It’s so much more friendly with two

Have you ever faced a challenge alone? Gone somewhere new for the first time? Tried to learn something complicated without help? Gone on a long journey with no companion?

It's so much more friendly with two.

It’s so much more friendly with two.

Being alone can be adventurous, at times. But when you are facing something difficult, something scary, something big – being alone can be daunting.

Life has many daunting moments for our children. The world is full of amazing possibilities, but getting to them can mean facing some tough challenges first. Challenges which can seem so big to their little minds. The dark feels frightening; sharing with friends seems impossible; the new class looks impenetrable; maths work feels lonely. If we leave our children to face these challenges alone, they can become overwhelmed.

The symptoms of an overwhelmed child are varied. Maybe he cries when maths is suggested. Perhaps she throws a tantrum at bedtime. He may be shy and clingy. She might become withdrawn around peers. The important thing is that when we see symptoms of an overwhelmed child, we don’t ignore them. They are a cry for help – and aren’t we our children’s primary helpers? We need to walk through the hard things with them, not leave them to flounder.

It doesn’t always take much. Often just a friendly smile can make the challenge seem smaller. Sitting with your son while he does that hard homework.  Holding your daughter’s hand while she stands up for what is right.  Encouraging words can give strength. A hug, a wink, a squeeze of the hand – just to let them know they are not alone, that we’ve got their back. Sometimes it takes more from us; issues can be deep-rooted and need long term understanding, care and encouragement before they can be conquered.

I am convinced that A.A. Milne knew what he was talking about.  It’s so much more friendly with two.

Little secrets

I sat there reading Little Lord Fauntlery aloud. Prince and Princess were listening quietly, and all thoughts seemed to be on the story. Suddenly, Prince interrupted. ‘Mommy – it seems to me that Francis Hodgeson Burnett wanted to make Cedric like a perfect boy. But…’ his voice took a crestfallen tone, ‘nobody can be perfect.’

I was struck.

Walking and talking together - what a blessing!

Walking and talking together – what a blessing!

It was the smallest of moments, but it contained a world of meaning. It was a glimpse into the heart of my boy; a revelation of something I had never noticed before. My Prince struggled with guilt? Suddenly several tiny moments of revelation over the past few months made sense, and I had become privy to a secret. A secret that Prince himself probably couldn’t even articulate and define, but which was causing inner distress. A secret which, now I knew, I could gently and lovingly resolve.

Knowing, is the key thing. If we don’t know a problem exists, we might never solve it. Even worse, we might exacerbate it. How easy it could have been to miss this vital insight. If we never took time to read together, I would have missed it. If I always simply told him off without allowing him to discuss mistakes with me, I would have missed it. If I frequently missed our morning snuggle time, or rushed through it with no chance to chat, I would have missed it. All these little opportunities throughout the days and weeks could so easily have been wasted. Thank God they were not.

We have our children for such a short, precious time. I am so thankful for the chance to see their hurts and struggles, and minister to their particular needs. I am so thankful for time to reassure, build up, encourage when they are down. I am so privileged to spur on, inspire and watch as they pursue their passions.

All it takes is time – the gift of our time.

Layers of Education

They say that you need to see an advert at least seven times before it becomes effective. The first time you see it, you barely notice it. But with each successive exposure something builds inside of you, embedding a memory in your mind which can then be recalled at any relevant moment.

I think education might work in a similar way.

The first exposure to a new idea or concept can be overwhelming to a child. Long division, for example. (Actually, that was overwhelming for me too…) Or the significance or the bubonic plague. Or the location of key geographical cities. All new information is NEW. And however spongy our kids’ brains, it may take a few times before the neural pathways are sturdy and sure.

I used to get this a bit wrong. In my pursuit for excellence of education, I mistakenly thought that each time a child was given new information, they needed to remember it perfectly before we could go on. I would feel a failure if my five year old couldn’t recall every detail of our history story. I became frustrated when my nine year old couldn’t work out how to solve every maths problem in his book. I felt that 100% learning had to happen first time around.

But I was wrong.

Lunching on the beach at high tide (and trying to avoid seagulls!)

Lunching on the beach at high tide (and trying to avoid seagulls!)

