August 23, 2016

The First Thing First



“…[Jesus] is the head of the body,
the church;
He is the beginning
and the firstborn from among the dead,
so that in all things
He may have preeminence.”

~ Colossians 1.18




Thinking about how to address this week’s topic – getting off to a great start in the new school year – has been a challenge. After all, a “great start” can mean so many different things depending entirely on the people and circumstances involved.

Most who use public or private institutional schools are launching a “new school year” right about now – but some have already started and some won’t begin for another two or three weeks. Additionally, each school’s “culture” and learning environment is unique to itself. And then there are the homeschoolers. Though many home-educating families follow a traditional calendar and are, thus, starting a “new year” right now as well, some have designed other types of schedules so that they might be in the middle of a “school year” this month. And still others literally go continuously and year-round with no discernible “new start” at all.

A “great start” also means very different things for different people within those educational settings. For example, the expectations held by a five-year old and her parents look nothing like what a 17-year old and his parents are aiming for over the next several months. A “great start” for a classroom teacher varies, depending on what age children he serves. And what teachers want to emphasize can be markedly different from what students and their parents are thinking about, and are, perhaps, as different as night and day from what homeschooling families are considering.

However, I was recently reminded via a series of lessons through which I led my daughters that – at least for those who claim Christ as Savior and Lord – there is actually ever only one ultimate goal in every endeavor of life. Namely, as Colossians 1.18 states, “that in all things [Jesus] may have preeminence,” or first place.

With that in mind, there’s one question we can each ask of ourselves – whether we’re a student, parent or teacher, whether we’re at home or in a huge urban school, and whether we’re thinking about the start of a whole “new school year” or, simply, the beginning of a new day: What would it look like – in terms of my heart, soul, strength, and mind (Luke 10.27) – to put Jesus Christ first in my life?

You can use that question within your position and stage of life to set goals for yourself – short-term goals for today and long-term goals to aim for over the next several months; goals for your attitude and words (Matthew 15.18); for the friendships you continue and begin…or, perhaps, choose to end; for spiritual priorities like spending time in the Word and in fellowship with other believers; for what you choose to do (and not do) with your body; for the nature of the content you decide to teach or study.

To some extent, of course, the answers to such questions will be as unique as each individual. However, the desire to give Jesus preeminence really is the best “great start” each of us could ever have. So if you want a great start, put the First Thing first.

CK
*****
Photo Credit: Celestial Meeker

August 2, 2016

Who’s the Boss?

“[It] dawned on me [recently] that I need to really get a handle on my children's activities. I do not want to be managed by their activities; I want to manage them. I need to say no to some stuff. They will survive without [doing ‘everything’].”

These are the words of a wise woman I met via a homeschool moms’ support group – but, of course, her sentiment applies just as well to all moms. It’s also true that this is the perfect time of year to ponder our intentions for our kids’ activities – because, whether our children attend typical public or private school (i.e., following a September-to-May calendar) or we home-educate all year round, most extracurriculars operate on that typical school schedule. As such, everything is “ramping up” – either in the planning stages or actually beginning – right now. Thus, making decisions right now will ease our transition into this coming fall and beyond.

When kids are young, it’s wise – for the sake of awakening their “smarts” and genius qualities – to encourage them to try a wide variety of activities as interests dictate. However, that doesn’t mean doing “everything” all at one time. I have friends who allow each child just one away-from-home extracurricular activity per week for each “season” or semester. Near the end of each season/semester, they talk with each child to determine who would like to continue in the same activity and who would like to try something different. The children don’t clamor to do more because they realize they’ll have opportunities to try new things soon; in fact, they’re relaxed and peaceful – as are the parents – because they’re not constantly running from one activity to the next, and they have time and energy to grow their creativity, imagination, and – very importantly – family unity at home.

