Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Homeschooling - why and how?

Homeschooling Questions

Should I homeschool?
Every year I have wrestled with this question before commencing.
Its not because I don't enjoy to homeschool.. but as any parent can attest, carrying the weight and responsibility of raising kids - and especially their education - is no light matter. I don't believe we should dismiss the learning process with cliche answers such as "learning is life" and "learning happens as life happens". Absolutely discovery does. But learning is far more than discovery. It is the development of a child's giftings, character, strengths and awareness for the purpose of fulfilling their God given calling. Is it enjoyable? Yes! Is it handwork? Yes! Do yourself a favour and knock on the head any pretenses you held that homeschooling mothers possess an extra measure of grace, patience, or divine heavenly sweetness. Comparison is a bad place to start.. "The cause of much insecurity is the human inclination to compare ourselves with one another. Success lies in what we are becoming, not in what we are accumulating, or achieving." David Riddell
Do I enjoy it? Yes I do love it. Teaching is in my bones. I spent my childhood teaching my teddy bears on a rug and when my kids were toddlers, I loved taking them on field trips and creating learning opportunities. I love to research and to understand what makes people tick. I will mention David Riddell a few times in this blogpost, and Ill explain why soon.. but it is he who said something that hasn't left me: Success is first and foremost good mental health... "You may become powerful, wealthy or popular, but you can’t take any of it with you! Think carefully about your definition of success – you won’t be in this world much longer".
I enjoy to create memories and an environment for my kids that nurtures and enables them to grow and discover their strengths. I love to learn alongside them. Our days are full and often creative and we are ever discovering new ways to relate to each other and love Jesus. Homeschooling offers us the opportunity to have healthy relationships with each other, and the kids with their siblings. I often remind them: If you can get along well with each other, you will do much better at getting along with your peers and employees as an adult. The greatest strength, in my opinion, of homeschooling is being able to stop at any given obstacle, difficulty, thought or moment in a day and talk to Jesus. I personally believe the best learning environment, is the one where what He says, believes and thinks about you, matters most. Being able to provide an environment where I can constantly bring back our goals, character growth, difficulties and struggles, to the truth? YES IM WINNING.. because there is nothing more valuable, more healthy, more brain growing and real than Gods truth.

Okay moving on to resources for them:

We don't use a set curriculum and I don't use any resource that is ill fitting to our dynamics. By way of routine I try to move the kids co jointly through their subjects so there is a cohesiveness in the home. Thats what works for us.

We use math u see which is a book and DVD and progresses through levels. I am so impressed with this resource! It's thorough and manageable.
I also use the games (found online) for the NZ Numeracy Programme, at TKI, to reinforce mathematical skills for Amy.

I heard it said that a group of successful homeschooled students described that their two key learning successes were; being read to aloud and unit studies (projects). So if you can read books to your kids and you can take a current event, a topic of interest or a query and turn it into a project.... You're capable of being a homeschooler!
I read 20-30 minutes every day to the kids together while they draw and I constantly scour out good books to read together. We use the library a LOT.
I also have the kids choose one novel a week to read, and at least one non fiction- they often choose a dozen. I get all Amy's early readers plus story books from the library also and each day we read 2. One she reads to me, the other I read to her.. The next day she reads me the book I read to her the day previous. I also read a lot of picture books to her also. In addition we progress through a series called Phonic Readers which is a small set of 4 books. They are absolutely brilliant! Amy also does Jolly Phonics and the accompanying activity sheets. We will transition her to activity sheets working with blends as she gets more proficient (blends being sounds like Sh, ch, tr etc).

There are SO many great writing resources and Ive changed and swapped amongst many of them.
My favourites are:
Handwriting Without Tears (and despite 'experts' saying that computers are replacing handwriting, I disagree that its an unneeded skill.
Draw.Write.Now. I use this teaching the kids to learn to write and draw. Its a copying exercise and simple, but helps them develop awareness of letter formation, pencil grip, sentence structure etc.
The Writing Book by Sheena Cameron. I love this resource. Its so thorough and multi levelled and full of ideas, writing planning sheets and examples to follow. I use this a lot to compliment our project and personal studies. For instance, when we focussed on Autumn, I followed all the toolkit ideas to develop a unit around poetry.
I also have begun using Institute of Excellence in Writing which has been highly recommended. In retrospect I wish I had of commenced my homeschooling with this under my belt, as it is really thorough.
We also do diary writing (recount) a lot of time, speed writing and use Fix It Grammar and Excel books to work through writing skills.
In addition I also frequently have the kids memorise poems and practise impromptu speeches in front of one another.

