Friday, September 21, 2018

HMJ: Homeschool Mornings plus Why We Test and Grade



How has your homeschool week been?  Mine... we've still been ironing out a few wrinkles here and there.  I think, if we can get a regular rhythm going by the beginning of October, I will be a happy mama!   Other than wrinkle ironing, this week's theme has been mornings...
Fruit and yogurt pancakes Thursday morning while grading Composition homework
Tuesday morning we headed over to the College Fair to check out options.
Mornings are for Math!  Brooke is usually finishing up her breakfast as we dive into Geometry.
All-in-all though, we are moving (mostly) steadily along.  Grades are stacking and looking good, new test dates are inching closer, and I'm encouraging her regularly to develop good review and study skills as I know they will help her in college.

I hear a lot of debate on whether or not to test and grade in homeschool.  I can understand the hesitancy in the lower grades and, honestly, I rarely ever issued anything beyond a spelling test in the elementary years.  I didn't start administering tests until later into Middle School and grade tracking didn't become a factor until high school.  I've taught different learning styles and varied personalities and there has been one unifying point as to why I ultimately decided to test and grade:

They asked for it!

Believe it or not, ALL of my kids reached an age where they asked me for grades and tests!  They wanted to know how they were doing (measurably) and if they were progressing in certain areas.  Up until they asked, as mom, I would make note of their progress measured against where they were and how they were coming along in various subjects and benchmarks.  At one time I even worried I would betray the freedom and ease of homeschooling if I tested and graded!  However, I rose to their requests and, as I did so, I realized another benefit:

It challenged them!

I think challenging my kids was another element I was afraid of.  I didn't want them to be stressed-out over-achievers nor did I want them to be bums.  I didn't know how to approach this aspect and worried of breaking their spirit when I did.  However, once I started issuing tests and grades, I noticed them working harder and challenging themselves more.  Not in the "over-achiever" sense, rather, in the realization that they had schooling super-powers they could tap into and they wanted to be homeschooling superheros!  They looked forward to proudly sharing good grades with their dad when he got home or discussing progress if they were working to bring a lower grade up.  Then I saw something more happen:

They learned the value of hard academic work!

I am blessed by 4 hard working kids.  If a chore or task needs doing, they all clamour to complete it well.  But schoolwork was often another story.  To them, I believe, it was a necessary distraction in a day when they had 'better' plans they hoped to get to.  Yet, once we started issuing grades, they seemed to take their schoolwork more seriously.  Yes, there were some pep-talks woven into our early days of testing and grading, but those were merely to facilitate encouragement in the "You can do this" thread.

I've always wanted to teach with a purpose to light a fire for a lifetime love of learning and I often veered away from testing and grading because I worried it would damper that fire.  However, the opposite seemed to happen.  I saw them digging deeper and searching farther in all their school work and as a result, they grew more excited about what they were learning.  Where schoolwork had been a necessity, it now became a vehicle.  And where grades and tests were looming, the process actually sparked deeper curiosity and appreciation for the material being learned!  All of this opened the door for a final and crucial growth point:

Retention. 

Before we began regular testing and grading, I felt their retention rate of the material they were learning was minimal.  But once digging, homeworking, and studying all saturated their minds with the information necessary to make the grades and pass the tests, I saw them remembering, long term, all they had learned.  And while testing was often unconventional such as Jeopardy style reviews and oral quizzes with a periodic traditional test thrown in, the entire process met with a wonderful end.  Regardless of the style we used to grade and test, all of it taught them to really know what they were learning instead of being a passive observer of the material.  The result?

Comprehensive discussions which started as teens and carried on!

I love the thoughtful conversations we get to enjoy as a family because they have worked hard and retained what they have learned.  My 15 year old is able to enjoy the same depth of conversation my adult children have.  Whether we are sitting around the dinner table, driving in the car, or hanging out with others; I see them having thoughtful deductive discussions.


When I started homeschcooling, I didn't think I could light a fire for the love of learning if I graded and tested.  Yet, when I took the plunge into this common academic pool, I found it fueled the very things I was hoping for in my kids!

Grading and testing may not be for everyone.  Some grade from the very beginning, while others may have never factored a single grading ratio! Perhaps, like me, you fall in the middle of the spectrum.  The most important thing is to do what you feel is best for you and your homeschool.  Just don't be afraid to challenge your kiddos!  They won't admit it, and they may fight it at first, but truthfully: they like it!  Challenging them shows them how much more they really are capable of becoming!

