Which Homeschool Method is Right for My Child?

right-238370_640There are many methods and philosophies for homeschooling. I can’t condemn any one of them. As long as your method doesn’t include letting your child run wild, while never involving him in discussion that leads to learning, you should be commended for taking on the task that God has given you in the raising of your child. What is key in this education endeavor is finding what works for you and each of your family members. Personalities, talents, and interest vary widely from family to family and person to person. Why would we all homeschool in the same way?

If the method you thought was right hasn’t been working, even though you have given it your best efforts, give yourself permission to change it to suit the needs of your family or the individual child. If the method of homeschooling is working for you, in other words, your kids are learning and your methods don’t cause strife in the home, then don’t let those outside your family shake your resolve. Keep on keeping on.

The truth is there are a lot of great homeschool methods out there, Charlotte Mason, TJEd, unschooling,  basal curriculum and more.  Learning what your children need is not going to happen overnight. It takes time and diligence. So, when you experience some blow-outs don’t freak out. This life affords a lot of do-overs. Forgive yourself. Forgive your kids. Take a day off or whatever you need to collect yourselves. The day is very forgiving.

Whatever you do, don’t spend all your time trying to force learning down your child’s throat. No matter how good the method or curriculum you chose sounds, no matter how logical it seems, you must consider that we are all so diverse. Our learning style is different,  our temperament is different, and our aptitude and abilities are different. And at some point you just may have to face that your child has a limit of understanding, whether it be because of a special need or because Joe is Joe. You might have a mechanic on your hands. He might be bound for vocational school instead of college.  Frankly I love a skilled and honest mechanic. I had a great one through college that kept my jalopy running. On the other hand, you might have a child that excels on his own, who has such focus and determination that he goes through material like the energizer bunny and leaves you and your other children in the dust choking on fumes as he ventures into subjects you did n’t know existed.

If the method you chose is not working and your child is bucking at every task given, consider letting his learning be more self directed and self taught, by taking a guiding role instead of a teaching role. This is especially helpful when a child is not completely trusting of your ability to take on the teaching role (or when you are too scared to). Allow him then, to begin sharing with you what he has learned in casual discussion.

Meanwhile, take on your own learning, perhaps at the same time of day. Something new. Sewing, crochet, making yogurt (whatever really). Watch youtube videos. Read blogs and library books. Produce something from your learning. Show  him that being smart is not about knowing all the answers, but knowing where to find out what you want to know. Learn beside each other.

My oldest is super bright. Truly, if I tell you the details, I would feel I was bragging. It has nothing to do with me it is totally hereditary and she gets it from here father. They are both very annoyingly smart. Hence Jeopardy is never viewed in or home. However my daughter’s weakness lies in the fact that she stops actively listening when she thinks she already knows the information. She tends to miss out on important new details. I still do read-alouds. I do want her to learn to listen, but I have changed her schedule a bit to include a range of specific resources for learning (websites or books), and subtopics(multiplication) under the state required subjects (math)  for her to pick from. We discuss frequently what she is working on, what she has read, what progress she has made. This allows much of her learning to be self directed, though I am right there beside her when she falls into a ditch. It  has been a learning experience for both of us. She still has a listening problem, but here is much more respect for me as her teacher. This does not fit any of the above methods perfectly,  but I cannot argue its effectiveness. She is interested, busy, and learning. I am happy.

empty-314554_640One of the problems in public school is that teachers were not in charge of the classroom, so if the teacher has developed a relationship with a student or simply has a personal teaching style that meets opposition from admin, the teacher has to abandon what she knows to be the best practice for a child in exchange for what outsiders propose to be the “best practices in teaching.”

Here we can enter the discussion of collectivism vs. individualism. Do we really want to adopt a philosophy of  thinking of the group to the suffering of the individual. Sure they have small group teaching in public school. For how long, and how well do they get to know what each child needs? Do the quick learners get the same attention or is time too short? If  they deem one child un-teachable, will he get attention at all? It is almost impossible for individualized curriculum int he public school. Individualism is what is needed no matter your curriculum or method adopted.

How can another person attack your teaching choices without being guilty of leaving out the individual? There is simply not one and only one way to teach your children. One could argue that there is a right and a wrong way to teach your child, but that can only be discovered  by you, when you experience success or failure with a particular child.

My personal approach is to teach my children the basics (a love of reading, writing and math) and then to show them how to use these to research about any topic they want. I want my kids to understand that they are the teachers and learners. Sometimes guidance is needed, but I am not the only authority. In fact sometimes I have to Google the answer. In public school there is way to much dependence on the teacher for the “correct” information.  My last years were spent as a fifth grade teacher. I expected independence on some tasks, after all they had so much more practice thinking than my first graders. However, while my first graders were plunking out five pages during writing, my fifth graders couldn’t think past a paragraph.