I should have known it. Am I not exactly the same? I can read a chapter of Romans, and fifteen minutes later have no idea what I read. But if I read that chapter in the morning, talk about with my kids later, write about it the next day, re-read it the following day, mediate on it, look it up in different versions, hear a sermon on it, read a book that refers to it and watch a program that relates to a concept from it – THEN I know it.

And so it is with children. One of the oh-so-many beauties of homeschooling is the way we can engineer overlapping layers of education for our children. As they learn about the effect of the moon upon tides we can offer opportunities to reinforce this new knowledge. A trip to the beach to see tides in action; a documentary on the moon; a lesson in gravity; a game about moon phases; a conversation about forces; a library book on science; a poem about tides. As pieces of the great knowledge puzzle start connecting in their minds, the strength of learning is increased and a network of pathways are created which can continue to be traveled and built upon as learning keeps taking place.

Sometimes it’s as simple as redoing lessons or rereading chapters over a few times. Sometimes it requires a topic to be looked at through various depths – an overview, a narrowed-in focus, a detailed study. Other times it’s the combination of a variety of topics interlinking with one another, such as history and geography. Whatever it is, the one thing I have learned is that frequent, varied and passionate exposure to information creates a solid education.

Car-schooling

'Edible Poetry' at the library!

‘Edible Poetry’ at the library!

“Homeschooling” is a bit of a misleading term. Most – if not all – homeschoolers I know do their learning in all sorts of places: woodland walks, playground trips, libraries, grocery stores, swimming pools, National Trust sites, leisure centres, doctor’s waiting rooms, friend’s houses, service stations and, most definitely, cars. In fact, one of the beauties of homeschooling is that education can happen anywhere, anytime – no restrictions!

Becoming an electric car family has re-shaped our learning a little. Every day or so we drive up the road to our local rapid charger, and top up. For many, electric cars are still a thing of the future, an inconvenience, a hassle. For us, it’s an opportunity.

A full charge takes around thirty minutes – and it’s as unavoidable as getting petrol for a regular car owner. But it’s also thirty minutes of our day which is internet free. Distraction free. Housework, email, toy and (mostly) phone free. And suddenly what looks like an inconvenience becomes an opportunity.

Our charge time has created a regularity I was struggling to find. While we charge, we read. Usually it’s our current literature read-aloud (Little Lord Fauntleroy, right now, which I LOVE) and a bit of our geography curriculum.

We also spend a fair amount of time driving to and from events, lessons and errands. This travel time is useful listening time, too. We have used it to listen to great audio books from our library (we particularly like Michael Morpurgo’s ‘An Elephant in the Garden‘), inspiring classical music, and an audio version of our history curriculum (The Story of the World). We have plans to listen to Micheal Thomas’ French course soon, and also an audio reading of the Bible. There are so many exciting and educational CDs to choose from, that travel time never needs to be wasted!

Do you do your learning in fun and unique places? Have you got any car-schooling suggestions to share?

My Homeschool Day in Life with a 6 and 8 year old

DSC_1011About this time last year I took part in Simple Homeschool‘s A Day in the Life series for the first time  It is always interesting to chart a full day of activity at home. We like to run our days pretty naturally, but over time we have gradually imposed a little structure. Nothing rigid. Nothing formal. Just… a more organised flow. So here is what a typical day kinda looks like this year.

6:45am

I hear Prince getting up. He goes downstairs, but I doze for a bit longer. I’m at that blissful stage of being able to sleep even if my kids are awake. Yes – it really does happen. Yeah – it is as good as it sounds.

7:30am

I get up. YAWN. This is my new weekday rising time. I have never been an early riser. It’s not in my genes. Even so, I have found that doing it regularly makes it easier, and the benefits of a longer morning are worth it. I come downstairs to find Prince has been reading a book on the solar system, and he is now drawing a picture of what he has read. I smile to myself; homeschool happening while I sleep?  Cha-ching!

The kids get breakfast started for themselves. So far, so normal. But I check outside and see that our new electric car, which has been charging in the garden overnight, has got stuck in the mud. Literally. The next hour I forget our Morning High Five ritual and spend it trying to help my husband and brother free the car. Unsuccessfully. Luckily we have a back-up.

