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Prescription for the New Year

Welcome to January, 2013!!

Now, unlike homeschooling moms in the southern hemisphere (who are just getting ready to start school — it is mid-summer there!), you are probably facing a wall of inertia at the moment.  I mean, didn’t you just give every ounce of energy into creating a fabulous Christmas experience for your family??  Not only that, only a few months ago you launched a new school year for your kids!  Whew!!  No wonder an insurmountable Wall of Inertia—sort of like the Great Wall of China—is looming over you.Great Wall


So, what’s a mom to do?  Here are three suggestions that come from my own struggles to get through that wall, particularly when January can be so grey and tedious.  Here’s the list:



First of all, Inspire.  When facing obstacles of any sort, it has been remarkably helpful to read someone else’s story about how they overcame the odds, broke through the wall, and achieved their goals.  Inspiration provides that first step of getting our hearts to believe that it is possible to keep going.  That is why we love stories of people like Joni Eareckson Tada and Corrie ten Boom, because they remind us that there is incredible blessing on the other side of our pain.  So, I want to encourage you to read or reread another family’s story of homeschooling, one that will inspire you!  (If you aren’t sure what to read, check out my Once Upon A Time ebook, part of our downloadable collection.)

Gladys AylwardOne inspirational story that I think of often is the story of Gladys Aylward. Gladys was convinced she was supposed to go to China to serve as a missionary.  Unfortunately, her lack of academic ability—they told her she was too dumb—caused her to be dismissed from missionary school and rejected as a candidate for missions.  This setback, however, did not change Gladys' determination to do what she felt God had called her to do.  In 1930, after saving up her wages as a servant, she bought a ticket to travel to China by train—across Russia!  What was she going to do in China?  It didn’t sound profound, because her opportunity was to become a servant, a helper, to an aging missionary, Agnes Lawson.  But in this position, Gladys learned to speak Chinese and to love the Chinese.   In 1932, after Mrs. Lawson’s death, Gladys was appointed "foot inspector" for the Chinese government, as a new imperial law was decreed to eliminate the practice of foot binding—and no one else in this region was as suited as Gladys to radically break with cultural tradition.  This amazing job gave her an opportunity to share about Jesus with villagers all over this province, something no one else had been able to accomplish.  Later, when the region was invaded by Japanese forces, she led one hundred hungry, tired, and frightened orphans across the mountains to safety.  Gladys did many other amazing things that you can read about in Geoff and Janet Benge’s biography of her, part of the YWAM Publishing Christian Heroes: Then and Now series.  Her story is just one among many that remind us that God never calls us without providing the strength and resources we need to accomplish that call—including homeschooling!   

The second step is Analyze.  Take some time—alone, with your spouse or with an encouraging friend—to ask yourself specifically what factors are weighing you down.  Are you the Type-A driven homeschool mom who can never say “no,” and who thinks that if maxing out is good, then adding a few more pieces would be even better?  (I can speak from experience on that one:  simplify, simplify, simplify!)  Do you have a child who is not thriving on that expensive curriculum, but you are determined to wring every bit of value you can out of it?  (Simply put, which is more valuable, your child or the money you spent on the curriculum?)  Are you suffering the exhaustion of trying to keep up with the the Joneses — homeschooling style?  (Ah, dear one, NO ONE keeps up with those guys.  Did you know they don’t really exist?)  Write down the specific issues and then prayerfully and carefully consider your options.  What can go out with the trash????

Cute KidsAfter you've decided what to toss, take some time to map out the rest of your school year.  I'm not talking about a rigid schedule, just a framework to help you captain the ship more effectively.  (After all, your homeschool may look a little different without that curriculum that takes 5 arguments and 6 hours to finish every day!)  I find routines with flexibility are incredibly helpful to enable kids and moms to relax.  Somehow, knowing generally what is happening next, gives a family a sense of stability and comfort.  If you are already a schedule type and your family is overwhelmed by your military-like transitions, you can map things out too–just remember your challenge is to schedule time for fun and relaxation!