Some parents do not agree that you can allow this kind of self guided approach for a bought curriculum, but you can teach your child within a matter of weeks, how to look up a tutorial on whatever subject he is working on in a book, in order to teach himself and complete the page. My daughter thinks this is the coolest thing. She is taking charge of her own education. I am still there in the circumstance that she needs more help or simply wants to share how exciting the information is. She delights in this too.

shoes-291845_640If you are unsure about what curriculum or method to choose, don’t choose one yet. De-school. Have some fun with the local library. Let your kids check out books that they want to read. Encourage a mix of fiction and non-fiction. Enjoy some free outings with other homeschoolers or on your own as a family. Enjoy some movies that teach science, social studies, or theology. Work on life skills like doing the laundry, preparing a meal, or cleaning a bathroom. Oh, you know your child is going to love that one! Or simply put off buying a curriculum and build from from free sources on the internet until you find the one you are in love with (although you could build your own for free until graduation).

Whatever the method or curriculum you choose, don’t let hecklers dissuade you. I know some moms doing the bought curriculum from cover to cover, happy as a lark (and so are their kids). On the other hand, I know moms that are unschooling with the same satisfaction.

New homeschool moms need to read homeschool articles, blog, books, and posts while realizing that all of this advice is subjective.  Sometimes moms read these things and start doubting everything they are doing, others get really defensive and act like someone is questioning them or judging them. Maybe someone is but who cares?  They are  not the ones loving your children, raising them, housing them, feeding them, and they won’t be paying their college bill (not that college has to be the goal). I have one kiddo that  doesn’t care to go. She doesn’t feel like she needs it. Frankly, I have to agree. Her skills will sell themselves. I think she is already a success. There are those that think that college is the goal. Early graduation is the goal. I say that enjoying the learning day in and day out and finding a passion to follow is the goal. If your kids get that, Homeschool is successful. If college is needed for their passion then your little success will probably learn whatever is needed to make that happen.

You are going to find out what fits your kids by learning and gaining understanding your kids day in and day out over the first couple of months of school. When you feel you have a grasp on things, tailor whatever curriculum or method to your findings.



Reading Levels

103_0024Many mothers taking their children out of the public school are very concerned about the reading level in which their child is reading. When getting started with homeschooling, there is a good place for this concern. Finding the right placement to start your child’s curriculum is an honest endeavor.

When my children were taken out of public school to homeschool, my oldest was reading high above her grade level in reading, and while she glommed onto math quickly, her interest and confidence lacked in math, nevertheless, she was right on track with her grade level standards. She also had a solid understanding of patterns of speech and was a natural speller. Most of what she was doing in school bored her. In making curriculum decisions, I had to keep these things in mind.

There are many placement tests all over the web to use. The free ones are harder to find than others. At www.iamhomeschooling.com,  the author has compiled a list of free place placement test in both math and language arts.

However when we talk about reading level, there is an easy way to do this with access to leveled books. You can find out the level of books using your libraries database, and there are  other websites like www.scholastic.com where you can find the level of a book in your home. Keep in mind that interest level is not the same as reading level. Some websites only give the levels of interest, or what age group is reading books just like this. Often this number is inflated for those that read the book aloud to their students, but if you are looking for an independent read for your child, you want to focus on the reading level.

You are going to be looking at two things Independent Reading Level and  Instructional Reading Level. Independent  Reading Level is what your child can decode and comprehend on their own without any help whatsoever, Instructional Reading Level is what they can decode 90-95  percent (or thereabouts) and comprehend up to 80%. This should be at a comfortable and fluid rate of reading, not stumbling over every other word. Public School would use a timer to measure this, but I think observation by the parent is sufficient. If they are stumbling over the words, it is too hard and they will not comprehend the text enough to appreciate the story or gain new information.

Neither of these levels matter in the grand scheme of things, but it gives you an idea of what books are well suited for your child. Honestly, I don’t worry about this at all when letting them choose reading books, I let my children find out for themselves. As I have gotten to know them as readers, observation helps me choose books for other subjects like science. Remember not to dwell on where they are at, but instead where they are going.

Find a starting point, a level you think they might be close too. You can do this by having them read a couple of books on different reading levels and go up or down as your observation tells you to do. There are many reading levels within one grade level. Grade Level Equivalent is probably the easiest level to understand and also the level that you will find most readily available. The number consists of a whole number for grade level, a decimal, followed by a number for month in the school year. So, a book with a 5.4 grade level equivalent is understood to be for a fifth grader in the fourth month of school.

Once you have found a starting point, have them read the book, silently or aloud, depending on preference, for a minute or two. Have them stop and tell you what they have read. If your child can tell you most of the main points with a couple of details perhaps even comments that show they can apply what they read to other situations or relate them to similar circumstances, chances are this is their independent level. Instructional level is found when the child reads and needs help comprehending some new information or vocabulary but most of the decoding is accurate. If you didn’t have your child read aloud at the beginning and you question why your child did not comprehend the text, you can have your child read aloud to see if there are decoding issues.

boy-160174_640I’m less concerned about reading level than I am getting him interested in reading. I just let my child’s interest lead his reading and rarely do we do book reports.  I rely mostly on discussion. I rarely have to ask questions. They are usually so excited about what they are reading that they are eager to share. One of my children is a relatively new reader and is reading above grade level, but sometimes  he wanted to read books above his own level because of interest. When he fell in love with Oz, the books were not on his independent or instructional reading level. To accommodate his interest we used the audio version on LibriVox along with the book. Regardless of whether he comprehended everything or not, he understood more with the audio than he would have without. He love it so, he continued with the entire series.