We do a lot of spelling as a process of correction in writing and incorporate these words into their learning. In addition we use the online game, Spellodrome and the book series "Spelling Workout" found online at Book Depository.

We have a combination of resources:
At preschool level I use Suzys World and a book called Mugpies and Magnets, which is really fun. Its short lessons that incorporate an awareness of science around us.
Ive used Winter Promise in the past to do some neat science topics, but hands down my favourite is "Apologia". Its not cheap, however it comes with accompanying activity books and presently I am progressing all four of my school kids through Physics and Chemistry.

I love Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer. It comes with an activity book which includes maps, games, puzzles, projects etc.

I try to have the kids work through one project or topic of interest a week and generally I give Fridays to project day. Over the years, we have used current events to create some amazing learning projects. When Catherine and Prince William were getting married, we studied the Westminster Abbey, created our own 2D replica, explored the ringing of the bells and their significance. When Christchurch had its earthquakes, we collected newspaper articles and researched earthquakes, survival kits and stories of survival to create a scrapbook that is every bit a history record in our home. When the ship Rena was grounded, it launched a study into ecology, marine life and environment. After watching the movie Paper Planes, we studied paper plane designs, flight techniques and had our own paper plane competition. Hands down, projects are the most fun in our home. This week our theme is Pizza. A friend gave us a cheese making kit so we are going to make our own Mozzarella, study Italy and have a Pizza Party. And I cannot recommend enough, this resource for project ideas that will blow you away: Amanda Bennett.com

We enrol the kids into swimming lessons over the summer period, and the boys attend the Aspire Gym once a week. Amy attends ballet also. We enrolled the kids in music lessons last year, however this year we have reduced our schedule significantly and given that a break. I have had seasons of doing many activities, and seasons of none. My recommendation is try not to do more than one or two activities a term per child.. set a limit. Music is often a very pushed subject, and its important but remember; not everyone has to learn an instrument as a young child, and you are never to old to learn to play. Some of the most gifted musicians I know are self taught so think and look beyond the boxes.

Ive put this last but it isn't last in our home. We start the day praying and we often take seasons where we read through devotionals daily. I haven't done it a lot recently but I love starting our learning day reading one proverb and discussing its meaning, then copying into our Bible book.

Finally, the question I get asked most... what about ME time???

I think the greatest gift you can give your kids as a homeschooling mum, is looking after yourself.
Exercise daily and eat healthy!! I do 30 minutes a day through the app Sweat With Kayla. In the past Ive walked, attended the gym, ran, done bootcamp etc. Just move! Its good for you :)
Regularly pause and slow down. If you don't, don't be surprised when you get burnt out and run down. This message changed my life!
http://bethlehem.org.nz/sermons/sunday-nights-rhythms-sabbath/ along with the resources he recommends in the message.
Take time to play! Its easy to stop enjoying the kids when the balance gets lost. Don't lose the balance. Have good boundaries and take time regularly to create memories, go on mini breaks. Sometimes I just do simple things like sneak out for breakfast on my own, or take an hour to write, walk or create beauty.
Having a healthy self awareness is so vital to coping as a homeschooling mum. In a way, as a homeschooler you live in a glass bowl with many people (rightly so) viewing, observing, and noting your journey. You don't get an annual report, you get a weekly assessment by way of the older woman in the shopping supermarket, the other mums in the local playground and the people you bump into on your daily walks. Most of the time its really positive. And sometimes the greatest criticism is the way you interpret a look you got, or the things you tell yourself. How you cope with that, will very much depend on your ability to not take things too personally, know your beliefs and values, take control of your thoughts, identify and lower expectations, and live in the grace of God. One of the most life changing things I have done for myself, at the recommendation of our insightful Pastoral Care ministers in our Church, was to study "Truth Coaches" by David Riddell. I did the online course and I truly believe it is the first resource any homeschooling mum should get her hands on... well any parent full stop!