Blessings,









By the way.....


*Are you subscribed to my newsletter?  You might want to be.  Why?  Well, the newsletter contains bonus material you won't find on the website... not to mention, in those busy months when I can't get regular blog articles up, you can count on this periodical popping up in your email in-box each last Thursday with all new content!  What exactly does the newsletter contain?
  • Encouraging articles on Faith, Home(making), and Homeschool
  • Free printables under different themes each month
  • Early Childhood Education bonus-packet with activities and articles on teaching littles at home
  • Insider info on the latest goings-ons with all things on my blog and writing related
You won't find all this great bonus material on the blog so be sure to sign up so you don't miss out!  It's Ok, hop over real quick, right there to your right, see it on my sidebar where it says, "Subscribe to my Newsletter" with a  picture of the "Faith and Home Times" logo above it?  Ok, now enter your email in the box labeled "email address" then click "Subscribe"....(don't worry, it doesn't hurt and I promise not to spam you!). You should receive a confirmation email from me.  

Also, with your new subscription, you will be entered into my latest drawing!  I'm still working on the details for the new one, but I'm certain you will like whatever I concoct this time!!  


Saturday, September 15, 2018

HMJ: A Homeschool Mom's Fears Come True

Brooke is a Junior in high school now.  Her 18 year old brother has been her best friend since forever, they've done life together since the day she was born.  He always looked out for her and she was always secure in his companionship.  But big brother is graduated now and this is her first year, ever, having to do school, and much of life, on-her-own.  

It's been an adjustment.

She doesn't like being alone.

After picking her up from a friend's soccer game on Saturday and learning she was given a tour of their small private school afterwards, I couldn't help but ask if it made her want to attend instead of homeschooling.  I expected her to say yes, and she did, but what actually threw me was what followed the "yes".  

Every Friday since we started school we have some version of  a break-down.  A resistance beyond the normal "I don't feel like it" seems to cast a dark cloud over our day, and where we have had fun and striving all week long, it just suddenly falls apart.  Sitting in the car, driving back from the soccer game, she offered up her reason: she wants to go to school with her friends.

It hurt.

It cut deep.

The natural thought process was that she was choosing friends over awesome mom!  My heart sobbed but my words stayed inside.  I appreciated her honesty and I didn't want to do anything which might cause her to be afraid to open up in the future.  After some thought, I suggested the perks to homeschooling over public (or private) schooling.  She wasn't buying it. So I reserved the rest and let the weekend simply go on.

I guess another component feeding my initial struggle was knowing how tough of an adjustment it had been to go from homeschooling multiples to teaching just one.  I reconciled the transition by realizing how Brooke and I were kindred spirits and we would have a grand time with her last two years, one-on-one.  Praying over the heart-ache of Saturday I wondered if I was holding on when I should let go.  I even went so far as to look up tuition at her friends' school.  But as my thoughts swirled I felt that gentle tug of the Spirit and God's sweet voice reminding me, "I have called you to homeschool".  


It was a three day weekend, we took Monday off for hubby's birthday. I had a lot of time to pray and think while God's words eased my soul.  As my thoughts began to collect and conclude I decided to do a search, "What do I do when my homeschooler says she wants to go to public school"!  No joke!  I think I wanted the reassurance that I wasn't physically alone (I know I'm never spiritually alone!).I was also searching for confirmation in the feelings and conclusions I was coming to.  The results were a nod to my heart and I felt virtually 'cheered on' to go forward.
I stopped worrying whether or not I was getting it right and instead, I started TRUSTING.

As I Trusted, I could begin to problem solve. First of all, I was determined to communicate that homeschooling was a non-negotiable. I could make sure she knew that in a gentle, non-argumentative way... a way which wouldn't spur rebellion, rather, that would stir appreciation for our steadfastness.  I also knew I wanted her to have an active roll in our decision to follow through on God's call to homeschool.  I could set parameters and bring her in to move the details around within.

I prayed as I prepared... prayed God would ready our hearts for a good discussion.


