5 Basics to Knowing Your Role (as a Home Educating Parent)

For the sake of cohesiveness, this post should be named ‘Successful Homeschooling: Know Thy Kids.’   It is, indeed, the second of my 2-part attempt at sharing successful homeschooling tips for both parents and kids.  The part of me that is snarky and cynical chose the numbers because after all, as a blogger, numbers brings numbers, yes?

When I stepped back to see where this post was headed, it occurred to me that much of what I would list as key to knowing your children was an extension of knowing yourself.   I don’t see this as a coincidence.  Much of what our children will produce is based upon us as parents setting an environment–a stage, if you will, such that they can perform. Tweet: Much of what our children will produce is based upon us as parents setting an environment--a stage, if you will, such that they can perform.

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Being Mom or Dad is markedly different than being their teacher.   Ideally, we want our children to be loved, nurtured, and supported in any environment in which they are supervised by adults.  As our children’s church pastor says, when people hand off their child to you, they are giving you their most prized possession (regardless of its current condition—my words, not hers).   Realistically, however, no one will ever love and care for that child the way you do—even with the best of intentions.  You are anointed to teach your children—an anointing you need to receive in Jesus’ name if you have not already.   Yet, as a teacher, that anointing might look a bit different, to include the following behaviors:

  • Understanding learning styles and what they mean for both you and each of your children—one size will not fit all
  • Regulating expectations as a student in “class” versus what is acceptable when school is not in session
  • Taking on the sole responsibility and accountability for what they learn, which might include failing them on an assignment or a class (gasp!)

I remember a homeschool blogging friend writing about balling up a piece of her daughter’s work and throwing it in the trash.  Reading the post, the heart of a mother immediately sympathized with this child as I thought about my own children and the aftermath of throwing away something they created.  The teacher’s heart, however, understood where this mom was coming from: there is a standard of excellence in this home, and less than your best will not be tolerated.

 runoff collage spring 2016

Everything will not be fun.   There are so many posts within the homeschooling community that depict an environment where kids are having so much fun until they hate that school ever has to stop.   And they all presume to teach you how to develop that kind of environment in your home, too.   It sounds lovely.   There is just one problem: it’s a lie.   If it were the truth, the equal number of memes that suggest math is evil, or that suggest we as homeschooling families must put on a certain “face” for family and friends, would not exist.  Moreover, the impact of such a lie is that there are scores of families who abandon homeschooling because they are convinced when they have bad days that they are not doing something right.   The truth is that it is as ludicrous to think that your children will always have fun as it is to think that you will dance through every single aspect of your life.   Lest we forget, comfort does not breed comforters.   Perseverance through hard times and determination are good lessons to learn, too.

They will get it.   I can remember a season of angst in which I wanted our oldest to be the ‘model’ homeschooler (whatever that is).   I fretted that other kids were having a much richer experience than we were, and I would change our whole lesson plan based upon someone else’s enthusiasm about what was happening in their home.   Years later, I now realize that this is a homeschool rite of passage; many parents I know get caught up, especially with oldest children, in trying to develop the kid who cures cancer or finds a remedy for the common cold.   Having homeschooled for a minute now, I tell moms of littles all the time to not fret if their kids don’t read by the age of 4, or understand certain math concepts by the age of 6.   What is key at that age is not to frustrate a child and give the devil any foothole to introduce low self-esteem or confidence issues.  Sometimes we all—kids and parents alike—just need to take a breath and try again later.

They don’t have to know everything.   Our “job” as home educating parents is to create a set of experiences by which our children can learn how to learn.  Tweet: Our “job” as home educating parents is to create a set of experiences by which our children can learn how to learn. Consider the way most of us gained knowledge in a traditional school system: we learned most of what we know by rote memorization.  At later ages, when different information became more pertinent, we “cleared the path” and replaced those earlier bits of wisdom.   I conclude that this is why many of us are not smarter than a 5th grader (that’s a television game show for the unplugged who think I’m just being snarky). The other side of this coin is that there are some areas which everyone should know, and it is worth the time and effort to persist.  As a personal example, our college senior recently completed a required statistics class.  To say the least, I was anxious, knowing that if there is any area in which she struggles, it is math.  She actually “aced” that course, and in conversation with her professor, she learned at least a part of the reason why: she knows her math facts—well.   Many children don’t.

halle in class sewing oct 2014

You bring you everywhere you go.   I alluded to the fact earlier that I would change homeschooling methods on a slight whim once I heard of something that was going stupendously well for someone else.   I had to learn to use myself as an instrument, and to celebrate our uniqueness as a family.   Just as you have been anointed by God to teach your children, your children have an anointing, too: to love and honor you.   Their hearts are with you, whether you are a drill sergeant in your teaching style, or captain of crunchy, or just plain confused.  Their desire, even when it does not look much like it, is to please you.  Love on them, encourage them, and lean on them; you need it as much as they do, and in doing so, you model for them how to operate as a unit—a home/school, homeschool unit.