As children mature, they often begin to hone in on a particular activity or two, desiring to “go deep” rather than broad. And – assuming we’ve given them measured opportunities to explore a wide variety of options when they were younger – it’s perfectly appropriate to allow them to “specialize.” In fact, if a grounded teenager expresses a strong interest for a particular activity, we do her no favors by forcing her to be “well-rounded” - i.e., compelling her to join in on myriad activities just for the sake of being involved. After all, current passions might indicate potential career paths, and colleges prefer those with deep interest in one area to those who flit from club to club, trying to pad an application. And, even if a strong interest eventually changes, the teen will not have wasted his time because the perseverance he develops via delving into one passion can transfer to something else later on.


As you ponder how God has wired each of your kids and their particular ages and stages, how can you – like my friend – manage their activities this “school year” rather than allowing the activities to manage you? Who will be the boss over your calendar this year?

CK

*****
Photo Credit: Marathons & Dog Tags

July 26, 2016

Growing a Summer Crop of Genius Qualities: Part 2

Last time we talked about how summer might be a good season in which to be especially mindful of helping our kids develop their inherent genius qualities. I described then a few ways in which we might facilitate curiosity, playfulness, and imagination, and I’ll share ideas about the other nine qualities now:

Creativity & Inventiveness: My younger daughter has developed a keen interest in sewing over the last couple of years, but she doesn’t like using patterns. Instead, she prefers brainstorming her own ideas, and trying her hand at cutting, pinning, and sewing her very own designs. When she’s experimenting, she buys heavily discounted fabric to avoid waste, and it’s been a process of trial and error – one dress required extensive alterations and a few t-shirts were unsalvageable. But she’s already created several beautiful pieces and has simultaneously stretched her perseverance and self-confidence right along with growing her creativity and inventiveness. What would spark such passion in your child?

Wonder & Vitality: Summer is the perfect time to engage kids’ innate astonishment about the natural world, as well as their ability to use their senses in response to it. In and around the small metro area in which I live, I can list in just minutes at least half a dozen easily accessible places where my kids can interact with all sorts of animals – everything from chickens to lions – and several others where they can hike nature trails or study plants in more depth. A simple internet search would yield even more venues, and I’m confident you can do the same. Why not arrange for your kids to interact with nature just once a week for the rest of the summer?

Sensitivity & Wisdom: Earlier this year, my girls and their friends baked several dozen cookies, most of which we subsequently delivered to a local homeless shelter. One of my daughters volunteered at a kids’ camp last week, and friends’ kids have organized Good News Clubs for neighborhood children. In fact, service is probably the best way to help kids of all ages develop openness to and understanding of others – absent preconceived notions and clich├ęs. In what ways would your children like to serve? Ask them.

Flexibility & Humor: It goes without saying that breaking out of our usual routine enables us to see things differently, yielding an “aliveness” that facilitates humor as well as an ability to make out-of-the-ordinary associations and connections. In fact, that’s probably why we idealize summer, since we tend to alter our usual routines at least part of the time. But we must consciously choose to really “get away” instead of bringing “regular life” with us. So what about arranging a technology-free vacation? Bring one family phone for emergencies, and take a few pictures to commemorate each day. But you really can decide to keep individual phones at home, eschew social media and web browsing, and wait to post photos until you return. The more you internally balk at this notion, the more likely you really need it.

Joy: Joy naturally resonates anytime a person gains new insight or masters a skill. Thus, we can’t really help our kids “practice” joy the way we can the other genius qualities; instead, it bubbles up on its own when the other qualities thrive. So, since we all wish joy for our kids, why not consciously endeavor to aid and abet the growth of curiosity, playfulness, imagination, creativity and imagination, wonder and vitality, sensitivity and wisdom, and flexibility and humor over the next weeks? Planting and nurturing those seeds will surely yield a rich, long-term harvest.


CK
*****
Photo Credit: TumblingRun

July 13, 2016

Growing a Summer Crop of Genius Qualities: Part 1


If we understand that each and every person has been imbued with 12 inherent genius qualities, we as parents will ideally desire to encourage the growth and development of those qualities in our kids each and every day. We’ll actively seek ways for our kids to “exercise” the qualities and will aim to minimize – and undo if necessary – any paralysis of them. As with identifying and developing our kids’ manifestations of the eight great smarts, seeing the opportunities almost becomes second nature if we do it regularly enough.

