National Day of Listening

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,” James 1:19.

Today, November 23, is the (unofficial) National Day of Listening in the United States of America. Today, I want to encourage everyone, no matter where you may live, to take part in this as well. Modern times have us so busy we often don’t take time out to just listen and to be actively involved in listening. What makes this so special for us homeschoolers, is this can really clue us in to our surrounding family and friends, and can be a great ice breaker and guide to interviews, including community outreach.

Questions you may want to ask yourself today:

  • What is “active listening”? Active listening is the involvement of both verbal and non-verbal listening skills. The listener will listen with all five senses. The key is that you are responding and paying attention to the speaker. Non-verbal responses can include smiling, eye-contact, posture, and nods of the head. Verbal responses can include remembering, questioning, reflection, clarification, and summarization.
  • Am I an active listener? If you do most or all of the above, you could consider yourself an active listener. Active listening promotes positive relationships with others, and helps you to feel better about yourself. Sympathy and empathy can be reflected in emotional times as well.
  • How can I become a more active listener? Listening doesn’t “just happen.” When you use your senses, you become involved and seek to understand what is being said. Some helpful tips: Don’t take sides (stay neutral), have patience, don’t jump in with questions or commentary every time there is a bit of silence. As a pastor once told me, “Be sure to hold the heart of the other while listening.” Also, be careful of too much eye-contact, as it can appear intimidating. You will also find that when you successfully listen, that you will naturally mirror the speaker’s emotions as well (excitement, sadness, etc). Also, be careful that you refrain from being distracted while listening, as it can appear that what the speaker is sharing with you is unimportant and not interesting.
  • What are the benefits of active listening in the homeschool environment? When active listening is used in the homeschool environment, it deepens the student/teacher (parent) relationship. When a student feels they are being really listened to, they will feel cared for and connected. The student will become emotionally connected to their environment, and have a deeper desire and motivation to learn. Active listening is a huge motivator. The skill will help the student gain self-understanding, improve relationships, feel understood, feel cared about, build trust, and overcome poor-listening habits. Poor listening habits interfere with learning and feedback. Active listening will promote learning and feedback, and may also improve study skills.

To help you be an effective listener, these tips can help:

  1. Look at the person.
  2. Listen to words and feeling content.
  3. Be sincerely interested in the speaker.
  4. Restate what is said.
  5. Ask for clarification, when needed.
  6. Be aware of your own feelings and opinions.
  7. If you must state your views, don’t forget to “hold their heart” and use words carefully.
  8. Above all, don’t forget to ask God for guidance!

Active listening can be hard sometimes (it is a learning curve in my home), but with God, all things are possible. I hope this helps you as much as it has helped me!




Evaluating the Stigma: Homeschool Edition

A few weeks ago, I posted an invitation on my Facebook page for my friends to share thoughts that come to mind when they hear “homeschool.” I also did casual social media research and received many various responses, both positive and negative, such as sheltered, socially-awkward, eccentric, creative, well-educated, less-educated, purpose-driven, lazy, respectful, motivated, self-sufficient, having geographical freedom, and socially misunderstood. Some of these resound on a personal level. The one that stood out the most was the latter: Socially Misunderstood. For those of us who were homeschooled during our childhood, we can very much relate to that thought. We were misunderstood, and sadly, to a large extent, we still are.

I graduated from homeschool high school in 2000. My mom dedicated 11 years of her life to ensuring I had the best education possible to start off my new life as a young adult. She even helped me attend dual-enrollment classes starting in 10th grade to help me obtain a platform to continue post-high school classes. I learned many things during my experience with homeschooling, but the major one is one that is dear to my heart: stigma.

I have found that many people have formed opinions about homeschooled education. Many do not have a personal level of experience to form a non-biased opinion. Those very same people are quick to share their “advice” and judgement when it comes to what is the better option of formal education — accredited vs. non-accredited, homeschool vs. public school, unschooling vs. traditional schooling, and many more. Before I continue, let me make it very clear I am not going to bash anyone’s formed opinions or experiences. I do, however, want to have you, the reader, read this with an open mind and willingness to understand.

“We were misunderstood, and sadly, to a large extent, we still are.”

Stigma. It is dangerous. It is manipulative. It is ungodly. How, you may ask? First, start with the very definition of the word.

Stigma: a: a scar left by a hot iron. b: a mark of shame or discredit. c: an identifying mark or characteristic. (Webster-Merriam Dictionary)

I think we can all agree that scars hurt. We don’t like anyone holding anything against us. On a homeschooling level, these stigmas are often carried into college and careers. For example, at the time I graduated high school, we were not able to furnish a high school diploma, much less provide proof for the colleges to accept us into their programs. I was forced to obtain a GED (another stigma) to prove my educational value. Thankfully, a lot of that has changed due to recent homeschooling laws, and many states, if not all, are accepting a homeschool-issued diploma. I later graduated with an associate of science degree (one of the best moments ever). Many homeschooled students of the past and present still receive negative commentary regarding their education quality, and often deal with the results of that negativity from their peers, which leads me to the introduction of Stigma’s sister, Discrimination.

