They will probably want to take a church bulletin for themselves to help glean information, including the name of your church, address, time of service, and participants. You could also have them listen carefully to the sermon, and make notes about the main point and primary Bible text used.

They might also look around to see if there are things they think might be interesting. Is the sanctuary decorated especially for Easter? Are there any kids in attendance? Was there a special part of the program aimed at kids? Were there guests present? Any special music? How about a potluck after church?

Young writers will not necessarily think of all those things, but you can help them come up with a list during the preceding week, and have them jot down things they will look for to incorporate in their story.

Another useful thing is to add a quote from someone who was there. Maybe they’d like to interview their best friend to find out what their favorite part of the service was. Remind your child to write it down word for word, and include their name and age. Or, maybe after the service they could tell the pastor what they are doing (the pastor will probably think this is fantastic, by the way), and ask how the pastor picked the sermon subject. There again, they can carefully write down the response, as well as the pastor’s name and title.

Your pastor would probably be delighted to answer a question or two for your child. Kids showing active engagement in church is good news!

Now you can take your sheet of facts home to work on later. It’s easier to write when the event is fresh in your memory, so consider having your child  start in on Saturday night or Sunday, and take some time off during the regular school week.

First, have them organize the facts into three groups:

  • those that they will definitely include in the article (i.e., 5Ws, sermon title or theme, etc.),
  • those that are interesting but not terribly important (i.e., the special music performer was visiting from another church),
  • and those that are related but not necessary (i.e., there were four casseroles at potluck).

Create an article outline. Your outline (and, next, your article) will follow the inverted pyramid. Put the most important information is at the top. Since you’ve already organized the facts, this will be easy.

Time to write!

  • Start with a strong leading sentence.
  • Give all the important details. These are the from the first group of facts in their “organize the facts” list.
  • Follow up main facts with additional information. These draw from the second group of facts.
  • Finish your article. Leave the reader with an interesting point, or maybe an invitation to attend an upcoming event at the church.

Here’s a very short sample article, but one that a middle-school age student could easily put together. It might give you ideas for an easy writing assignment for your child.

Sample Article:

“Reaching Up, Reaching Out” was the theme for a special community outreach planning day at Mount Bountiful Adventist Church, 123 Happiness Lane, in Somewhere, Alaska, Saturday, March 12, 2017. Members gathered to discuss ways to share God with the surrounding community. (See the 5Ws in the first paragraph?)

The special Sabbath program included music, praise, worship, and a chance for members to share ideas for reaching out to their neighbors. Joe Schmoe, pastor, said that he was excited to see nearly every member present, and appreciated how important outreach is to the small church.

The Juniors and Earliteen Sabbath School classes joined to present a skit about helping children in the neighborhood. “It was pretty neat to think of ways to help,” said Janey Doe, age 12. “I hope that we can help some other kids.”

After church the members enjoyed a potluck, and discussed how they might use food and nutrition to reach the community.

Everyone is invited to attend a follow-up planning session for outreach, Sunday, March 20, at 2 p.m. in the fellowship hall.
————

Newswriting is factual and tends to be chronological. It also helps young writers start to decipher what is fact versus what is opinion, and what is important versus what is “fluff.” And, it helps them develop organized thought. It is a skill which you can help your child develop, which might ease the fear of “coming up with something to write about.”

There are many other types of writing — creative, essay, research, etc. — which may be developed in the future, but newswriting could be a good place to start.

Thanks for letting me share!

~

“Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered,” Proverbs 11:25 ESV.

“The Holy Spirit produces a different kind of fruit: unconditional love, joy, peace, patience, kindheartedness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. You won’t find any law opposed to fruit like this,” Galatians 5:22,23 VOICE.

Homeschool Fruits: Freedom

Freedom to live, freedom to worship, freedom to study...

Freedom to live, freedom to worship, freedom to study…

I just love freedom! I love the freedom to make my own decisions. (I especially love nobody telling me what to do. Ha!) I love living in a country that operates, for better or worse, on the principle of freedom. I love serving a God who gives me the freedom to choose Him or not — no coercion.

I love the freedom of homeschooling, too. In fact, when we chose our official homeschool name this year, we picked a name based partially on freedom. I asked my son to tell me his very favorite things about homeschooling, and his top two were “freedom” and “doing my own thing.” Hence…Freedom Solus Academy.

Since my son and I are on the same basic wavelength, it gives extra freedom to our homeschooling. If he seriously dislikes something, he tells me. Then we either discuss why he should keep doing it the same way, or, more frequently, change it to something that works well for him. Likewise, if I’m not pleased with how a certain subject is going, I feel free to research other possibilities with his input, and change directions immediately.

An example of homeschooling freedom for us this year was my 7th-grader’s history. We signed up for a free online program, and he started in. Boring. Seriously boring. How many of us sat comatose through history classes when we were in school? If there’s one thing I really wanted to make come alive for my child via homeschooling, it was history.

So, I took their basic daily outline as a guide; substituted an awesome history series I found, produced by public television but available on YouTube; and supplemented with an interesting book of children’s literature set in that time period.

This semester is nearly over, and he recently finished that unit. Rather than go back to a provided program, though, homeschooling freedom combined with this semester’s success gave me the courage to do my own thing. (Wait! Wasn’t “my own thing” one of his favorite things about homeschooling too?!? Genetics, temperament, parental programming…? LOL.)

We have the coolest encyclopedia of ancient history. Each page also includes many links to interesting maps and videos and projects. Between that and a couple books a friend gave us on Greece and Egypt, I’ve created a semester plan on ancient worlds. Here’s what’s so awesome: It looks so cool and interesting that I want to learn it all, too! No more “history coma” for me or my child. Truthfully, it did take a little longer to prepare than the boxed curriculum — but, oh, the freedom…

Homeschooling offers us the fruit of freedom. If you still feel a little bit afraid to branch out and create your own curriculum, or to go from more structured to less structured for less stress, or to go from less structured to more structured if that’s what your child needs, or to simply change course midstream if something isn’t working — that’s totally okay. Relax and pray. Let that fruit of freedom ripen a little more within you, and you might be surprised and gratified at where it leads.

~

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom,” 2 Corinthians 3:17 NIV.

“The Holy Spirit produces a different kind of fruit: unconditional love, joy, peace, patience, kindheartedness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. You won’t find any law opposed to fruit like this,” Galatians 5:22,23 VOICE.