The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

A Week of Answers – Counting Blessings

Dear Katharine,

I have such a problem with my goals wandering, and with thinking that others have it easier than I do. When I look around me, I see all sorts of boosters–IN OTHER PEOPLE’S LIVES! Mine, though, looks jumbled and behind schedule and difficult, to me. How can I be sure or even know if I need to make some changes?  –Alissa

Dear Alissa,

It is easy.

First, make a list of everything that is going well, going okay, going not too bad, not as bad as it used to be, or not as bad as it could be, for you, lately.

I mean, look at your house: are the floors easy to clean? List that. Then look at your car: are the brakes decent for a change? List that, too. How about clothing: do all your boys have jeans that are long enough? List it. Try curriculum: is yours making school easier? List it. Go on to list one good thing about your schedule, your meals, your field trips, your P.E., your quiet time, and your day.

Then imagine that these things were actually happening to others, around you.

Imagine that Sue has easy clean floors, Sally has a car in good repair, Sylvia has decent jeans for all her kids, Sarah has a great curriculum, Sandy has begun having quiet time, and so forth. Wouldn’t that make you feel like they had some sort of better home school?

The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.What you will see is plenty of reasons to think that the grass in greener on YOUR side of the fence, too., and that others could easily fall down the same slippery slope that you have, if they were looking at you and doubting themselves.

Whatever is going right, look to the Lord, not others, and count your blessings! Do this exercise every time you feel inadequate and it should help.

Then remember this little true story: A mom used to feel guilty about seeming to get the ironing done just at the last moment for someone to wear it, barely squeaking it in at the nick of time. However, one day her son had to write, in one sentence, a definition of happiness and he answered: “Happiness is a warm shirt in the morning.”

You see, children naturally love their own home, whatever that means, so smile and RELAX!

The important thing is fulfilling the command to teach your children, right? God will bless that. And if something is truly missing from your life, the above exercise will probably bring it to light.

Katharine

woman, sleeping, tired, lazy, depressed

A Week of Answers – Why Am I So Tired?

This week we are studying from the questions of others, what to do, how to do it, and why. Hope you enjoy this series and learn lots from it. This second letter is from a mother of three, ages five to ten, and asks a very good question. Enjoy!

Taking a break on Bond

Taking a break on Bond (Photo credit: pamhule)

Dear Katharine,

I’m so tired and cannot even say why. I can remember when I used to do so much more and now I hardly can get out of bed. It’s odd because I’m not so tired in the middle of the night. Anyway, I just wonder if there’s some trick to being all the things a home school mom needs to be, and keeping at it. I mean, am I forgetting something?  –Shelly

Dear Shelly,

Maybe you are overlooking something. It is easy for us to become caught up in the bustle and not realize we are adopting different habits. Let’s honestly look at your life a moment and ask a few questions, okay?

  1. Do you read your Bible, daily, and pray? I always slip away from good attitudes when I slip away from the Author of all goodness. We cannot expect to succeed if we break the rules about keeping in contact with the Lord. Are you forgetting to rejoice in the Lord? It is the joy of the Lord that is our strength.
  2. Do you ever get a break? Nearly everyone else gets breaks, you know. People take vacations from their jobs all the time and return very refreshed.
    Of course, you cannot just abandon your children and husband for a week, but you can abandon the thoughts and cares for a few minutes and take little imaginary mini-vacations while you read or bathe.
    By the way, are you doing too many things? Do we really need to provide dance, music, art, sports, and oratory lessons for each child, for each semester and attend each meeting and field trip? Is that why we do this? Are you ever at home, as in home school? Maybe you are running yourself ragged.
  3. Do you take care of your body? When moms forget to take vitamins, take a walk, take a nap, or take time off from caffeine, they usually are tired, whether they homeschool or not. The body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and we should be good stewards of it.

There you have it–questions that cover all three aspects of the whole of a person: spirit, soul, and body. You should now realize a few changes you need to make. 🙂

If all the above does not apply, I would like to ask you if you might be either ill or depressed.

