Homeschooling as a Single Parent, Part 2: Preparing for Sabbath While Going it Alone

I think one of the hardest challenges I had as a single parent was trying to get all the kids ready for church, arrive in time, and still maintain some type of spiritual awareness. I have to confess that I failed on that last point many times.

It’s hard being a single parent no matter what school choice you make. It’s harder when you are going it alone as a homeschooling parent. You have hardly any free time to just focus on the house or even have “me” time. Then there is the issue of Sabbath and trying to get things ready so the house is ready, Sabbath lunch is prepared, the kids are up and dressed, you are out of the door on time, AND you are spiritually ready to be fed by the pastor that morning.

As I type those words, I can just feel the old feelings coming up in my body, and the thoughts of “that’s impossible” resonate in my mind.

Let me assure you that it is possible. It is not easy, but it is possible.

Many times I have read posts of parents trying to schedule each moment in the school day; yet on Sabbath, the schedule falls to the wayside. In my opinion, the Sabbath is one day when a schedule needs to be followed as much as possible in order to maintain some semblance of order when you are going it alone.

Today, I want to share with you some ideas I’ve garnered over the years on how to maintain a Sabbath rest while dealing with all the challenges of single parenting.

One of the most helpful things someone suggested to me when my kids were young was to make sure I had Sabbath clothes clean and ready on Sunday rather than waking up on Saturday morning with a child yelling they had nothing to wear that was clean. So, Sunday was laundry day. When the children are older, they can become responsible for their own laundry. I assigned days for each child where they would wash their own clothes, once they reached the tween years.

So, once the clothes are washed, dried, and put away (yes, instead of on the couch), each child can pick out their outfit and have it ready on the hanger. Shoes are nearby also.

Weekly housework can be divided up so that most of everything is done by Thursday rather than waiting until Friday. Wait, isn’t Friday Preparation Day? Yes, and unless you want to run yourself ragged trying to get everything done, it’s best to assign chores so that throughout the week, everything is taken care of. The only thing left on Friday should be meal prep for Sabbath, getting things together for the next morning’s rush, and even planning a Sabbath afternoon activity.

If your children are walking, they can be doing chores, even if it is just picking up their own toys. By the time they are teenagers, they would benefit from having learned how to run the whole house on their own. Believe me! I graduated without knowing how to do this. I made sure my children learned. They will be much better off in the long run; plus, it relieves stress and responsibility from you.

For meal planning, the older ones can take turns deciding menus and even cooking the meal. This is good life preparation. It also helps develop good habits for when they are on their own. Sabbath afternoon plans can also be planned by the younger ones. This also teaches life skills. Plus, it gives them ownership in the family. They also learn more about what’s appropriate and what’s not. It also lessens the stress on the parent.

If you need help in getting the house chores done before Friday, FlyLady is a great resource. Donna Young’s site also has some good resources on home management, along with homeschooling. There are also chore lists available to help parents know which chores are appropriate for what age.

Clothes are done. Chores are finished. The house is ready for Sabbath. The menu is planned and prepared. Activity is planned. Now, for the finishing touches of actually going into the Sabbath hours.

We had evening and morning worship in our home. On Friday evening, it would be nice if some special activities could be planned. Perhaps even a special Friday evening meal could be made. Candles could be used. Songs sung. Favorite verses recited. Blessings of the week shared.

Some meal ideas could be potato bar, pizza night, popcorn and smoothies, or whatever is a family favorite. We loved haystacks. It was easy to fix and easy to clean up. Some families will use disposables on Sabbath to save time in clean up. Other families will use the special china on Sabbath. You determine yourself what is most important. Just develop a nice family evening that can be fun and relaxing, while helping you turn your thoughts to God in a special way.

Since the clothes were made ready last Sunday, Fridays can be time to grab baths, perhaps before supper so that evening worship is calm and relaxing. Saturday morning, try to get up early enough yourself so you can have time for your own personal devotion time. I know I would often skip this on Sabbath, thinking I would still have spiritual food at the church service. The problem is that it would lead me where I was not focused on God so much as the things I needed to get done in time.

Always get the kids down to bed on time on Friday so that Saturday morning is easier with a full night’s rest. If you have little kids, be sure to have their Sabbath bags ready on Friday so they are ready to grab as you walk out the door. You can even have the bags in the car when you get the car ready for Sabbath. If you have a diaper bag, that can be ready and in the car already. Snacks, if used, can also be done on Friday.