Last, but not least, Energize.  As a Homeschool Practitioner, I am going to write you a prescription for beating the winter blues.  If you are not someone who typically exercises, insert a 15-minute walk into your day.  This will actually release endorphins that help improve your mood and clear your mind!  Read a chapter of Proverbs every day.  I believe that there are thirty-one chapters for a reason!  Proverbs will give you the wisdom you need in the moment that you need it.

CatanFinally, make lots of room in your heart, your mind and your schedule to add in great doses of humor, fun and games!  It will provide an energizing zest for both you and your children, making each day easier and more profitable for all.  Some games that promote logic and strategic thinking are "The Settlers of Catan", "Risk" and "Monopoly".  Some fun word games are "Boggle" and "Scrabble" (check out a variation of Scrabble called "Take 2" that is faster paced.)  For younger kids, an interesting game that isn't too tedious for parents is, "Snorta" and little children can usually play "Toss Up" if they have good counting skills.  With the possible exception of "Snorta" these games can be integrated into your school day without guilt because of the skills they teach and your kids will love it!

I hope these ideas will encourage you, and don’t forget, you can get a HUGE dose of encouragement from my “Encouragement for Homeschool Moms” collection, which is 100% downloadable and is on sale for the next 5 days!

Remember, stay relational.



OvercomingDear Friends,

Right now, do you feel like you are overcoming. . .or are you going under?

Whether struggling with illness, difficult relationships, lack of finances, unwanted changes, crushing disappointments, or numbing loss, many of us are in the midst of a storm.

In this place of overwhelming need, I have learned that someone else’s story of experiencing God’s faithfulness and goodness in great difficulties brings a spark of hope, a measure of courage, and an increased fervency in prayer.

My bookshelves are filled with those kinds of stories, of people like you and me who overcame through their faith in God. One of my favorites is the story of Gladys Aylward, a British serving girl who, just prior to WWII, went to China in obedience to God’s call.  As unlikely as it seems, this small woman experienced extraordinary help to do impossible things in life-and-death situations.

In the book, No Mountain Too High, the author described Gladys fleeing the Japanese army with one hundred children and with a price on her head for being a spy for the Chinese. Heading for the safety of southern China and a Christian orphanage, she and this huge group of children walked—many of them barefoot—for twelve days across the mountains, scrounging whatever food and shelter they could find along the way. They knew the Yellow River must be crossed before they would finally be free from the terrors of war raging just behind them.

But when they arrived at the river, there were no boats.
There were no people at the riverside village.
There was no food.

Gladys and the children kept waiting, praying, seeking the Lord, asking Him for deliverance. But this wasn't casual prayer. They weren’t facing a minor inconvenience. It didn't last for the few moments it takes to read in a book.

No. It was real life. The Japanese army could show up at any moment. And, since they had offered a huge price for Gladys' capture as a spy, it was a terrifying consideration. In exhaustion, hunger, and discouragement, her prayers were not lofty. They were nitty-gritty and real.

Amazingly, this group of refugees stayed right by the Yellow River, praying and waiting for deliverance for three days. Three days!! It seems almost impossible that one woman and one hundred children who were sick and hungry, helpless and tense, could hold on—when, at any moment, they could be taken. There was nothing else to be done but to wait and pray. There was no going back across the mountains and they could not cross the Yellow River without boats. There was no other path to safety. If God did not rescue them, they would die or be captured.

Her situation was as real, as fraught with difficulty and fear, as yours is today.

So, what happened? After the agonisingly long and difficult days of crossing the mountains and praying beside the river, help arrived from a totally unexpected source. Chinese soldiers, who had hidden a boat in the bushes, found these children and woman, and ferried them across the river.

Not one died, not one was captured.

Hope rises in our own heartThough Japanese aircraft patrolled the river and Japanese soldiers were watching the river, no one stopped or even challenged Gladys and her children from crossing. She was able to successfully deliver all of these precious children to the orphanage (another incredible part of her story) where they were safe and cared for.