And it really goes without saying that growing kids’ genius qualities can’t be a seasonal event. It would, in fact, be wrong to relegate them to a mental/emotional shelf from September through May, thinking kids must forgo them in order to trudge through schoolwork – and, frankly, if we see that happening, we owe it to our kids to step in and take strong action. But summer – even for those who don’t follow the typical “school schedule” – often feels different. Summer seems looser, more carefree, and less rigid by design, so this might be the perfect time to more consciously choose to watch for ways to promote the genius qualities.

With that in mind, I thought I’d take this issue and the next to provide a few thoughts about each quality, hoping that you’ll choose to turn a couple of scattered seeds into opportunities specifically meaningful to your own children:

Curiosity: Trips to the beach, camping excursions, and even treks up to the corner ice cream shop provide obvious fodder for encouraging kids’ curiosity, which we define as “asking questions others judge as irrelevant.” While we may not know every answer and/or may choose to encourage a child’s personal initiative in researching a matter on his own, let’s choose to avoid shutting down the questions. If a child is asking – why the sky is blue, why moss grows only on one side of the tree – it’s relevant to his mind and heart, and it’s our job to nurture that.

Playfulness: Playfulness develops when kids have unstructured time. Unfortunately, though, current realities often necessitate too much structure for today’s kids; many attend daycare all summer long and parents are (understandably) wary of allowing them to roam the neighborhood. But for the sake of playfulness, let’s challenge ourselves into allowing as much freedom as possible. When our kids are home, let’s avoid regimenting every moment; instead, let’s give them the choice they don’t get in daycare. And let’s at least give them free reign of our fenced yards, allowing them decide on their own what to do there each day, unencumbered by our continuous suggestions about “organized games.”

Imagination: Allowing kids to express their curiosity and giving them time for open-ended playfulness undoubtedly spur imagination. So will reading aloud – something we should do every day of each child’s life, even during the teen years – as well as setting aside a portion of each day (all year round) for independent readers to do so on their own, and limiting screen time. Simply put, we make room for kids’ brains to nurture imagination when we guard against providing too many pre-fabricated images for them.

Are you curious now about the other nine seeds? We’ll see about planting them in our next issue!

CK
*****
Photo Credit: TumblingRun

June 28, 2016

You Can Do That

My daughters recently turned 14 and 15, and my family and I will mark Independence Day in a couple of weeks as we have every year since they were one and two: at my husband’s parents’ home.

It’s a tradition we started after we’d determined that the celebration in our hometown was too big and not sufficiently family-friendly. Yet we wanted to mark our country’s birthday somehow, so my in-laws suggested we join them. And we had such a good time that we readily decided to make the trip an annual event.

We generally spend one or two overnights and enjoy low-key but fun activities during the day. We frequented a nearby playground during the first few years, and one year we visited an observation tower with an amazing marsh view. Lately, the girls have enjoyed the local aquatic center as well as helping my mother-in-law with the cooking and baking. And on the evening of the fourth, we always go to the same beautiful amphitheater-style park in a nearby town for an impressive concert and fireworks display, an event made extra-special for years because my father-in-law was the band’s bass drummer.

The tradition changed five years ago, though, when, after 45 years of dedicated service, Dad reluctantly retired from the band. Dictated by health concerns rather than an actual desire to hang up his drumsticks, the decision was understandably hard. He did enjoy attending as a spectator that first year, but his health continued to decline and he was never again able to join us in the park.

And now this year’s visit will be different again because he passed away last fall.

As the entire family has walked through a series of “firsts” without him for several months now, we’ll manage this one, too. I expect we’ll experience a fair amount of awkward melancholy and even some tears – most especially when the band launches into his favorite song, Invincible Fidelity, which they also played at his funeral. But we’ll smile as we remember him doing crossword puzzles at the breakfast table, telling funny stories about his childhood, and swinging his bass drum mallet at the back of the bandstand.

As you plan summer events this year, maybe you, too, are in a season of change. Maybe you’ve lost a loved one. Or perhaps some old traditions are morphing – or even fading away. I encourage you to accept the inevitable sadness that accompanies such circumstances, because denying it only prolongs grief. But purpose as well to avoid getting stuck in bitterness and angst. 

