Most of us will find ourselves involved in one or two Easter egg hunts this weekend along with attending a special Easter service at our respective places of worship. Yet, sometimes, this is a holiday that comes and goes so fast we realize that we may not have taken the opportunity to discuss the important points of the holiday with our children. After all, we spend so much time focusing on the birth of Christ and generally not much time at all celebrating the primary foundation of our faith; namely the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ. So, as Easter quickly approaches, I encourage you to think about the family traditions you practice in your home that will help to highlight the important points.
One of the things we do every year on Good Friday is to watch "The Miracle Maker: The Story of Jesus" with our boys. It is a high-quality Claymation production with an all-star voice-talent cast. Appropriate for all ages, the story follows the major aspects of Jesus' ministry; from the beginning right through His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. Often times, we will pause the film and discuss points and answer questions along the way. See the thumbnail link on this page to purchase your own copy through our store.
Another thing that the boys enjoy doing is talking through our "Resurrection Eggs". Ours is a homemade kit, but you can also purchase them pre-made. All you need is an egg container that you save from putting in the recycle that holds at least 12 eggs (18 eggs if you want to find that many symbolic objects). Then make sure you have a different color of plastic Easter egg (regular size) to place in each slot; making sure to have a white one that will remain empty for the last one. See the thumbnail link on this page to purchase a pre-made one through our store.
One other idea is to bake resurrection cookies. Various ingredients represent different parts of the Easter account and the cookies are left in the oven overnight. Some families even choose to "seal" their oven with tape. Then when the cookies are taken out in the morning, they are hollow or "empty" on the inside, just like when Jesus rose from the grave! Here is one recipe, but there are several variations out there you can try: http://www.motherhoodonadime.com/kids/resurrection-cookies-printable-recipe/.
One of the primary reasons many of us homeschool is to model healthy relationships and behaviors to our children. This is why we laugh at the idea of the "s" word being a problem in this current generation of the home education choice. Our reply to this concern may go something like this...
"Socialization? We modern homeschoolers are not worried about socialization because we know that homeschooled and homebound are NOT interchangeable terms! In fact socialization is one of the important reasons why we are homeschooling. We want to make sure our children interact with different groups of kids throughout the week and that they become comfortable in communicating with younger ones, adults, and seniors alike. We want them to experience a variety of social circumstances in real world settings."
Yet sometimes there is an interesting dynamic in the homeschool community when it comes to the involvement of other adults in our children's lives. We are sometimes all too quick to drop them off at a community center class, sports club practice, co-op learning group, church class, or private music lesson when we may not even know the name of the adult in charge. Remember that these types of adults are influencing our children in a significant and usually regular way. So it is important that we connect with them eye-to-eye before making a decision to enjoin our children to them for a season.
I have made sure to do this with our boys' soccer and physical education coaches as well as the folks who work with our boys regularly in their various church activities. While you want your children to gain the benefit of working with a variety of personalities and learning the skills that they have to offer your children, it is vital that you are leaving them in the care of people who will support your efforts and come alongside you in reinforcing the principles of life that are important to you. We don't want to just be interested in our kids having their time occupied, but that the time they spend there is an extension of what you are reinforcing with them in the home.
Recently, I went through a two-month long journey to engage a new piano teacher for our boys. Our beloved "Miss Cindy", their piano teacher of nine years, had retired and was just helping us along until we could find a new situation. I interviewed several potential teachers and the boys also had several sample lessons with four different possible instructors before we made a decision on a new teacher who is not only excellent at the technical aspects of teaching piano, but also connects personally with the boys and understands the struggle that they have had with long breaks in their practice history. They are being challenged, rather than penalized, in a nurturing environment as they move from one methodology to another (i.e. Suzuki method to traditional) in a way that acknowledges their strengths while identifying their goals. Most of all, their new instructor is a Christian who empathizes with their unique situation of having just lost their older brother to cancer. Now we can move ahead with confidence that we are creating a bond with their new teacher that will complement our familyâ€™s goals for the long term. I must also mention that Cindy, their former teacher, has grown to be one of my very closest personal friends. Even though she does not formally teach them piano any longer, she has been, is, and will continue to be a huge part of our life. So, it is a win-win all the way around when "adult enjoinment" is intentionally planned.
