Homeschool Fruits: Serenity

According to my handy-dandy dictionary phone app, serenity is “the state of being calm, peaceful, tranquil, unruffled.” It is a freedom of the mind from “annoyance, distraction, anxiety, obsession.”

This is totally you in your daily homeschool life, right?!?

There may have been a bit of sarcasm there. I know when my child still wasn’t reading at nearly nine years old, I didn’t feel particularly calm. The fact that he’s currently a grade and a half behind the rest of his studies in math…does not leave me feeling tranquil.

But, those are momentary emotions, and those emotions do not speak to the longterm truth of homeschooling: Homeschooling allows your child to complete his education where and when he or she is ready — not when the public or private school system dictates, not when Aunt Betty thinks it should be done, not even where any of your own preconceived hopes and plans have placed him. And, that is what brings the homeschool mom or dad the fruit of serenity.

This has been on my mind a lot the last couple months since my son hit his teens. In the elementary years, it seemed we had forever. Now that he’s a teen, I’ve had to remind myself that we still have as long as it takes.

As your child enters or nears the high school years, there is serenity, peace, to be obtained in remembering that homeschooling has so many more options than most of us grew up with in a school system.

Maybe your kid will be the one who homeschools all the way through high school, and completes it with a homeschool transcript, and takes the tests necessary to head into college. That seems like the preferred path to most of us, but don’t get nervous if you’re not sure your child is cut out for that. There are other avenues.

College often provides a base of learning from which you can choose numerous careers.

If he wants to try out an Adventist academy, he can. Many academies would be happy to work with you to integrate your child into their system. If that works out, super! But, here is the serenity of homeschooling again: If it does not work out, if for any reason your child does not flourish in that setting, all he needs to do is come back to homeschooling. There is no success or failure here; there is merely the option of a different path.

Another opportunity might be junior college. She may have finished her freshman and sophomore classes, but is becoming dissatisfied and anxious to “get on with life.” Numerous homeschoolers make it to about 16 years of age, and then decide to just morph into junior college. They may live in a place where they can get dual credit, or they might eventually have to take a GED, but at least they can get a headstart on college. Likewise, your child may not be headed for a four-year degree, but they might want to pick up some classes at the junior college to enhance their personal business plans.

An electrician is a skilled profession that will be needed even in times of poor economy.

If they’re of a more technical bent, they could instead look into the requirements for getting into trade school. Opportunities are endless. Sometimes those of us who took the college route get stymied thinking “whatever could my child do(?!?)” if they don’t have a desire for college. There is so much out there. I’m going to list a bunch here that helped open my brain’s horizons: web developer, electrician, plumber, health field technician, commercial driver, HVAC tech, heavy equipment operator, licensed practical or vocational nurse, medical laboratory tech, computer programmer, non-airline commercial pilot, network systems administrator, animator, electrical engineering tech, first responder like police officer or fireman or EMT, aircraft mechanic, architectural drafter, graphic designer, diesel mechanic, and probably many more than I could think of. Most of those require two years or less of training, and offer quite decent income.

Sometimes the key to Sabbath off in a manual labor job is proficiency. Unwilling to lose my husband’s skill (masonry), his company allowed him to take off Sabbaths when he refused after they initially requested Saturday work.

What about manual labor? Sabbath work requirements are often a fear, but there are jobs to be had where they are willing to work with your Sabbath-off needs, or even where they don’t usually work weekends. Here’s another list of possible jobs or areas for the child who needs to move or craft to be happy: track switch repairman (here’s an example of easy Sabbaths off, as railroad jobs often have weekends off), machinist, petroleum pump system operator, concrete, plant operator, construction, key holder, brick and stone mason, cleanup, iron worker, welding, and more.

Did you just read those last two paragraphs and think they mostly applied to boys? Nope. There are opportunities for your girls, too. Check out these articles to see how women are flourishing in nontraditional trades.