My father-in-law loved seeing us come through the door for our Independence Day visit, and I know he’d want us to continue the tradition even though it won’t be quite the same. I’ll encourage my mother-in-law, husband, and children to honor the joy our tradition brought him by adding new experiences and memories to the occasion.

You can do that, too.


CK

June 20, 2016

What to Do When Your Homeschool High School Student is Behind

I joined Ann Karako's Facebook group, It's Not That Hard to Homeschool High School, a few months ago, and it quickly became clear that she and I are on the same page when it comes to our ideas about home education. Thus, I was honored when she asked if I'd write a guest post on her blog, Annie and Everything. And, as it turns out, mine was her first-ever guest post...and my one post actually turned into two - the second of which appeared here

*****

In my introductory article, I lamented that so many homeschooling parents needlessly fear their kids being “behind.” Some manage to avoid falling prey to the lie in their kids’ elementary years…but the monster often rears its very ugly head all over again once a child approaches high school. We become petrified that he “isn’t keeping up” in math or “won’t have enough” science. We give ourselves ulcers over AP classes, dual enrollment, and early graduation. And we fall into the trap of thinking we should use public school requirements as our guide.

Though I don’t like to advertise it, I spent nine years before my kids were born teaching at the secondary level in the fourth largest school district in my state – first at a middle school and then at one of the city’s four public high schools. My state has a very good reputation when it comes to public schooling; its students consistently earn SAT/ACT scores among the highest in the nation. But it’s precisely because of my experience inside the system that I’m so passionate about assuring home-educating parents that we have absolutely nothing to worry about.

Instead of perseverating about “keeping up” with the system, we must choose to grab hold of reality by forcing ourselves to remember that we have absolutely no legitimate reason to use the government school system as our measuring stick. We must understand our actual legal obligation – i.e., to follow the homeschool law in our state of residence, which is always distinct from that which governs public/government schools. And we must grasp the moral truth of our real, foundational obligation, which is to meet the actual needs of each of our individual children, regardless of what bureaucrats might say on paper.

Additionally, we can hold onto a couple of homeschool truths: First – as I learned from having spent the last three-and-a-half years surveying more than 2,800 resource providers for The Homeschool Resource Roadmap – public school textbooks can’t hold a candle to any material written for homeschoolers. That was true before common core, and it probably goes double (for non-common core homeschool material) now. Second, the typical lecture-style classroom cannot begin to approach the effectiveness of the one-on-one tutoring and self-directed learning approaches inherent in home education. In fact, a quick Google-search will reveal plenty of stories about the most out-of-the-box “radical unschoolers” who excel at Ivy League colleges despite never having cracked an algebra book. Thus, it’s basically inevitable that any homeschooled child with diligent parents will receive a better education than his schooled peers without having to imitate the system at all.

What does that mean for high school planning? First, it means choosing to flat-out reject the entire notion of “being behind” and deciding instead to accept each child where he really is as an individual today – whatever that means in each subject area. Second, it means developing a plan to help her learn at her pace – whatever that is and wherever it eventually leads – with neither overwhelming her nor letting her slide. It does mean taking college admissions expectations (but not public high school requirements) into account if it seems best for a child to go directly into a four-year college. But is also means knowing that four-year college isn’t always necessary or wise – right away or ever – and that colleges don’t expect us to mirror the system; in fact, they understand that homeschoolers are different, readily accept them, and even recruit them. Finally, it means trusting our intuition (and our kids’ preferences) enough to stop feeling inferior and get on with thinking outside the box.