I am one who feels like if I am not at least 10 minutes early, I am late. It would create stress on me, trying to get the kids up and out the door on time. Give yourself time for those last-minute happenings. We can plan and schedule, but life happens. Build in a time cushion. It’s important for children to learn to be to church on time. Teach them by example. On the other hand, it is also important for them to learn that when we mess up or something happens, it is up to us to show them how to cope with stress. Breathe, pray, ask for forgiveness (if needed), and move on. I hope that the event doesn’t cause yelling and scolding. This can lead to everyone in the home losing Sabbath blessings. Instead, the young ones can learn so many spiritual blessings even in these times.

Once at church, breathe, relax — no matter how things were that morning — and let God bless you. Be sure to enjoy the interaction of your church family. This is a good time to allow those adoptive grandparents to step in and help with the kids. If you do not have to, please do not volunteer for children’s Sabbath School. With you homeschooling and being a single parent, it is good for the children to have other godly adults speak into their lives. Plus, it gives you a chance to soak in spiritual support from other adults.

Sabbath does not have to be the hardest day of the week. It can be the blessing God intends it to be. It takes planning and consistency. It takes asking God for the strength and wisdom each day, especially on the Sabbath.

As you finish the Sabbath hours, it can include family worship, a fun family meal like pizza and popcorn, along with a family activity. We would rotate between board games and family movies. It’s a good time to thank God for the day’s blessings.

 

The Work Aspect of the Moore Formula

The Moore Formula is based on creating a balance in the homeschool family between studying, work (manual labor), and service. As the child grows, the percentages of each change. Moore recommends to do as much work as study per day, with service additionally lasting an hour or so. A young child of nine or ten may only study an hour, with service being helping someone in the home or a close neighbor. As the child ages, study may increase to three or four hours for high school, followed by the same in work (home chores, self-employment, or family business), and service consisting of volunteering outside the home on a regular basis.

For some parents the work aspect of the Moore Formula can become a bit confusing. Today, I hope to clarify some questions and also bring in what Ellen White says we, as parents, need to teach our children about work.

As soon as a child can walk, he can begin doing “work.” This can be picking up toys or emptying out the bathroom waste basket. By teaching them early, children learn that they have a place in the family to contribute to the family’s good. There are no free rides for anyone. As they age, their work can include a home business in addition to home chores, in which they learn many practical life application skills. Working in a business (whether their own or a parent’s) can help teach math skills, planning, social skills as they talk with others, manners, patience, and even cause/effect. Running a business helps a child build self-confidence, self-control, and problem-solving. Self-employment helps boost creativity. Work teaches responsibility.

Ellen White wrote that education is more than just the studying of books. Children are to learn to be masters of labor, to use their mental faculties to make work more proficient and useful. God placed Adam and Eve in the garden to dress and care for it. Labor was to provide a safeguard against temptation. Mrs. White also wrote that fathers are to train their sons as they bring them alongside them in their work. Mothers are to teach the girls of the family to handle their share of the family’s burdens. Education is to develop habits of industry, self-control, self-reliance, money management, and business acumen. (By the way, she also states that education should teach children courtesy and kindness to others, which is what service to others teaches.)

By using the Moore Formula, the child learns a truer purpose in education. It is not just learning the “3 R’s,” but learning useful life skills to be successful in the community and fulfill God’s purpose for their life.

From this background, we can see the benefits of adding work to our school day. I think one important aspect of this work is it is to be manual, rather than cerebral. Children have spent some time already doing brain work. Now they need to move their bodies. As I said earlier, work can begin as soon as a child walks by doing simple chores. A child of five can set the table and even help mother with preparing meals. My children even helped with dishes at this age by rinsing. They were washing by the time they were eight, with me standing beside them.

As a child reaches adolescence, self-employment can be sought, using their God-given talents. Moore also suggests that children this age be given an officer position in the family business. If a parent will put this type of responsibility on a child (with parental guidance), they will not see the child fail or suffer burn-out from doing too much. Instead, the child will develop self-confidence and amazing social skills as they practice life application.

In the teen years, the child can take more responsibility with self-employment as they take over covering some of their own expenses of life. They learn financial stewardship and responsibility. Psychologically, teens begin to pull away from their parents in a search for autotomy. This is a natural and essential stage of development. Teens by this time need to be practicing more decision-making, even suffering the consequences of mistakes. The parents can be there as a safeguard, but still allow the teen to feel the results of a bad choice.

The Moore Formula may sound as it would include a lot of work to implement. Instead, it allows the family to work together in God’s purpose while the child learns the needed life skills to become the person God meant him to be. Study, work, and service — three aspects of life we all can use to develop Christ-like character, no matter our ages.