I hope that helps and Im always happy to answer any questions I get asked.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Opinion Bias

I pulled into the drive outside a white house ~ #7.
I sat with the kids in the car, weighing up the prompt I felt in God to go here... against the facts Id been told.
Id been told the right house was #57: Thats where the couple lived whose meal I was dropping off.

I had all the kids in the car while I sat engine running, mulling over the weight I felt to go knock on this door.. ignoring it, I drove on to the right house, #57.
I congratulated myself as I pulled into the 'right' driveway and took the meal in. The carpet cleaner met me at a now empty home;"Oh, you're looking for them... they are actually just at friends house down the road, why don't you drop the meal off there?". I hesitated for a second, wondering whether I should even bother them.. yet with his super warm smile he said "Theyre just at the lane a few doors down, at house #7.
The penny didn't drop right there.
I got back in the car, drove up to the road again and said "okay, #7, where is that?.... oh wait! I know where number #7 is". And back I went to the white house. You better believe that I sat outside that home for more than just a moment with a little awe.

I was watching Aircraft Investigations with my son yesterday, and one of the investigators was explaining how he felt when he arrives at a crash site.
He went on to describe how investigators purposefully don't turn on the news or radio prior to visiting a crash site. They don't allow outside opinions to creep in, before beginning their work: simply because it subconsciously affects the way they undertake their investigation. He explained how important it was to begin investigations with no subconscious bias so they can search thoroughly for accurate clues.

We all hold opinion bias and the reality is, it makes us blind to the potential of the bigger picture - especially what the Holy Spirit is saying. Thats the danger of gossip. We hear partial facts, and even if we don't necessarily feel that we've taken on board those ideas emotionally, it creates an "opinion bias" in our interaction with people. I know because Ive been there! When you hold that partiality, all behaviour subconsciously filters through what we've been told.. and we can often conclude "They must be right, because it makes sense!".

The Holy Spirit has no opinion bias. He is the prompt that says #7 not #57 against all your logical facts. He is the one that says "This person is mine" when you're about to write someone off. He is the one that says "Talk to them" when their countenance says not to bother. When we ignore that prompt, we miss the hidden blessing that God has in store for our lives. The tender conversation, the opportunity to minister and bless, the indescribable joy that comes when we know our lives are in tune with His. Its not that its easy or without inconvenience... it ALWAYS requires us to be brave and say "Im going to take a risk here!"

I was talking to a friend today about the times we hesitate to listen to that prompt...
"What if Im wrong?, What if they don't like me? What if they think less of me? What if Im just being a pain!?"
Have you ever had that? When you felt you should pray for someone, or give someone a gift, or tell someone you care about them, or let someone know you're thinking of them.... but ignore it because that person is complicated, or youve heard some things about them, or maybe you just think they really don't need to hear it from little old you... and what if you end up looking like a ridiculous idiot?

But what if you actually saw yourself the way God sees you?!!
What if you were brave enough to step up and speak the truth?
What if you dropped off that meal to that house that you keep feeling you should, but why would they need it?
What if you dropped a note into your friends letterbox that said "You're valued and heres why..?"
What if you stopped to talk to that person who you had written off?
What if you told your leader how much they bless you, even though you're sure they don't need to hear it from you?
What if you phoned that person that youve had on your heart all week?

If you and I are going to stop operating out of those places of Opinion Bias... we need to slow down enough to hear what God is saying. We need to lean into the EXTRAVAGANT opinion He has of us and hear what He is saying. We need to stop listening to the reasoning voice of fear and timidity and start listening to the voice of God which says "I AM AND IN MY NAME"
And who knows what door that could open?
What Opinion Bias do you hold right now that is stopping you!? What is stopping you stepping into that place of service in the Church that you feel God has laid on your heart? Maybe you love children but won't step up because you feel its insignificant, or maybe you want to reach out to someone elderly and drop around flowers, but are scared they might just think you're a pain? But what if there is one child in that Church whose life you can forever change, because you showed up? And what if that elderly person is going to speak words of wisdom and insight into your life that will empower you forever? How will you know if you don't dare to let go of only half the facts?

Next time the Holy Spirit prompts you to stop short of a destination or a conclusion about someone you were about to make.. lean in... God has something more for you!