On a practical level, how that plays out for each child’s high school experience will be distinct; in fact, each of us should be able to tell a unique story about each of our children’s journeys. But perhaps just a few examples will inspire you:

·       Andy isn’t particularly “math-y,” nor is he interested in a STEM-oriented career. Thus, his parents are unapologetically counting Pre-Algebra as his first high school-level math course. And then he’ll do Algebra 1 and Geometry before choosing either Statistics or Practical Math for a fourth credit. Alternately, he’ll take his time – no law exists saying one “must” complete one credit in nine or 12 months – and eschew a fourth credit entirely, choosing mastery of three credits’ worth of material over racing through more. The university he’s considering if he pursues a history major prefers three math credits for admissions, but doesn’t specify a minimum competency for non-STEM majors; the art school he may attend instead doesn’t even have a math requirement. Thus, skipping Algebra 2, Trigonometry, and Calculus doesn’t put him “behind.” It simply acknowledges how he’s wired and gives him more time for his actual interests;

·       Kelly doesn’t like to read, perhaps due to mild (but undiagnosed) dyslexia. Her parents know their homeschool law requires her to take “English” every year, and the law specifies the inclusion of literature and composition at the high school level. But they won’t throw her into the intensive multi-year, “college-prep” program they used with her older brother, who was interested in writing novels from an early age. Instead, they continue to work on Kelly’s spelling and grammar skills – legitimately counting her time as a portion of the 140 hours per year they’ve learned will constitute one “English” credit – and they’ll rely on a resource called Movies as Literature (http://www.designastudy.com/products/1891975099.html) to complete her first two English credits. Then, using her progress and the knowledge they purposed to gain about specific reading and writing skills Kelly should master before taking the English 101 course at their local community college, they’ll determine the best course of action for her remaining two credits later on;

·       Paul has Downs Syndrome. He loves to learn, but at age 14 his functional skill level is currently at about “third grade.” His parents understand from their state’s homeschool law that Paul needs to somehow address content in math, reading, language arts, science, and social studies each year, and that they’re free to incorporate a wide variety of elective credits in any other areas according to Paul’s needs and interests. They also learned that working through at least 75% of a textbook or spending roughly 120-150 hours of study time constitutes “one credit.” They were initially concerned about the legitimacy of their documents, given that Paul will never be able to tackle “higher math,” read Shakespeare, or write a research paper. But a family friend who works in special education explained that schooled kids with special needs earn recognized diplomas the same as anyone else, and encouraged them to simply use materials that match Paul’s actual ability and aim toward maximizing his potential before graduating him;

·       Savannah began taking classical ballet lessons at the age of four and was being cast in significant roles by the time she was eight. Her parents knew she was also intellectually gifted – they’d had her IQ tested and it came out at 160 – but she became increasingly disenchanted with formal academic subjects; she simply didn’t want to spend hours of each day on math, science, history, and literature. When she was 13, a professional dance company offered her an internship that would eventually enable her to become its principal dancer. But traditional academics would get in the way, so her mother devised a personalized study plan using prep-books for the GED and several CLEP tests. She didn’t take any official tests; instead, she devoted time to studying through the books and then took the practice tests in the books. By doing so, she demonstrated clear mastery of every typical high school subject as well as a handful of college-level courses. And, coupled with all the elective credits she could legitimately be awarded in dance, choreography, and costuming, Savannah’s mother developed an impressive transcript that enabled Savannah to graduate high school and begin her internship at age 15.

I could go on and on, describing myriad other ways in which families can choose to be different by setting aside inaccurate, mechanistic labels in favor of truly meaningful learning for their kids; in fact, homeschool mom Sue Patterson has compiled a book – Homeschooled Teens (http://www.suepatterson.com/2016/01/22/homeschooled-teens/) - that details the experiences of 75 kids. But what ultimately matters for your children is what you decide to do with and for them. Will you continue to let yourselves be bullied by an irrelevant public school system and false notions of “being behind?” Or will you peek out of the box and even consider tearing it open so you can customize your child’s education for his or her ultimate, lifelong good?

*****
Read Part 1 of this two-part series here.



AE
LT

June 14, 2016

The Best Father’s Day Gift

Once upon a time, there was an amazing Dad. He’d worked very hard prior to the births of his children to build and furnish a spacious, beautiful home, and he endeavored to keep it stocked with anything and everything they would need. He saw to it that they had access to all the knowledge they’d ever need to live full and successful lives. He also made himself personally available each time any child called for him, purposing to be fully engaged in every conversation. In fact, he understood the mind and heart of each individual child so thoroughly that he could accurately personalize every interaction. And, like any good dad, he would die to save any of their lives.