Application time: Tuesday morning we ditched a few of our subjects and instead invested that time in a "class meeting".  I gently explained how we needed to talk about our car drive conversation but that first, we needed to open in prayer.  We bowed our heads and asked God to help us really listen to each other and guide us to good solutions.  After "Amen", I thanked her for her honesty on Saturday.  I confessed it was hard to digest and how I wanted her to know I was NOT mad at her.  I went on to explain how homeschooling was what God had called us to do and I felt I would be going against His call for us if I was to put her in regular school.  But that I wanted to HEAR her and help her to still be able to love homeschooling.

With the introduction out of the way, I proceeded to explain how we were going to make a pros and cons list.  I clarified how it would not change our directive to homeschool but that my hope was to use the list as a tool to help us resolve her longings. I placed a piece of paper between us and we started by dividing it into two categories : "Regular School" vs. Homeschool.  Then we subdivided each of those into Pros and Cons. 

With these parameters in place I asked, "Why do you want to go to regular school?".  Her reply was as expected: friends.  She doesn't like being alone and she felt her schooling experience would be enlivened by other bodies to share it with.  She also couldn't help but be curious about their school days life.  From this angle we began to fill in the various empty columns.  We openly discussed how many of the regular school pros could be fulfilled by a little bit of elbow grease in homeschool.  The more we talked and the longer our list grew, the more her confidence in homeschooling grew as well.  

By the end of our discussion we had fleshed out the most important things to her in schooling and all weighed heavily in favor of Homeschooling.  She did NOT want to get up early, or do 5-day school weeks, or be gone all day and then busy all evening with homework causing her to miss family time.  She wanted time with friends, but not at the sacrifice of all the best parts of homeschooling for her.  From here, we moved forward.

We began to talk about how she could enjoy friends AND homeschooling at the same time.  We couldn't fix having a cafeteria lunch with them, seeing them in the hall between classes, or sharing a classroom.  But here is what we could do:


  • Remember the perks of homeschooling.  Classes are done sooner, sleeping in till 7 is nice and our 4 day school weeks are valued... among many other things (notice all the pictures with her cat?  She admitted she loves doing school with him, "You can't do school with your cat in public school"!)
  • Get more involved with our local homeschool association.  Coops are a good solution as well, but we didn't feel it would be a good fit for us.  We are actively pursuing starting a high school kids hang out for homeschoolers where they can all get together a few times a month and do cool, memorable and engaging activities.
  • Get involved in extracurricular activities. To fulfill the void of "clubs" which regular school offers, she has decided to get involved with some others around here.  She picked 4H because she can work with her bunny and she is hoping to also do the Archery segment (and/or photography).  She is also talking about doing Volleyball next fall through our homeschool association.
  • We are going to become yearbook editors!  To address her longing to have and be a part of a yearbook, we are going to continue photo documenting everything.  Our association has a yearbook but I believe it is mostly for sports.  I will be checking into this and either seeing if I can join forces with the existing group or we will make our own.
  • Start a study group.  Of all the points we brainstormed, I think her favorite is study hang-outs!  She talked to her two closest friends about getting together regularly to do homework and hang out together.  I suspect she will simply save her school work from those days so she can do it all in the evenings as they all sit and work together.

Arts and Crafts "club" this week with the help of Michael's!

I am excited for her and proud of her accepting the terms and working maturely with me for results.  Until she is licensed to drive, I know it will be a lot for Taxi Mom, but I am happy to keep hopping... these days are fleeting and I don't want to miss them... I want her to be able to look back on high school with memories as fond (or more so!) as her public/private school peers.


Have your kids ever asked, at any age, to go to public school?  How did you manage it?  Here is what I figured out:

#1 - Don't take it personal.  It isn't you... not in the least.
#2 - Take a deep breath and walk away if you don't think you can manage the situation without blowing your lid!  You can say nothing at the moment or a simple, calm, "I'm sorry you feel that way."
#3 - Pray God will give you wisdom and words.

#4 - When you are collected for a calm conversation, ask, "Why do you want to go to public/private school?" 
#5 -As they talk, really listen, hear what they are saying and all the words in between.
#6 -  Respond constructively.  Pray together that God would guide your discussion and bring to mind and heart some good solutions.  
#7 - Make a pros and cons list where you BOTH are honest about what goes on the list. 
#8 - Be willing to admit that some gaps can not be filled.  You can also point out that neither scenario provides a perfect solution but homeschooling is simply the solution best for your family.
#9 -Look for realistic options to fill the missing pieces and follow through on them.
 #10 -Thank your child for their openness and honesty and encourage them to continue coming to you.  Empathize.

