Archive for the ‘Homeschooling – Books, Bull Frogs and Butterflies’ Category

Recently someone asked me what advice I would have for someone starting out in homeschooling with wee ones. It was fun to look back over the 10 years I’ve homeschooled…a mix of blessings, laughs, hard lessons, trials and a few tears.  I don’t know that I would change much
even the mountains had their purpose.

The first thing I would say to women thinking of homeschooling is this:

Remember that God has equipped you to teach to the hearts of your children.

That means you have what it takes. Always. In ALL ways….with His strength! It does not mean that you will always do it perfectly.

One thing I would have changed is when we started school. Each child is different and I think it’s really important to remember that when you begin your journey.  So for Booker, he was ready to start school at 4. Being our eldest child, I had a lot of one on one time with him and he has a hunger for learning. Definitely left brained, all the way.  Monkey is my inquisitive, detail oriented, hands-on, right brainer and I would NOT have started him in kindergarten, or any kind of structured learning, until at least age 7. I believe he would have had less on his plate, had I waited, and therefore would have been more prepared to dig into some awesome activity based learning.  Songbird, being the baby – pretty much sat in the classroom while I schooled the boys so she already knew how to count, knew Oh Canada, knew colors and so much more by the age of 3 or so. She started kindergarten at 4.
This is key, in my opinion, and should seriously be considered!

After such a serious consideration – a few main thoughts follow:

For the first 6 grades, do what you want.

I did a LOT of activity, literature (read aloud) based things for my kids for the first 6 years. Sonlight had a tremendous influence on my teaching during these years. This is where we all grew as a family and came to love books and stories and storytelling! I am a firm believer that if you want your children to become readers, thinkers – you should read aloud to them from a very early age!  I registered, did not enroll. This gave me the freedom to teach what I wanted, how I wanted and to give my kids a passion for learning. This foundation is so important.  Most of those years I wrote my own curriculum or used bits and pieces of other curriculums to create something personal for our family (this was mainly for Socials and Science – I kept with a main math book throughout) and I did things in units.  So one year we studied Africa – which was SO much fun.  At that time I believe I had grades 1, 6 and 8. So each child had major projects that were grade appropriate. This was probably my favorite year.  If you can study ONE thing, with all grades, it makes life so much easier.  I did not worry about learning outcomes in these earlier grades.

Start moving towards independence.

Once the children began moving towards grade 7, I was beginning to give them more responsibility and independence…because my goal was that by grade 9, they should be almost entirely independent.  For grade 7 I began using programs that had DVD’s of teaching lectures, this gave them more independence and gave me more time to work with younger children.  I also began to consider learning outcomes, though I did not follow them to the letter.  As you get to the older graders, they all build off of one another and it’s important to at least be moving in that direction – especially if you intend to graduate (in Canada) with the Dogwood.

It is important to have friends that can be a support to you for those times when you just want to eat your children or send them to school or worse! Or maybe it’s just me that goes through stages like that 🙂  It’s good to be able to call on one another for those little reminders and glimmers of hope when you need them.

I write things down!!!!!

I know, some say I’m weird…well, maybe more than some. I have a journal that I keep for school – someday I will give it to my kids.  I write our major successes in it. I write things that make me cry with joy – those special moments, or things that we did that I want to remember forever (like dissecting the muskrat with our niece who is NOT homeschooled).  I write when they do something exceptional. I write how proud I am when they write that perfect paragraph! I write about things that work, and things that don’t work.  I also write in those moments when I’m crying out to God for wisdom and strength…when I’m spent. Tired. Done.  I write out my prayers. I think those moments are just as important as the mountain top moments!  It reminds me that I’ve been through some valleys but I always come out of them…it makes the victories a little more joyful!

Learn to let go of your pride, press into Him!

All too often when Moms call me in tears, it’s because they are worrying about what others think of what they are doing – or not doing; they are being WAY too hard on themselves; and/or they are looking at what others are doing, comparing themselves and trying to do it all, falling short of these huge, and often unrealistic expectations they place on themselves.

I think it’s important to homeschool the way you want and not the way someone else tells you to.
No one loves your kids as much as you do.
They are their own little (and not so little) persons and

that individuality should be taught to, embraced and nurtured!

These are just a few thoughts, from my heart to yours…


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November was rough, I mean gut wrenchingly, crying out to God – what was I thinking, type rough (this happens from time to time)!  Do you have any idea how long it’s been since I have done Algebra?!  I was lamenting to a wise friend about school and she looked me right in the eye and said to me,

“Laurel, why is school so important to you?  Is it worth losing your relationship with your son right now?” 