Sometimes illness can masquerade as tiredness and sometimes depression can hit us from the side very unexplainably. If your tiredness does not fall into any of the three categories above, you may need help from a professional.

I am a professional mom, but I may not be the professional that you need. You may need a doctor or a good, Christian, pastoral counselor. If you think that may be the case, I pray you not delay–you owe it to your children.

Love, Katharine

A Week of Answers – My Son Is not Reading

Brothers sharing bookThis week we will study from the questions of others, what to do, how to do it, and why. Hope you enjoy this and learn lots from it. The first letter is from a woman who was so scared, she set up a new email account so she could be anonymous. I’ll call her “Jane”.

Dear Katharine,

My oldest son is smart but is still not reading and we have home schooled him for three years, now, making him eight. I am so scared. I have used phonics, daily, and he seems to like it, but he often just doesn’t get it. What am I doing wrong? Have I ruined him? I cannot even bear to think what the schools will say if I send him back there, but I truly do not know what to do, and cannot let him grow up not reading. He reads so slowly and so incorrectly, that it just kills me to listen to it. I hardly dare confess this to anyone, even anonymously like this. HELP! –Jane

Dear Jane,

No you have not ruined him. You probably are teaching correctly, especially since you are using an accepted curriculum, are consistent, and you say he does enjoy it and does actually read, however poorly.

Some children just are slower, for one reason or another, independent of their setting.

Before I answer your questions, I would like to tell you what the schools would have done with your child, okay?

How it would have gone:

First, they would have put him in a reading group with all slow, low-skilled readers, so the “bright” children would not have had to bear the frustration that you are expressing. The results would have been that he would not have been around good reading, ever.

Also they would have instituted some sort of classroom reading competition, in which your son either would not have been expected to compete, or else just would never have had a chance. He and his reading-group friends would have been grouped together for other activities, too, just for convenience’s sake. (You know, the redbirds, the bluebirds, the robins, and the wrens, with the bird species becoming less flashy as the reading skills become less flashy.)Many in his group would have expressed feelings of inferiority about themselves and their group.

Eventually he might have been placed outside the classroom for a few hours a week, to receive special education. This may or may not have been conducted by a learning specialist of any kind–possibly by a substitute teacher or a volunteer–and may not necessarily have been very educational. After all this isolation, he and all his classmates would have begun to get the picture.

Are you beginning to get the picture?

What to do?!

Children who are slow to learn to read, possibly above all others, need to have the chance to exit the collective educational systems. Your son needs individual attention, and believe me, that is impossible in a public setting. If the teacher were able to give him what he needed, she might be of the sweet type who would want to do so, but she simply cannot, because she is in charge of twenty or so individuals who all have needs.

One thing I would suggest, that you are not doing wrong, but maybe have not known to do (and that your son never would receive in a public setting) is that you work on his vision.

  1. Have his eyes professionally examined.
  2. Eliminate fluorescent lighting, at least in his work room. This goes for all “screen lighting”, too, as comes from a computer or TV.
  3. Let him use a white bookmark to underline his reading.
  4. Obtain for your son colored cellophane page covers from a teacher supply store, to see if a different color helps.
  5. Make sure he is receiving excellent nutrition and low amounts of all sugars; no junk food whatsoever, and plenty of outdoor exercise
  6. Nix television and electronic games.

All these little changes possibly can add up to big improvements.

Also, you need to be aware that many children are not ready to learn reading until they are ten, and some after they are nearly grown. (President Andrew Johnson‘s wife taught him to read.) If this is the case with your son, he certainly does not need to be in a collective educational system. He may be the next Edison or Einstein, who both had trouble with traditional schoolwork, and both skipped “school”, learning at home.

You have done your son an immense favor by helping him to escape the isolation and embarrassment that are inherent to those in his situation. Do not stop. Just be patient until he begins to catch on more. Read to him a lot, and let him watch you point at the copy while you read. Especially read his other subjects to him, so he can learn them. Play word games with him, such as hangman or Jr. Scrabble, and get him a simple word-search book. Find an easy story that he likes a lot and read it together, daily. Help him memorize many passages from the Bible, plus some from historical documents, such as the Constitution. Please, also continue with the phonics; there are phonics courses for every age, to adult.

