Homeschooling: year 5
"Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think on these things."
Have you ever had a children's devotional speak louder to you than the 5 different bibles or devotionals you may have sitting next to your bed side? I have on countless occasions and that was exactly the scenario one day this week.
We were reading through the "I Am" devotional and we got to the story where Jesus feeds the 5,000 which is found in the gospels. As the Word tells us, Jesus and His disciples wanted to get away to a "solitary" place after spending days healing, performing miracles and preaching. When they got to the shore, they saw thousands of people waiting for Jesus. Now, if you read the gospels you will find that Jesus was not mad, upset, inconvenienced or annoyed that thousands of people where waiting for him when he got to his "solitary place".
The Word actually says the he, "...had compassion on them". (Mark 6:34)
Can I pause right here and have a real moment with you all? As a homeschooling Mom of three, with a super busy entrepranuer husband who runs a company I will confess that this was the first thing that struck my core. When I want to get away to my quiet place, I often feel no less than annoyed when my children come walking into my quiet time 5 minutes into my reading. But...
Jesus had compassion.
After a long day of preaching and healing, the disciples ask Jesus if He was going to send them away because it was getting late and they were getting hungry.
"But he answered, 'You give them something to eat."
Oh those disciples. You can just imagine the look of astonishment on their faces as they try to figure out how in the world they are going to feed thousands of people. They are probably overwhelmed to say the least, and thinking of themselves with how ill equipped they feel for the task and in fact they say in Mark 6:37, "That would take more than half a year's wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?" I can just see it, and relate..on a smaller scale. I have never felt like God has asked me to feed 5,000 people (thank you Lord, I have a hard enough time figuring out what to feed this family of 5!)
You see, when God asked me to homeschool, that felt like a larger than life job. I didn't have a degree, I didn't know where to start or what curriculum would work best and make my kids super smart. Haha. To tell you the truth, 5 years in, I still do not have all the answers.
My favorite part of the story where Jesus feeds 5,000..was when he turned to the disciples after He clearly saw the look of panic and confusion on their face and Jesus says, "How many loaves do you have? Go and see."
But what do you have?!
What you have is exactly what God wants to use. He wants to use the gifts He has blessed you with and the calling He has put on your life to multiply and bless your family with more than just enough. He wants to fill your baskets to overflowing!
That was a word for this Homeschool Mama this week and it was just the right motivation I needed to finish up this post that has been sitting in my "draft" box for weeks.
July got me all pumped up for Homeschool in this new year. So naturally, when my kids started constantly fighting, we started our school routine. If you missed any of the homeschool interviews I posted to the blog, you missed out; they were so inspiring. Really, go back and read them! I wanted to make sure I did not miss anything and asked my IG community what questions they had for me, so I thought it would be easier to put in a blog post.
In August I usually get such a renewed sense of homeschooling purpose. It is such a great time to evaluate what worked last year, and what we could do better in the year to come.
As I reflected on the last year, I felt guilt because we worked so hard to keep our head down and just do "what we needed to do". It was a season of building, packing and moving and I am glad the season is over. ;) It can be so easy as a homeschool Mom to get in this mode because we are juggling so many roles. However, I do not want my kids to miss out on the beauty of homeschooling just because I am trying to "get it done". I don't want their hearts to just have enough, I want them to be overflowing! So I decided to adapt a new scripture almost as my homeschool motto or vision statement in short. This year I decided we are focusing on Philippians 4:8,
"...whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."
I actually started quoting this over my children a hundred times a day when they would fight or say mean things to each other so in part, I think this scripture adopted us. ;)
What does that look like for us? Honestly, I am still figuring it out. I have a simple schedule I am going to try to stick to, and I think it will help a lot. Of course, there are always the occasional field trips. :) (If you want to know our more detailed schedule, I put one back in this post. It basically remains the same, but I modify it a bit here and there.)
Monday— Community Day
Tuesday— Course work (reading, math, language arts) plus history, art and CC review
Wednesday— Course work, CC review, map tracing, manipulatives and read-aloud
Thursday— Course work, CC review and nature walk/journaling
Friday— Catch up/Field day
A while back I posted a question asking about nature journals, and this is the one we decided to go with! We have really loved it so far. Jude will sit in his hammock and write and draw in his nature journal as long as I will let him. I love that it breaks it up into months and it is guided so I do not have to make things up on the spot. I also bought some sketch books so we can sketch leaves, trees and the changing seasons. I am really excited about this. I love reflection and observation and I think it really adds a layer of appreciation and beauty to our homeschool day. I think I may even have a hard time keeping it to just one day a week. ;)
We started reading classic novels out loud together this Summer. Now, I have to be real with you. I do not love reading out loud. I will curl up in a blanket and read my book for days on end, but to read out loud for others has not been my thing. Until recently. We started reading "The Swiss Family Robinson" and it is challenging, but it is so good for all of us! I am constantly asking the kids, "What did they just find?" or "What do you think this word means?". I am actually shocked when they are totally following along and understanding it all.
I think we truly underestimate how smart and capable our kids are when it comes to observation and comprehension.
After our Summer reading experience, I believe classic read-alouds fall right in line with the things that are pure, lovely and excellent. This is something we will aim to do every day. I typically ask the kids if they want to play with clay, legos, blocks or sketch while I read. Everyone is happy, we are all together and it is truly a wonderful part of our day.