It is easy, even exhilarating, to read about in a book, isn’t it? And, as we read, suddenly, hope rises in our own heart. We consider the character of God as seen in Gladys' story, and wonder if God might provide us with an equally impossible rescue.

I have learned in my own journey that His goodness is not limited to people in history. His compassionate love for us knows no bounds, and His power to save passes our comprehension.

Our times are in His hands.
He works all things together for our good.
He is utterly faithful.

Gladys’ story demonstrates so clearly that, though His ways are not our ways and His timing is seldom comfortable, yet, we can trust that He is in the process of answering our prayers, sending help, and providing an unexpected way to overcome.




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History Online with Diana Waring

Online History Class with Diana WaringThis fall, I am premiering a world history online course, Napoleon Through MacArthur, for high school homeschool students. Capturing students’ interest so they actively engage in learning, inspiring their motivation to dig deeply, and welcoming their unique contributions to the class are my priorities. And, honestly, I can’t wait!  

Working with the Software Research Center at Anderson University for technical assistance, they have helped me design my course utilizing the best technology available to universities. We are collaborating to make this course as fully interactive, curiosity-driven, and creative as the World Empires, World Missions, World Wars curriculum on which it is based.

If your homeschooled student is in high school, and if taking a course from another teacher would provide help to you and your student, then this is a good option. (All three of my kids took at least one course with another teacher during high school, and it was a great experience.) I still believe that there is no substitute for the nurture, the knowing, the interaction that is present between parent and child in homeschooling. Therefore, parents will also have opportunities to be involved in what their students are doing in this course.

Richly relational, deeply educational, broad in scopeIn September, as the author of World Empires, World Missions, World Wars, I will be your student’s “tour guide” and mentor as we venture back into the tumultuous times of the 1800s through the 1950s, giving visual presentations of specific features in the ever changing historic landscape, engaging them in discussion about what they are seeing, answering the questions that will naturally arise, and directing their assignments. We will not only study the major historic events and people (including missions, revivals, and Church history), we will also expand into the cultural elements of the time, such as literature, architecture, art, music and science. Students will have ongoing opportunities to create projects (including group projects) to share with the class—and to learn from one another’s projects. It is going to be richly relational, deeply educational, and broad in scope.

If this resonates with you, I enthusiastically welcome your students to my Napoleon through MacArthur course—where the online learning environment has been designed for them to thrive!

Read the course description, and enroll for the course if you are interested. Class is limited to the first 25 students to sign up.


If you are unfamiliar with my curriculum, here is an endorsement by Dr. David Aikman, Ph.D. historian, former Time Magazine senior correspondent, and author of several books including Jesus in Beijing:

"Diana Waring has written a careful, insightful history of the important developments in Europe and North America from the French Revolution to the beginning of the Cold War.  What makes her account important from a Christian worldview is that she weaves in spiritual developments — revivals, new Christian movements, prayer ministries — with no false dichotomy between spiritual developments and the actual historical developments of the day.  I recommend her work warmly."

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Top 5 Reasons to Use The Library

Teaching Tip #11

Top 5 Reasons to Use the LibraryHomeschoolers have traditionally used the library. However, so much has changed in the digital world that you may be wondering if it's worth the hassle to pack up the kids, drive to the library, and then deal with all of the books that flood into your home!

I think the answer is YES!!! To explain why, here are my top five reasons to use the library.

Reason #1: Free
I don’t know about you, but free is always a price I can afford. It is there, open and available, for anyone with a library card—regardless of your financial situation. And, unlike a bookstore, it is the same price whether we walk out with one book or ten!

For budget-savvy homeschoolers, the library is one of your BEST resources!

Reason #2: Treasure
Have you ever strolled through the library, searching the stacks for a particular title or subject, when, suddenly, you come across a book you’ve never heard of, on a topic you’ve never studied—and it looks intriguing? Going to the library is a real treasure hunt, with all the excitement and drama of unexpected riches!

For engaging your children’s hunger to learn, the library is a WONDERFUL ally!