Help him discover and push him into his area of high skill, which may not be a “school” subject, but something more like Edison or Einstein did.

Perhaps it would help you to hear this: One of my older son’s best homeschool friends does not read or spell very well, is beginning a college major in computers, and loves to play word games, of all things. He does well, holding down a job, refereeing soccer, driving, and everything else a young man hopes to do. The important thing, though to his mother, and to you, is that he is a well-rounded gentleman with many moral friends, is of great accountability, is trusted with important adult-level responsibilities, and is not on drugs. He will be fine.

Home schooling did this.

Do not give up. Do not fear. Do not despair. Do not faint.

In due season, you will reap!

Enhanced by Zemanta

3 Things Home-Educating Moms Don’t Know about Retirement

Woman resting

We began home educating our kiddos in the early ’80’s, when things were just beginning to fire up a bit and there was almost no homeschool support to be had, anywhere. No advice. And for SURE, no advice about retiring.

Because we spaced out our children*, mostly at roughly four-year intervals, it took me 25 years to finish the job. Then I retired.

I’d like to give you a short list of shocking things I found out about myself and the whole retirement thing. I hope to save you some grief:

1. You do NOT necessarily get more done with all the children gone.

Nope. Sorry.

I know; it was a shock to me, too. I was so sure. I had to think about it a long time before I got it.

But it’s true.

You may have thought: There will be less laundry to do and fewer mouths to feed. There will be NO mud tracked in the door. There will be no more events to chase. I’ll be FREE!!!!

Think again.

You only get more done when they are gone if you keep on doing things.

Don’t feel bad; it took me ages to get this.

I remember my thoughts that first child-free morning:

Ahh—listen to it: NOTHING! The beautiful sound of no clamor, no to-do guilt—nothing in the world stopping me from that third cup of coffee.

PEACE!

Hours later, I was still basking in it, although I had somehow extricated myself from the recliner. I roamed around the house thinking I’d just take inventory and spend a day marveling at how simple life would become, now. Mentally, I gave myself a couple of months to coast and figure out what direction my life should take. I thought longingly about several projects I could now finish.

My stomach growled.

Wow. It was past noon. Hmm.

Ah well, only one sandwich and a cup of tea would take care of all my lunchtime duties. Cleaning only one knife, one small plate, and a cup would get me up and out of the kitchen and on with life. I could even eat in the sunroom, where the recliner beckoned.

And so it went, for days. Many days.

I thought I must have been really tired, to collapse like this.

2. The needs, schedules, and opinions of your children are what get you through it all.

I began to see this when I had my own desires for something outside the four walls. Most of the world works on a schedule and you cannot go to the library to chat with the librarian if the building is locked and she’s gone home. I acquired a young child to tutor. I ran out of stockpiled food (not feeding eight anymore made bulk-buying a bit silly.) I had to organize my life, somehow! Why was I always late?

The answers lay in the fact that, in the past, I did my level best at every task I took on, kept up with the outside world, and kept a brave, cheery face about it because:

  • My children had long heard lectures from me about doing our best at all times,
  • My children needed to be places without the embarrassment of arriving late and needed to see a good example set for timeliness,
  • My children got into serious trouble if they griped or grumbled.

WHAT.

It was about the children? They were watching?

Exactly.

And now, no one was.

And the truest self-test of character is to see what you do when no one is watching.

3. Your children work hard.

Unless you’ve already died of overwork, you make your children do a few things around the house.

Mine folded half the laundry, loaded and unloaded the dishwasher, kept their own bedrooms clean, dusted and vacuumed the living areas whenever I asked, mowed, tended trash, fed pets—I know I’m forgetting something. Oh, I paid them to do windows.

If you’ve taught your children to help around the house, guess what: Your children graduate and get new jobs. They help around a different house, eventually .

Now days, I fold all the laundry and load and unload the dishwasher. Dust still falls into their bedrooms and the whole house, grass still grows, trash still piles up, and strays still adopt us.