I don’t know what my child will decide to do. He’s not very hip on college right now, but that could change. He might decide to take some basic business classes and operate his own business. He’s a bit of a geek, so I don’t see him spending a lifetime on the construction scaffold, but on the other hand, he might spend summers learning masonry from his dad, and have a needed skill to fall back on no matter what his final career choice is. Or, he might decide to become an engineer or some other school-centric profession, and just take as long to get there as he needs — which could be extensive if current math efforts are indicative. LOL.

There’s no rule that your child needs to finish high school at 17…or 18…or 19…or 20…or period. The serenity fruit of homeschooling comes from knowing that we are allowing our kids to take the path that will best fit their God-given talents and abilities, even if it’s not the path we envisioned.

“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you,” Isaiah 26:3 NIV.

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“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.

homeschooler to entrepreneur

Homeschooler to Entrepreneur

homeschooler to entrepreneur

Many students have gone from  homeschooler to entrepreneur. Homeschooling can fuel entrepreneurship ideals and often leads to new small businesses. Creative ideas seem to spring from homeschoolers. Often, one or more of these ideas will develop into a small business.

Many homeschool families have a family-run business that their children take part in. Some children grow into the business and either join or take over as they mature. For others, the children create the business and help propel it to a business for the entire family.

School frustration led to the homeschool journey

Timothy’s homeschool journey began with the fourth grade. His parents grew frustrated with the public school system and its lack of ability to work with Timothy’s need for active learning. A bright child, Timothy needed to touch and manipulate everything in his surroundings. Math papers became flying airplanes, pencils were twirled as he daydreamed, and his teacher continually ridiculed his lack of ability to sit still and just do his work.

homeschooler to entrepreneurAs it turned out, Timothy’s difficulty with seat work and classroom learning was a great fit for this future entrepreneur. Timothy’s parents decided to give him a little break from book work. Allowed to choose his learning paths for a few weeks to break free from school issues, Timothy quickly picked up a love of self-directed learning. Within a short time, he found a hobby that seemed to click well: woodworking.

homeschooler to entrepreneurgrow-boxTimothy began building simple projects. A grow-box for his mom and a simple birdfeeder provided some basic tool skills. Although his dad had never really been much into handcrafts, he encouraged Timothy and helped him accumulate a variety of tools and the skills to use them.

A profitable hobby

homeschooler to entrepreneurBy the time he was a teenager, Timothy had learned to build many items, with many of them sold at a profit. At Christmas time, he took orders for special gifts such as a clock, a cutting board, a picture frame, and a child’s chair.  He even built a beautiful doll house for one of his younger sisters. Other seasonal projects that sold well included tree stands, stocking holders, and wreath stands. At the encouragement of a friend, he invested a little in evergreen boughs and made up a few wreaths, too. His inability to sit still had been transformed into a viable career.

Several of the church members had special items that Timothy had carefully crafted for them. They encouraged him to continue.

After graduation the learning continues

homeschooler to entrepreneurWhen he graduated from his homeschool program, Timothy knew what he wanted to do. College was not considered an option for him; he had no desire to sit still. Although he loved learning, he was a hands-on learner and did not want to sit and listen to professors.

One church member, a retired construction worker, provided the extra encouragement Timothy needed. He helped him find a contractor willing to take on an apprentice, and Timothy headed to work. Although he had already worked with many tools, Timothy now learned even more about using each tool.

Life has choices

At the moment, Timothy is trying to decide if he will continue in the construction field, perhaps even getting his contractor license. Alternatively, he might choose to use his skills to create more of his early projects and sell them at farmers’ markets. He’s even thought of opening his own specialty wood product store. He has options now.

Timothy’s early entrepreneur years, while still in grade school and high school, enabled him to learn some incredible skills while earning a bit of extra money. He credits his parents’ decision to homeschool him when he floundered in public school, as well as their constant encouragement. He also believes the encouragement of family, friends, and church members gave him the needed fuel to move from a fun hobby to an actual small business.

homeschooler to entrepreneurParents and families often make the difference between a child needing extra support in school, and those that find their gifts and talents and the ways to use them.