8:30am

When we finally give up on the car, I come back inside to find the kids playing ‘Cards of Maths’, working their quick addition skills. We invented the name for this game from Life of Fred. So far today they’ve covered science and maths, and we’re not even dressed. Did I mention I love homeschooling?

At this point I get them started on Morning High Five, while I potter around doing things which need to be done – packing the dishwasher, chatting to my husband, hosing the mud-caked car wheels…

9:30am

Hubby arrives back from dropping my brother at his course. He’s not feeling well (particularly after spending an hour in the cold mud), so spends the day in bed. Meanwhile, the rest of us are finally dressed, fed and ready to officially start our day. We get wrapped up and head outside for our morning walk. We try to do this everyday, regardless of weather. In reality it probably happens three days out of five. Today we stroll over to our local field, where the kids enjoy walking on walls, investigating puddles and playing pooh sticks. These short bursts of fresh air are always so delicious.DSC_1007

10:00am

We have a rotating schedule of different Bible activities that we do throughout the week. Today I put on a couple of chapters of The Lamb for the kids, while I take the time to read my own Bible. After this we pray together.

10:30am

I guess this is where learning ‘really’ starts. (If you ignore the reading, playing, exploring and discussion which has happened since the moment we got up.) Princess and I snuggle up on the window-seat and read two chapters of her maths book, Life of Fred: Butterflies. We started going through the whole elementary series all together a few months ago, but when we reached half way it started to get a little advanced for Princess. She is only six, after all – still my baby. So while Prince continues to storm his way through, Princess has gone back to redo the earlier books. I like to make sure the foundational understanding – in any topic – is rock solid. While we have fun reading about Fred’s silly adventures, Prince is upstairs doing drum practice.

After this, we swap. Prince reads Life of Fred: Honey with me while Princess is whizzing through some mental arithmetic and recorder practice. As Prince moves onto his written math work, I hop on to Duolingo for a bit of French. I enjoy learning, and love that the kids see it as a natural part of everybody’s life – not just something children are forced to do between 9 and 3, Monday to Friday.

11:15am

Princess recently commented that we hadn’t been doing as much free learning time as we used to, and she missed it. I love to have feedback from the kids, and really believe in the value of listening to their opinions. So this morning I call ‘Free Learning Fun’. This means ‘you can do anything you want so long as it’s educational.’ It’s a great way to fuel their natural love of learning. The kids have a quick conversation and decide to play Flags of the World. They just use the European cards for now, and focus on learning the flags, countries and capitals of our continent.

While they play I sneak in another round of Duolingo, and work on writing a script for my next Advanced Creative Writing Open University assignment. At some point I notice that the sun is shining brightly. As we have solar panals, this is my cue to do any electric-heavy housework, so I quickly pop some washing in the machine and enjoy the thought of a free spin.DSC_1015

11:45am

The kids take a break from playing Flags of the World. I pull out the Kindle, and we all snuggle up under a blanket for a couple of chapters of Black Beauty. Reading together has so many wonderful benefits. It’s a great way to fuel a love of books and teach your child to read; it creates shared experiences; it starts conversations; it expands horizons; it strengthens bonds. Most of our curriculum choices are based on reading aloud together.

12:00pm

Lunch time. We don’t always eat this early, but that’s the way it happens today. After eating, the kids carry on their game while I do a bit more script writing.

12:30pm

Another snuggle gathering. I love the way so much of our learning takes place under blankets full of love. This time it’s history, and we are nearing the end of Story of the World volume 1, which we thoroughly enjoy (Prince almost always begs for the next chapter when we’re done). We’re in the midst of the Roman period, and today we read about the intense persecution of Christians. After reading we get caught up in a chat about the Ichthys symbol, so we do a bit of research and some drawing on this topic.

1:oopm

DSC_1016

Officially this is free time. Prince gets stuck into drawing, which is both his highest passion and talent. Princess gets out her plethora of card making supplies and soon the house is covered in paper. It’s messy, but I love it. Especially as they are old enough to tidy it up themselves. They also read, play, and generally amuse themselves productively. Although not officially a learning time, there is plenty of learning going on if you look carefully.

I make use of this time to do things I need or want to do. Today it’s a mix of housework, studying and research.