WHAM! Just like that.

I went home and thought about that.  When I was a child, there were so many things I COULD NOT control…but school was the one thing I could control.  If I worked hard, I did well. Very well. If I did well at school, I was praised. It was the one thing I felt made me “good”…when so many other things made me feel “bad”. 

I look at Booker when he doesn’t know I’m watching. Those almost-man-shoulders have a slump to them that I recognize and the look on his face screams of discouragement.  The hardest part is the look in his eyes – eyes that can brighten any room now filled with sadness and hopelessness.

Is school really all that?

He talks to me about everything; long talks, deep talks.  He smiles at me.  He hugs his sister. He helps his Dad. He prays for his brother. He gets protective when someone swears around his cousin because he honors her & doesn’t want anyone disrespecting her. He stands up for his friends’ sister when his friend picks on her. He asks his friend’s mom before giving him music she might not like and if he hurts anyone’s feelings, he’s genuinely sorry and always says so. He’s not girl crazy. He’s not sneaky. He shows me his emails and his texts and asks me how he should reply to certain things; he’s thoughtful. He is a prayer warrior and an intercessor, a mediator and a leader.  He’s such an amazing young man. Would he die if he failed Science? No. He might even take something valuable away from the experience.  Would he be crushed if he thought I wasn’t on his side? Yes. Is anything worth that?

In the bigger picture of things, school is but a small slice of life…yet it has the potential to crush a spirit.

Today I will look at his heart, really look to see…
I will love him and offer him grace, knowing he offers me the same. I will teach to his spirit and imprint strength upon his heart. I am a Mama first…

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I’ve been noticing that as my young men grow and change, certain struggles keep rearing up.  I’ve been praying about it and the word ‘choices’ seems to infuse all of my prayers. His choices, yes, but mine also.  When one is part of a family, all of the choices made intertwine with one another’s and these become the foundation and the heart of your family. I’ve been trying to respond to my children, rather than react.  Sometimes I think about how much easier this must be for Moms who send their children away to school – but then I realize what a lie that is and that

the grass is green where ever you choose to nurture it!

Last week our middle boy and I were working on an assignment in school and his heart was becoming more and more sour. I tried to respond, not react.  I encouraged him to press on but to no avail – we were spiraling downwards and fast!  His lesson took eons and in the end he received a grade of 52%.  In Mama’s grades, this is a fail. So I sat him down for a good heart to heart.  I asked him if he thought the mark was a true reflection of the hour or so I’d spent teaching him the concept; of my hard work and of his?  Of course he could not say yes. I asked him to redo the assignment. He went to bed early, the next morning we took 3 or 4 minutes to review the concept, he rewrote it and got 91%.  We discussed how when he chooses to stay in a certain unhealthy, negative frame of mind, his work is likely to reflect that.

“You really only have 2 choices. You can choose to stay in that poor frame of mind and therefore throw away your grade, wasting your time and mine. OR you can choose to do what ever it takes to change your state of mind and start fresh!”  I asked him what has worked for him in the past.

He said, “Well going outside to check eggs seems to help.  It helps when I go for a jog around the house or down the driveway. It helps sometimes when I have a small break, get a drink or a snack…” Now his mind was rolling and all kinds of ideas came up!

This week we were doing math and he was yawning.  He was lethargic. He was taking several minutes to move onto the next step and even answer questions like ‘what is 8 minus 5 then?’  I could feel my own frustration rising!!   I took a deep breath and ask him how he thought he was feeling at this moment.  “Hmmm.” Ah HA! I could see the light come on. He knew!

“What are your options?”

“Well, I could take the test tomorrow!” He replied, with a devious grin.

“Well, when your boss expects something out of you, it is your job to get it done in a timely fashion or you’ll be fired….”
I answered with my own devious grin.

“….OR I could go take a shower and change my state of mind!” 😀

Off he went and when he came back, all refreshed, we reviewed and he moved forward. His mark then reflected his hard work.

I want to use every teachable moment I have to get my kids thinking about what has worked before and how to make it work again.  Where have they succeeded and where have they failed – and how can they make positive changes?  Failure is just as important as success. I’ve said this before, we need both to keep moving forward!  This also reminds me of the importance of my choices.  When I choose to respond rather than react – to offer encouragement rather than frustration – this reflects my true heart for my son.