Our 2016 Spring Garden

A trip home to help an ailing relative, a trip to pick up a college student, a high school prom, and an upcoming dance recital?   NO WONDER I am just now returning to blog!!   We still have about two weeks to go before we settle into a summer norm–as if there really is such a thing.   But at least there is the garden to relieve stress and usher in a spirit of peace amidst the household chaos.  I would love to share with you what is happening this year.

With all the rain we have had this year in our area, moisture retention has not been a major problem, but this mulch insures that what water we have won’t evaporate too soon.  Plus, it smells sooooo earthy and makes the completed garden look like the work of a true professional.

0512161932-1Our kale and red cabbage are holdovers from the raised bed winter garden.  No worries–they will be eaten really soon.

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Because there was not much of a winter here (translation: summer bugs will be in abundance), our peppers picked up right where they left off.

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Our one point of possible trepidation is our eggplant plant.  We had such a wonderful harvest on last year until I took the poor thing for granted.   This year, it, too, tried to pick up where it left off.   After our initial 1-2 eggplant, which we tithed to my MIL, all the other eggplant began to yellow.   So, I have had to go back to school on watering, fertilization, and pruning.   At worst, I am the only person in our home who enjoys this harvest, so we will not have lost much.  Yet, I sure would hate to lose it over my own neglect.

In the meantime, our cup runneth over–with mint, that is.   Time for lots of sharing, lots of herb drying, and reflections over my MIL’s sweet tea.

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We have new entrants into the garden as well–cucumbers, okra, and corn.

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So, with that professional-looking mulch that I was speaking of earlier, we might have ourselves an awesome harvest this year!!

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Finally, for the first time, we have the neatest of treats–our blueberries are blossoming!

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Think gardening isn’t your “thing?”   Read more about gardening and its connectivity to successful homeschooling!!

Gardening as Homeschool Enrichment

 

Your Garden Is an Outdoor Classroom

 

Sensory Garden: Why Gardening Helps Emotional Grounding and Sensory Integration

Successful Homeschooling: Know Thyself

For the homeschooling community, this is a very busy time of year.   It is the season in which, after a year or more elsewhere, many are making a decision to homeschool.   Research for all-things-homeschool is at an all-time high; curriculum sales will abound over the next few months as newcomers rush to put their precious  trust dollars into a curriculum publisher’s hand.   Personally, I always write customers, thanking them for ‘making A Blessed Heritage a part of their children’s educational plan.’  I know that for many, money is tight and where to invest it is never an easy decision.

This is also a season when many parents decide that, after trying homeschooling for some window of time, public school is the right decision for their child/ children.

It pains me to hear someone say, “We tried homeschooling, and it just didn’t work for us because…”   Regardless of what the “because” is, I cannot help but feel as if I am listening to a parent who is missing out on a golden opportunity.   Sometimes, very candidly, the “because” is symptomatic of a parent who really did not want to homeschool anyway.  All he/she needed was enough data to conclude that this homeschool “thing” was not for them.  So the first time a child bawled about math or said “no” when asked to do something else, curriculum went up for sale, and the family woke up before dawn and skipped to the school bus together.

May God bless that decision (as if that parent is actually reading this post).  You’ll get no judgment from me (well, almost none, and I’m working on it).   This post is for a different parent.

This post is for those families who were honestly excited, though apprehensive, about homeschooling.   They researched everything and interviewed everyone they knew about homeschooling, they surrounded themselves with a supportive community (after fighting off the naysayers); they dug in with everything they had.   They bought all the magazines, subscribed to the most popular homeschooling blogs, and of course, joined the local network.   Behold, one year later, it just feels like it is not going well.  At all.

“Am I doing something wrong?” This is the heart’s cry behind that smile.  And if there is not a place in sight where we can speak candidly about our real concerns, our fears, and our places of anxiety, we find ourselves in the same place as that other parent–curriculum for sale, lunch kit bought, and looking over the school bus schedule.

I thought to write a 2-part post regarding a major stumbling block in the earliest homeschooling days.   From what I see, those who fall hard enough end their homeschool journey, never to return again.