On one particular Father’s Day, his children – who were not always appreciative despite all that their dad provided – were arguing about what to give him. Suddenly, he ambled into the room, his arms overflowing with gorgeously wrapped packages of various sizes. Without saying a word, he stood in front of each child in turn, and set nine boxes before each one. Then he stood back and grinned.

“Dad, what are you doing?” the oldest asked. “It’s Father’s Day; we’re supposed to give you something, not the other way around.”

Dad smiled even more broadly. “Well, you know I truly don’t need anything but your love. And I decided that what I really wanted was to give each and every one of you these nine very special gifts. You see, there’s a box with red shiny paper for each of you, and then the one with green and blue polka dots for each of you…and all the others. So you each have the same nine gifts, but I also worked really hard to customize them for each of you. I would be so blessed if you would open them all and use them all every day in each moment that you need them.”

Have you guessed yet about the nature of my little allegory? The dad is, of course, our Heavenly Father, and the nine gifts he presented to each of his children are the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5.22-23). In reality, he lavishes that pile of blessings on us at the moment of each one’s spiritual birthday – the day any of us accepts Christ as Savior and, thus, becomes his spiritual child. But, of course, each spiritual birthday is like a Father’s Day to him, since each person’s choice to come to him by following Christ is what he most wants.

Some don’t realize the pile of gifts exists. Others see it but leave the packages in the corner, unopened. Still others open one or two, and leave the rest. And some open them all and do appreciate them all, but then put them on a shelf and too often forget to bring them down when they are most needed.

What our Father wants for us, though, is what the dad in the story said: I would be so blessed if you would open them all and use them all every day in each moment that you need them.

Will you honor your Heavenly Father on this Father’s Day and every day by doing that?

*****
Photo Credit: torbakhopper

CK

June 13, 2016

Dear Homeschool Mom Who Worries About Her Child Being Behind

I joined Ann Karako's Facebook group, It's Not That Hard to Homeschool High School, a few months ago, and it quickly became clear that she and I are on the same page when it comes to our ideas about home education. Thus, I was honored when she asked if I'd write a guest post on her blog, Annie and Everything. And, as it turns out, this was her first-ever guest post...and my one post actually turned into two! 

*****

In terms of lies to which homeschooling moms fall prey, the notion that all kids “must” read fluently by age five “or else” is second only to the paralyzing fear among us that our children will somehow fall "behind." If I had a dollar for every time I've heard that concern, I could fund repeated homeschool field trips to Disney and Tahiti!

It breaks my heart that so many committed homeschool parents needlessly lose sleep over this one because, in point of fact, there is simply no such thing as "behind."

Oh, the institutional school system goes to great lengths to convince us otherwise. Individual districts and even whole states set up elaborate, bullet-pointed "standards" lists in every subject area for each "grade level." In addition – and, incidentally, in violation of states' rights as established in the Constitution – the federal government has instituted national "Common Core Standards" and has coerced public and even many private schools into adopting them by threatening to withhold “federal funds” for any who refuse to submit. Never mind that none of these "standards" are based on any actual scientific research about children's brain development, or that they keep changing (i.e., what used to be taught in first grade has now been inexplicably shoved down to kindergarten or even so-called K-4) even though kids are still kids. The establishment has spoken from "on high," proclaiming the necessity of each child reaching certain benchmarks by certain ages, and they've convinced most Americans that they're speaking actual truth.

Tragically, nothing can probably be done to repair the broken system. In fact, the system's bureaucrats won't even acknowledge the presence of a problem, let alone make changes to repair the damage done to kids in the process.

But we who home educate can - and should - do better. For starters, we have to shake off all the shackles of the institutional school mentality - a hard task since nearly all of us were unconsciously indoctrinated into it as kids ourselves. But it is possible. And, for our kids' sakes, it's imperative that we battle against any such biases as we find them seeping into our thoughts.