4:30pm

Tidy up time. We always try to tidy up before Daddy, Nana and Uncle Sean get home (yes, we have a full house – just the way we like it!), so even though Daddy is already here, we still get things sorted. This end of the day sort out also help me to relax after the kids are in bed. Clutter is not my favourite. Tidying up keeps the kids occupied while I get supper sorted (fish salad tonight) and make sure the kitchen is clean.

5:30pm

I leave the kids with Daddy while I nip out to pick up my brother. When we get back it’s dinner time. We try to eat early on Tuesday’s as we host house church from 6:30pm.

 

7:30pm

Bed time routine begins. This tends to get dragged out these days. If it finishes quickly, the kids get reading time in bed. Prince is currently working through many books, but mainly the Narnia series. It think he’s on Prince Caspian, but he moves through them so fast I can’t keep up. Princess is into Milly-Molly-Mandy right now. Tonight, however, there is no reading time left, so it’s prayers and lights out.

8:00pm

I love to end the day snuggled (again!) with my husband. We usually put something on to watch. I almost always get a foot rub. I know – Best. Husband. Ever. Tonight we watch something on his Ipad in bed, so as not to share germs with the other adults in the house. We watch some documentaries on healthy diets, and fall asleep inspired by ideals we might never achieve, but enjoy striving for.

And that’s it! A typical day this year. What will it look like next year, I wonder?

The elusive love of learning

Princess crocheting

Self-directed learning can be SO CUTE.

There are so many reasons our family home educates, and many ideals we hold which influence our choice.

I have always noticed that children are natural learners. The curiosity of a toddler is hard to beat. You know, that wonderful ‘why’ phase? Kids are addicted to learning! They learn to walk, talk and play with amazing determination.

One of my homeschooling ideals has always been to harness this natural desire and keep it burning bright.

Some people think this is asking the impossible. How can you possibly keep a kid enthused about learning when you get to times tables? And don’t boys just hate writing? Besides, no-one can enjoy everything, and kids need to learn to get on with it even if they are bored, right?

The truth is, I don’t know exactly how long I can keep my kids in love with learning. And yes, they do need to learn to complete necessary tasks – like it or not. But what I do know is that at eight and six, my kids are more interested in learning now than ever before.

I haven’t always found it easy to keep this love burning, and there have been times I’ve been on the edge of snuffing it out with bad choices I have made. But by the grace of God, we have got past those issues and to a place I have dreamed of – where I sit back and hold my breath in wonder as my children embrace learning with abundant joy.

Looking back, I can begin to make out some patterns – things that got us into trouble, and solutions God has provided; things that have worked so well I thank God for them daily; things I still don’t quite have under my belt, that I am searching for solutions to. But the journey so far has been fruitful.

If there is one piece of advice I would give to anyone who wants to foster a love of learning it’s this:

Know your child. Find out his learning style. Find out what makes him laugh, what he is passionate about, what he spends time doing when he’s left to himself.

This information is the key to winning your child’s heart for learning. Use it! 

Prince hard at 'work' - doing what he loves best in his free time.

Prince hard at ‘work’ – doing what he loves best in his free time.

Be ready to throw out your own preconceptions of what learning ‘should’ look like. It doesn’t have to be workbooks and tests (though some kids love these!). Find or make curriculum to fit your child, rather than expecting your child to fit the curriculum. Be creative! If your child loves music, sing educational songs – and let him indulge in music often. If he loves sport, recite times tables to the bounce of a ball – and allow him outside to play as much as possible. Pursue your child’s passions. I promise it will be productive if you look at it with the right eyes.

Make it your goal to provide a tailor-made education. This, I believe, fuels a life-long love of learning.

The secret of Joy

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
Philippians 4:4

I love how the apostle Paul expresses himself. Here he is (in prison, no less!) telling the people of Philippi, “Be joyful in Jesus ALL the time. Did you get that? I say, be JOYFUL!” I think I get why he puts such emphasis on this point. I crave for my children to feel the joy of the Lord in their spirit. Because I know that once they’ve tasted real joy in Jesus, they will never want to let go.

