5 Ways to Recapture the Joy of Homeschooling

Since losing Mattias, I feel like it has been a long, slow journey back toward feelings like wonder, enthusiasm and excitement. It has taken a toll on our homeschool as far too many days were focused on getting through it rather than bringing any life to what we were doing.

recapture the joy of homeschooling

Don’t get me wrong. Here at home is right where we needed to be. My children were grieving, too, and they needed space and time and the love of family more than anything else. And they did progress. Three of my children learned to read in that time. One graduated, became a farrier and is now away studying to become a full time missionary serving the children of Nebraska. I think, perhaps, we were where we needed to be for this season in our lives, but I’m ready to move forward again. To recapture some of the wonder and some of the joy.

So I spent the summer planning and reflecting on how to recapture some of the adventure in this homeschooling journey and settled on five areas to focus on.

Slow down.

Too much of our focus has been on getting done rather than on engaging with the material. It takes time to reflect. And sometimes, when I stop a lesson in the middle for a break, I see it modeled in the sand box and I hear it echoed in the conversations of Lego figures. Children work out their ideas through play and that can only happen when there is both a spark of curiosity and time to explore it.

Ask more questions.

This is something I noticed a long time ago, but when my children don’t know the answer to a question, I tend to guide them to it. It’s hard for me to let them wrestle with it for very long. In the age of instant access to information, it is difficult to even see the value of not knowing the answer to a question. To give us some practice, I bought a card set to the game Mindtrap. This isn’t a game we’d ever be able to get through. The questions are too abstract. But to start off the day with a little brain exercise? They’re perfect. The hardest part is following through with the time limit and putting the card away even when no one has come up with an answer. But out of sight most definitely does not mean out of mind and they have all day to wrestle silently with the problem.

Focus more.

“Here a little, there a little” has been one of the guiding principles of our homeschool for a long time. One idea per subject per day will encourage children to reason through what they are learning rather than focusing on the flood of information most textbooks throw at them. But as I reflected on where I felt I was falling short, I realized that I had strayed far from this ideal. I have been giving them ample information to process but frightfully few ideas to explore. Today’s was how impersonal technology is once you remove humans, regardless of how personalized it is. The house in “There Will Come Soft Rains” provides an eerie example as it goes on catering to the preferences of the people who once occupied it, though they are long dead. We have a whole year to look at short stories. We don’t need to pick each one to death. Asking a few questions can aid in understanding and deepen appreciation for the literature. Too many takes away the simple joy of reading a good story.

Plan for tangents and better ideas.

One of the difficulties I have with planning is that I don’t stick to it. I get behind or we stray from it. I then feel stressed as we veer further and further off course and I have this clear map telling me where we are supposed to be. This is why I don’t plan out a year or even a semester. I have a skeleton of a plan, because I have to turn it in to the state. So I was supposed to start off with Washington Irving? It made sense. His were among the first American short stories and he fits well into the time period we are studying in history. But two days ago, I decided to switch. Ray Bradbury was my introduction to the short story. He brought me to the library again and again, absorbing everything he wrote. It was after reading his stories that I first realized that while nonfiction is for the dissemination of facts, literature is for the exploration of ideas. I’ve read exactly one story to them and already they are hooked. Will we get to Washington Irving? Probably. But does it really matter?

Connect with their interests.

Anything can be educational. My tendency is to use what they are interested in to draw them into what I want them to learn. It’s engaging and high interest, but my focus really is on using their interests to meet my objectives. My eldest son, however, is interested in film studies. He is helping me put together a high school film studies course to explore the history of film, visual storytelling and the elements that make up a good film. I don’t have a list of objectives I expect him to meet. I don’t even know all that much about film studies. But I know he will need to draw on everything he’s learned about research and writing to pull together his film “canon” and determine what he needs to look for in each one. Instead of using his interest to meet my objectives, I am acting as a resource to help him meet his own objectives. And that’s when I begin to see my children get inspired.

And how did the first day of school go? After the kids dragged themselves to the front room and slumped in their chairs, I wasn’t too optimistic that I would be able to overcome their attitudes. But by the end of the day, there was a noticeable shift. When I asked them how their day was, the answer was loud and immediate,

“It was awesome, mom! 100X better than last year!”

I guess we’ll see how day two goes.

This post contains an affiliate link. Purchasing through the link does not cost you anything extra and gives a small percentage of the purchase back to me. Mostly, however, the link is there so you know what I’m talking about if you are curious.

Patterns of Evidence, Review and Giveaway!

Update! The giveaway is over (congratulations to the winner!), but if you are interested in the DVD, my review is below and there is a coupon at the bottom!

