Grass is Greener

The grass is always greener when seen from a distance.  My fellow homeschoolers all have it together while I still flop and flounder.  Or am I just looking at things from the wrong angle?  My side view shows beautiful lush green.  Step into the middle of that ‘grass’ and suddenly, as you look directly down and about, you see the bare patches and realize that much of the green is made up of weeds.    Perspective is a grand thing, but can only be attained if we get outside of our own safe world of opinions and judgements.

Once we realize this phenomenon, do we give others grace?  Or do we continue to berate ourselves as not having it all together because of X, Y, Z which ‘they’ obviously have and you do not have?  Let’s lay down our defenses and focus on the work at hand.  Then, when you look up, you will find yourself shoulder to shoulder with a friend helping to decide how best to improve or utilize your bare spots and weeds.

leap of faith

High School???!!!

The thought of teaching a high schooler at home can be daunting unless it has naturally occurred year by year as a committed K-12 homeschooling family or it is a situation of getting your high schooler out of a bad situation in traditional school.  Even then it jangles ones nerves all over.  That being said, most amazing things cause this core reaction… the first time you saw the person you were to marry….saying, “I do!” and learning the day by day lessons of marriage… finding out you were going to be a parent,,,, holding a tiny precious baby knowing that you also held full responsibility….. and on and on it continues.  This feeling is nothing new, it just is right before you which causes it to seem larger than life.  Once you take a step onto the actual path things take their place, work begins, and, like all wonder filled things, you go at it moment by moment, lesson by lesson, day by day until 4 years have miraculously gone by, books full of memories surround you, and your child continues growing up.

oh the places you will go

Curriculum is a Tool, Not a Goal

As we excitedly plan out our learning and lessons for next year it strikes me how the butterfly-joy welling up from within is based on the journey rather than thoughts of the completion of another year.  It feels like running into a dear friend who has been out of town for a while.

In the beginning, I thought it was about getting through a long list of requirements year by year.  The concept of being able to fall into a lesson of intrigue and remain there for as long as we wished is foreign- feeling somehow that it must be wrong, illegal, something.

After years of following my heart instinct, experiences have confirmed, in multiple ways due to various and sundry children’s testing, attending school, going to college, etc. that this method works.  But, it still feels confusing to educate in such a non-traditional manner.

We use books- many books but rarely follow one all the way through as we don’t believe that gives a worldview from which to platform discussions.  We learn how to learn traditionally because that is the world we live in.  However, day to day lessons are fluid, aimed at my children’s future selves, built toward their interests and gifts.  Rarely are two days alike.

There is rhythm to each day, there is sequence to our lessons, there is beauty as well as tears, and there is trepidation that I’m missing something, I’m doing it wrong, I’m fooling myself.  God is giggling right now as He whispers in my hear, “Katie, my beloved, that is faith.  Trust.”

view finder on mountain

Harmony- She is Illusive

Finding harmony based upon routine is one of a homeschoolers core daily struggles.  Even for those of us who are determined to maintain a fluid day, there must be some order.  When do the children wake, what lessons are the big slimy toads and need swallowing first, who needs what nutrition at what time in order to balance out minds and moods, do I answer the phone or pretend not to listen to the voice leaving a message, do I check emails or call it multi tasking as I take a potty break, and on and on.  So, fluid is wonderful, we strive for it, but what gives us the most harmony is doing as we ought to do based upon what routines we have put into place.  To let these go for a day, much less a week, means having to push start a solidly build iron caboose all over again.  Obviously we don’t relish that idea, so why not put it off for one more day, and one more day, and disharmony arrives without us even noticing.

Keeping motivated for our own chores, expectations, meaningful work etc. is only the beginning.  On top of this we must guide and encouargae our children in this same area- this same area that we so often stutter-start, falter, and fail in.  It is a constant seeking.  One that is most often just illusive enough to erringly convince us that it is unattainable.  —And then we grasp it; hold it for a few precious moments; become exhausted in the maintenance it requires; lighten our grasp– and out ‘she’ goes to be sought once again.  It is in the journey that we grow, not in the reaching of the destination.  That is the wonderful thing.  Enjoy the journey.