A few weeks ago I asked my Instagram community if they had any homeschool questions for me, so I thought I would address them in this post. :)
What do you do with younger kiddos when you are working with older ones?
In the past I have always just let my younger kids play quietly in their room. When they feel up to joining us, I will either take out the "school box"- a box filled with educational games, letters and manipulative that help with fine motor skills. I might pull out pattern blocks, coloring books or let them join in by drawing on a dry erase board. Since I am starting Gwyn with preschool work, she has a file folder full of her workbooks that she can choose. I am really just trying to focus on letter recognition with her this year, but she loves tracing her letters on a dry erase book I found at Target. Honestly, I just don't push "school" work with the little ones. You would be amazed at how much they just absorb through hearing the older ones (especially when we play Classical Conversations through the app or online). I am also a firm believer in letting your child play and develop their imagination and creativity. Gwyn is by far my most independent player, but I think it was because that is all she has known.
The early years: approximately how many hours/day was school and what was your biggest success?
When we first started with Jude, we never did our school work for more than 2 hours. Even now (Jude-3rd grade, Lila-1st grade and Gwyn 3) I still will limit our actual workbook/sit down time to 2-2 1/2 hours, less for Lila. I love that we can do our Classical Conversations review by moving around or tossing a ball and I know my kids enjoy school work so much more when we can be flexible and incorporate a fun craft, video or get outside for science.
For the early years, I really loved "My Fathers World". I loved how it incorporated scripture with the course work, and so many fun, hands on activities. Everything is also planned out for every day and week, so there was no prep work on my end which I really loved. They incorporate science and math and really made our first 2 years very easy. They also have a preschool curriculum if you are looking for something more structured with your little one and I would highly recommend it. This program really gave me the confidence to branch out and structure our days more customized to our lifestyle and different kiddos needs.
What curriculum do you use for Math and Language Arts?
The past two years, we have used "Lessons for a Living Education" for math. This was a good change of pace for Jude. He enjoys how it is story based, and they break up the work with some new concepts and then some review. Jude would get super overwhelmed with workbooks that had 15-20 problems on one page. The only draw back, is that I feel that he does not get the mastery on some concepts. I sometimes have to pause our book work and write problems down in a notebook for him to work on if I feel like he needs the extra practice. I have also noticed that it may not be challenging enough for some girls. My 1st grader will do 5-10 pages of math a day in these work books. I think I am going to finish out the math book we got her for this year, but I will probably look into something else for her next year.
Language arts has been a tricky one for us. However, we started working through the "Explode the Code" workbooks last year. They have really been great for both Jude and Lila. Jude has been able to work more independently this year and Lila just blows through her lessons, but these books have really helped her with reading as well. We have added a simple cursive writing book for Jude this year and I will add bits and pieces as I see what we need to work on, but this is what is working well for us right now. ;)
What made you decide to homeschool? What was the fuel for the decision?
I have had homeschooling on my heart and on my radar since I was in High School. It wasn't until Jude was about 3 when I really started thinking about what we would do with him when it came to his education. I strongly felt that God was calling me to homeschool and even though I did not feel qualified, I know that through Christ I would be able to meet the needs of my children. When I do not feel adequate, I know that God will lead me to what is best suited for my child as His word states, "You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy' Psalms 16:11. Whether that is a tutor, specific curriculum, help from another Mom. The resources are so wide and I firmly believe that I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength and if He has called me to disciple and teach my children (Psalm 78) then I know that I have nothing to fear and as long as I am seeking Him, everything will fall into place. For me, there has always truly been a peace about homeschooling because God has always been faithful and I know through Him, we have everything we will ever need. Now, I can not say that my husband has always had that peace. He was not on board with homeschooling until I took him to a homeschooling convention kicking and screaming. On the drive home I will never forget when he turned to me and said, "Why would we not do this?! This is a perfect fit for our family."
Knowing that my husband and I were on the same page and knowing that God had called us for this mission was all we needed to start our journey.
Not only do I have a confidence through Christ, but I have also observed the goodness and richness homeschooling can bring to a family who wants to tailor education to their child's individual needs. I have observed what it looks like for a child to discover a love of learning that leads to early detection of what God may have for their life. Lastly, I have observed the firm foundation that can be set to disciple your child and to see the fruits of what that looks like when you release them like arrows at the tender young age of 18.
It is not easy, it is not convenient, but goodness I am convinced it is absolutely fitting for our family and I cling to the promises that God will finish the good work He began in us and we hold tight to knowing that He is faithful.
What are the best encouraging books you have read about homeschooling?
I highly recommend, "Educating the Whole Hearted Child" by Clay and Sally Clarkson. It is a book I look through and reference over and over again. I also really love, "For the Children's Sake". by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay.
So far year 5 is my favorite year. I want to soak up every moment of beauty and goodness with these kids that are such beautiful gifts from God. Every day I remind the kids and we thank God in our prayers for the opportunity to homeschool.
If I could encourage you in one thing today, it would be to seek God and He will reveal His beauty, His goodness, His faithfulness and His strength through you as you journey through the big job of motherhood or homeschooling. What a privilege!