Reason #3: Pleasure
One of the most precious elements of childhood is the freedom to read for pleasure. And having a stack of library books, chosen because they look fun to read, introduces a delightful richness to our children’s knowledge base and imagination.

The sheer PLEASURE of reading is enhanced by regular trips to the library!

Reason #4: Skill
The rich environment for delving into topics on one’s own and developing skills to do research in an increasingly thorough manner are enhanced when there is a vast selection of books from which to choose. If this begins in childhood, it becomes a normal aspect of life and learning. The library, including the option to order books from an even wider group of libraries, is one of the best places to learn the skill of looking things up and doing research.

The library can help your child excel in research—a valuable skill for most careers!

Reason #5: Available
Some of the best books I have ever read are out of print! And, when I looked for them online, the asking price is way beyond reasonable. So, the only way to actually read them is to check them out of the library. Did I mention that it’s free?

Some of the best books are only available through the library!

World Empires Student ManualDiana WaringFor those using my History Revealed curriculum, you will find Resources for Digging Deeper at the end of Phase One. If you have a student who loves to read, this will be a great opportunity to get as many books from the library as are interesting, giving him or her a chance to dive into fascinating folks and exciting events! If, on the other hand, you have a student who does not enjoy reading, let that one choose a few books out of the list that look interesting (or use the Dewey Decimal numbers provided to find your own). Let them read to their heart’s content (whether many or few).

And, remember, stay relational!

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Doing the Priority — Relationship!

Loving. Being there. Really there.Do you ever feel like you have way too much to do? Do you valiantly attempt to do it all anyway? It’s part of the homeschooling mentality—that sense of juggling twelve balls in the air at a time—cooking, cleaning, chauffeuring, nursing, teaching, shopping, listening, laundering, reading aloud, picking up, devotions, exercising. . .What did I miss from your list?

Oh, yes. That’s right. Loving. Being there. Really there.

And that, my friend, takes time.

At this season of life, my way-too-much-to-do-but-try-to-do-it-anyway looks slightly different from yours, because my children are grown. Normally my list includes writing articles for publications, blogging, preparing to teach an online world history class, working to upgrade our website, strategizing for our business, plus cooking, cleaning, shopping, laundering, picking up, devotions, exercising.

But, last month, I had two opportunities to love, to be there, really there. And it utterly blew apart my to-do list, as loving others tends to do.

First, I went to Chicago to help my daughter get ready to move. After two years of hard work on her Master’s degree, she is heading off to do her Ph.D., and that meant packing, cleaning, and helping transport stuff to a new city, a new state. As you know, it is so much easier, with far more laughter, when friends and family help with a move! But, in the midst of packing and cleaning, there was the incredible joy of simply being together. Chats over coffee, experiencing downtown Chicago, laughing over her cats’ antics, and most of all, checking in with each other, are precious building blocks of our ongoing relationship.

The second opportunity was tied to the first. My son brought his sons from Virginia to Chicago, so that he could be the MUSCLE in the move, and so that we could all watch his sister graduate. And, in an extension of the plan, so that Bill and I could have two incredible weeks with our grandsons.

Lovingly termed “Z1” and “Z2,” these 9 and 5 year-old boys have spent very little time with us. Their dad is in the Navy, and they have lived far from us most of their lives. In fact, next month, they are moving overseas for three years. So, these two weeks were a big deal. A BIG DEAL!

Time for play, time for the zooWe decided that this opportunity was more important than anything else that needed doing. It was time to play, to relax in the hammock, to go to the zoo, to blow bubbles, to read Hank the Cowdog, to pray and sing to Jesus together. It was time to simply love, to be there, really there.

So, that’s what we did. It was an all consuming, 24/7×2 for these non-experienced grandparents. It was exhausting, exhilarating, challenging, joyous, and precious beyond belief. I didn’t accomplish my normal to-do’s. I didn’t blog. I didn’t strategize. I didn’t plan (except meals). I'm back in the office again, and my normal to-do list is topped up and running over. But we wouldn’t change a thing about these past three weeks. It was the right choice to make, the right priority to do.