Patterns of Evidence, Exodus is the culmination of Filmmaker Timothy Mahoney’s twelve year journey around the world to find the truth behind the Exodus story. Was it just a myth? Was it historical fact? Was there any archaeological evidence of this central and foundational Bibilical event? Make sure to read to the bottom for a coupon for the DVD and a chance to get one free!

evidence for the exodus

I confess. This is not an area of Biblical history I know much about. I know what the Bible says and I know that the world says that the evidence for it is shaky at best, but I do not know the arguments on either side. It’s ancient history. We have rags and pottery sherds to piece together into some sort of narrative of ancient events. It surprises me how much evidence we do find in the sands of the Middle East for Biblical accounts of events.

And yet it does seem odd that there is not more evidence for events as great as Joseph saving Egypt from a great famine, masses of Hebrews multiplying through the land, the wholesale enslavement of a people, the plagues and their escape from Pharoah’s might. As Mahoney searches, he discovers that the problem may not be so much a problem of how much evidence is available, but of the time period in which it is found.

The film moves a bit slow at times. The first time I tried to watch it, it was late and my husband and I both fell asleep. It definitely isn’t a film you relax to with a bowl of popcorn after the kids are in bed. My fourteen year old son enjoyed learning the information, but had trouble focusing through the whole film. That said, it is packed with excellent information to inform your faith, your worldview and your appreciation for just what the Exodus meant to the ancient Hebrews, the Jewish people today and our own Christian faith.

I appreciated the interviews with leading experts, giving alternate views of what these and other finds meant in terms of the Biblical account. It isn’t presented as rock solid evidence for every word of the book of Exodus. Maybe I’m weird, but those kinds of presentations usually raise flags with me. When we are talking about history that is thousands of years old buried in the sands of Egypt, the likelihood of uncovering anything that is definitive is too low.

But interesting things have been found. A temple, built almost as if it were for a Pharoah, and in it the remains of a statue of a foreigner? With faint remnants of paint reminiscent of a multi-colored coat? A people living within the borders of Egypt who were malnourished with a shortened life expectancy that was predominantly female? Each piece of evidence on its own is not much. A little paint, ruins of a palace, piles of bones, snippets on an ancient Papyrus. But when lined up together, it begins to look an awful lot like the story as we know it.

I plan on watching this again with the children, but we are going to break it up into shorter segments. There are sort of natural stopping points as Mahoney shifts from one topic to the next and I think this will help my children (and me!) focus more and get more out of the documentary. It will also give us time to look more deeply into each of the issues raised, both by examining the Bible and checking up on what archaeologists are discovering in Egypt and how they are interpreting these finds.

You can find out more about the movie and watch the trailer at it’s website, Patterns of Evidence.

The DVD and other related materials are available at their store. Enter MK1 for $3 off the DVD price!

And for the giveaway . . . The rules are super crazy hard so pay close attention. Leave a comment on this post that indicates you would like to be included in the giveaway and make sure your email address in the field is valid and one that you will check. That’s it!

Entries will close Sunday, September 10 at 12 midnight CST. I will then choose one winner at random (name in a hat or using random.org). The lucky winner will receive an email on Monday and have 48 hours to respond with the required details to mail the DVD out. Good luck!

Disclosure: This DVD was provided free of charge in exchange for a review. My thoughts are my own. My husband was looking to buy this DVD so he was pretty excited when I told him I could sign up to review it!

Homeschooling the Eclipse

OK, so I’m a bit of a space geek. Maybe not as much as I used to be, but enough that I check out Star Date at the beginning of the month to see what is going on in the night sky. So when I saw that not only was a total eclipse hitting North America, but the path of totality was going right over my house, it was cause for celebration.

homeschooling the eclipse

Literally. I have a pile of cinder blocks on my back porch waiting to be assembled into the most awesome pit barbecue we could find instructions for online. And still afford. The pig was selected from the herd and prepared. And the invitation to family and friends went out months ago.

After ordering eclipse glasses for everyone in our family, I turned my attention to assembling all the resources I could find on the eclipse. After all, we homeschool. Everything is an educational adventure. Especially once in a life time celestial events!

I got the free eclipse e-book from Apologia. I amassed printables and moon charts and games and books and . . . well . . . this lady has just about all of it in one post. I browsed through my normal astronomy sites, looking at charts and maps and times and vocabulary.

And then I stopped. Because what on earth was I doing? I have a choice here. A once in a lifetime choice because this is a once in a lifetime event. I could go ahead and squeeze out every educational drop and leave my children with all the knowledge any human being could possibly need about solar eclipses. Or I could just set it all aside and let them wonder at the event as it unfolds before them.

In the information age, there is no shortage of instant access knowledge on any topic imaginable. But I sometimes worry that there is an absence of wonder as almost any question can be answered with a a few taps on a screen.

So I set aside the megabytes of data I had collected and never even opened it. The only thing my kids will see of it is one cute little scrapbook-type eclipse sheet to stick in their notebooks, and I’m not even going to give it to them until after the eclipse is over. While the rest of my homeschool friends plan lessons, my kids are helping me plan a party. And figure out how to project a movie on the side of the barn.