 

But…What do Colleges Prefer

 

by Ashley Brookshire, Regional Director of Admissions for the West Coast

It’s a question I hear often – mostly from families at college fairs who are frantically trying to absorb every available nugget of information available to them in the tight time frame of the event: “But… what do colleges prefer?”  bend in the road

“My daughter has the opportunity to take classes at our local community college this summer or do an internship – which one do colleges prefer?”

“My son is thinking about going on a mission trip or finding a job for the summer – which one is better?”

“I can either stay with band or debate for my senior year, but not both. What should I do?”

Students, and parents, are hoping for a concrete answer – a guaranteed road map to get in to the college of their choice. If an admission counselor says it, then it must be truth, and should be followed to a “t” (trust me, we wish we had that kind of all-knowing power!). But if you’re reading this in hopes of gaining a paint-by-numbers insight into the college admission process, I’m afraid you’re going to be terribly disappointed.

The better question to ask is “why do we ask students to supply an activity record with their application?” Is it to count the number of hours you spent volunteering at a local hospital? Do we tally the number of times you were elected into an officer position for a club at school? No, on both counts.

We are looking at three things: your experiences, the talents you possess, and the skill sets that you’ve developed throughout your high school career. These three items help us gauge your fit and potential impact on our campus.

Experiences

Your experiences inform your beliefs, passions, and ambitions, and ultimately, this is what we want you to bring to our community. What types of opportunities did you opt into (or in some cases, stumble into by chance) and how did they differ from your initial expectations? Have you stepped into a club, trip, or commitment that was outside of your comfort zone? The beauty of a college campus is its ability to offer a more robust list of experiences than most high schools can provide. What experiences are you bringing to the table? I’m not just talking about the stamps in your passport. When we look at your application, we want to see the behaviors that make you open to experience life with new people, places, and activities.

Talents

A talent is an innate ability to do something, whereas a skill set is learned and developed. Many of the families I speak with seem to focus on talents, but in the admission process, skills sets are equally as insightful (more on that in a moment). I haven’t been a powerful force in a music classroom since learning to play the recorder in 5th grade. I can appreciate that some people have inherent abilities that I do not. If you have talent in art, music, dance, athletics, or public speaking, then you’re likely drawn to these types of activities. What students usually overlook is that you determine how your talents are utilized and ultimately captured on your application. Are you part of a club, company, or team that allows you to hone your craft? Have you created opportunities for others to engage in this activity? From an admission perspective, we’re not looking to fill a class of individuals who were born with special talents. We are looking for students who are motivated to share their unique talents in impactful ways.

Skill Sets

Skills, on the other hand, are developed. They are practiced, trained, and learned. These can be hard skills (programming, marketing, or painting) or soft skills (networking, time management, perseverance). Sometimes students apply so much effort to developing a skill set that it appears as a natural talent to others, leaving them unaware of the work going on behind the scenes. The skills you’ve cultivated by balancing your time outside of the classroom and working with others will make you a powerful member during the many group projects you’ll work on in college. Enrolling in a summer academic program or college course will sharpen your academic prowess and allow you to accelerate your coursework in college. The leadership skills you’ve gained as a club officer at your high school will embolden you to step into pivotal roles in one of the hundreds of organizations that contribute to our campus culture. As a volunteer, you’ve stayed mindful of those around you and connected more personally to your community. All of these experiences, talents, and skills bring positive value to a college campus, yet all cannot be pursued at the same time. Even in the summer, there are a limited number of hours in the day.

The Answer

So, back to the original question: “which (insert activity here) do colleges prefer?” We prefer that you use your time intentionally in whichever way you feel best engages your interests, utilizes your talents, and allows you to grow as an individual. These are the types of students who will join a college community and thrive both inside and outside the classroom. At the end of the day, we want to enroll a well-rounded freshman class. This is quite different than every student in our class being well-rounded. It means that, as a whole, our class is filled with philanthropists and athletes, musicians and researchers, leaders and employees, and their collective experiences, talents, and skills create dynamic, thought-provoking interactions on our campus. But before you schedule every free moment of your summer, remember: summer should bring reprieve with it. Enjoy the additional time in your day – days are longer and summer doesn’t normally hold the same time commitments as the school year. Take a deep breath, celebrate your achievements over the course of the last year, and catch up on that book or tv series that you set aside during the school year. After all, senior year and college application season is just around the corner.

 

 

Considering Homeschooling- education vs. being educated

Homeschool is about creating a culture of education, daily devotion to curiosity, and practice of diligence toward discipline.  It is more about character and less about the completion of, or in some situations, the ‘experience’ of, material.  Homeschoolers use books to grow our children in the areas of faith and diligence.  An incredible academic education is almost a lovely side effect of teaching at home.

Consider the fact that one must be educated in order to truly understand, practice, and defend their faith.  To be diligent and kind one must understand the parameters and purposes of such acts; why they ought to be grown from within; why they desperately need to be practiced each day.  These acts are caught rather than taught.  Following goals of completing a book simply for the sake of checking off a subject in order to progress to the next book will be hard pressed to lead a child to faith and character.  Reverse that order and it is such a lovely and common sense approach for a person to use books, any books, to grow our children in stature AND education.

“The goal of education should not be the completion of a book, but, rather, the lighting of a fire.”  Some famous sage made this statement ages ago.  Wish I could remember their name for you, but I think those brain cells shrunk with baby #4 or was it #5?

When we school at home we have the time to model for our children.  We have daily pressure to walk what we talk rather than the need to preach into the void of time between school, practice, homework, and sleep.  We unlimited opportunities to socialize and learn alongside other children/parents with the same end goals rather than a wave in a carpool line and a hope that your child is no longer hanging out with (insert nemesis name here).  There is no need to undo 8+ hours of gunk build up in order to get back to an open and teachable attitude.  Instead, we must work on ourselves in order to know when to lead, guide, encourage, respect/love, chastise, or challenge.

Homeschooling mamas have such a desire to get to Heaven that we daily open ourselves up to sanctification through educating our children.    leap of faithWhen we school at home, we have the time to educate our child in a lasting manner that considers and encompasses their whole life rather than simply preparing them for college.  Education should be a lifelong quest.  Modern education stops between the ages of 18 and 24 with nary a book to be opened again.  Once they head out your door, the time for imparting faith, character, and kindness is over.  However, if they have been encouraged to find joy in learning, satisfaction in doing hard things, respect/love in following their curiosity, they are well prepared to learn anything they would like in college and beyond.

God can redeem all things,  Please do not read into this that I am discounting His power.  I rely on His power as mine falls so far short- and I seek this homeschool quest daily with a couple of decades of experience.

I can think of nothing more worthy of my weekdays than practicing and speaking consistent love into the hearts and minds of my girl-women, and practicing and speaking consistent respect into the hearts and mind of my boy-men– using books as one of my main mediums.  Our whole house becomes a part of our Culture of Education, lessons are taught and caught all day long no matter the location, the book, or the time.  It is who we are- people who are curious- people who learn- people who master- people who share with others.

Our whole house becomes a part of our Culture of Education, lessons are taught and caught all day long no matter the location, the book, or the time.  It is who we are- curious people, learners, masters, givers, etc.  As if there could be nothing better:  We share this gifted journey with a community of like- minded people who we can truly get to know during hours of socialization while we guide our children toward the common goal of educating the whole child.   Those who understand the difference between an education as something to worship vs. being educated in order to live fully as God intends for each and every one of us.

My prayer for this blippy blog is that you might haver a better understanding of the difference between an education as your end goal vs. education as a lifelong pursuit to live fully in communion with others- as God intends for each and every one of us- loving our neighbors as ourselves.

Have Your Standards Dropped?

As the year went along did your standards go along with it?  ….You may be a homeschooling mama if….. you are an idealist who cannot maintain her ideals because there are so many of them!

The year begins, you have your curriculum set, your daily master plan laid out, and your energy reserves on high.  This is going to be the best year ever!  I mean EVER!  THIS is the year for perfect penmanship.  Day one is a wake up call to tune of ‘nobody wants to do school’.  To be honest, neither do you.  Perhaps this is day two or three at your home, but at some point the rosy bloom fades as we (children, mom, dad) realize a root word of home school indicates entry into trenches of hard work.

How can this be with such incredible lesson plans, wonderful academic groups, stellar social outings?  Standards begin to slip with a lesson here and there under the daily duress caused by a little one waking with The Grumpies and derailing the day.  (*on my best days I remember to send this child back to their room immediately as this attitude illness is highly contagious)  We convinced ourselves that a once a week lesson in insert nemesis subject here is adequate and/or will be caught up on during insert holiday/weekend here. (*on my best days I remember to eat the slimy toad first)  Somehow said slimy toad does not make it back to the A List.

Fast forward a few months and the What-Did-I-Forget-This-Year joins the What-Did-I-Forget-This-Day going to sleep review.  …Never caught up in that subject ….forgot to add in this subject… did we cover enough in those subjects?  Realizing we dropped some subjects altogether we ask how and when this could have happened?  Looking back you find that your last check date was JANUARY THIRD???!!!!  Were we even doing school that near to Christmas?  Well, it is my handwriting, so we must have been unless another alien abduction occurred.

Is recovery possible?  Happily, the answer is yes–if you want to, if you summer-school, if you realize the subject was a much-needed-basic as opposed to a fun-sounding-filler.  What’s up with all these hyphens?!  If your subject of concern falls within the first catagory, the good news is that you can focus deeply on this area over the summer.  This includes high schoolers.  If you fall into the latter category, realize that some of what you placed on your child’s lesson plan was temporal busy work that you saw as ‘fun’ (worksheet worship) rather than eternal expansion that is often seen as ‘play’ (explore/discover/create).   In either case, you can lay down your guilt, and know that you will be wiser in planning and executing next year.  You have given your best and realized that, as always, you fell short of perfection.

You may be a homeschooling mama if…..you want Heaven so badly you are willing to submit to daily sanctification applied through your children.

 

End of Year Fizzles

What leads to burn out at this time of year? How can we instead be encouraged, or at least enjoy a motivated push toward the finish line? We have had lovely Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks, perhaps a Winter Break and a Spring Break, yet April and May are the times that, while life renews within and without, our home schooling days feel heavy. It did not used to be like this. We could complete our year focused on finishing well and spend the summer mulling over what worked, what we loved, and begin building our home school dreams & plans for the next year. April and May were times of wrapping up this year. It was a time of digging in and remaining attentive.

For those of you who know what next year will look like (and do not direct a program) you know what I am talking about. It is wonderful. For those who don’t it seems the final quarter of homeschooling becomes a burden rather than a joy and you begin wondering many less than positive things about yourself, your sanity, your children, their ability, and on and on. You must not go there. You must realize that it is the result of modern homeschooling. I love homeschooling in community, but it does come with a price. I feel the price is worth it, but would that I could discover a route that avoided springtime burnout.

My theory is that due to the many programs that require early registration our purpose of completing the current year well is derailed. Families are pressured to examine next year’s options while knowing that this year still needs tweaks. We spend hours mulling over the pros & cons, discussing the ifs & thens, we pray, we stress, we gnash, we groan, and, ultimately, we are driven mad to decide what is best for the future while the present is pending. — AND we recognize that our homeschool needs change day by day making it likely that a whole lifetime of change may occur between signing up now and beginning classes in the fall.

Handling these decisions while maintain the stamina of your current post-February-homeschool-groove that-probably-took-a-while-to-find-after-the-holidays is overwhelming. What is the solution? Perhaps we can approach our years two at a time. Plot a plan to include options we are drawn to, plot this year, and plot what might occur this year that would lead you toward another program for next year. Perhaps we could schedule it into our To-Discuss-During-Holiday-Travel time. By placing this decision making process into a time of rest and removing it from our time of work it may deflate the pressure that leads to spring quarter homeschool burn out.

With that decision out of the way and no suffocating feeling that we must make up lost time, we can take a Spring break or two focused on planting new seeds outside or new ideas within. We can close the history book early and decide that a road trip to a historic monument would better suit our euphoric sunny moods. We can observe the building of a nest rather than the ticking of a clock. We can focus on the present, on the season, on the beauty that is school at home.

Academic Worship vs. Child Centered Learning

The MAIN THING is not the main lesson nor the main book although we get caught up in ever progressing while within we innately understand that our books are simply springboards toward faith and character. Homeschooling is a phenomenon of immense beauty which ever teeters on the brink of going awry through one of two extremes. The over diligent-if-you-can-accomplish-that-in-15-minutes-then-we-should-do-more-lessons vs the easily distracted get-the-kids-started-while-I-begin-x,y,z-and-they-are-quiet-so-I’ll-squeeze-in-a,b,c-as-well. I totally know where I fall as I type to you all.

In step the Lovelies of homeschool: Faith and Character. This could be re-stated as the understanding/trusting that what is spoken by a parent will come to pass (diligence), or what is required by a parent will be asked for (fortitude). No matter how we term our main goals, they are faith and character. The child must have faith in the parent; in the parents modeling; in the parent’s consistency that his/her word is meant when spoken; in the parent’s ability to love strongly; in the parents commitment. You stand in for God at this time. If your child can trust you, who they can see, how much greater will they be able to trust God? And vice versa. When this comes to pass, character is one of the visible facets exhibited much like feeling a lovely breeze on your face is a visible facet of wind. It is how we know that what we are doing is working -however slowly. Be encouraged, it is working if you see even the smallest of indicators at home or in public.

You may be caught up in frantically completing your books at this time of year. Sstressed to the point of wishing you could just stay in bed. Leading the family in a stress-fest feeding (off the guilt you choose to carry in your heart) frenzy. Take heart, lay down the guild, and focus on ONE thing that you can change—Yourself. You will wonder at how quickly and one change will positively affect those around you.
You probably got caught up in feeling that completing the book is more important than the manner in which it is completed. Easily and often fallen for, and such a heady rush when achieved. Finding balance is key. Completing books is not bad as long as it is approached with the child’s well being and true education at the center. If you hear yourself giving reasons for your stress that include a lot of ‘I’ statements, you may be caught up in the vision the world has for your home school rather than what God has called you to (work in your children and family).

How to turn this bus around? You have stopped, taken heart, laid down the guilt, and focused on what you can change, right? Once that is set in order look at your child:
Are they slow because they process slower or are dyslexic? Then slow down your pace and complete what you can with mastery and enjoyment. Focus on their diligence. Check for completeness of work. Test (or discuss) for mastery of small amounts at a time. This will build with so much ‘righting’ itself (seemingly on it’s own) between the ages of 13-20. Sadly so many write the child off by that time. GREAT BOOK: The Gift of Dyslexia
Do they work slowly because they understand that their schooling is not that important to you as is seen through your lack of checking their work, following through on your threats, or even making sure they are doing their work at all? If so, create a plan that has you sitting at the table with them while they work, or move them to where you work, or move as your chores move you. It is very similar to the 24/7-attach-the-puppy-to-you-training that works so well. Just because they are older and can work independently, they need to know that your set boundaries mean something. If you want their Wordly Wise answers to be in complete sentences, you must check often enough to keep the lines clear. This is me right here that I am talking about, and let me tell you how well and how quickly this turn around works. I am amazed at how much love this speaks to my children. Between you and me, they become gushy and mushy little and big darlings. Additionally we all have more time to work and delve into afternoon projects. What lovely side effects! GREAT BOOK: Created for Work
Are their hearts hardened toward your teaching? Making you feel like that awful nagging gong? Try focusing on the child’s needs rather than the book’s pages. We are so quick to believe what the world tells us: (think nasally announcer voice) “The farther you go academically and the faster you get there the more of the world will be open to you.” It is true that more doors will be open to your child, but God has just one that they need walk through, and that is a given that it will be open to them- I am talking earthly doors here since we are talking present tense, in the ditches, working-day reality. They will need to have a soft heart to hear it’s Resident whisper, “That is the door.” Regain their heart, rebuild a trusting relationship based upon something other than one page after another. They can learn at any time. Once they leave your house character will come at a far greater price. Boys want respect. Girls want love. Are you able to respect your sons choice to ignore his schoolwork and sneak gaming time? If you put it in those words he may listen to the words that follow about how successful men are not those who shirk their duty. Then walk away. Can you love your daughters inner beauty even when she chooses coverings which to hide behind? Are you able to tell her how loveable her giggling with a friend is, and how that will make some lucky man joy-filled to wake to each day? Start small. It will grow. You may think you ave nothing to work with. It is there. God is way bigger than we give Him credit for when we are in a rut seeing no way out. GREAT BOOK: Mothers and Sons

If you have a situation that is crushing your joy of teaching reach out and let’s chat ideas and options. Homeschooling is an incredible gift-journey to be able to choose, but it is not the easy road. That being said, we should rarely find ourselves gnashing our teeth and wanting to throw out the baby with the bath water. You might be a homeschooling mama if you are resilient, introspective, and willing to grow regardless personal cost.

You all are doing something amazing. Changing the world one child at a time. It is unbelievable what solid jobs you are doing in building a nation of faith filled, character filled men and women. Oh, and, the nice side effect, they are educated beyond their peers and able to self govern which allows an outward focus for serving others. Thank you for the gift of serving your family!

…..You might be a homeschooling mama if it is 9:45 and you are just thinking about waking your children… (this is one of my ways of avoiding letting them see me distracted from my main goal of raising them. grins and giggles forever!

High School Readiness & Gaps

In answer to the common question, “How will I know I am covering “enough” with my soon-to-be 8th grader to prepare him for high school level courses?”

You never will.  Makes me grin each time I type this as I can envision the ‘thanks for nothing’ expression it must elicit.

If your student will return to public school you will need him prepared in math & reading comprehension, competent in gleaning material from texts, able to fill in a bubble with the stroke of a #2 pencil, stand in line, raise his hand, request a bathroom pass in twelve different languages,………….okay, I’m getting a bit silly.

Make certain your child is math confident.  Go back and insure that all upper level math building blocks are sturdy and steady.  (decimals, fractions, theories, etc).  Strengthen reading comprehension through re-reading and narrating short stories, classics, favorite books.  Use a strong program such as IEW or Lost Tools of Writing to assure that a well planned, well stated composition can be created if given a topic.

If your student has a strong foundation in these three basics, he/she will be able to learn any subject matter no matter how difficult or foreign.  Science and History are required subjects, so please don’t forget to include them in your days.  But the base three for a lifetime of success in learning anything from how to put together a bike to how to solve the worlds problems are math, reading comprehension, and writing.

Another spin off to this is the issue of ‘gaps’.  Not the super fantastic immune strengthening diet that is helping frantic moms across the world regain health over illness, just the simple empty spaces that feel, in an academic sense, as though they ought to be filled.

Every single student has gaps even if they attend the most stellar institution this world has to offer and switch to another.  There will be gaps.  From traditional school to traditional school, there are gaps- yes, even if they are all teaching The Core.  From home school to traditional school, there will be gaps.  Gaps just can’t be helped.

As long as the gaps are not in the above 3 mentioned areas (math, reading comprehension, writing) your student will be just fine and be caught up within a matter of weeks.  -even in computers and foreign language when placed with students who have had experience for 8 years and yours has none.  It’s a phenomenon for sure, but it’s real.