Bottom line: Where we are so careful to make sure they have healthy peer relationships and social interactions with a variety of individuals and friends, we need to be just as prudent to the other important adults that play a role in our children's lives. Pastors, coaches, tutors, and private instructors can become long-time partners with you in your child's journey into adulthood. Even close friends can play an important role in your child's life as surrogate "aunts", "uncles", and "grandparents", when blood relations in these areas are lacking or nonexistent.
This movie that Jonathan decided to make is a reminder that motivation can be tied to anything that your child values. What do they spend their free time doing? How do they invest their time when nothing else is expected of them? Making observations about these behaviors can do wonders in making sure that you are strategically spending your time and efforts in the best areas to ensure that your children value the goals that you help set for and with them to accomplish.
Here are some additional ideas to consider...
The point is to discover what makes each of your kids "tick" so that you know just what will help them budget their time, achieve their goals, and feel rewarded in the process!
For more help on this topic, check out the title called Personality Plus for Parents: Understanding What Makes Your Child Tick by Florence Littauer. Many years ago, I used the original Personality Plus book to help "figure out" my boys and now they have structured it to read more specifically for parents and their children.
As our family has continued to help Evan work through his health challenges, it occurred to me recently that what we are really doing in their education is not homeschooling but heartschooling. We have been anywhere but "home" over these past several weeks and it will continue to be as such for the coming months. So education takes place wherever my children's hearts are beating and not necessarily in any one location.
Sometimes we can get hung up on the physical limitations of our homes and our resources and think...
But we can have awesome curriculum, sensibly arranged spaces, and slick tools and gadgets and yet still fall short on our schooling goals. Why is this? It's because all of these considerations are simply tools that help us achieve our educational goals with our children; they are not ends in and of themselves. Bigger, shinier, and more expensive is not always better and seeking out these things can often times interfere with what is really important.
Conducting school in various places for our family, we are compelled to trim our books, tools, and materials down to the essential minimum so my roller box is manageable. In the process of doing this, we are able to get down to the essentials of what needs to be done and distractions are held at a minimum. So what not call it Roller-boxschooling? Because, ultimately, our schooling should not be tied to geography. Instead, no matter where you heartschool, remember that your home is just a place but your destination is the hearts of your children.
Mark Twain once said, "I have never let my schooling interfere with my education." It is a thought that every homeschooling mom should ponder seriously and ask, "What requirement am I placing importance on in my homeschool that is interfering with my child's education and love of learning?" Even as so-called "modern" homeschoolers, we often times overlook applied wisdom from the past that we can incorporate into our daily teaching techniques that will bring both joy and sanity to our program.
If you have ever read the "Little House on the Prairie" series with your kids, you probably paid special attention to the sections where Laura Ingalls went to school and then later became a teacher herself. One of the things that struck me several years ago when I was reading these books to Evan, our oldest son, was how the children went to school to "say their lessons" rather than to "do school". School didn't so much follow them around begging for constant attention as it does today. Rather it was a place to demonstrate mastery for a period of time before the child moved on to the next teaching point and then, later, moved on with their day.
Today, homeschoolers who appreciate this idea of "saying" lessons rather than requiring the child to engage in busy work is representative of the "Charlotte Mason" method. It may surprise to you realize that, even though we primarily follow a classical model, Charlotte Mason is alive and well in our program. When I was in the hospital last fall with Evan for days upon end, it suddenly hit me one day during an English lesson with him that we really just needed to start "saying" his lessons. So, with the exception of diagramming and writing-related assignments, we started "saying" his lessons by talking through them. I found that he mastered concepts just as well or better and we didn't bog ourselves down with any unnecessary requirements to write it down. I also apply this with our younger boys as well, when it is appropriate. That way, any time they spend actually writing is a valuable exercise and not just "twaddle".