In terms of this issue of "being behind," we must simply force ourselves to accept the reality that the whole notion is a lie - an artificial construct of the system that serves no good or useful purpose. Instead, we need to remember that God has created each child as a unique, one-of-a-kind miracle. And that truth means that no child should be pigeonholed into what's "appropriate for grade level" according the (secular) state schools. Whether you're a Bible-believing Christian or an adherent of any worldview that places worth on individual human beings, there's simply no other way to look at it; you either believe cultural lies saying that children are “products,” or you believe what your faith tells you. The two ideas are mutually exclusive so you must choose to live by one or the other.

Of course, embracing this truth doesn't mean we can slack on our children's education. Not at all. In fact, the responsibility to train up our children is great, and we must take it very seriously so that each of our kids can meet his or her potential. But the process is entirely different from that which is promoted by the culture’s dehumanizing approach to schooling.

Instead of what they do, we must take the time and make the effort to diligently study each of our children as individuals, and then – with all the various skill and knowledge areas (i.e., "subject areas") in mind – ask, "Where is he today?" Of course, in some areas, a child will have a high degree of skill and/or natural talent; other areas will be harder for him. And that's as it should be since each child has been designed individually and uniquely gifted accordingly.

When doing this assessment, it's imperative that you not compare a child to any outside standard or to any other child - and don't say, "Oh, he's at Point A now and I need him to be at Point Z by thus and such a time." That’s unfair and inhumane because children are not designed to learn all the same things at the same time in the same way. Instead, make an honest, non-competitive assessment of the child's current level of understanding and skill in each area. And then commit to making diligent progress forward from that place - at the child's pace. Don't push or rush so he can "catch up" (to the system or a sibling); don't hold back so he doesn't get "too far ahead of his peers." Don't worry about the "grade level" designation on a textbook; just use the book that matches his actual current skill level and move forward from there.

 If you do that - starting where your child actually is today, taking things at his pace, and making diligent effort each day - he will end up exactly where he needs to be when he leaves your nest. You needn't force him to meet some outside, foolish standard. A Christian worldview says that once we persevere on our end, God will direct the child's path as an adult, and you can (and should) accept His plans instead of trying to mold your child into someone else's image. And how the child "rates" compared to anyone else will be a moot point. He simply needs to have worked to his potential as an individual. If he does that, he simply can't be "behind."

*****
Read Part 2 of this two-part series here.

AE

June 1, 2016

On Finding Our Unconventional Path to Homeschooling Through High School

 My family’s home learning style is best described as “eclectic.” We’ve gravitated toward literature-style options, and I’m very confident picking and choosing from among a wide variety of material. I’ve purposely avoided most school-style resources, and when we have used textbooks, I chose ones with an engaging, narrative writing style. I’ve also skipped school-style forms of evaluation in favor of projects and Charlotte Mason-style narration.

And most homeschoolers I know have expressed appreciation for my out-of-the-box approach up until now…even as many have been directing their own kids in filling out “grade level” workbook pages. But I know they fully expected me to jump on the “traditional” bandwagon when my kids reached high school age. After all, playing around with unit studies, hands-on activities, and child-led pacing is all fine and good for little kids. But high school is another story. Come high school, we’re “supposed to” replace material a child enjoys with a whole pile of “what’s good for him” – i.e., dry textbooks, grading scales, assigned “classics,” “higher math” and the like.

I started to actively consider my options well over a year ago. I did toy with using a standard high school program because it would make things very easy; my girls would read textbooks and regurgitate the information to answer test questions, and I’d simply keep a gradebook and average their percentages. But my infatuation with that lasted for about two nanoseconds before I realized I could never subject my kids to it. So then I took a wide swing on the learning pendulum and gave serious consideration to unfettered unschooling. However, my daughters actually balked at that idea; they expressed a desire for some guidance and direction along with their continued freedom to choose.

Last summer, I'd picked up an old copy of an old book – Senior High: A Home-DesignedForm+U+La by Barbara Shelton – and I once I started reading it, I couldn't put it down. In some ways, Shelton's ideas mirrored what I'd had in mind about unschooling. But reading her thoughts about delight-directed, self-directed high school inspired me develop a framework all our own.