Be sure to pray throughout the conversation as well... especially if you find your patience tested.  I know some kiddos are more challenging than others... let God be your strength and guide; beginning, middle and end.

One other thing we found helpful was re-assessing our schedule.  Brooke's THREE maths were pretty cool, but also pretty overwhelming.  She dropped Pre-Calculus, at least till Consumer Math is done (and possibly till next year).  We also switched French to twice a week instead of all week and adjusted our order of work to provide better flow.  One of the many perks of homeschooling is the ability to switch things up when they just-aren't-working or meeting your needs.

The results?  When Friday came, she was a bit off first thing in the morning.  But she quickly recovered and we had a fabulous day!  Looking forward to the Christian Youth in Action banquet probably helped too:
...she helped demonstrate their work from the summer outreach.  But in all honesty, it wasn't the banquet itself she looked forward to, it was her friends whom I picked up so they could join us for the event!

Homeschooling isn't always a cake walk.  I want to say it is easy and a joy every single day.  But like all of life, it has it's good days and it's bad.  We have our wanting to give up days and having to push through days... but we also have those wonderful, drifting towards perfect days.  There are those days where you look up and see your budding student working hard, 'getting it', striving for it and growing through it moments... and you swell with holy pride because you were part of making THAT happen...and right then, every single trying moment is worth it for that one moment when the light bulb turns ON.

I pray you find strength and peace for the homeschooling days, both easy and hard, to persevere, stand your ground, give grace and find hope.

Blessings,









By the way.....


*Are you subscribed to my newsletter?  You might want to be.  Why?  Well, the newsletter contains bonus material you won't find on the website... not to mention, in those busy months when I can't get regular blog articles up, you can count on this periodical popping up in your email in-box each last Thursday with all new content!  What exactly does the newsletter contain?
  • Encouraging articles on Faith, Home(making), and Homeschool
  • Free printables under different themes each month
  • Early Childhood Education bonus-packet with activities and articles on teaching littles at home
  • Insider info on the latest goings-ons with all things on my blog and writing related
You won't find all this great bonus material on the blog so be sure to sign up so you don't miss out!  It's Ok, hop over real quick, right there to your right, see it on my sidebar where it says, "Subscribe to my Newsletter" with a  picture of the "Faith and Home Times" logo above it?  Ok, now enter your email in the box labeled "email address" then click "Subscribe"....(don't worry, it doesn't hurt and I promise not to spam you!). You should receive a confirmation email from me.  

Also, with your new subscription, you will be entered into my latest drawing!  I'm still working on the details for the new one, but I'm certain you will like whatever I concoct this time!!  

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Scripture Reflections: Desiring a Better Country


Five and a half years ago our wheels touched down in Montana's largest city.  We had spent three years in full-time missions work in our "home" town and then traveling around the country to serve in various communities, large and small.  It had been exciting, eye-opening and breath-taking.  But now, God had called us out of full-time ministry and into a city we did not choose.

City is probably a fluid concept here.  I grew up in the Chicago area so the concept of "city" to me is a sprawling metropolis loaded with opportunity as well as the stark results of missed opportunity.  However, after 25 years in the west, most of it in a rural section of northwest Montana, moving on-purpose to the largest and arguably roughest "city" in Montana wasn't as easy as one might think.  Compounded further by constant hurt and occasional betrayals from the day we touched down.

It lacked the safety of lower crime and drug use.
It lacked the so-close-you-can-touch-them mountains opting instead for the distant ones which disappear on a severely overcast day.
It lacked the beautifully clear glacier-fed waters.
It lacked fresh air.
It lacked the plethora of personable puristic people I had become use to, it tucked them in corners and opted to draw out the gray-area crowd
It didn't lack snakes, my biggest fear.

All of this probably sounds snide and even a bit presumptuous.  Please forgive me.  That is NOT my intent. I do have a better point!

The thing is, I had been comfortable and, honestly, spoiled in our old 'home town'.  In our travels, we arrived in different locations to do work... the Lord's work... the state of the cities didn't affect me because I was there to serve them inside of that context.

After arriving here and changing the context of our living, it took a solid year of deep-heart prayer and literal crying out to God before my attitude about our little big town began to change... my eye-site for what surrounded me changed.  And just as I thought I had squashed the beast of selfish desire to be anywhere but here, little beast babies were sneaking in the back door!