How much time do you spend educating yourself in homeschooling?    It’s a fair question when you consider that public school educators spend many hours in re-certification classes and continuing education courses.

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Some super-saint is out there saying, “Well, we just pray and trust God…”   Believe me, I get that.   But I also know that Jesus, before He turned water into wine and fed the 5,000, was a student.   I also know that the word used to describe His followers–disciples–comes from the Greek and Latin ‘discipulus,’ i.e., student.

I am suggesting that one of the reasons we feel as if we are failing in our efforts to homeschool is because we don’t take time to become our own first student. Tweet: one of the reasons we feel as if we are failing in our efforts to homeschool is because we don’t take time to become our own first student.

I think that there are certain activities that become ingrained into the beginning of a homeschool journey, almost like a rite of passage:

  • Join a network or find a group of parents who homeschool.
  • Research, research, research curriculum and then buy waaaaayyy more than you need.
  • Join a co-op (after all, we MUST be sure our children are socialized).
  • Make sure you meet the state requirements.

Understand that none of these are totally the wrong thing to do.  In fact, dependent upon your state’s requirements, some of them must be done in order to keep your homeschool out of trouble!   There are some crucial areas, however, that don’t get as much publicity.   These steps are as critical as anything you might do in the afore-mentioned list:

  • Visualize how you want your homeschool to look, not just academically, but logistically, psychologically, and most of all, realistically.
  • Read books in order to have a conceptual understanding of homeschool (not just curriculum-oriented blogs and catalogs).
  • Understand who you are as a parent and what you bring—or do not bring—to the table.

I think we do our children a disservice when we focus on curriculum, laying books on desks, expecting them to learn x because it’s Tuesday. Tweet: I think we do our children a disservice when we focus on curriculum, laying books on desks, and expect them to learn x because it’s Tuesday.This is what the traditional school system does; isn’t that what we were seeking to move away from?   And yet, because this is how we were educated, without conscious thought, we bring this same dynamic into our homes, and we quickly grow frustrated when we don’t see the results we wanted.

So, how do we engage differently in the beginning (or at any point when we need to go back to our humble homeschool beginnings)?

  • Visualize.   Consider the following questions:
    1. What kind of time do Mom/ Dad have to spend with the children in homeschooling? Will you both work outside the home, or is one coming home (with the associated decisions about financial sacrifices)?
    2. What kind of support do you have in homeschooling? (Conversely, who might you need to grow distance from in the earliest days?)
    3. What sacrifices to your time/ energy/ lifestyle/ home are you willing to make in order to make homeschool successful?
    4. What does a day look like? (Computer time?  Outdoor time? Doctor’s visits?  Elderly relative/ newborn baby care?)
    5. Why are you homeschooling? What are your homeschool goals for your family, and for each child?
    6. What are the rules and boundaries under which your children learn (maybe consider having them craft a constitution)?

Having clear answers to these questions and more can save you and your family many headaches and heartaches, not to mention pocket/ purse woes before you ever sit down to school.

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  • Read.   There are great blogs and magazines out there that detail all things homeschool.  But, in order to gain a conceptual understanding of who you are within the homeschool, I believe that there is greater value in sitting down with a family who took the time to document both the mind and the heart of homeschooling.   Here are some of my favorites, listed in no particular order:
    1. Encouragement Along the Way by Bobbie Howard
    2. Morning by Morning by Paula Penn-Nabrit
    3. Educating the Whole-Hearted Child by Sally Clarkson
    4. Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt

Speaking of sitting down with a family, some parents consider the idea of “shadowing” another homeschooling family for the day.   Though I can see some value in this, I am a firm believer in the idea that homeschooling is first about home.   Another person’s home will never be your home, so just when you think you know how to do this based upon someone else’s reality, you might re-enter your own environment to realize that your ideas were more like a fantasy.   Bear in mind as well that when you visit as a guest, you change the dynamic of what happens in a home day-to-day.  You might not see the dirty dishes, or the laundry on the couch, or the pet hair or the source of that strange smell; everyone cleaned up before you arrived.

  • Know thyself. Much of what I had to say here is included above under ‘visualize.’  The key is to not try to create something that is foreign to you and to who you are.   As I explained to a mom who is newer in the homeschool journey than I am and who was concerned about keeping the homeschool fun in the midst of her drill sergeant nature, there is nothing wrong with being a drill sergeant—as long as you drill in love.   Also, bear in mind that your children can be having the time of their lives, with you dragging behind them like a hot, homeschool mess.   This is not a win.
original photo found at http://www.mummy365ng.com/2015_08_01_archive.html
original photo found at http://www.mummy365ng.com/2015_08_01_archive.html

If the Lord says the same, I will talk about knowing your children in the other part of this post.   In the meantime, for those considering this journey, think about looking up from the catalogs and into the mirror.   Are you ready for this—really?

Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. Proverbs 4:23, ESV

“He who knows others is wise; he who knows himself is enlightened.”  Lao Tzu

If You Lived When There was Slavery in America…

 

Those outside of the homeschool community sometimes consider us weird or goofy.  Quite honestly,  I consider myself pretty cool, but I get it.  We are creatures of habit–unconventional habits.  When you are constantly together, as one example, your first thought rarely involves dropping your child off somewhere while you do your own thing.   Likewise, you don’t think in terms of field trip boundaries, or that point when having Mom and Dad join the class is no longer considered cool.   Maybe that’s just my house.   So I’m sure we redefined the term ‘helicopter parent’ when we decided to tag along with our son on his college group’s tour.   Our motives were pure, however: the youngest was too little to remember our original plantation tour, and how could we say “no” to charbroiled oysters in the Big Easy?

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Maybe we anticipated the food a bit too much.   Somehow, we didn’t fully comprehend the weather report, stating that it would be unseasonably cold, and rainy with flash flood warnings.

But, we wade on.

Tours of plantation life are a mixed bag for me personally.   Generally speaking, there is the constant focus on the opulence of the plantation owner (forgive the fuzzy pictures–I was still learning how to work that camera) and an apologist perspective on slavery, as in, “Well, they were kind to their slaves.”   I, too, find myself amazed at the wealth and grandeur of these old southern mansions.   But I also recognize that people who looked like me were the ones who generated this wealth–with little to show for their work outside of the physical and emotional scars.

The Whitney Plantation is a unique experience, if only because the every day existence is told through the eyes and words of the children who lived in slavery.

Up for a mini-tour?  Here we go!

welcome to the whitney

This plantation, once 1500 acres,  is still a sprawling 250-acre microcosm of what was 150+ years ago.

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Once an indigo plantation, this plot became most valuable once the son of the original owner converted the crops to sugar.    Below  is a sugar cane vat, used for boiling, filtering, and producing unrefined sugar.   As I mentioned before, this was the primary source of the plantation’s wealth, and a dangerous working condition for the slaves involved in its processing.

sugar cane vat image from http://www.whitneyplantation.com/photo-gallery.html
sugar cane vat image from http://www.whitneyplantation.com/photo-gallery.html

 

And how is this for  working from home?

working from home

There was everyday life, from work, to worship, to rest.

everyday life in the slave quarters 2

This particular tour does a good job of depicting what was original to the plantation and what items were common to slavery, but not to this plantation.   Take, for example, this jail for would-be escapees.   It was actually about the size of a train car, with (supposedly) space for twelve.   Traveling with a group that included several basketball players, the crowded conditions became quickly obvious.  You can see a view from the front, and then from the rear.

slave jail from front and rear

(Did I mention it rained)?

As I mentioned before, these tours often focus on how elaborate the owner’s homes are–the custom drapes and wallpapers, the hand-carved furnishings and the many rooms and amenities made to keep the owners comfortable.   The main house of the Whitney plantation was relatively plain; we were told that the daughter-in-law of the original owner (who became the owner once the owner and his son passed) was a business woman to her heart.   She cared far more about the land making money than she cared about personal comforts.   We didn’t even have electricity walking through the house ( so no pictures as flash photography was not allowed)!   The garden view from the parlor, however,  is probably splendid at the right time of year.  What we saw looked more like a rice field…underwater.

back and garden view of the main house

Perhaps the most impactful story was the one that the Whitney plantation does not tell.   You hear it in reminiscing over the books you’ve read while you view the memorial of the Middle Passage.

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You hear it when you see the Angel’s Field and reflect upon the numbers of babies who did not survive this horrific life.

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You hear it when you see the names etched in a memorial wall–rows and rows of first names (the only child with a last name was the child born of the owner’s family and a young slave)–and realize that there were more than 300 children recorded as having lived on the plantation.

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The last image I saw came to me almost as a mandate.   It symbolizes everything I’ve tried to do in these last 13 years.

leaving the whitney

You can read more about the Whitney Plantation here.   However, if you are able, I would strongly recommend touring this unique perspective on the life of a slave.   It is an unforgettable experience.

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