Some are very adamant that a child should not have a book in his hand that is above his grade level. In my opinion it limits a child’s reading. My daughter was told once, that she couldn’t check out a book at the library that was above first grade level. Every child is differs in development and some find an interest early on that they choose to go after. When they do, growth follows. I know reading level was not a consideration when I was in school Library books were checked out on an interest basis only. I couldn’t have been happier.

Whether a child is on the grade level they are assigned to, is a lot less important than fostering a love for reading. Most veterans homeschooling moms will tell you that their children have all developed reading skills at different ages and in different methods, that standards do not always match individuals. I think that the change in philosophy was what allowed my son to go from reading on 1st grade level (in kinder) to reading 3rd grade level in a matter of months after beginning homeschool. The big difference was that he is allowed to follow his interest, and when he is interested, he is motivated to gain comprehension, through audio, videos, and through discussion after he reads.

Let interest be chosen over a designated reading level. Your child will likely put back a book that is too hard in exchange for one that he can read well enough to gain insight and be entertained. As long as he has an interest in reading on some topic, he will continue to develop his reading skills.

Want to know more about Teaching Them to Read?

Easter Message

an-75208_640At the risk of offending my Christian friends, I’m going to leave my own kind of Easter message. If your discerning, you’ll note that this is not written to benefit my Christian friends, but at other friends I love dearly.

Easter is not about eggs, candy, or even family. Easter is a celebration of Jesus’ resurrection, His rising from the dead to show that He alone conquers the darkest of sins and He overcomes them all.

I will present you with the Gospel today in print, but if I know that you do not believe, and I never tell you the Gospel face-to-face. It is because I DO NOT LOVE YOU, and I am not worthy of your friendship. At some point in our relationship I must tell the you the most humbling and important message that I know.

1. We are all sinful. We lie, steal, murder , covet, commit adultery, and put ourselves before others. (See sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7) I am huge sinner! That’s right. I do it daily.

2. It doesn’t matter the magnitude of your sin, the penalty is death. Don’t let those Christians and their “God is Love” message fool you. He is jealous and He wants justice. Romans 6:23

3. It doesn’t matter the magnitude of your sin, He came to take the penalty in your stead. That is the only promise, eternal life, not wealth, not “everything your way right away.” He does not work at Burger King. Bad things in life will happen to you. Death and sickness came from man’s sin. God sometimes lets it visit us to sharpen our character and build our faith. (John 3:16-18- end of judgement and James 1:12- promise of tribulation on earth).

4. Now you are free from the burden of paying for your sins, if ONLY you believe. It is that simple. You do not have to do anything else. Salvation from death is not earned. If it were so, no one could make Him happy enough. We all fall short. Romans 15:13 and Romans 5:1-21 (Yeah, I know its long, but His Word says it best.)

I am a sinner, I have broken every one of the ten commandments and the most important of them. loving the Lord my God, and loving others before myself (Matthew 22:36-40). I’m in the center of my world on a daily basis. I am no different than my non-Christian friends. I constantly need His redemption, I constantly have to re-commit myself to Him. It’s not common for a Christian to advertise this, but it is key to the Gospel message. I am flawed, and if I were perfect, I would not need His death. I am now a willing slave to Jesus, because of the life-debt He paid for me. Understand that submission is totally against our sinful nature. Which is why you will see us struggle with the same sins. Submission is a deliberate act, no magic occurs when we believe that makes us supernaturally obey without fault.

For the little sinners in my house, if I were not honest about my own sin, I could not be a good witnessing tool. The Word would just be a tool of manipulation. It is important for me to admit guilt, ask forgiveness from my children and then turn away from my sin. When Christians neglect to admit their own sinful nature,  the entire message of the Gospel becomes one of judgment, instead of love.

If you are not a believer, and you know that I know that, if I don’t share this message with you face to face in a loving manner, confront me, attack me, for I will need to apologize for not putting your life before my own interests.

We aren’t just celebrating his life anew, but His blood shed for me, yes even me. Jesus is enough for Easter. We do not need anything else to present the message. Deuteronomy 4:2

Now, this is for my Christian friends. If you celebrate Easter with an egg hunt and candy, is it sinful? Probably not. Paint those eggs and have a blast, but whatever you do, make Christ the center, not an afterthought, not a side note. He bought you with His blood. He deserves center stage.

Talking About Sin

tree-145819_640When we talk about sin to our kids, it is common to go straight to the Ten Commandments. Yes, do that! You cannot skip these. In addition there are 600 plus commands  to follow in the rest of the Bible, hence a very great need to study it. Amazingly enough, with all of these commands, we still have difficulty deciding what is right and what is wrong in today’s world. Do I get that tattoo?  What about dating two guys at once?  Can I watch that R rated movie? These and other question pop up and rarely, if ever do kids and parents agree.