Then, an eye-opening opportunity arrived from God.  Perhaps a last-ditch effort to get me out of my mind and into His heart.  In a blase` mood I sat through a church sermon on Hebrews 11:8-22 and by the end, I squirmed in one of those deep-soul discomforts which couldn't be ignored.  The next morning, I penned the following:


These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, 
but having seen them and greeted them from afar, 
and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.  
For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 
If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, 
they would have had opportunity to return.  
But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. 
Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, 
for he has prepared for them a city.
Hebrews 11:13-16 

Point 1: Faith obeys the promise.   It isn't just sit and receive... it is actively responding.

Point 2: Faith lives out the promise without looking back or having all the details!  

... as I thought on my complaining about where I live and missing the beauty of where I was before we went into the field... I was reminded how wrong my protesting is.

I may not see, right now, why God wants us here, in this city.  I may seem to loose almost as much as I gain here.  BUT
#1 - It isn't about what we loose here.  I need to regularly acknowledge that I am an exile and stranger here -- someone with that status expects nothing of the place they are in!

#2 - If I am focused on desiring a better country in heaven vs. a better one here...than I will be looking to live more righteously here which ultimately equals NO complaining or lamenting, rather, contentment with God's plan!

It is interesting to me that verse 15 says God would have given them opportunity to go back if they wanted... but something tells me that is not a good thing... like free will and the choice to follow and obey with ALL mind and heart or be divided in mind, lacking full obedience, and God surrenders you to your broken ways....

I do NOT want that to be me! I want God to be proud to be called my God!


Lord, please forgive me for constantly stumbling in to the same trap.  Help me to keep heavenly focus, not an earthly one.  Help me to trust, as Abraham did, even when I can't see or make sense of your plan, to simply remember how BIG and trustworthy You are and that is more than enough!

*** 

Since penning those reflections God has given me drive and opportunity to rectify my groaning ways.  I was reminded of how, just because we are not in full-time missions work doesn't mean we stop being missional... we continue to serve our community and neighbors.  We are called to be missional, I knew this, but I had somehow lost site of it for a time, perhaps as a result of various hurts we experienced over the last few years.  But now, we are serving our community again, as if sojourners determined to do it all before the path carries us on.  It has re-opened my heart and even helped me to grow in love and compassion for my city and the array of people here; from those all in with their faith, to those fumbling around in the gray areas of understanding and application.  

Also, we may not be as close to the mountain get-aways as we were in our last 'home', but we aren't far either.  I've learned to see the surrounding topography as God's handy work and have even been able to enjoy new and different adventures which I love just as much as the old ones!  (minus the snakes of course!)


I've also learned how to manage the hurts of the past.  To be cautious but not overly guarded.  I forgave when they happened.  And in the last year, I got better at moving forward in healthier ways.  God can use personal set-backs and tragedies to teach us, grow us, and even further His best plans to use us for His glory.  

I don't regret anymore, though I do still miss the crystal-clear waters, fresh air and soaring mountains, it is more of a wistful reminiscent than an un-Godly rolling resentment!

What literal or proverbial "land" are you longing for right now?  

I pray, whatever your life challenges are today, that you are able to get a hold of God's greater plan.  Even if you can't see it, may you have confidence to walk by faith and not by site as Abraham did.

Blessings,





By the way.....


*Are you subscribed to my newsletter?  You might want to be.  Why?  Well, the newsletter contains bonus material you won't find on the website... not to mention, in those busy months when I can't get regular blog articles up, you can count on this periodical popping up in your email in-box each last Thursday with all new content!  What exactly does the newsletter contain?
  • Encouraging articles on Faith, Home(making), and Homeschool
  • Free printables under different themes each month
  • Early Childhood Education bonus-packet with activities and articles on teaching littles at home
  • Insider info on the latest goings-ons with all things on my blog and writing related
You won't find all this great bonus material on the blog so be sure to sign up so you don't miss out!  It's Ok, hop over real quick, right there to your right, see it on my sidebar where it says, "Subscribe to my Newsletter" with a  picture of the "Faith and Home Times" logo above it?  Ok, now enter your email in the box labeled "email address" then click "Subscribe"....(don't worry, it doesn't hurt and I promise not to spam you!). You should receive a confirmation email from me.  

Also, with your new subscription, you will be entered into my latest drawing!  I'm still working on the details for the new one, but I'm certain you will like whatever I concoct this time!!