 

Is College the Only Good Choice?

I don’t know about trends in the rest of the world, but for the last generation or so, America has been on a mission to get every child to college. Is this positive? Negative? Is it possible? Is it even desirable?

Several years ago the American — and much of the world’s — economy went down the tubes. Taking on huge education loans now has more far-reaching consequences for our children than it did for us. And, once our kids get out of college, will there be jobs waiting for them so that they can actually pay off those loans?

You may have watched the Discovery Channel TV show “Dirty Jobs,” with Mike Rowe, who weekly joins laborers in many fields. Though not against college, Rowe has become concerned about our emphasis on college alone. In an interview for reason.com, he had this to say:

“There is a real disconnect in the way that we educate vis-a-vis the opportunities that are available. You have — right now — about 3 million jobs that can’t be filled,” he says, talking about openings in traditional trades ranging from construction to welding to plumbing, “jobs that typically parents don’t sit down with their kids and say, ‘Look, if all goes well, this is what you are going to do.’”

This topic has been on my mind a lot lately, especially as I seek ways to help my homeschooling son set smart goals. I am a college graduate, and would never have considered any other option for my child…until now. Last year I married a man whose profession is in construction. He’s a highly skilled technician, definitely an artisan, and a master mason in the eyes of his co-workers. When the economy tanked a few years ago, his skills did not. True, he had to move to another state to find work, but he never lost his home or went into debt.

There are some skills that will always be in demand, such as my husband's field of masonry. Working as an assistant is also an excellent job for a teenager, allowing them to discover if they have what it takes for a physically demanding job, or if they need to get more serious about their studies to pursue an indoor career.

There are some skills that will always be in demand, such as my husband’s field of masonry. Working as an assistant is also an excellent job for a teenager, allowing them to discover if they have what it takes for a physically demanding job, or if they need to get more serious about their studies in order to pursue a less labor-intensive career or at least one that is indoors.

What if I can find a lawyer to prepare a will, but there is no plumber to fix my toilet? I’m so grateful throughout the year for the expertise of nurses and accountants and veterinarians, but admittedly I’m grateful every single day for whoever constructed the roof over my head. Daily I become more appreciative of the world outside the ivory tower, while still maintaining respect and admiration for the world within.

My son, in more-or-less-5th-grade, has shown himself to be very bright and quite philosophical in nature, but so far his approach to academics is obligatory, and certainly not fervent. Yes, he’s young so all that could change, but for now it has opened my mind to the possibility that striving only for college could be a disservice — to him and to many of our kids. I believe that there are kids who find a goal in higher education early on, and shoot toward it; but, there are many who may flounder in college, not because they aren’t “smart,” but because they were pushed there when they’d really rather be doing something with their hands, something concrete that provides visible reward.

“Paul, the great apostle to the Gentiles, learned the trade of a tent-maker. There were higher and lower branches of tent-making. Paul had learned the higher branches, and he could also work at the common branches when circumstances demanded….While working at his trade he gave an example in diligence and thoroughness. He was ‘diligent in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.’” (E.G. White, Australasian Union Conference Record, 12/1/1899)

I remember oh-so-many years ago when I was in academy, and all our Adventist boarding schools taught shop and home economics and business skills; daily work was a requirement of being there; and teens were prepared to graduate with both a diploma and other choices. Kids who wanted a career requiring a degree went off to college. Those who wanted a skilled job or to own their own business already had a bit of groundwork laid.

Micah's Pathfinder club was the first to pilot the new Blacksmithing Honor. I'm grateful for even such small introductions to skill-based possibilities. Learning to work with his hands will allow him to take on greater job challenges in his teens with confidence.

Micah’s Pathfinder club was the first to pilot the new Blacksmithing Honor. I’m grateful for even such small introductions as this to skill-based possibilities. Learning to work with his hands will allow him to take on greater job challenges in his teens with confidence.