Homeschooling as a Single Parent, Pt. 1

Going it Alone

Unfortunately, this is a rapidly growing number in today’s society. I began my homeschooling career as a wife whose husband supported her staying home with the kids and later homeschooling. However, that scenario did not last very long. By the time I was in my fifth year of homeschooling, I was flying solo.

Back then it was almost unheard of to homeschool as a single parent. I mean, how can you work and support the family if you are also going to teach the kids? If you are working, who is minding the children? Just how is it possible to do it all, when homeschooling as part of a couple can be challenging enough?

In this series, I will be tackling some difficult questions I faced as a single parent homeschooling. Today, I want to tackle perhaps the most challenging question:

Can I do it by myself?

Yes, it is possible to homeschool as a single parent. I have to say, it is extremely difficult at times. I had to toss out my “ideal” plan of how I was going to homeschool, and be willing to do whatever it took to survive. In fact, with the right attitude and a good flexible plan, it is possible to more than survive as a single parent homeschooler; it is possible to thrive. And, God wants us to thrive in our homes and in our lives (3 John 2).

So, the first step to becoming a successful homeschooler while a single parent would be to cultivate a positive attitude. It IS possible.

Get rid of all your preconceived ideas and focus on the basics. We will discuss curriculum options, income concerns, discipline, housecleaning, and even “Me-time” in later posts. To start with, let’s begin with attitude.

I’m assuming that you have chosen to homeschool because you believe you are being called to be more active in your child’s education. You may homeschool because you are concerned about the long-term effects of the Common Core or the other things a child can pick up in public schools. You may have chosen to homeschool because you have a child with challenges and know that this will give them their best chance to fulfill their God-given potential.

With that reason solidly in mind, make a conscious decision to adopt a positive attitude that you CAN do this. It’s okay to acknowledge the difficult times ahead: “Even though I know homeschooling as a single parent will be hard, I know I can do this with God’s strength and the support of my family and friends.”

Hopefully you do have face-to-face support from family and friends. However, if you do not, you can still do this. Find your support online. I had very little support, but I did have one friend who helped me get started. Once that one moved away, I turned to friends online to help. Technology can give us a resource for much support no matter what problem you are facing on your homeschool journey. It’s important to be willing to reach out and ask for help when you are feeling overwhelmed. I can promise you that there are others out there who are experiencing the same thing.

Repeat a positive affirmation to yourself daily about being successful as a single, homeschool parent. Henry Ford said, “If you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.” Our mind is very powerful. Cultivating a positive attitude will go far when running into the normal obstacles on the homeschooling road.

Start today with counting your blessings, and know that you can do this.

 

Homeschooling the Gifted/Talented Child, Pt. 5

Just How Fast Should He Go?

One of the beauties of homeschooling is that a child can go as fast, or as slow, as needed in order to learn the needed material. With some gifted/talented (G/T) kids, going slow is not the problem. I know some kids who will whip through a year’s worth of math or science in just a couple of months, especially if you are using a curriculum where it is focused on reading and answering questions, followed by testing. Many G/T kids are left-brain learners, and this type of schooling is very easy for them. They can read the material, answer questions, test, and move on to the next topic.

Should they be allowed to? I mean, you’ve seen those TEDx Talks where there are 14-year-olds in college. You’ve heard of kids graduating college at 16. Is this best for the child?

On the other hand, if the child is learning easily, is it right to hold him back so he will be at a level for his same-aged peers? Does this lead to boredom? Acting out? Quitting school?

To be honest, in a public school setting, the second scenario is more than likely to be true. You are more apt to find G/T kids who are held back due to age, who get bored and begin to act out. It is not unusual for them to drop out as soon as they are old enough. I’ve seen it numerous times.

In fact, I believe that many of our behavior issues in schools today, outside of not eating real food, can be traced to boredom due to material being too easy or not being taught in their learning style.

So what does a parent do when their Johnny is speeding through their curriculum so fast he will be done in half the school year? I’m going to share some suggestions.

  1. Make sure that you are using a curriculum that is not just read and fill-in-the-blanks. There are so many choices available today that I would try to provide a learning program that provides a good deal of hands-on projects. Hands-on learning provides all types of opportunities for deeper learning, making mistakes, and making discoveries outside the pages of a textbook.
  2. For subjects of deeper interests, explore library books, documentaries, museums, businesses on the topic, etc. Allow the student to dig deeper, while at the same time making sure that they are not focusing only on the subject of interest. It is not unusual for a child to become so fascinated with a topic they can become walking encyclopedias on that particular topic. Our children need to be well-rounded learners.
  3. When they have taken the normal subjects pretty deep, be sure they have the opportunity for other learning such as music, art, photography, and sports. Each of these can allow the child to continue to learn while broadening their horizons. In today’s technical world, a child can be exposed to all types of museums online.
  4. If they are still speeding through these various topics, then it is time to turn their attention to the world and being of service. I love the Moore Formula in that students are encouraged to study, work, and be of service as part of their education. I used this template with my children. It helps give them a broader view of life. If you have problems finding places to volunteer, check out the United Way.
  5. The last option follows along with Moore’s Formula also. This is allowing them to develop a home business or help a parent in a home business (depending on age). Moore has some wonderful advice in his homeschooling books on the positive learning a child has by developing their own business.

When I was just beginning to homeschool, I met a family who had a 16-year-old son who started a computer consulting business at 14 and was in such demand that the parents had to limit his work hours due to taxes. This so impressed me that I adopted that mindset to help other young people develop ideas for their own self-employment.

When considering how deep to allow to go, it depends on the child’s age and maturity. There is nothing inherently wrong with graduating early and going to college as a pre-teen. Just remember that cognitive development is often not at the same level as emotional development in the G/T child. This is where the advanced graduation can cause some problems.

A child who is 14 and entering college will not be emotionally ready to socially interact with young adults who are experiencing living on their own for the first time and learning to set their own boundaries. Sometimes, even in our Christian schools, the older students are not as accepting of a child who has graduated years early. Life is hard enough to have to wade through teen years and early adult years without adding additional stressors.

I was given an option of placing my daughter several grades ahead. I turned it down. I had too many negative memories of being teased for being the youngest in honor classes and making the highest grades. From this homeschooler’s viewpoint, I chose to branch out to explore the wide variety of topics available rather than going so far ahead. There’s an unending amount of knowledge to learn. By going broad, rather than deep, a child can slow down enough to allow other parts of their development to catch up.

Homeschooling the G/T Child, Pt. 3, Finding Support

support-group-pic

Parenting is never an easy task. When you add some type of special challenge to the mix, whatever side of the spectrum, it adds to the challenge. In today’s world, there are many free resources for children with challenges who may fall on the lower side of the spectrum. These children may be labeled “learning disabled” or “special needs.” There are countless organizations that will help you learn how to advocate for your child, how to find special resources to meet their needs, and provide plenty of support in respite care and parent meetings.

However, when the child is on the other end of the spectrum, the support dries up. I’ve experienced it myself and seen this with my daughter dealing with her own gifted/talented (G/T) child. If you talk about your five-year-old child reading at seventh-grade level, people will look at you like you’re bragging. If you mention your child learning how to do some physical feat months ahead of time, then you get that glare, like how dare you. Somehow over time being G/T has become a dirty word.

All children need to be celebrated at whatever level they are performing at, whether they meet developmental milestones a year behind what is considered normal, or advance in grade level faster than the typical child. Yet, many people today do not wish to hear of the accomplishments of the G/T child. They don’t want to hear Johnny in third grade is tutoring some high school students in calculus, because somehow it will diminish what their child is doing.

I want to validate the parents out there who get frustrated from being unable to share the various accomplishments of their G/T child because of people thinking you are bragging. It’s good to share a child’s accomplishments.

I would like to provide some resources on where you can find other parents who may be experiencing the same thing. The first place I would check would be your local community. If you live in a city of any size, there may be some parent support groups. The school would be a good place to find out about support groups for parents of G/T kids. Unfortunately, there are not that many out there in our communities. However, the internet abounds with various online groups. Below are two links that will give you a place to start.

http://www.teachthought.com/uncategorized/50-resources-for-the-parents-and-teachers-of-gifted-and-talented-students/

http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/parents.htm [Wonderful source of daily articles concerning G/T kids, especially those who are “2e.”]

With homeschooling, there are various Facebook pages that will offer support for parents no matter what their child’s issues are. One example is the Old Schoolhouse Magazine. Another is the Gifted Homeschool Forum.

Whatever group you find, do not be ashamed to share about your child’s accomplishments. You are not bragging as much as celebrating a new milestone, no matter the age it was accomplished at.

Remember when you hear of another parent sharing their child’s accomplishments, be sure to give your own support. It’s the only way to change the way society thinks regarding giftedness as a dirty word.