Have you ever watched Veggie Tales’ DVD ‘Madame Blueberry‘? It’s about a lady (or rather, blueberry) who tries to buy joy. She knows it’s out there, but she doesn’t know how to get it. Until one day she sees a little boy rejoice despite his circumstances. Suddenly, Madame realises that joy is closely tied to thankfulness. She is well quoted in our house: A thankful heart, is a happy heart. Proverbs 17:22 tells us the same thing: ‘A joyful heart is good medicine.’

Paul tells us we should be joyful always. If joy is tied to thankfulness, that means we should be thankful, always. Not just when we live in peace. Not just when we are well. Not just when we get what we want. Always. We can be barren, threatened by terrorists, or plagued by illness, yet we can rejoice.  The secret is keeping that eternal perspective. ‘Joy in Jesus’ is because of Jesus, and not dependent on anything this world can or can’t give us. His sacrifice and victory and freely offered grace are the source of an eternal joy that we can know and live despite our circumstances. However saddened we are by the situations we are in, they cannot and should not rob us of true joy.

And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. Deut. 6:6-7

And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. Deut. 6:6-7

The question is, how do we impart this joy to our children?  I have shared before some practical ways to encourage joy in our children. We also need to be living joyfully ourselves. On top of this, I believe teaching our children to live life God’s way will help them access joy, as it says in Proverbs 19:8 (emphasis mine):

The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the
heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.

Most importantly, we need to infiltrate their lives with the Good News. Grace should be woven into every conversation. We need to talk about it as we sit in our house, as we walk along our way, when we go to lie down and as we wake up to each new day. It should be inextricably bound up in our words and actions. It should be sprinkled throughout our home.

As our children go through life they experience all its frustrations, fears, temporary pleasures and empty promises. We must be there to help them see things from the right perspective. To help them grasp that yes – life will fail them. But this is not the same as God failing them. Because God looks at the big picture, the forever. And with regards to eternity, He has sorted it out on our behalf – eternal joy.

Just for fun

Prince: Mommy – do Germans get sick more than other people?

Prince wanted to give a friend of ours a present…
Me: But we don’t really know what he likes.
Daddy: He likes sociology!
Prince: What’s sociology?!
Me: It’s about how people relate to each other.
Prince: Relate? Relate… relations! I know, we could give him Uncle Ryan!

This girl has SO - MUCH - CHARACTER,

This girl has SO – MUCH – CHARACTER,

I told the kids to tidy their room, and if they were quick they could read before bed. After a short while, this conversation ensued…
Princess: Mommy! I need to send this dress to charity.
Me: Why?
Princess: Because it’s a faster way than cleaning up.

Princess, on her way through the kitchen, noticed the dishwasher open, clean and full: “Mommy – I would be happy to unpack the dishwasher for you!
Prince, putting down his toys in the lounge: Me too!

Princess declared that: Granny Margaret, Pauline, Auntie Helen and Mommy will be the bridesmaids at my wedding. GUB [her great-uncle] will be the photo-er.

Prince, after our history read-aloud: I have more cashews than almonds. It’s like Babylon taking over Assyria!

Prince: You know, Mommy, not everything is made out of molecules.
Me: [Blank stare]
Prince: Molecules are not made out of molecules!

Prince: I want to have a 4×4 when I grow up.
Daddy: The trouble with 4x4s is that they aren’t very economical – they cost a lot to run.
Prince: Yes – but I want one so that Papa will like it when I drive him in it.

Princess:  My favourite country is Papua New Guinea. Because the first part is Papa.

Princess in the morning: I think I really can fly, you know. I think I remember flying before.
Later that the evening: I can’t fly. I tried. I just kept landing.

Princess: Isn’t it wonderful? What God has blessed us with?

Prince: I don’t think this bear can be in the Teddy Bear’s Picnic, Princess.
Princess: Prince! It’s the WIFE!

Princess:  Mommy, it’s quest time on Classic FM. I’d really like to do a quest.

Princess’s morning prayer:  “And God, thank you that you can hear our prayers even at the same time as other people might be praying. I know you have a thousand listeners. I don’t know what listeners means, but I just made it up. But you know what I mean, God.”

Princess:  Will, do you like tomatoes?
Will: Why, yes, I do!
Princess:  Oh… sorry – I ate them all.