Discrimination: a :  the act of making or perceiving a difference. B: the quality or power of finely. C: the act, practice, or an instance of discriminating categorically rather than individually. (Webster-Merriam Dictionary)

As I noted in the beginning, there are many preconceived notions of what it means to be a homeschooled student. I have lived with it on a personal level. Homeschoolers are notorious for scoring higher on the same tests used in the public school systems, including the SAT/ACTs, are very much socialized, and succeed in their careers…so what exactly IS the issue?

Here are some common non-homeschool student issues that a homeschooled student does not have to face: a God-less education, a lack of teacher assistance, bad company from peers, and being taught that sexual immorality is okay.

The directions given by Scripture:

1 Corinthians 15:33 says “Do not be deceived, bad company corrupts good morals.”

Psalm 1:1-5: “How blessed is the person, who does not take the advice of the wicked, who does not stand on the path with sinners, and who does not sit in the seat of mockers. But he delights in the Lord’s instruction, and meditates in his instruction day and night. He will be like a tree planted by streams of water, yielding its fruit in its season, and whose leaf does not wither. He will prosper in everything he does. But this is not the case with the wicked. They are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not escape judgement, nor will sinners have a place in the assembly of the righteous.”

Colossians 2:6-8: “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.”

Stigma is based on shame, discrediting, and scars. These are not characteristics of Christ. When you think back on Christ’s childhood, he would have been homeschooled! He gave us the ultimate model by living it Himself in every way. We would do best to heed the gospel regarding the form we are to take on…

“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me – everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you,” Philippians 4:8-9.

Homeschooling on the Move!

Homeschooling is a little like driving: you can study and prepare for months, but nothing prepares you for getting behind the wheel. Add a cross-country move, two toddlers, and a dog to the mix, and you have the recipe for a whirlwind of an adventure.

In August my husband and I accepted an offer on our home we were selling to move from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, to Riverside, California. We were to close September 8. Let me now add that our drive includes towing a camper. Sounds like fun, right? And so, my homeschooling journey begins.

A little background about myself: I’m a homeschooled high school graduate. I also have much teaching and leadership experience with Pathfinder Clubs, including being the director of a club we took to the 2014 International Pathfinder Camporee in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

Some things I am learning in the process:

  1. States have different laws regarding homeschool.
  2. Homeschooling can be as cheap or costly as you want it to be.
  3. Planning takes a lot of time.
  4. Planning with two toddlers takes a whole lot more time.
  5. Planning to homeschool while moving across the country is challenging.
  6. There is never enough time.

The next challenge is that we are having to move from Wisconsin to California during the school calendar. This has presented some challenges in itself as we work to maintain an overall friendly schedule that will work with not only La Sierra Academy’s calendar, but also the public school systems. Yes, homeschooling provides families with the choices of when and how to teach, but who wants to be in school while everyone else is out? 🙂

School started for us on August 14th. So far we are having a lot of fun with the curriculum and environment. I love the fact that I alone choose what to teach my child. What is even more rewarding is seeing how my student, my own child, is actually progressing. She has always struggled in school, and I’m learning more as to why. This new life will also lead into a great way of guiding her into skills that will be needed in her life after graduation. I can’t stress the importance of this newfound role of mine. I am not just her mom, but I’m her instructor in everything! Trying to still get that to sink in…

Going back to the travel topic… Our journey will bring us to the states of Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and finally, California. We are excited to add so many new states to our travel interim. Originally from the Florida panhandle, the only states we have visited have primarily been southern states, and those which follow up the Mississippi river. To see all the beautiful country that we call our home is going to be something to remember for a lifetime. We are going to seek out areas we can incorporate into our curriculum as a field trip. We have found that natural history museums, a cool dinosaur footprint bed, and some old town history will be great to incorporate as a family activity and gain valuable knowledge for school at the same time.

I’m pretty sure that keeping the two toddlers out of my student’s way while she studies will be interesting. I am now teaching pre-k studies for the 3.5-year-old, and for the 18-month-old, a good sensory table ought to keep him busy for a few minutes. But, we all know that it’s just a matter of time before those activities wear off and they’ll be tearing down the house once again. It’s a good thing I am a stay-at-home/work-from-home mom!

All in all, this is time I can’t get back. Homeschooling may be challenging for us in the beginning, but in the end, it’s going to be worthwhile! After all, Jesus also says “with God, all things are possible,” Matthew 19:26b.

If you are considering homeschool for your family, take the plunge! I’m so glad I did!