As a homeschooling family, I want those same options for my child. I want his academics to be such that he can pursue a four-year degree if that is his goal. However, I also want him to be comfortable with the thought of attending a junior college if that better suits his needs; the very necessary world of technology can often be entered via tech school, a two-year college degree, or course-by-course licensure. And, ideally, I’d like him to learn a hands-on skill — maybe his stepdad’s, maybe some other — whether he plans to make a career of it, or has it to fall back on in times of job-cutting.

What are your thoughts on this? I’m very interested in what vocational skills you may be making available to your child, and what kind of career paths you are encouraging them to pursue.

“Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands.… Then people who are not believers will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others,” 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 NLT.

9 Essential Life Skills

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Life skills, an important part of raising children to be successful adults is teaching them life skills.  But what life skills are important and  how do you teach them?

Homeschooling has the distinct advantage of allowing us to let the children learn those life skills day to day. Sure, we can play games like Monopoly and Life to allow them to get a sense about money, but there is so much more for them to grasp.  Our family chooses to borrow a motto from our 4H work, “learn by doing.”  They learn each skill by actually practicing it, over and over to proficiency.  These are the basic life skills I’d like our children to have as they reach toward adulthood:

  1. Budgeting and the concept of money. Everyone should know how to plan for monthly and annual expenses, as well as saving for the emergencies and a separate savings for luxuries such as vacations. We don’t give our children a standard allowance, but we do allow them to do extra chores for money and have helped them establish a small home business of their choosing to help raise money. I love the small business approach; it teaches them even more skills, while they are happily running a business
  2. Household management. Often falling on the wife, running the household efficiently can be a daunting task, but learning to be well organized will help both men and women when they step into adulthood. Planning meals, keeping appointments, managing the household budget, and caring for children are all skills that can be learned through childhood to prepare for family life.
  3. Laundry is in a category by itself. Not only should each person be taught to sort laundry and read the labels for care instructions; everyone needs a lesson on basic clothing repairs such as how to sew on a button, remove stains, and proper ironing.  Ideally, each will also learn sewing and clothing construction to help with repairs and creation.
  4. Shopping and meal planning. We all have those occasional days when we don’t have dinner planned in time, but most days the meals should be planned and items ready for assembly. Planning ahead helps in the budgeting area, too, as you will be able to shop for better prices and buy larger quantities when dictated. It’s also possible to plan further ahead and make and freeze extra meals.
  5. Healthy meals for family to enjoy. Many people marry and soon discover neither one learned to cook meals. While boxed mac and cheese might be an easy meal, it is not healthy, nor is it actually cooking.  Boys and girls should be taught cooking skills that enable them to prepare complete, healthy meals that create that at-home feeling.  You can never have enough cooking and baking skills; there is always more to learn.  Ideally, this training begins in childhood, expands in the teen years, and continues throughout life. An adult with excellent culinary skills can save money, create healthy meals, and provide for festive occasions, too.k
  6. House cleaning is rarely a favorite skill, but when kept up, it can create that much loved home feel. Ambiance is less about expensive furniture and more about a tidy, but comfortable area.  A few special touches such as plants and perhaps essential oils in a diffuser can add to that feel, too, but dust on the mantle and clothes strewn about will not make family feel comfortable.
  7. House maintenance. Unless you live in an apartment or a rental home where the landlord provides all maintenance, everyone needs to know basic skills such as unclogging a drain, oiling the door hinges, and even painting. Some maintenance is more of prevention such as knowing when to have the roof repaired or replaced.
  8. Yard maintenance. Mowing the lawn, keeping the fenceline trimmed, and caring for grass, trees and other plants can be quite a task in a large yard but quite important.  Before anyone sees you home they stop in front of your home and gain a huge first impression.  Let that first impression be a great one!
  9. Car maintenance. Oil changes, where you do them or take it to a service station, are necessary. Watch for tire wear. Keep the gas tank filled, check the oil and transmission fluid.  At the very least, every driver should know how to change a tire, check the fluids, and keep maintenance records.   Keeping the car clean inside and out will prevent embarrassing moments and makes for a more enjoyable trip, too!

These basic skills will certainly help jumpstart a woman into the homemaker role, but they will also help men and women headed for a career, whether part time or full time.  They are the basic essentials for every adult.

Project Time: Developing Photography Skills

Last time I wrote about how I incorporate time for personal learning projects into our homeschool.  Most afternoons when my children are finished with their essential school subjects, they get to move on to subjects they are personally interested in.  You could call this the unschooling part of our school.  I promised you that this time I would write about how photography became a major component of our project time.

 

Early on I started my children drawing and writing in nature journals.  We would go out for walks and draw what we saw.  I treasure some of the cute drawings that appeared, even when they were quite young, too young to write, but not too young to record what they saw, dictating to mom what to write about it.  My daughter caught right on to this, and even filled journals on her own time.  My son was not impressed with the idea.  He drew only when required to, and no more.

 

At that time I did have a simple digital camera, which I used to record projects.  My kids were fascinated with it, and occasionally we would put it in their hands to try.  Later on, as we updated to better cameras, the kids got the hand-me-down cameras as their own.  Now when we’d go out to look at nature, there would be two little copycats beside mom when ever she took a photo.  When we got home, we’d download photos, with each child’s photos moved into their own folders.  (That was before tagging photos existed.)  Excitement grew as their skills grew.  Now when we went on vacations, the kids had something very important to do.  When we jumped out of the car, the cameras came with us.  Everyone was taking photos to contribute to the slide show after the trip.  How exciting it was as the kids photos made it into the slide show, especially when they began turning out better than Mom’s photos sometimes.

 

The kids started asking for books about photography to read on their own.  We attended a homeschool group’s photography class.  They talked to good photographers about what they did.  And then they started saving money to buy their own DSLR cameras.

It was very exciting for son to get his first camera with interchangeable lenses.   By this time you could hardly get the camera out of his hand.  Any extra time was spent outside roaming, looking for new things to photograph.  It was becoming clear that he had a good eye, and saw angles that other people never noticed.

 

My daughter became interested in making nature videos.  So when she bought her very nice DSLR camera, it also had to have the best video capabilities for the money.  She has made several short clips since, teaching herself to edit using the software she has available.  It is all good education.

Photography is the one thing that every member of the family is interested in now.  It gets us all focused on the same thing when we are out and about, and it gives us something to talk about once we are back home.  My kids enjoy walks with us on Sabbath afternoons, if they are allowed to bring their cameras too.  It helps them to be happy going out exploring nature.  I see it as a technological connection to the best things in life: family, nature and God.  It has also become family glue, bonding us together like nothing else so far.

If you want to try photography in your family, I suggest that you start carrying your own camera around with you, and taking time to enjoy photographing nature.   Look at the things that God has made up close. Talk about them.  Marvel at the photographs afterward. As soon as you can, get cameras for your kids.  Used working cameras from the second hand store, or off craigslist or ebay are great places to start.  This gives them the tools to start with, and then makes them hunger for something better.  I think that making your kids save for their next piece of equipment, researching cameras online at places such as dpreview.com, is a very educational experience, and character building.  It makes them value their next camera more, and gives them the benefit of having a goal to work for, being patient as they wait.

A series of photography books that we really like is called Photo Workshop. All the books we tried in the series were excellent.  We got one on Nature Photography, another on Black and White Photography, and a third on Portrait Photography.   They are made for adults, and go beyond the basics, but are simple enough so a kid who really wants to learn more can expand their knowledge.  There are assignments at the end of each chapter, challenging you to go out and try what you have learned.  These helped my son take the next step and really start improving his skills.

Early on, I got a blog started for both of my children as a place for them to write, and show their photography.  The feedback helped them want to do more.  Now that they are teens, their their photos are often found on their social media pages, shared with friends, as well as on their blogs.  They also enjoy submitting photos to contests and entering their work at the fair.

 

I didn’t know that we would end up where we are now, when I first started sharing my camera with my little ones.  But I can see that the path has been good, a blessing from God to my children.