We talk a lot about discernment in our house. Discernment allows a Christian to recognized false prophets  and false teachings even when they are cleverly wrapped in the twisted Truth( 1 John  4:1). We also learn how to recognize when a situation is to be avoided. To practice discernment we are to question everything to see that it lines up with our biblical worldview. You can truly apply the Bible to almost every situation.There are commands on how to treat your neighbor, people in the Church, the needy, your children, your elders. We know we have to study the Bible in order to form our biblical world view ( Hebrews 5:14). We need to be studying everyday and we need to be questioning everything (Proverbs 3:1-3). These are both easy to let go of. We get wrapped up in the world and our habits fall. It is important to note that all people are not gifted with discernment. That is why it is so important to have counsel from those you have noticed with this gift.

Sometimes you may not know His commands enough to apply them to a situation and you  need to make a decision about right now. Other times you may not be able to identify the situation as falling under one of the ten commandments or any other commands you have learned. We call these ” grey areas”.  What do you do? Do you say no to everything in hopes of a Puritan style life? The kids will probably think that is what we are going for (wink). Do you say yes to everything and then find ourselves fallen without a clear way to get out or worse a lifetime of consequences? (Philippians 1:9-10)

I found that my children, who have a basic knowledge of the Bible and have not had the time to develop discernment, needed something to help them weigh certain situations and behaviors. In 1 Corinthians 10:31  we are commanded, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” So we have learned to ask our children (and ourselves) when they are doing something that doesn’t obviously fit into the ten commandments, “Are you glorifying God (when you do that)?” This is a great way for kids to identify a sin quickly or weigh a “grey area” for something that they are questioning. See the practice of discernment there?

To my younger kids, I explained further to say that like clothing with tags naming the creator of that piece of clothing, we have a Made by God tag (Ephesians 2:10). When we do something, we usually have an audience. This can be said for any sin or “grey area”. The audience can be a sister, a brother, a classmate, a Christian or an unbeliever. What we do represents our Creator. Just like that t-shirt that unraveled the day after we bought it from the store, our actions speak loudly about our Creator. If our actions make someone question the awesomeness of our Creator, we have not glorified God.

   Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31

Proverbs for Parents

bible-102684_640 So often, I have read and then adopted the belief as my own, that the Proverbs are a great tool for teaching wisdom to your children, but today I saw them in an entirely new light. I was both inspired and humbled by the new understanding. I find myself looking at parenting as just one more avenue God is taking me in order for me to be closer to Him. My reading was primarily in Chapters 10-12, though some come from chapters 8,9, and 13. My suggestion is that you read all and let God speak to you as a parent. Don’t stop reading here. I am just a parent and still learning (and I am not nearly as eloquent as dear Solomon). This is how it spoke to me this morning.

The overlying message I saw  was that wisdom can only be willingly received when the one bestowing wisdom is righteous. As a parent, in order to be effective, I must consistently show my character as a godly one. Yes, I am going to make mistakes. As a parent, I may lose my cool, I may say something out of frustration or behave badly in other ways, and when I do, I must humble myself in apology. If my character is godly, it will be quick, it will be sincere, and an immediate change will be seen as I allow myself to transformed by His grace. My character, if godly, will be seen in the rest of my actions as well.

I am not going to get into the roles of the father and the mother here as they are different and could easily make two more separate posts Proverbs 10-12 specifically speaks of the righteous behavior that is needed for wisdom to be soaked up by another. God is this righteousness. Our goal is to imitate Christ, though we are lacking and still attempt to do as God commanded in Deuteronomy 6:7, teaching the way they should go in every hour of the day. If we are actively doing this, the Word that we use to teach will keep us accountable. For how can we constantly teach the Word and not be affected by it ourselves? Proverbs 12:15 points out that a wise parent will always seek counsel (and 12:1).

The mouth and lips are mentioned several times in chapters 10-12. It is not pointing out the obvious that we will use our mouths when teaching of wisdom, but instead telling us that what comes from the mouth is the a way that we perceive what is righteous (Proverbs 10:32, 12:17). It is also pointing out the product of one that is righteous. The words of the righteous give life. Proverbs 11: 30 uses the words, “tree of life.” This is the “fruit” of our righteousness, children that seek the Lord for life ever-lasting. Those hearing will hear, understand, and receive the Gospel. The mouth is….” a well of life, delivers from death, promotes health,  is truthful, shall be established forever (Proverbs 10:2 11, 11:4b, 12:18b-19). The righteous will direct them aright and will deliver them (Proverbs 11:5-6). The righteous will…cause those who love (me) to inherit wealth… they will receive blessing, life, and favor (Proverbs 8: 18- 21, 34-35). The wisdom bestowed will lead to leadership (Proverbs 8: 15-16, 12:24). Our words of wisdom (if mirrored by our actions) lead our children to the truth of salvation.