So in addition to "saying" as many lessons as you can, here are a few other "twaddle reduction" ideas:
As we are back in the hospital again with Evan for his next phase of cancer treatments that will eventually prepare him for a bone marrow transplant, I am reminded of the benefit of "saying" our lessons and avoiding "twaddle". So look for opportunities to eliminate unnecessary elements that may be cluttering your child's assignments so you too can make sure that the "schooling" you require does not interfere with their "education".
One day a few years ago when attempting to stress the value of bringing a good attitude into a school assignment our oldest son was struggling with, it occurred to me that it was an issue of "buckets". The image of me (i.e. the teacher) lugging a bucket full of information, directions, and skills to the loft (i.e. our classroom) came sharply into focus as I realized that I had nowhere to put its contents! Unless our son (i.e. the student) brought his "bucket", full of importance, cooperation, and energy to "activate" the contents of my "bucket", we weren't going to get anywhere.
Often times, we lug our "bucket" around thinking it is enough. But it is not. Without our child bringing his "bucket" to the table, we will not make the progress that we know they are capable of making. We can bring the abilities and the teaching to them, but if they don't place importance on the learning that is ahead of them, we will be stuck. Ultimately, it is like having an un-watered seed that is full of potential but remains untapped until the right ingredients are introduced to it.
So if this describes your homeschool environment take these suggestions to heart:
1. Ensure your child understands that you are God's agent. Sometimes we get stuck using the age-old phrase, "do this because I said so!" When we make our children believe that we are the end-all, be-all of the line of authority that controls their life, we are doing them a disservice and are misrepresenting our role in the process. Instead, make sure that they understand that parents are accountable to the Lord for how they raise and educate their children. So emphasize to them that when they don't cooperate with you, they are really being uncooperative with the Lord. Similarly, when they don't place the proper importance on an assignment that they should, they are really sending a message to the Lord that they, not His parental agents, know what is best.
2. Know what motivates your child. Different kids are motivated by different things. So be sure to tie your expectations for their academic performance to something that is important and precious to them. Make sure they understand that they need to fill their "bucket" with the focus and enthusiasm necessary to fulfill their responsibility to "receive the teaching", as we say in our home. If this doesn't happen, then whatever extra activity or experience that they value will not take place that day.
3. Make sure your "bucket" has a reasonable content level in it. Often times, we can frustrate our children when we have a substantial list of assignments and expectations that look fabulous on paper but in reality are very difficult for your child to fulfill in a reasonable amount of time. Even a motivated child can become discouraged if it seems like the day's "ability bucket" never seems to be completely or even mostly empty.
It has been said that education is the "lighting of a fire", which is true. Yet, we all know that "buckets" are involved as well. So, once both parties know what to put in their "buckets", when to bring them to each other, and how to mix them together, the homeschooling day and related learning priorities will progress at an appropriate pace for both the teacher and the student.
You will notice that I have not posted a blog here in some time. In the fall of 2010, our oldest son, Evan, was diagnosed with Burkitts Lymphoma/Leukemia. Needless to say, it has been an extremely challenging season for our family and we needed to pull back from just about everything we were doing prior to that time. Except for taking care of our three boys' physical needs, teaching them in a more limited manner, and maintaining my husband's job, our primary focus was to help our son and his brothers work through this very difficult period.*
Yet, during this trial, the Lord has so graciously sustained and encouraged us. He has brought forth an amazing community of love and support through friends, family, neighbors, and even strangers. His faithfulness has been declared time and again throughout the many details and events we experienced as we have helped Evan and I am here to say several months later that we are stronger for it.
When all else seemed foreign, homeschooling remained constant. Although we were not able to continue our regular schedule or accomplish certain things we had planned for the year, all of the basics were consistently covered for all three of our boys and they have thrived in spite of the emotional and logistical challenges that come with caring for a child with cancer. Being able to move at a pace conducive to each of them has not only kept their sense of purpose and stability in place, but has also enabled us to grow closer in our various relationships with each other. Not one of us is the same as we were this time last year.