I once had a wise and godly Titus woman tell me that the temperature in my home was controlled by my personal thermostat.  Ohhhhhh, so hard to hear.  Yet it has been a constant reminder to me (and at times convicting me) that as the heart of my home, as Wife and Mama, I really need to remember that the choices I make affect this house!

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!

You might like this post I made 2 1/2 years ago, I Love You, Even When You Fail. It’s more of our successes!~
May He bless you richly as you walk in your own!

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For Christian Studies, I have Booker reading the book Stomping Out the Darkness by Neil T. Anderson & Dave Park.  He reads a chapter and then journals about its impact. Then I journal after him about the impact it had on me. I challenge him with some questions to consider and thoughts to ponder. We get together afterwards and discuss each chapter.

Today, chapter 2 talked about ‘the life changing difference of being in Christ’…all about what Christ says about us, how much the Bible has to say about our identity in Him and it sheds some serious light on the promises God gives us, who believe! There is a quote in this book:

We can’t consistently behave in a way that’s different from the way we see or think about ourselves.

Whoa. Isn’t that huge? 

Booker wrote in his study journal today:  “I’ve been waking up in the morning promising myself I won’t do anything ‘bad’ today but everyday I do something that I didn’t want to do and I feel miserable about it!  This quote might have solved the mystery.  I do it because of what I believe about myself…so how do I change what I believe about myself?  By learning what God has to say about me, how HE sees me and writing His promises on my heart…so that what I believe about myself aligns with how I want to be and that will affect what I do!”

If we truly find our identity in Christ and we believe what He has to say about us…then we can start facing our giants with boldness!

We can come before the throne of grace and stomp out the darkness with light!

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I am sitting her today, pondering tomorrow.  All throughout the year, I write myself notes as to how the year is going, what we’ve accomplished and some of the goals we’ll hope to achieve in days to come.  I just finished up my final report for 2011/2012.  We’re coming to an end and I feel like Thomas Train chugging along.

I think I can…I think I can…I KNOW I can! CHOO CHOOOOO

In writing about our year, start to end, at one point I was thinking about how squirrels and rabbits just eat their young when life gets hard – no more children and a little added protein to their diet…no not really!  I mean what kind of mother would I be if I thought such things!!!!!  I positively adore my children beyond measure and I love homeschooling – I just don’t love the regulations forced on me as to how to teach to the hearts of my little (and not so little) gems!  I don’t love how the enemy hits right where I’m most vulnerable and tries to make me believe I am not adequate, that I can’t do a good enough job…that surely I’m missing something life threatening!!! 

I was telling a dear friend that I had just finished writing my report. I told her I am writing to my future self. I think she might want to look back and remember with fondness all of these things.  I figure it will be one of two scenarios; either she’ll be sitting in a really comfy chair in an insane-asylum and she’ll need a good read with all of the elements of laughter (even it is was maniacal), tears, triumphs and failures infused with deep love and endless devotion – OR she’ll be speaking about the right and left brain, learning styles and the importance of making our children realize their smartness; encouraging other moms who have shed painful tears while on their knees petitioning the King on behalf of the ones they love the most.  See, either way I figure Future Me might appreciate all the time I’m taking in recording the facts, along with the heart of a mother who struggles, who succeeds and who wants more than anything to give her children all she can!

I asked Mr. Handsome the other day

when exactly I’ll be the confident homeschool mom who can do it all?! 

I’ve been homeschooling for 10 years now and I still feel like I’m floundering. I havent’ found THE curriculum yet or THE way to teach that works well, and I certainly don’t feel like I know what I’m doing.  Then later, when I was on my knees about it, it dawned on me…of course I keep searching – I’ve never taught grade 9 to an extremely left-brained child before. I’ve never taught grade 7 to an extreme right-brainer and I’ve never taught a girl before. I’ve never tried to run a business, run a household, calve out cows, all while trying to homeschool three very individual kids and

gosh darnitt, I’ve never been 39 before!

My point is this, it’s not discontent that drives me…

it’s a deep calling
to follow the heart of The Father.

Maybe you’re sitting in a comfy chair, with a tear-stained face, wondering what you’ll do tomorrow…wondering if you’ll enroll or register or fall off the grid and go hide in the mountains. Or maybe you don’t home school but you’re sitting in a comfy chair with a tear-stained face asking the Father what you should do about tomorrow.

Matthew 6:34 Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. v21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

My children are my treasure. I don’t always understand them. I don’t always do the right thing –
but I always love them
and they are the treasures of my heart!       

Note to self:

Hey Future Me, I think we’re doing okay!