And I still love sparkling windows.

When we first began homeschooling, I remember the serious lecture I gave my family:

“I will be like any mom who works outside the home. I will have many hours when I cannot do housework. I will need help from the whole family, the same as if we were not able to live on only my husband’s income and I was forced to supplement it by going out of the home.”

That truth remains. Just remove the many hours when I cannot do housework, and insert: me.

Me doing housework.

How can you do better?

  • Spend your last year or two seeking God about what He wants you to do in your retirement.
    Get ready for those tasks.Begin walking in them before the last child leaves, so it will be less of a transition and you’ll have your new schedule nearly in place.
  • Keep a to-do list as you always did.
    Make yourself obey it for your OWN good, to please the Lord, to do your best.
  • Work, work, work!
    As we age, we lose muscle mass. Plan on a quick burn, maybe 30 minutes of hard work, every day—the kind that makes you perspire.
    Think of mowing in summer as a lovely multi-task that keeps you out of the weight room, the tanning bed, and the sauna.
    Wrap crime-zone tape around the recliner!

Any more discoveries? Ideas? Solutions? Share! Thanks!

*Those who know me know: When I say “children” I mean anyone under age 18, and several who are 18 or above. Mostly, I just mean “my own kids, grown or not, still living under my roof”. No offense meant to any kids who think they are grownups although still dependent, nor to any 32-year-olds who act like two-year-olds! 😉

It’s School Time.

English: Motivations regarded most important f...

Motivations regarded most important for homeschooling among parents in 2007. Source: 1.5 Million Homeschooled Students in the United States in 2007 Issue Brief from Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. December 2008. NCES 2009–030 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

School is almost upon us for the year. That means it is high time to look at your school choices.

Especially if you are unhappy with your collective school, you need to think about slipping out of that situation and readying yourself and your children for schooling at home. 

I hope you’ve spent quality time thinking about your children and their future. I hope you’ve inspected a bit of curriculum and even used my curriculum guide, which begins here.

 

You have hardly a month for organizing your life around a new normal.

You need to start now.

Your curriculum company and your children will be grateful if you do not wait until the week before school begins (as too many other people do) to place your order, expecting it to arrive timely. Timely arrival follows timely ordering. Like, hurry…

Okay.

With that in mind, I’d like to direct you to the homeschooling posts on this site, created just for you, for inspiring, motivating, guiding, and helping you make the transition.

Oh, and if you just need a booster and wish someone would give the beginning lectures to you all over again, hey, help yourself to these! You are welcome!

Why we don’t want them there in the first place:

My Sweetest Homeschool Memories; 5 pages!

To help you with inspiration and incentive:

Traditional Education

From Infancy to the Four-Year-Old, begins here and continues for 3 more pages.

To guide your choices and other decisions:

What Homeschooling is Like; 2 pages.

Do NOT Try Homeschooling (a trick title, but you’ll like this); 3 pages.

Is There Life After Homeschool? Yes!

To help figure out what curriculum you need:

A 5-Page Curriculum Guide by an Unbiased Person (me) (I love them ALL! and I am not to be sold.)

Okay. There is a LOT more on this site. Just use my search engine to search “homeschool” and you will find all sorts of help.

Have fun!

And don’t forget: Home’s Cool!

Do NOT Try Homeschool – Part 3

homeschooling afternoonOkay, how about a look at what success in home schooling really IS? The first axiom is:

The commitment is to your child, in obedience to the Lord.

Forget excuses about having tried; it is about your child and God. It is a sober-minded decision to do the right thing with the children He has given you. No matter what, you will blaze past trying, to continuing, which is the best way to prevent becoming a quitter.

Just as you would not think of quitting on the commitment with your spouse, do not do so regarding your children.

Another very obvious help to success in home school is this:

Be at home.

Yes, there are exceptions, such as my friend who managed the very first semester of her home school in hospital waiting rooms because of a tragic accident in her family. Still, that is not the goal, as my friend would assure you.

We do not want to plan to home school on the run. When we home school, we must change our lifestyle so we can be at home.