When your to-do list is interrupted by your relationships, it’s not the time to fret about the impossibility of meeting all the demands, because the other items on the list are only supporting the real priority. Loving. Being there. Really there. Taking time to embrace the relationships.

Honestly, isn’t that why we are homeschooling in the first place?

Enjoy those kids, dear friends. This moment soon passes.


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Smart #3) Musical Intelligence

Does Music Make You Smile?Does music give you a bounce in your step, a smile on your face, and the zest to do your to-do list?   Have you ever felt like you are dragging through the day. . .UNTIL you put on music? If so, the energizing effect of music is one great indicator that you are  strong in the Musical Intelligence.

Music is one of the most amazing gifts of this life. Regardless of our age or culture, there is music that will stir our heart—reminding us of happy or sad moments in life, and everything in between. Whether folk songs, classical, country-western, hymns, or the latest movie soundtrack, music can connect us to old memories, it can evoke powerful emotions, and it can help us to worship. Profoundly, music can help us communicate the very depths of our heart, whether joy or grief.

And, this “smart” is not limited solely to people who create music. Anyone who enjoys music—at any level—is exhibiting a Musical Intelligence.  Since music adds such a depth of richness to our everyday lives, it is certainly worth spending time and money to cultivate this in our families!

With that in mind, let's take a peek into this "Music Smart" intelligence (excerpted from my book, Reaping the Harvest).

“People who are strong in this area enjoy listening to music, as well as making music. They might be instrumentalists, vocalists, percussionists. They could make instruments; they could play instruments. They might like classical music, country-western music, Polynesian music, jazz music, rhythm and blues, folk music, opera, twentieth century music, African music, Renaissance madrigals, or Japanese music. They might like woodwinds, brass, strings, or percussion. They could play Sousa marches on the CD player to do chores, or a Bach violin sonata to help them write an English composition. This intelligence has to do with rhythmic tapping, soft humming, original composing, guitar strumming, tuneless whistling. Someone strong in this area might very well "sing for their supper" and for any other opportunity that comes their way!

“An example of a person strong in this intelligence would be Johann Sebastian Bach. He was a church organist who composed original church music on a weekly basis. Unfortunately, many of the people of his own time hated it! Too many new ideas!! However, many years later, Felix Mendelssohn discovered Bach's manuscripts and shared them with the rest of the world—which led to an astonishing growth in popularity of this music, which was composed for the glory of God!”

For budding musicians, get them music lessons!If you or any of your kids are strong in this intelligence, step outside of the box! That means, you can look for opportunities to sing your way through subjects. For instance, you can actually learn the countries of the world by singing them. . . And, though this might be obvious, let me say that for these learners, take the time, trouble and expense to get them music lessons if they are interested.  The benefits are numerous—not the least of which is that they will have the opportunity to SHINE.

P.S.  I LOVE music!!  I love to hear it, work with it, sing it, play it, compose it, perform it. That’s why we created the fun of learning American history through its folk music in Experience History Through Music books/CDs. And, it was also delightful to add music into my History Revealed world history curriculum.  We not only learn about music during each chapter (the elements of music, church music, and famous composers), but there are also opportunities for students to create and perform music within their history studies.  We also have a lot of fun with it—as you can see from the example below (part of the Recapping exercise in Unit 2 of World Empires, World Missions, World Wars):

In a small group, decide what the Industrial Revolution would have sounded like to the people of the day (crowded cities, railroads, machinery, telegraph, etc.). Once you have chosen the type of sounds that will best reflect this revolution, organize your team to make a rhythmic and discernible set of sounds, paying attention to rhythm, loudness, and pitch. Can onlookers identify your sounds?


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Smart #2) Naturalist

Why are some people incredibly good with animals?Meet my dear friend, Paul Rushworth, a senior zoo keeper at Werribee Open Range Zoo, in Melbourne, Australia. In this pose with an African serval, Paul demonstrates the trusting relationship he has built over time with this lovely, wild cat.