Righteous parents have power in their words of truth. They have a powerful influence because of the daily model of wisdom in their child’s life. Because they spend time in the Word themselves, parents have the understanding needed to teach wisdom. They understand submission and obedience and the shedding of personal desire. They understand confession and repentance, that we are human, that we will fail, and we continually need Christ’s redemption. They understand the accountability of the Word of Jesus Christ. That the more we meditate on it, the more we understand, and the more we will rely on the Word to keep our path straight. A full life with Jesus is dependent upon the time we spend with Him in prayer and in Word. If we lack understanding, if we only have knowledge, but do not apply this knowledge in our own life through word and action, we will be ineffective in teaching (Proverbs 10:13-14). However, if we are righteous, we will constantly feed them through the Word, and we will be able to influence our children’s desire away from sin (Proverbs 10:3).

While punishment is sometimes appropriate, the most of these proverbs focuses on teaching and correction.  Proverbs 13:18 and 10:13 point out that punishment would only follow wisdom and correction that has been ignored. This teaching is done without arrogance and glorification of oneself. (Proverbs 10:14, 12:23) A parent must be humbled as a sinner, equal in God’s sight, both equally sinful, and equally and gracefully forgiven.  Proverbs 8:22-31 shows that God’s wisdom is seen from the beginning of time with His grand creation, yet He finds his delight in the sons of men. God does not hold His wisdom over our heads like a feat that can never be accomplished. Remember His humility in the flesh. He is not an arrogant disciplinarian. He is constantly there guiding us, teaching us, correcting and rebuking us, showing His love in His patience and kindness though we falter daily. How can a parent not be moved to mimic this character of God for their children? Only if we parent with humility, will we see a product of wisdom (Proverbs 11:2). 

The proverbs compares righteousness to good citizenship (Proverbs 9-11). Let’s take that idea into the home. Through a godly parents wisdom, their children will be delivered. The Gospel will be heard, understood, and received ( vs. 9).  A godly parent will be the cause of happiness in the home (vs 10). The godly parent blesses the family with his/her mouth building  up the family  and encouraging them with their words. (vs. 11). They spread peace and joy (Proverbs 12:20)

The proverbs tell us that seeking wrath in our parenting is not our goal, but we should always parent while seeking God’s goodness and God’s approval of our own behavior (Proverbs 11:20, 23, 27)  The godly parent will only be satisfied if they produce the fruit of the same kind, a child who walks with the Lord (Proverbs 12:14) A godly parent will fear the Lord and hate what is evil, keeping it far away from him, not acknowledging it, not owning it (Proverbs 8:13, 9 :10).

paper-166853_640In contrast, the one who cannot be effective in teaching wisdom, is the parent that needs no counsel. This parent has all the answers and seeks no wisdom from the Word, from other godly parents, through the Church, or through prayer (Proverbs 11:14, 12:15 ). Chapter 11, verse 3 warns that if we are unfaithful followers that we will destroy those who we lead (and 12:18).  Countless verses emphasize the truth and sincerity of the words of a parent. Parenting should not be done with trickery or  manipulation.  In contrast the ungodly are characterized by their lies and deceit, honoring themselves, and twisting the truth to suit their needs (Proverbs 10:31-32, 12:10)

In chapter 11, verse 10, it is mentioned that an ungodly person’s reputation taints the perception of even the tender acts he attempts. (“But the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.” ) Often the struggling parent lashes out in anger, nullifying any wisdom that might to come from their mouth., therefore knowing the truth and speaking  it are pointless, when anger dominates parenting (Proverbs 10:11). Our words cannot be used to destroy our children, for when they do forgiveness is seemingly out of reach for them (Proverbs 11::9). A parent’s lips should not breed anxiety in a child, which may lead to depression or a perception of oneself that is unforgiving. (Prov. 12:15). If our righteousness produces the fruit of the tree of life, what is the alternative? We condemn them to an everlasting life of torment and separation from God. With all of our biblical knowledge, without applying it in our own lives are deemed ineffective and worse, destructive.

Proverbs 11:25-26 The generous soul will be made rich, and he who waters will also be watered himself.The people will curse him who withholds grain, but blessing will be on the head of him who sells it.

“I’ve always said that I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. I don’t respect that at all. If you believe that there’s a heaven and a hell, and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life, and you think that it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward—and atheists who think people shouldn’t proselytize and who say just leave me along and keep your religion to yourself—how much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?…” Penn Jillete

As parents, our integrity comes from using God’s standards as our own. To use them we must know them through study. To know them we must apply them, allowing God to transform our character. Whether it be teaching, correction, or punishment, all should be done as a humble believer, acknowledging our own sin, and the grace and forgiveness that we have found in Christ,  bestowing the same on our children. It is then, that the words that we speak in wisdom will be heard and understood, leading out children down the paths of righteousness (Proverbs 11:1-6). The idea is, that we need to look at ourselves as the ones who need the counsel of the wise, so that we are then able impress that knowledge on our children. It is not just the wisdom of the Word, but the wisdom of the Word working in our life. That is full wisdom. That is what will be understood and received by our children.