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There is lots going on here this time of year. 
May is always busy with community brandings. 
June is filled with preparation for 4-H Achievement Days; feeding, cleaning the barns, teaching their 1200 lb steers to lead, bathing them, grooming them…
July is the big event. So it seems like I get lost this time of year, in the busyness of life.  Usually we are done school by now because life demands it (with everything else going on) but this year, we are still working.  The kids are getting older and there are more requirements I suppose. In any case, I find myself trying so hard not to fret over the what is on my plate. I’m thinking of that Casting Crowns song “I’m trying so hard to stop trying so hard.” 

Did we complete all of our school goals?  Did we miss anything?  Are we ready for next year? What will we do next year? Where will we register? What do we need to work on over the summer? What will our fun summer project be?

The other day Monkey came home and told me all about his great adventure!  He’d been up the hill looking in the woods for nests.  He said he found two nests and he wanted to find out what they were.  So off he went with his cousin, each boy with a camera in hand.  One video taped as Monkey climbed a ridiculously high tree and clung, in pure monkey fashion, to the branches while the parents squawked and flew around him.  Monkey stuck his hand up and took some photos of the nests.

Deliriously happy with his adventure and finds – he rushed home to look at the photos and search for what kind of bird made these nests!  As the birds squawked around him, he could see that the nest below was made by some sort of Hawk.

He found, in another tree, this nest too. We think this is a Raven’s nest. It is hard to tell if it was a crow or a raven from up there.

Not bad shots for clinging to a branch with one arm. He’s so thrilled with his finds.
While he was telling us about this, a brand new baby moose ran down the hill lost and looking for its mama.

I am reminded of the reason we homeschool our children.  We want them to embrace life. We want them to get excited about learning and to have the freedom to intertwine this with adventure!  It’s more about LIFE schooling, than homeschooling.

Dear friends, I don’t know where you are in your homeschool journey or in your year but take a moment to remember why you homeschool; to remember what is really important…

The heart of our kids in lifeschooling…


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Well, you know there is NOTHING I love more than bragging up my beloved husband…but I won’t stay on here too long because it’s an amazing day and my hubby is not working for the first time in weeks and weeks so I want to get out there and enjoy having him home!

Last night Mr. Handsome went and got a load of wood and brought it home.  Since we have wood heat, I am used to him doing this.  However, he told me today that this load is for our neighbor who hasn’t been able to get his wood shed loaded this year on his own.  So today Mr. H is taking our boys to spend the afternoon at the neighbor’s house cutting, splitting and stacking wood for him.  I know he’ll be really blessed by this.

Sometimes I lament because my husband doesn’t seem to be as passionate about missions as I am – friends of ours are going to Mexico to build houses for the poor in a couple of weeks and secretly, I’ve been crying out to God to hear my heart to go (and feeling a smidge sorry for myself for not being able). I’ve even gone so far as to remind God that a trip like this would be a wonderful experience for our kids – to learn what others live like and how to serve…As usual,

God is way ahead of me!

I am reminded of something a wise woman told me years ago about the heart of submission – she said that the Bible doesn’t tell us to submit to our husbands IF they are wonderful and perfect and saved and all the rest…it tells us to submit our hearts to GOD and to honor and respect our husbands. Period.  When I started putting this into practice, I’ll be honest, it was hard…sometimes it is still is.

It if were easy it would be called JOY, not submission. 

But as I look back over the years and see how God has shown me how to honor and respect my husband, not to fret over his salvation – to just step back and let him lead our family…oh the rewards.  Here is my husband, leading our family with hearts to serve others, to show kindness, compassion for what others are going through and to BE in community.  What an amazing example he is to our children!  I know that because of this our children will be an amazing example to their children…

On top of this – today I decided to treat my family to a special lunch. When I was a little girl, my Mom used to make Dough-Jennies on bread making days.  She’d keep some of the bread dough and fry it in oil and we’d eat it hot with butter and jam.  Oh I have so many wonderful memories around bread day and Dough-Jenny lunches!  So I got up early and made the dough, spent the morning running from the classroom to the kitchen to punch it down and just before lunch, Mr. H came in and helped me in the kitchen frying the bread dough to make Jennies.  It was fun to work together, such a special treat.  All the smells, the feel of the dough…made the sound of my mother’s laughter bubble up, the sound of the Dough-Jennies cooking and feeling of sun coming in through the kitchen window to the table in the house I grew up in.  Suddenly I was a wee girl again…

Memories, precious memories.

Little Songbird said to me, “Mama, I think I’d like this recipe so I can make Dough-Jennies for my kids.”
What is better than that?

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