Why are some people incredibly good with animals? And why are some brilliant when it comes to plants, beaches, mountains, the ocean or rivers—you know, the great outdoors?

Naturalist is a way of being smart, one that we might not pay much attention to in our culture of concrete buildings, offices, apartments, and highways. Yet, for the folks who are gifted in this way, it is a key to opening the doors of opportunity, self-motivation in learning, and fantastic careers. (The following is excerpted from my book, Reaping the Harvest.)

"The Naturalist intelligence could be described as being 'Nature Smart.' It is the ability to recognize varieties of trees and bushes in the woods (and which of them provide food); to observe the clouds in the sky and know what weather is coming; to spot birds in flight and know what manner of bird it is (along with their songs, colorings, nest building habits, etc.); to "read the rocks" when looking at a geological structure; to cultivate an award-winning rose; to navigate the ocean by the stars; and more. This intelligence is used by gold prospectors, farmers, sailors, zoologists, botanists, geologists, oceanographers, lion tamers, rodeo cowboys, mountain climbers, amateur gardeners, veterinarians, hunting guides, and anyone else who works with animals or in the great outdoors.  In many cultures and time periods in history, this was the "make it or break it" intelligence—without it, you had no food, no warmth, got lost in the woods or on the ocean, and died.

"An excellent example of this intelligence is displayed in George Washington Carver, the celebrated African-American who revolutionized farming in the southern states through the cultivation and use of the peanut. Through his genius in this naturalist intelligence, he recognized that the peanut would restore nutrients to the depleted soil and invented dozens of commercial uses for this lowly legume.”

Here’s a question for you to consider. Are you—or any of your kids—energized by going outside? Do you have an animal lover in your family? Each of these are good indications of a strong naturalist intelligence.

Are you energized by going outside?If you have children who delight in being outside, consider whether they like to play with plants, climb trees, dig in dirt, climb rocks or run at the beach. Do they like to hike, to go camping, to climb mountains? If so, then open the door and go outside! Walk in the woods, drive to the park, wander to the beach, take a hike. . .

If you have children who love animals, is it house pets (like a cat or dog) or farm animals (like a horse or cow) that have captivated them?  Is it wild animals (like you find at a zoo), marine animals (like you find at an aquarium), or birds (in the garden, the aviary, or the raptor rehabilitation center)? Next, consider how to open this door.  Perhaps they can volunteer to muck out stalls at a stable down the road, or work at the rescue shelter, or get a dog. If you are saying, "But I don't WANT animals!! They are messy, noisy, smelly, and require maintenance!!" I know. But, it’s a small price to see them thrive.

Simple advice: Go outside. Get a pet. And watch your Naturalist kids flourish!

Here’s one outdoor Naturalist activity in the Recap from Unit 8 of Ancient Civilizations & the Bible:
Go outside with a group of family or friends and designate a small creek or other natural boundary to be the Rubicon River. Each of you take turns as Julius Caesar. Will you try to convince your followers to cross the Rubicon with you? Or will you lay down your weapons, considering the ramifications of this fateful step? Share with each other what it was like to have to take a physical step which would result in a complete break with the Roman government.


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Teaching Tip #10 — Talk Together

Talk Together

Let’s talk about talking, shall we?

Have you noticed that some people are “natural” talkers? They effortlessly put together words and ideas whenever the opportunity arises. For these people, whether young or old, discussion is easy, free-flowing, and not always deeply considered. They simply say whatever comes into their minds

There are others who find it harder to talk at the drop of a hat. They need time to process their thoughts, consider the issues, ponder the possibilities. Though they do not speak up as quickly in a discussion, when they do eventually engage, it is often with profound insights and reasoned thoughts.

You probably have both types in your home—and it may have been challenging for you. If you find it easy to talk on any subject, it may seem like your less verbal child is not trying—not engaging—when it comes to discussion. And it’s frustrating! If, on the other hand, you need time to think before you speak, it may be difficult to enjoy the chatterbox in your home. Either way, you may be tempted to “fix” your child to make them more like you.