Forcing Religion On Your Children

This is so wonderfully and thoughtfully written. A perfect example of how a purposeful parent thinks. Props to the author!

A Homeschool Mom

My wife recently brought to my attention a statement she read online by an opponent of “religion” (who was obviously directing their criticism toward Christians). Because it’s a criticism frequently leveled, I thought it deserved some response.

When faced with the accusation that you “force your religion on your children”, the first thing to do is ask the critic to clearly explain what he means by “forcing or imposing a belief or religion” on others.

FORCING A BELIEF  – Could I “force” you to adopt the belief that a triangle has four sides by holding a gun to your head? You might verbally state that a triangle has four sides in order to save your own hide, but would you actually believe it? The fact is, one could not even force himself to adopt such a belief. I could not “force” myself to believe that 2+2=7 no matter how much…

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Teaching Them to Read

100_1027How do I teach my child to read? This is a question lots of new moms ask. I think that many think there is a secret formula. Special materials. A formal program. You do not have to have teaching experience. None of these things are needed and you really don’t need to start with a “lesson”. You  start doing what it is you are trying to teach. You need to start with reading. When I was a child my Granny sat with me and read.  When I asked her to read again, she read again. She loved to read and spend time with me. I loved her, and in the time we spent together, I learned to love the story. Although many of us read to escape and we do so in solitude, blocking out the rest of the world. Reading can also be something that you can do together, with a child, a spouse, a friend. My husband and I are currently reading through the Old Testament together. If we get busy, I miss it. I also remember a time when we traveled a long distance and read a Gothic Renaissance novel to me as I drove. I was actually surprised at how much I enjoyed someone reading to me as an adult. My children love to read with both of us and though my youngest two can read on their own now, they still very much enjoy being read aloud to.

So, start with reading books to your child, often. During reading you can point out characteristics of print, tracking from left to right, and from top to bottom. Point out periods, commas, exclamation points, and question marks. Talk about why theses marks are there and how your voice changes when you see them. Ask your child to notice how you take a break to breath, shorter for commas, and longer for end marks. Notice aloud, the high frequency words you see repeated in text. “This word is ‘me’. Can you help me find out how many we can find on this page?”

Explain a couple of new vocabulary words. Sometimes a detailed explanation is needed, but many times all that is needed is a synonym for the new word. This allows for the flow of the story to continue with minimal interruption.  At the beginning stages of reading aloud you will notice that your child may not want to discuss a lot with you. Children to know what happens next,  and what happens on the next page. They are learning to love the story. They are learning to visualize.

Retell difficult parts in simpler words. Make comparisons that help with the understanding of the text. “Have you ever felt that way? I felt that way when…” A similar situation is given in order to make a connection or to relate to the text, something the character does, says, sees, or feels. The connections can be made with other books you have read together, tv shows, Bible stories, news stories, stories you have heard in others lives, or your child’s own experiences. These are stories we remember when reading another similar situation. Connections help a reader understand new information with greater ease. Connections are the reason that we can cry about something that has happened in a movie, even thought we have never been in that exact situation. We relate to it because of another similar situations. The similarity does not have to be huge. A small likeness can help you compare to events. There is no need to make a list of questions before you read every book to your child. Use the connections that you make while reading. Share them or turn them into a question to get your child thinking. Start small start with one at the end of the telling. “When the character said that, it reminded me of Dad and how he always says…”, or “Does that remind you of someone who always says….?”

Ask open ended questions. “What do you think the character was feeling when that happened?” or, “What do you think the character will do now?” or, “What do you think…?”  Scaffold this (start small). Hold of on asking  your child to retell the events for you. They are still learning to love the story.  Before long  your child will be more and more curious about reading the words for his/herself. You child will be pointing out words before you ask. You child might start asking questions for you answer. You have shared your connection sin the past and now your child is seeking your help when a connection is hard to make or may just need confirmation they are on the right track. Often your child will simply mimic the questions and behaviors you have had when reading together. When your child is interested you can read along side her pointing out phonics rules little by little. ” the “ow” says /ow/ in this word. When your child shows interested in trying to read on his/her own, allow it, but be there for support. Your child will not have full mastery and will need you there to help decode some word still. “What’s this word, Mommy?” It’s okay to give the word to your child. At this point find some simple readers that your child can spend small amounts of time on reading aloud to you or silently. (I’ll be posting some this week in the public domain.) Don’t stop your read alouds with your child. You are still needed. You will continue to model inflection and speech patterns when you are reading aloud. You will still be entertaining and spending the close time your child loves.

Once your child is reading on their own. Continue the discussion. After your child reads, ask, “What happened in the chapter today.” Continue to ask your child to make connections with the book. Laugh over the characters. Empathize with them. Judge them. Befriend them. My children really like this time to discuss what they have read. It is a time to get their opinions out without risk of failure (It is not a multiple choice quiz). Their connections belong to them, and their judgement belong to them. The discussion will help you see whether they are understanding the text. If your child has little to say, consider that it is not the right book, whether it is because it is too difficult or not of interest. It does little good to have a child read something they are not interested in, and if it is too hard, it will lead to frustration. You can still continue your read alouds. You could also take turns reading or sit beside each other and enjoy seperate books, but  continue reading.

You can do this. You are all your child needs. Just read.

Keeping Faith in the Midst of Our Troubles

bad-19907_640Ephesians 6: 10-17 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,…

What is happening in the world today? Look at our government, our schools, our economy, our  Church. Looking at all the headlines, can get you worrying. Questions begin to cloud your mind, blinding them from simple truths and great comforts. It is easy to start reacting, to try to solve the worlds problems, or at least your world’s problems all by yourself.

What foods are safe for my family? Why is the government limiting my freedoms? What is happening in our economy? (If you are like me, you don’t quite understand it, but you know we are in trouble, like 1929 kind of trouble.) Why are the police harassing ordinary citizens? Why is my church teaching prosperity Gospel and getting away from the Word of God? Why is the school teaching half truths and untruths? How do I protect my family from these things? Can I prepare for some of these things? What if something happens to my preparations? Can I quit my job and homeschool? What if my spouse loses their job? Can I afford Health Care?

What can I do? What will I do? What if it is not enough?

This list of questions varies and continues to grow in each and every mind if left to itself. Everybody asks questions like this, but what we do after asking is what is important. I have learned that if I ask a question like this, it is usually because I am afraid. I need to hand it over to God immediately. If it doesn’t stay with God, if the question slips back into the forefront of my mind, I have to give it back to Him continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

There are so many unknowns. Some things we can change. Seek God’s guidance and then do something.  Others we have no control over and we must leave it to Him. These questions and others, can drive us crazy if we do not have faith in the Lord. So what do we do? If the world causes us to worry, what does a believer do? The short answer, and the one I tell my own children time and time again to answer many questions about what believers do, “Read the Word, and pray.” (1 Timothy 2:1-4, James 1:5-8)

I once heard someone say, if you believe the beginning of the Bible when it says God made this earth, the skies, the seas, surely the rest of the miracles and promises are as easy to believe.  His creation was awesome (Psalm 104:24). It spoke of His power. This was a great way to emphasize the believers faith in what the Bible says, all of it. In following this idea, the Bible also tells us to go to Jesus for forgiveness. While creation was His most powerful deed, forgiveness is, by far, His most loving deed. He loves and cares for us and shows this by providing for our greatest need (Ephesians 2:4, Philippians 4:19, Psalm 40:17, Luke 11:9-13). Why should we worry that He will not take care of our basic needs. After all, He promises it (  Proverbs 10:13, Psalm 23:1).

bible-53753_640Matthew 6: 25-34 Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

The Bible is a constant reminder to us that He is in control (Proverbs 19:11, Job 12:10, John 16:33). That we have agreat need of Him. When we try to do things on our own, we come to ruin (Psalm 37:8, Proverbs 28:26) . The Word keeps us close to Him. It gives us comfort that He is with us. He is taking care of us. The  Bible tells us worrying doesn’t produce anything worthwhile (Matthew 6:25). We are to lay our troubles upon Him. We are reminded that troubles come to sharpen us (Colossians 1:11).  It points us back to Him and it points others to Him. Keeping faith during our troubles makes our faith stronger and builds faith in others. For when the unbeliever or those lacking faith see that we continue to bow our knee to Him in prayer, and we continue to seek understanding through reading of His word, even in our troubled times, He is able to use us to show His power and His management of our lives (Psalm 55:22). It encourages others to look to Him in their own troubles, relying on Him, thus repeating this process, building others up faith, sharing stories of answered prayer, encouraging others that God is near (Proverbs 27:17). God is glorified in our troubles and in the resolution of them. He will meet our needs, if you are following Him, submitting to Him,  and giving honor to Him (2 Corinthians 12:10). The time will be His, for His time is best. His time brings glory to Him most (1 Peter 5:6-7).

In Him you will find peace, a happiness, only He can give. In Him, I can be sure( Romans 15:13). If only I am trusting in Him, not in the things that I do. In the deceptive “prosperity Gospel” being taught in so many churches today, I would hear that, “I have what it takes in me. If only I try hard enough, keep a positive attitude, be good to myself, I will see that the success I am searching for.” This lie makes it difficult on a person, especially those new in Christ, so willing to hear that Christ promises us all of our hearts desires, but Christ is missing from this message. In taking all that we know back to the Gospel, we can know that we need to rely on Him for everything. If I am to do anything about my situation, or the world’s situation, I am to do it after seeking his guidance, after seeking His will.

If I look at a troublesome situation, I first ask, is what I desire part of His will. Is it God’s will for a husband to support His family?(Ephesians 4:28) Yes, then a job will  be provided. Does a man have to look for the job? Yes. Should he spend 24 hours a day looking for a job while the rest of his life is left unattended to, not taking rest for food, or leading his family? No. Why? Because taking care of the body,being a Christian leader and a protector to his family is also part of God’s will (1 Corinthians 11:3, 1 Peter 3:7). How can a man protect his family if he is not taking care of himself physically. How can he be a leader in His family if he is not reading the word, gaining instruction and wisdom to impart to his family? It is his job to be the strong voice of faith in the midst of family troubles like the loss of a job. His continual reading and teaching of the word, impresses upon his children that God is in charge. This faith allows God to do His work,  first to take care of their basic needs while the husband is looking for a job and then by providing a job at the right time (Ecclesiastes 8:6). The faith of the father turns the children and wife to look to God in their own personal troubles, again letting God take care of their  needs. Why would God not meet a basic need? You have to ask yourself, “Have I put my faith in Him or in the hoops I have been jumping through? If my needs were to be met now, would He get the glory or would my efforts?” (Ephesians 2:8-9, Philippians 2:13)

I’ve seen His works over and over in my life. He has given me much more than I deserve. My faith lacks often and when He convicts me of this, I am shamed and return to Him. Sometimes I return quickly. Other times I am stubborn. I still have areas in my life that I haven’t fully given over to Him. These areas still have needs to be met. That sends a sobering message to me. I know it is because I haven’t fully trusted Him to do His works in that part of my life. I know it is because I am trying to do it on my own.  Resolution in that area is being held captive by my pride, my stubbornness, my need for control. I know the needs will never be met until I turn them over to Him. What is left to do but pray and keep returning to the Bible?

One day my pastor was talking about how many times God repeats truth in the Bible. All the times that we read the Word and the texts seems redundant and laborious to get through, I remind myself, what my pastor was pointing out that day. We are slow learners. (Of course the story of the Israelites and their constant waning faith, gives me great comfort. I am not alone.) God reminds us because it is an important message. God reminds us because we need reminding. God reminds us because we are so stubborn and reluctant to hand over our lives to a creator who has proven Himself all powerful and loving. I have to  stay in the Word and remain on bent knee until every part of my life is submitted to Him.

I will continue this discussion in later posts about building faith in your children through answered prayer and also one about a desire our family has for God to keep us on bended knee.

Favorite Science Ebooks

science-41512_640Here are some of our favorite science books. Though we are not yet middle or high school level at our house, I have compiled some I think you might like. I have also included some traditional texbooks from the 21st century. They are categorized by a broad range below.  There are many more on Google Books. You can use some of the words in these titles as key words in your search. You can read more about searching for free  ebooks on Finding Free Textbooks on Google Books or Searching the Internet Archive.


You can find more science for primary in Narrative Style Science Readers

Plant and Animal Children: How They Grow

Plants and Their Children


Object Lessons in Elementary Science: Following the Scheme …

First Year Science-with experiments

Real Things in Nature: A Reading Book of Science for …

Science for Beginners: A First Book in General Science for … with exercises to illustrate principles

Science for Beginners with exercises to illustrate principles

Middle Grades

CK-12 Life Science for Middle School

CK-12 Earth Science for Middle School

From Vitamins to Baked Goods: Real Applications of Organic …

iguana-223157_640High School

Zoölogy for High Schools and Academies

CK-12 Biology

CK-12 Biology Workbook

CK-12 Basic Physics – Second Edition

CK-12 People’s Physics, Version 3

CK-12 Earth Science for High School

CK-12 Chemistry – Second Edition

General Science: First Course with questions and excercises

General Science

Narrative Style Science Readers

digital-art-94403_640I’ve chosen these for our early readers or those that are not reading yet, but enjoy mommy or daddy reading aloud to them. The books are full of  natural science focusing mostly on life science. They are written in a friendly narrative style your child is sure to enjoy. These are also a great alternative for those that are reluctant, not ready for textbook layout, or for those using the Thomas Jefferson Education methods. They are categorized by a broad range below.  Most of these have an option to print. There are many more on Google Books. You can use some of the words in these titles as key words in your search. You can read more about searching for free ebooks on Finding Free Textbooks on Google Books or Searching the Internet Archive.

We like these books because they are so charming and they are full of wonderful vocabulary. My oldest has been working on  writing her own book about butterflies for weeks now. She studies in science units and on other websites about various topics of interest for her book and then adds detail to her butterfly narrative. I have been patiently awaiting my turn to edit and revise.


Nature Stories for Young Readers: Animal Life

Nature Stories for Young Readers: Plant life

Leaves and Flowers, Or, Plant Studies for Young Readers

Chambers’s Elementary Science Readers by Various 

Nature Study in Elementary Schools: First Reader


Animals at Home

Young folks’ pictures and stories of animals: for home and school, Volume 5

The Wild Animal Play for Children: With Alternate Reading …

Fables for Children ; Stories for Children ; Natural Science …

The Story-book of Science

Stories of Animal Life

Short Stories of Our Shy Neighbors

Homeschooling For FREE