So we officially began "high school" in January 2016, utilizing what might be called a "guided, delight-directed" approach. That means we discussed what it would mean to earn a "credit" (i.e., finishing a whole math book, for example, or completing roughly 140 hours of study in a certain content area). And - even though my husband and I aren’t hamstringing the girls with a "college-prep" program for a variety of reasons - I provided some general guidance about what sorts of credits are typically expected on a transcript (i.e., four "English" credits). Armed with that information and an array of possible resources that I’d gathered, each of the girls chose the material she wanted to use to begin working toward some of the credits.

In keeping with Shelton's ideas and my own conviction that "grade level" is a meaningless construct of institutional schooling, we're not concerned about finishing particular "classes" during "freshman year" or in a nine- or twelve-month period of time. Why box ourselves in like that? Adult life sometimes comes with deadlines, and young people need them, too. However, "real life" deadlines exist for legitimate reasons, not just because "someone" said a course of study "should" take nine months to complete. In "real life," people learn continuously as their interests and needs dictate, and they learn to meet deadlines when there is a real reason to do so.

Thus, I've helped the girls map out plans for working on each content area a little each month over the next four years so that by the time they graduate, they'll each have just what they "need" on their transcripts. They may choose to move more quickly in certain areas, and we're also very open to adding various electives as yet-unknown opportunities present themselves over time. So we have a basic plan of action with which to proceed while also knowing that in some ways for right now it's just the skeleton.

I knew I didn't want to constrain my girls by using a school-ish approach to high school. After some exploration of the options, I learned that dragging them along on the radical unschooling road didn’t resonate with them and, thus, wouldn't be any better. Instead, I've now provided them with a compass pointing to the end of the journey and I've asked of each of them, "What path do you want to pursue?" So now I'm helping them gather equipment and supplies as they go along and looking forward to enjoying it with them every step of the way. The ultimate goal is the same as it’s always been: helping each one to maximize her potential while maintaining a love for lifelong learning. If we accomplish that, they’ll be more than ready to tackle whatever lies before them later on.

LT

May 31, 2016

Spirit-Control


“’Touch’ with your eyes, not your hands.”
“You may not slap your sister!”
“No, you can’t have candy now. It’s almost suppertime.”
“Group dates only. That will make it easier for you to choose wisely in your relationship.”
“Don’t touch the stove!”

We all want our kids to exhibit self-control; we know it’s safer and healthier than impulsivity and indiscretion. Thus, I’m sure that – like me – you could quickly list dozens of self-control-promoting statements you’ve told your kids over the years. In fact, it’s our job as parents to be purposeful about defining appropriate boundaries for our children so they might eventually internalize good and healthy limits for their own behavior.

But – as with all the other qualities listed in Galatians 5 as Fruit of the Spirit – we must also remember that true self-control actually emanates supernaturally from each individual’s relationship with the Lord. No one can really “gut it out” in his own strength with any true consistency. So, in a very real way, true “self-control” is actually “Spirit-control” – i.e., a choice each child (or adult) makes day by day, moment by moment, to allow the Holy Spirit (rather than her own natural inclinations) to guide and lead her behavior. For the safety and well being of an immature child and others around him, we must set external behavioral parameters – complete with logical, consistent consequences for disobedience – but our ultimate goal should never be only outward compliance for its own sake. Rather, our aim should always be toward encouraging each child to accept Christ as Savior and Lord so that the Spirit will come to indwell him, thus opening the door to an internally driven Spirit-control.

I was reminded of this recently when reading Romans 2, wherein Paul exhorts the Jews to whom he was writing:
For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

Applied to behavior, this means that “being good” doesn’t make a child a follower of Christ. Likewise, the goal is not getting a child to follow rules laid out by his parents just to avoid trouble. Rather, true “circumcision” – a real ability to control one’s behavior – is internally driven. And the Spirit actually powers that control, since we – as humans in our own strength – have deceitful, wicked hearts that cannot be trusted (Jeremiah 17.9).

With that in mind, what can you do today to lovingly encourage your child to embrace Christ? And if she’s already taken that step, what can you do to remind her that she can avail herself of Spirit-control in any situation?

*****
Photo Credit: FromSandToGlass

CK
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