Monday, September 19, 2011

Being a Tree of Life for Our Children

The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit. - Proverbs 15:4

I was just posting to another of my blogs (Under The Shadow Of His Wing) and this verse really struck me.  I can't tell you how many time I've barked at our son, wanting nothing more that immediate obedience.  I don't do it too much any more as I've learned that this is completely unfruitful and counterproductive.  I had to wade through mountains of "expert" child rearing data and advice including that from "expert" Christian sources.  One of those sources even went so far as to say that parents need to break their children's spirits, punish them by spanking with wooden spoons, and citing Scriptural references to back up his point. (First of all, I am not citing who this was as I don't want to start a kerfuffel.  Second, any verse of Scripture can be pulled out of context to support any point of view which can be very dangerous.)

Over the years I have come to a place that is challenging at best.  It is a place where a parent is a hands-on, interactive parent who treats their child as a person, not a subordinate.  While a child does need to learn to be obedient and respectful to their parents, I don't believe that beating them into submission is the way to go.  Is is better for a child to obey out of fear or out of love and respect?  This place where I've come to has lots of long talks, with the parent listening and the child sharing his hopes, dreams, concerns, and fears.  It is a place where the parent sets aside him- or herself in order to nurture and encourage their child.  It's a lot of work and can be quite tiring at times, but it's well worth it.

Going back to Scripture for a moment, the image of a shepherd is used quite often.  The shepherd has a rod and staff.  The majority of Christians now-a-days take the rod and staff Scriptures as a license and mandate to use corporal punishment in their homes.  But a shepherd doesn't beat his sheep.  He guides and protects them, showing them where to go and making sure their needs are met.  He does use these instruments to protect his sheep from wild animals and will beat those animals, but he never beats his sheep.  Then if we look at the Messiah, our Shepherd, and His treatment of the disciples we have another beautiful picture of how we should treat our children.  He never beat or abused His disciples.  He lovingly and patiently taught and corrected them.  Yes, sometimes He got frustrated, but he never became abusive.  What better example could we have?

Yes, some days I still get snippy, but when I keep in mind that I'd rather be soothing and bring life to my child rather than crush his spirit it helps me get back on track.  I take a deep breath and keep on going.  Remember, homeschooling goes far beyond schooling.  We are nurturing and shaping our children and the way we speak has a big impact on them.  Let's be trees of life!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Helpful Resources

Last time I mentioned that several months ago I had to tailor our son's curriculum to accommodate his sensitivities.  Until fairly recently the thought of "flying by the seat of my pants" scared me no end.  But after I took a couple of days to collect my thoughts and settle it within myself that this would indeed be the very best for our son it didn't seem quite so daunting.  No, I didn't just pull an outline for his studies in science or history out of thin air.  I had some help!

"Home Learning Year by Year - How to Design a Homeschool Curriculum from Preschool Through High School" by Rebecca Rupp is an excellent resource, even if you aren't designing your own curriculum.  Ms. Rupp has broken down each school year by subject.  Within those subjects she has listed what is normally required at that level along with resources for those topics. 

"The Educated Child" by William J. Bennett is another nice resource, although it's geared more towards families whose children attend public or private school and what the families should expect their child to be learning.

So, in plotting out our son's education I started with these two books.  I checked each year from first grade through seventh, making sure that we had covered what was suggested.  If there was something that we didn't cover or that I wanted to review with our son I placed a sticky flag in the book and kept on going.  Once all the flags were placed I grabbed a pencil and paper and started making a list for each subject.  Then I consolidated like topics within the subjects.  It really wasn't too bad at all

For history I took a little different approach.  Over the years we have studied American History and some world history, but it always felt disjointed to me.  How did it all fit together?  What cultures were living at the same time?  I wanted there to be a continuity to our son's study of history, so I decided we'd start at the beginning and work our way forward!  With the help of a fairly detailed civilization timeline put together from a Biblical perspective I was able to put together our son's history curriculum for the next few years, taking our time to really explore the cultures along the way.

Our local library plays a major role in our schooling as well.  I order books from them a few weeks in advance of when we'll need them.  In this way we have access to just about any topic we need without breaking the bank.  And our library has a wonderful inter-library loan system so if there is something that we need that they don't have, chances are one of the other libraries in the system will have it.  We are using a bought pre-algebra curriculum and for grammar we're using Daily Grams/Easy Grammar. 

Because we don't have text or workbooks to record our son's learning, we make lapbooks document his progress.  Lapbooks are a wonderful tool and lots of fun to put together.  I'll talk about those next time!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Where Does the Time Go?

Here we are starting another new school year. Where has the time gone? We began our homeschooling journey ten years ago. Really? Ten years?

When our son was two years old I realized that he had somehow taught himself to read. While playing with toys was definately a fun way to pass the day, I also knew that our son needed to be challenged in order to be happy. Enter homeschooling! From our first day of homeschool until today it has truly been a learning experience, not only for our son but for me as well.

It can be tricky to stay one step ahead of a ravenous learner, especially when a "canned" curricula just won't cut it. I've tried a wide variety and while some do hold his interest for a time, none of them have worked from beginning to end. And to be fair sometimes it isn't that the curriculum has a deficiency, but that we have, well, quirks. Take biology for example.

Last term things were moving along swimmingly until that fateful day when the next chapter in the science text began a study of biology. Anatomy to be more specific. You know, things like the circulatory and nervous system. Things came to a screeching halt. Unfortunately one of the things our son inherited from me was my squeemishness. I was never cut out to be a doctor or nurse. So rather than force our son to continue down a lesson path that would cause he and I way too much stress for no good reason I simply steered our homeschool down a different path. A lovely study of birds followed and everyone was happy.

Let me just say that our son is very familiar with the inner workings of the human body. He just doesn't like thinking about it too much. If he didn't know anything about it then we'd have to take a different approach to learning the information - one that would not be offensive to his sensibilities and low tolerance for blood and guts. This is the beauty of homeschooling - being able to tailor material to the child and his way of learning. It's also wonderful to be able to explore areas that the child is interested in and letting him build his love for learning.

This school year we are using a set curriculum for Pre-Algebra, but that's about it. Everything else has been tailored by me to fit the needs and interests of our son. Is it more labor intensive and time consuming for me? It sure is! But when I see our son enjoying learning (even math!) it's all worth it.

Homeschooling can be a challenge, but our kids are worth it. Each day is a gift, a treasure to be enjoyed - challenges and all. If we put in a little effort we can shape our children into the people they were meant to be, not simply fill them full of facts. Homeschooling is so much more than book-learning. I hope you are enjoying your journey!