Because wouldn’t that be cool?!

Teaching Your Children Lifelong Skills for Healthier Living

life skills

Teaching proper life skills is important to raising your children into healthy, happy adults. It’s important to instill values of health and self confidence in your children, and to teach proper self control and coping skills. This is especially true for children with learning disabilities and attention issues, although it applies to all children to some degree. This article contains some evidence-based techniques for teaching your children valuable life skills that will help them make the right choices as they grow into well-adjusted adults.

First, start by teaching your child to make healthy food choices. Show them healthy eating habits. Bring your child along with you during trips to the grocery store. Ask your child which healthy fruits and vegetables are his or her favorite. You can even begin teaching children as young as ages 5 to 10 years how to make simple-yet-healthy meals, with adult supervision of course.

Instilling your child with a sense of self love and body positivity will also help boost self confidence and hopefully reduce the chances of your child engaging in overeating, eating disorders, or living with obesity.

Make sure your child is getting plenty of exercise. If your child attends daycare, make sure they get plenty of outside and/or exercise time. You can also ensure your children are getting plenty of exercise at home. Here are a few fun ways to workout as a family. Don’t let your child become too sedentary during the summer. Enrolling them in a summer camp (some are free or low cost!) can be a great way to make sure they’re up and moving regularly and it will be a blast for them.

Self control is a crucial skill that will help your child avoid temptations in life that could lead him or her astray. It’s also been scientifically proven that individuals with higher levels of self control experience lower rates of anxiety, depression, behavioral issues and drug addiction. On the other hand, those who struggle with self control issues are more likely to develop smoking habits, have financial issues, engage in criminal behavior, and suffer from obesity.

But how does a parent go about teaching self control to a child? According to parenting expert Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., some of our self control skills are genetic – but that doesn’t mean we can’t play a positive role with good parenting. Dewar suggests developing games you can play with your children to teach them crucial skills like self control.

A fun place to start is with the famous “marshmallow test.” Offer your child one marshmallow (or other favorite toy or treat) right now, but tell your child that if he or she declines the marshmallow and waits until a little later, you’ll reward him or her with not one but two marshmallows. Think your child is too young for this type of test? Think again: recent studies have shown that even children as young as two years old are capable of weighing the risks versus benefits of a potential reward.

Like self control, coping skills are also incredibly important to your child’s health. They allow your child to flourish in his or her environment by making sense of the world and dealing with stressful situations in positive ways. This can lead to your child making better physical, mental and emotional health choices, being more successful in his or her future career, and having healthier interpersonal relationships as well.

Above all else, try to teach your children that it is important to choose happiness and gratitude. We cannot always control what happens to us in life, but we always have the power to choose our thoughts. With the right attitude and a positive outlook, your child will be in a good place to overcome anything he or she faces during childhood or adulthood.

Laura Pearson believes that every student has great potential and aims to help as many as possible unlock it. Ms. Pearson and Edutude strive to find unique, creative ways for parents and educators to encourage students to be challenged, motivated and excited by learning.

Learn German Online . . . For Free!

Interested in learning German at home? Or maybe you are teaching German to your homeschooled children? I speak German, but when I went searching for materials to teach German to my own children, I became frustrated with the lack of quality in many of the products available to homeschoolers. There is a wealth of material available online, but it takes a lot of time to assemble it all into a coherent, sequential language program. That’s why I began creating this free online German course for my own children and decided to share it with you! My long term goal is to have the two to three years of high school German most colleges require available here for free.

Learn German at Home for free

For this self-directed German course, I pulled together free resources from across the web. There are video lessons, songs, stories, games and quizzes to teach concepts and give your students an opportunity to practice what they’ve learned. Where I couldn’t find appropriate materials, I created my own to fill in the blanks and make a more comprehensive curriculum. The only thing that is really lacking is a conversation component, but if you find a friend to take the course with, you can practice together! I’ll share some more ideas later to help fill this need. And if there is enough interest, I may add on a weekly conversation course.

I have had quite a few requests for materials for younger students, so have added a free homeschool German course for young children as well. This is basically an introduction to the German language and will expose your child to the sounds and vocabulary of the language through stories, songs and videos, many of which are the same that German children enjoy.

There are some small required purchases (you can’t very well learn German without a dictionary, the biggest purchase!), but even after purchasing these books, you will have a fairly complete German course for less than the cost of a traditional text book. Check out the course description, and please share this valuable resource with anyone you know who may be interested in teaching German in their homeschool!

I’ve also created a course facebook page, Learn German at Home, which will have daily language fun to make learning German a little more engaging.

The first module will be available August 28, but you can go ahead and register now! Just click on the above link, register via the form and don’t forget to click enroll when you are done!