Holidays Bring Opportunities

Thanksgiving holidays are over for Canadians. We’re gearing up for Remembrance Day and Christmas already. If the snow hasn’t flown yet, it will soon and winter will be settling in. For those in the States, Thanksgiving and Christmas are rolling up faster than you can imagine.

Life presents so many opportunities for discussion. One of the advantages in homeschooling is that we can direct difficult conversations — we can answer questions, or pose them when applicable. We can help our children form their own fact-based opinions in these areas. We can help them discover their thoughts, their own ideas. We can help them think through all the options and information. Sharing what others believe, what we believe, and the reasons why helps our children to critically think through the issues and form their own opinions, which will last longer than if we insist they take only hours.

One of the life opportunities I’m grateful for is Halloween. It’s also just around the corner and, even if you don’t celebrate it, we can’t ignore it. We don’t celebrate Halloween in our home, and I’m grateful my boys don’t question that; they don’t enjoy Halloween or any of the decorations. We can’t bury our heads in the sand, and we can’t ignore the celebration of Halloween when it is all around us.

Halloween has been a time of less media because we don’t enjoy shows that highlight Halloween. It does however, open up many conversations. Some of the conversations revolve around vandalism and lead to respecting other people’s property. We live in the city and during Halloween there are houses TP’d, graffiti increases, and things are destroyed. We have conversations about God vs. Satan, the war between good and evil, and how we must choose which side to be on. We discuss healthy eating, even during holidays — showing self-restraint when the temptation is all around us, even being pushed on us. It’s an opportunity to respectfully engage others in conversation, to be kind even when people disagree with us.

Every opportunity is one for education, for improvement of character. Let’s not miss any simply because we don’t like the holiday or event at hand.

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.

“Aha” Moments

When our children are tiny, we wait with bated breath for every first…the first time they roll over, their first step, first words, first meal…the list is endless.

I’m still seeing firsts. When my oldest son, TLC, was three, he asked me to teach him to write his name, and I started teaching him the rules of reading and writing. He could never seem to translate that knowledge into action though. When he turned eight years old, however, a door seemed to swung open in his mind and he went from not reading one day, to reading at grade-level the next day. It was an amazing moment!

When he was two years old, we were frequently amazed at his mathematical propensities! He could do basic math, including simple multiplication. In the last few years, he has struggled with the concept of multiplication and division. On the advice of our facilitator, we have simply accommodated this challenge by providing him a times table chart to use. I’ll confess to many moments of frustration, especially when it takes him a significant amount of time to calculate equations on the two’s times table! Just recently, however, while we were working on calculating areas and volumes, he had to calculate 3×2… I got frustrated with him and went into a bit of a lecture mode — nothing I hadn’t said to him previously, but he suddenly grasped the concept, and I once again saw the door of his mind swing open. In the days following, he has retained and continued to gain confidence in his mathematical ability and multiplication prowess.

What did I say to him? I told him that math is always the same. That the equation for a triangle will ALWAYS be bh/2. His response? “That’s logical, I should be good at this.” I laughed and told him he was good at this. That’s been the most frustrating thing. I know he’s good at math. I know he has a natural affinity for it. It was not until he was aware of his natural ability in math that he was able to begin excelling at it. The key for TLC was discovering math is always the same, that it is logical, constant, and reliable. Once he realized that key point, the world of math opened up for him.

 
I love the “AHA” moments. I love still being able to experience those with my children. It makes all the frustration, the challenges and the struggles worthwhile.

Sometimes we get caught up in trying to make our children keep up with their peers, and forget that they learn at their own pace. We change the way we teach because we fear they aren’t grasping the concept, when our children simply need only one more piece of the puzzle to believe in themselves. Once we empower them to believe in themselves, they can quickly and easily grasp the most challenging concept. I have to be aware, to watch and carefully identify the messages I, and others, give my children. I need to purposefully build up their esteem.

When they believe they can learn, learning becomes easy.

What is Your Why?

Homeschooling by our passions… Why do you home school? What is the passion behind your choice? Understanding your own personal “why” helps you understand where to take your journey next, and also helps to develop your child’s passion.

As our school year draws to a close, many start wondering if they want to continue on the homeschool journey next year. Many are battling the negative opinion of family members, or a general lack of support in the community. It’s been a seven-year journey of home education for us, and I still sometimes flounder and flail when people ask me about socialization, when they voice their (usually strong) opinion that children should be institutionalized for education and socialization! I still doubt myself occasionally and sometimes I want to throw in the towel!

What keeps me going? My passion. Remembering the “Why.”

I homeschool because it is the best choice for my children. It’s a sacrifice and one I don’t make lightly. (None of us do!) Because of their special needs and multiple failed attempts at class work, I see clearly that an institutionalized education would fail my children. I don’t want them to fail at life. I want them to pursue their passions, just as every other parent out there desires. We all want the best for our children!

When we discover the joy of pursuing our passions, it is easier to encourage others to do the same. Without knowing or understanding our personal “why,” without exploring our passion, we quickly lose the enjoyment of homeschooling. Once we engage our own passions, we can better inspire our children’s passions. Helping our children discover their “why” for education helps them develop a joy of lifelong learning.

I give you a challenge today: Engage your passion. Write it down, make it a vision board, rediscover your joy in the journey. See how it changes your home education journey!

Taking Care of Us

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There comes a time when we start questioning ourselves, when the challenge of parenting, educating, therapy, work, and all the other things we deal with in our lives becomes overwhelming and we wonder if we are doing the right thing, or if we need to let something drop off our list. These are often signs of burnout and fatigue.

We need to make sure we take time to take care of ourselves. Self-care is something I often neglect. It’s important to take care of the whole family, to remember ourselves while we are doing so much. As parents we often put the children first. There are so many things vying for our attention that it is easy to lose us in the process.

There are things we can do, though. We don’t have to go big to take care of us:

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  • Journal – Writing for some is greatly therapeutic! It gives us a place to vent and express our thoughts and feelings in a safe place. Sometimes all we need to do is express it.
  • Be Alone – Sometimes just doing something by yourself is refreshing. Grocery shop without the kids, get out of the house alone, go for a drive, sit in the driveway, just find some silence where no one is able to interrupt.
  • Exercise – Plan something regularly to get out and move! Find what you enjoy — dance, aerobics, yoga, swimming. There are many classes you can enroll in to bring accountability into your exercise program. I once joined Middle Eastern dancing for the fun of it, and I’ve done rock climbing too. Find something different, try something new!
  • Friends – Just spend time with friends. Go out for dinner or to a movie, have coffee, go window shopping. Do something you enjoy with someone you like.
  • Date – This isn’t (just) for single folks. If you have a spouse, make a plan for date night. Take care of your relationship, add some spice to your relationship. Make room in your life for uninterrupted quality time with your partner.
  • Get Creative – Draw, paint, photograph, write, decorate, knit, crochet, cross-stitch, needlepoint, sew… You don’t have to be good at it, you just have to do it. Express yourself!
  • Play – Be social. Have game nights, spend time with friends as a family. Have family movie nights, family games, family outings. Make time for fun. So often we get so focused on raising and teaching kids that we forget to have fun with them. It’s important to make sure our kids know relationships are important too.
  • Know Yourself – Know what you enjoy and go do it. Make time for yourself. If you don’t fit this list, make your own.

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Burnout happens to everyone. We need to be proactive; if it happens, be honest and gracious with yourself. Be purposeful, make appointments with yourself and keep them! Take care of yourself. Remember we show our children how to take care of themselves, and this is something we must model, not teach.

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