So many parents self-prescribe home school like a capsule for the remedy of problems in their children. Rather, it is you, Mom–your scent, your voice, the feel of your skin, something no other woman on earth can provide–you are the medicine that your child needs. (Did you know that hugged children are healthier, grow more, and learn faster than abandoned ones?)

The most important motto that I would suggest is:

Listen to God and follow what you know.

The world of home school advice is overflowing with counsel that is very good, but most of it is for someone else. You must mature to the place of knowing, instead of wondering or doubting.

How can we stand if we do not know what to do or even what we are doing? No matter if your whole support group is doing differently from you—or if they are doing the same—you must do what you know is perfect for you and your children, because you received it from the hand of God. There is a lot that I cannot tell you, but He can. Learn to hear Him.

The main subject and the main goal in all home schools should be Godliness. Many of us realize that. The trouble is that most folks do not realize this truth:

When we model Godliness, then we teach it.

The reverse, sadly, also is true. You must model Godliness even when you are teaching something as seemingly neutral as math. If you fret or yell to teach math, you are mostly teaching impatience, not math. Oh, they may also learn the math that you are presenting (just about anyone can) and with many reviews will probably retain a lot of it.

They will learn the impatience that we are modeling, though, in just one easy lesson and they will remember it a long time.

Modeling Godliness is the main ingredient in the successful home school. Without it, there is little benefit from teaching the rest.

So, I would hang a few mottoes on my walls, after all, I suppose. You can use them, too, if you want:

  • Commit, for your children’s sakes.
  • Be at home.
  • Listen to God.
  • Model Godliness.

Determine to obey Him and He will give you success in teaching your children.

Then you can quit trying to homeschool.

Do NOT Try Homeschooling. Part 2

Homeschooling - Gustoff family in Des Moines 020

Homeschooling – Gustoff family in Des Moines

If “trying” really means aiming at success, then, how to succeed really is the question. Let’s consider some of the sayings that belong to real success in home schooling. You may be surprised.

First, we do not want to do what some moms do, which is merely to take a stab at it. For these moms, it is not well-thought-out at all.

They just “give it a whirl”.

They do not pray.

They do not ask their husbands.

They do not research.

Remember this maxim:

Education is preparing your child for life.

It is not a hobby. It is more important than a new nail polish color, not something you try out and then abandon. It is nothing less than a life decision. In these days, many are beginning to call it a life-and-death decision.

Another:

Home schooling is not about curriculum.

Yes, you probably need curriculum, (although some do fine without), but you can visit with hundreds of families at any home school convention, and you will find thousands of folks succeeding, while using every imaginable curriculum made.

For instance, any child who is ready to learn to read can do so with almost any decent phonics curriculum.

Sure, there may be only one company “out there” perfectly able to meet your needs or style.

Yes, you probably need to shop with an unbiased veteran a time or two.

Still, as far as all the proven curriculum companies go, they are proven. Do not continually put on and take off curriculum until it is too late to accomplish anything. That is not trying to succeed at home schooling; it is merely trying, and at the wrong goal, at that.

I repeat, it is not about curriculum; trying on curriculum is not the same as home schooling.

One other surprising truth about home schooling is:

Usually, it is easy to do well without trying very hard.

For many, it is a little like falling out of bed, actually. The simple fact that the children are at home, instead of out on their own, will make them smarter. Yes, the act of being at home, by itself, will make your children smarter.

Of course, we want them to learn as much as possible, and we will take every opportunity to ensure that this is happening, but bringing them home, in and of itself, makes worlds of difference. They will no longer feel forced to waste mental energy on peer pressure, self-preservation, and competitiveness. They will be able to relax and the elimination of great stress will free them to excel.

Then there is the other side of it: they will have much, much less to un-learn.

Often our children at home seem accidentally to learn more than we expected, solely because they are in a more learning-conducive setting. It is much like osmosis.

This is, I admit, a lot of re-arranging to wrap our thinking around.

Do think about it, though.

More mottos, tomorrow.

_____________________

Photo credit: IowaPolitics.com