Princess:  After eating two slices of pizza, a plateful of veggies and a blueberry muffin, my five-year-old looks at me and says, ‘Do you know what I am? A hungry Princess.’

Prince:  This house is one of heaven’s many mansions.

Life is so fun with this cool kid :)

Life is so fun with this cool kid🙂

Education is not a god: part 2

Last week I wrote about how education is not the ultimate goal of childhood. All this was not to say that education is irrelevant. But we need to remember that education is there to serve us, not be served by us.

So what is education really, then? Here are some thoughts.

Education is a tool

Getting a good quality education is one of the tools which helps to shape our children’s future. The foundation of knowledge they build up though childhood is a platform they can bounce off to reach the heights of God’s plan for their lives. Equipping our kids with wisdom and understanding in academic, spiritual and practical arenas prepares them to use their God-given gifts to their fullest potential. A good education will open doors of ministry and enable our kids to take hold of any opportunities which come their way.

Education should teach children to approach work with an attitude of diligence. If we nurture their natural love of learning, if we show them how to solve problems effectively, and if we teach them to self-discipline and allow them to self-direct their studies, then their education will serve them well when they go out into the world. And the best education will teach our children good stewardship of their talents – helping to grow them, not bury them.

Education gives our wings to soar into all God has prepared for them!

Education gives children our wings to soar into all God has prepared for them!

Education is a gift

I love to learn, and I want my kids to know the joy of learning too. Knowledge is a blessing! As children learn about the world, their minds begin to open up. They make connections between topics, and they start to grasp concepts which open up further new thoughts. With knowledge, kids are able to take part in meaningful discussions and feel that their contributions are valuable. They are learning not just to be part of society, but to be a useful part of society – contributing their gifts and understanding to help better the world around them.

One of education’s greatest blessings is the way it helps our children to connect with people of diverse opinions, beliefs, and cultures. As they learn about the world they begin to appreciate the common value of people as well as appreciate their diversity. Education breaks down barriers and misconceptions and stereotypes. Jesus reminds us that unconditional love for others is one of the most important things we need to grasp as Christians. Quality education helps our children to do this with ease and joy.

I pray that as we seek God’s will for the education of our children we will not lose sight of what is truly important. May our children be blessed with an education which encourages them to live a life of love, not gain.

Education is not a god: part 1

I want to give my kids an excellent education.

In fact, one of the reasons we home educate is because we believe that the smaller ratios, focused learning, and personally tailored curriculum that can be provided at home have the potential to produce a better quality education than that which can be achieved in an over-crowded, peer-dominated, test-orientated school setting.

But I want to be very clear about something which I think has become very unclear in our society: Education is not a god.

Our children need to know that while they should always strive to work to their personal best, grades do not define who they – or we – are. There is only one God, and our children have immeasurable worth in His eyes, and in our eyes, which is not defined by their academic or sporting ability, the career they obtain, or the number of extra curricular activities they attend.

Education is good, but it is not a god.

Education is good, but it is not a god.

It is easy to ‘know’ this. But do we live it out?

Before I go on, I want to make clear that I don’t think any of the things below make us ‘worthy’. God alone provides our worth, and it is not dependent on works or behaviour. I also think all of the activities below have a value, a place and a time. However – the fruit of our lives reveal the secrets of our hearts. It is worth examining our priorities honestly.

I believe that education is often worshiped as the ultimate goal of childhood. It is evident in a culture which prioritises academic achievement over character development. It is evident in the efforts to make sure our kids understand geometry, and yet neglect discussions on evidences and controversies of faith. It is evident when parents fear lack of education for their four-year-old, more than lack of compassion. It is evident in the way parents work longer hours to pay for a extracurricular activities, but leave no time for quality, relationship building.

I want to repeat – all of these things have good and right places in our children’s lives. Geometry, sports and academics are good things.  But the question is – do we let ‘good things’ take a higher place than the ‘best thing’?

There is only one thing of first importance, and we only get one shot at parenthood. Let’s make sure we don’t get our priorities confused.

In part two I will be looking at some of the things which education is, and how it can be used to help our children, not hinder them.

« Older entries

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 137 other followers

%d bloggers like this: