Our Curriculum

As everyone makes posts about first days of school and includes lots of shared lesson plans, fun outings, great crafts and science projects, and I notice a special amount of encouragement flowing between homeschool moms toward one another spurring one another on toward love and good works in this area with our kids… I too am indulging in the season. I have loved browsing Veritas Press and drooling over books I’d love to prioritize in our budget. I am having fun sorting through the pile of Usborne books I’ve picked up at Goodwill over the summer. I’ve had to purge my anxieties more than a few times as I pursue further lessons with Gabriel in math, reading, art ~ wondering if I’m “doing enough.”

And then this morning, I asked myself the question, WHAT DOES THE LORD REQUIRE??

I turned to Micah 6:8 for the answer:

He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?

That, my friends is the curriculum I need to focus on with my children.
This is my prayer: that in whatever we do, our homeschooling would emphasize justice, mercy, and walking with God.
Because everything else is just sparkly icing sugar.

Baking Bread with my Big Boy

I know this articleis going around a lot online (at least in the reformed community) right now, and I’ve heard that people are specifically tweeting, facebooking, and blogging this quote from it:

A friend of mine, a homeschool mom, just passed away of cancer. In the week before she died, I asked her if she had any regrets in her life. She told me she wished she had baked less bread – she said if she had it to do over again she would buy bread and spend more time with her children.

But pardon me, if I may: one thing that I will not say on my death bed is that I wish I would have baked less bread. One of the best memories I can give my child(ren) is the gift of cooking & baking alongside me. (Perhaps that was this woman’s downfall? Shoving her kids aside and separating spending time with her children from doing other work? I don’t know, I can’t say, just reading between the lines in this out-of-context quote. And yes, I did read the entire article: and no, I did not very much like it.) Sharing in work and play and joy together. Learning and talking and laughing. Dumping in fluffy flour, making messes, punching down squishy dough, cleaning the messes & washing the dishes together while listening to music, watching the dough rise and being amazed at how it grows, smelling the deliciousness of baking all the way from the backyard where we took a soccer break, slathering on the butter when the bread was still steaming, and biting into the warm & crunchy goodness. So I just want to offer my perspective here. If there is one thing I am attempting to do more in my motherhood, it is include my child(ren) more in “my” world. If I were to die tomorrow, I would be so incredibly thankful that I have taken the time to (among other things) cook and bake from scratch, and include my child(ren) in the process, because it is life-changing and joy-giving for all of us ~ not because it is part of what will sanctify myself or my children, because the method makes no difference, but because it is such a beautiful opportunity to work together, rejoice together, and share together in some of God’s goodness.

I’ve got photo evidence of my big boy’s bread-baking joy for you. Wish you could hear his glee, feel the freshly ground grain in between your fingers, smell the rich bread, and share a crusty loaf with us. It’s like God’s goodness for all of my senses right here, right now. We’re loving it; and Gabriel especially loves his own little miniature round loaves. 🙂

Art Time

Gabriel and I love doing things together: sometimes I carry him into my world (like last night when I gave him a table knife and he cut up an entire zucchini from my garden for me, which I was able to toss right into a skillet & sautee for dinner!) and other times I jump into his (like earlier this week when we played in the backyard with imaginary friends and had the silliest of conversations between our hands!).

Today we had art time, which is more like a melding of our two worlds. 🙂 We both love art time, I think. And now that he is getting a little older and a little better at following specific directions, it’s more involved than just plopping him down with paper and crayons to see what he randomly does. Now I can give him a coloring page and tell him, “color all the pants blue, then color all the peoples’ hair orange” ~ and he will. He loves to trace hands onto paper. He enjoys stamps and stickers. But mostly he loves painting. We’ve had Color Wonder paints for a while because I just can’t resist their amazingly easy cleanup. 😉 But while we were given some Melissa & Doug fingerpaints over a year ago, they weren’t really great and ran out quickly. So today I decided that it would be super fun to make our own fingerpaints and do art time. We were able to work on following directions, talking about colors, counting, etc. so it’s a really fun way to make “schooling” stuff super-duper-fantastically-fun!

Following this recipe, Gabriel & I whipped up a batch of fingerpaints real quickly ~ I did not leave the stove on low, so with the higher heat, it took about half the time but worked just dandily. 🙂 We only had a couple of food coloring options on-hand, so we ended up with three colors: beautifully vibrant, fun, cheerful shades of yellow, blue, and green.

Although Gabriel is one of the cleanest, neat-nickiest 3-year-olds I have personally come into contact with, he eventually dipped his fingertips in, and after about twenty minutes I even convinced him to plop his whole hand onto the pages. Too fun.

Now he is napping while his artwork is drying (although he insists that he wants to use fingerpaints again as soon as he wakes up!) , and the paints are in some little plastic containers (anyone keep practically every plastic container you ever get, just because you know it may eventually come in handy for giving things away or doing something kid-friendly?). In the background of one of the pictures you can see two buckets on the counter covered in bright green Duck Tape; those are our “art buckets” and we love them. One is filled with coloring books, paper, cardboard, etc. while the other is filled with crayons, pencils, stencils, stamps, stickers, paints, homemade playdough, markers, etc. Again with keeping plastic containers (these were laundry detergent buckets) for repurposing into random fun stuff. 🙂

I’m so thankful my redhead shadow loves art time just as much as his mommy. 🙂

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine

Since last fall, I have been a product reviewer for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, and I was just sent a link to a free issue that I am able to share with you all!

Click here, share it around, and see if you can spot me in there (twice). 🙂

We have sincerely been enjoying the products I’ve received over these months, and it is such a fun outlet for me to write reviews on everything. As Gabriel (and siblings, as the Lord sees fit) grows and matures over time, I am looking forward to trying new things, and being able to pull out previous products that he’s been too young for as of yet.

Gabriel’s current favorites (not for the magazine though) for his purposed/intentional learning are these flash cards, and he is super excited about his new workbook (which apparently doesn’t exist because every way, including ISBN number, that I have tried searching for it online, there is “no criteria found” – hah! We got it from Costco, and I know it exists).

Some favorite things we’ve gotten for the magazine are ABC Bible Memory Verse Songs, four sets of Teach + Play Tiles Wooden Flash Cards, a study through Proverbs, and a learning to read series of Little Books ~ just to name a few.

So click over to enjoy the free issue of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine: may it bless you, and may it urge all of us on toward God-honoring education.

Sunday April 11, 2010

Yesterday at church I attended a homeschool forum for moms. There were about 18 ladies total, I believe, and it was exciting to go and represent a second generation homeschooler. The women were quick to acknowledge that not only do I plan on home educating long term, but I have already been doing so for two years. It was a blessing to glean wisdom and encouragement from the other homeschooling ladies there, enjoy lunch, and simply fellowship. It was a true blessing. There are always moments at those types of things where I want to hide in the corner and cry for a minute, but then there are also beautiful moments where I feel content and thankful and encouraged. Overall, it was a great time, and I am thankful that I was able to participate.

Three moms, experienced in the home educating field, gave “sessions” in addition to our group conversations and Q&A. Here are some of the bullet points I gleaned from them. Not necessarily new ideas altogether, but great reminders!

~Mrs. B spoke (and shared lots of books) on biblical home-life in the midst of homeschooling:

  • Don’t neglect the church due to homeschooling. Incorporate the two.
  • Teach the “3 Rs” from a biblical worldview.
  • Face the enemy of unbelief head-on.
  • The method of schooling will not produce belief, but it can shape & disciple belief.
  • Prepare your children to surpass you in love & good works.
  • Honesty is the first step in proper idol-smashing.
  • Homeschooling can be the biggest sanctifying tool in a woman’s life.
  • Confess quickly your desire to appear perfect.
  • Fight problems, not people.
  • Don’t be afraid to learn from one another. Glean from your sisters, don’t compete with them.
  • Home education is a natural preservative of family identity.
  • Nurture family identity while individually nurturing children & their identities.
  • Treat sons with dignity.
  • Train daughters & sons differently.
  • Reward your headmaster (your husband).

~Mrs. K spoke on objective objectives:

  • HSLDA membership is key.
  • “Home educate” is not equal to “home school” in that we are not trying to recreate government schools at home.
  • Don’t get caught up in curriculum.
  • The obvious objective is for our kids to love God with all their soul, mind, heart, & strength; and to love their neighbors as themselves.
  • Different families have different academic objectives.
  • Don’t educate your kids so as to limit their opportunities (especially sons).
  • Highly educate your daughters (prepare them for college, too) so they are equipped to teach your grandkids.
  • Never compare other kids’ public behavior with your kids’ private behavior.
  • Your objectives are never set in stone; reevaluate frequently with your husband.
  • Shelter yourself under your husband and his authority.

~Mrs. S spoke on how to provide a quality education at home:

  • Regardless of curriculum, be consistent and strong in faithful educational foundations, especially through 8th grade.
  • Let each child have a bookcase for their own “library seeds” as their book collections grow; give them books for Christmas and birthdays and other celebrations.
  • To encourage ownership, give a “belongs to” stamp/engraver to each child.
  • Have a file cabinet (or drawer, or file) for each child’s school history.
  • Family-to-family fellowship and camaraderie is huge and can be lifelong.
  • “Enriching activities” are excellent — sports, music, chess, debate team, etc.
  • Think outside the box and be creative.
  • Model curiosity for your children. Pursue your interests as an example for your children.
  • Let your children see you reading and learning.
  • Continue discussing — with hubby, with kids, with peers. Discuss and learn and be curious.
  • Beware becoming the “uber homeschooler.”

~When I asked what a mom (like myself) of a toddler can do now to work on pursuing good home education long-term, I was told that Legos are an excellent teaching and learning tool, teaching tactile things (building, stacking, counting, colors, etc) while also working on lengthening a child’s attention span. Bible study is (obviously) great, beginning with the child from infancy; practicing sitting, again expanding the attention span, reading, listening, etc. One mom told me “I have gotten a lot more out of my toddlers with ten jelly beans sometimes than I ever do with a hundred spankings.” 😉

I enjoyed being able to tuck away some of these things for the future, as well as knowing some things to currently begin incorporating. I’m looking forward to continuing dipping my toes in with this wonderful group of Christian homeschooling moms!