So remember that when difficulties come, as they always do in some form, that you must (among others) do four things.
1. Stay united in your course - Make sure that the principles and beliefs you stood on yesterday are still intact today. You want to firmly establish your approach so that you will be successful in making time-sensitive or critical decisions. Such a decision encourages you and your spouse to decide in advance that you will stand firm on God's Word when troubles come for the overall benefit of your marriage and your family.
2. Remind yourself that you cannot NOT go through this - There are some rare occasions where using a double negative in a statement is appropriate, and this is one of them! Withdrawing from life is not an option. So know that when your children see you working your way through each day as fully and calmly as possible, they are learning valuable life lessons from you and your spouse.
3. Be flexible - Life's logistics will be disrupted and the "normal" life you had before is now a thing of the past. Work towards a "new normal" by being willing to make adjustments as needed. Know that the schooling will be addressed at some point and be thankful that your child doesn't need to cope with the expectations of an outside educational institution.
4. Reach out - Rather than withdrawing from others and suffering in silence, make your heart and needs known to others. Allow the Body of Christ to fulfill its purpose by ministering to you in whatever way God leads them to respond. In the process, you will serve as an encouragement and a testimony to them. If you are working through a crisis at this time, be encouraged by these thoughts and also consider Stormie Omartian's book, Just Enough Light for the Step I'm On. In it, she reminds us that God doesn't lead us down life's road as if we are walking in a well-lit football field with flood lights that let us see what is coming way down the street. Instead, it is more like a footpath with low-voltage lighting that allows you to see the next step or so but not weeks or months down the road. One path is a search for control whereas the other is a life of faith.
So walk the life of faith, follow God's leading for each step, and let Him worry about the future.
*For an update on Evan's health, please visit his Caring Bridge site at the following link: http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/evangary
Without a doubt, just like his dad, our oldest son's love language is "acts of service". From the time he was very young, we noticed how he always loved to do things for other people. Whether helping to organize a drawer, put away groceries, or pick up the back yard, he has consistently looked for ways over the years to do things for other people. When you have a child whose love language is "acts of service", there are a couple of points to keep in mind. First, don't forget to offer your thanks and praise to your child for putting others first. It is often easy to overlook letting them know how much you appreciate them since you are so used to seeing them do things for other people and it can become commonplace to you. Second, remember that your child experiences love best when you in turn show your love to them through "acts of service". This is the child who will notice that you consistently provide dinner for them or make sure they have clean laundry every week. Look for small ways throughout the week to do out-of-the-ordinary acts of service too and see how you will feed your child's love bank account. For example, when the school week was particularly challenging for him one week, I just came in and offered to help him file his papers when I knew he was going to be hard pressed to get everything done by the end of the day on that Friday. It was just a small thing and it is normally something he just does himself. However, offering to help him in that way at that particular moment went a long way in telling him that I loved him. So keep your eyes open and look for how your "acts of service" child is expressing their love and how you in turn can let them know that you love them too!
Our middle son has puzzled me in some ways over the years; trying to figure out what the best way is to reach him and work with him throughout the day and in our homeschooling efforts. As I was "experimenting" with the children on their love languages and quizzing my youngest son as I mentioned in the previous entry, my middle son popped in and right away answered, "Monopoly with Daddy and you!" Startled at the fact that he had been listening to us, I asked him what he was talking about and he said, "I would rather play a game with you and daddy more than getting a present." Prompted by this little nugget, I proceeded to observe him throughout the week and watch how his interaction with us and his brothers stabilized as we began to spend more time together in the evening as a family. I began to see that it didn't matter what we were doing as long as it was together; reading, cooking, watching him do an activity, riding in the car, playing a board game, and so forth. As a result, I have been able to make purposeful efforts to ensure that he gets the time he needs both in a one-on-one and group setting with mom and dad. What a difference it has made for his heart and our home!
Homeschooling since 2000, Carol shares in her blog observations, confessions, information, and musings that help provide perspective and inspiration for homeschooling moms.