I know I did.

As one who is endowed not only with the gift of gab, but with a need to process things verbally, I struggled when some of my children required more time to consider their answers. Why couldn’t they all just jump into the discussion at hand? Talking is easy, right??

Over time, though, I began to recognize that those who took more time before answering often brought a depth of understanding that was far beyond my expectations.  And that helped me gain a deeper appreciation of the value of “internal processing” for these children.

So, when it comes time to discuss what is being studied, it is helpful to create a welcoming and appreciate atmosphere that honors both approaches. Teach your kids to not talk over the quieter ones, but to graciously wait for the insights they will bring. And, enjoy the spontaneous talkers in your midst. Both types are incredibly valuable—they will enrich our lives, our homes, our communities, and, eventually, our world!

foster a sense of curiosity and wonderFor those using my History Revealed curriculum, when it comes to the Talk Together section, give your students the opportunity to look through the discussion questions beforehand. Then, let them choose which question (or questions) they would enjoy discussing together. Good discussion at this point can foster a sense of creativity and wonder as students actively engage their own thoughts and opinions about the time period.

Here are some ground rules for students in the class discussion: take turns speaking, listen to each other carefully, don’t use sarcasm or demeaning language towards someone with a differing opinion. If we give each other a chance to speak without fear of ridicule, we may hear some treasures! If someone’s idea is not clearly stated, respectfully ask questions until the meaning is understood.

Here are some ground rules for parents/teachers in the class discussion (excerpted from the Teacher’s Guide, Page XVI):

See yourself as the moderator of the discussion, seeking to keep it positive, interesting, and creative; allowing students to interact; encouraging further thought without giving lengthy answers. In pursuing this activity in the Introduction Phase, we are still developing a sense of wonder that will propel the students through the rest of the Unit.

And now, Talk Together!!

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Smart #1) Intrapersonal Intelligence

Are you refreshed by time alone? IntrapersonalToday begins an eight-part series on how God has made each of us smart

Now, you might be thinking, "Oh, well, maybe YOU are smart, but I'm not. . .and I have the grades to prove it!"

Uh-huh.  I understand.

And I beg to differ.

You are smart.  And so are each of your kids.  It's just that most of us have never learned that there are different ways of being smart. We learned a long time ago that "smart" people were good at math or science, and good at using words and taking tests. Those are the kids that got straight "A's", got scholarships, and got degrees. If we didn't happen to fit that mold, we assumed (or were told) that we were NOT smart. We might be nice, good-looking, hard workers. . . but not SMART.

However, more than thirty years ago, a new way of looking at "smart" hit the academic world when Dr. Howard Gardner of Harvard University published his book, Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. Gardner defined intelligence as "the ability to solve problems or to create products that are valued within one or more cultural settings," and after a massive amount of research, he suggested that, rather than a single number (your IQ), intelligence was actually a grouping of autonomous—yet related—areas in the brain. To date, eight intelligences have been identified: Intrapersonal, Naturalist, Musical, Spatial, Bodily-Kinesthetic, Interpersonal, Math-Logical, and Linguistic. (Notice that the last two are what most people consider to be the definition of "smart.")

One of the most incredible aspects of Multiple Intelligences is that every person on the planet has all of these intelligences in their brain, with a distinct blend of strengths and weaknesses. You—and each of your kids—are uniquely smart! And, understanding this will make a HUGE difference in the way you approach your children's education.

So, here is the first intelligence to consider—Intrapersonal or Knowing Yourself (excerpted from my book, Reaping the Harvest):

"This intelligence could be described as being 'Self Smart.' It does NOT mean being self-centered, self-absorbed, or selfish. Instead, it is the ability to be alone, solitary, by yourself without being afraid or bored. The ability to spend time alone in God's Word and in prayer requires intrapersonal intelligence. It is to be aware of your own strengths and limitations, to be confident in facing personal challenges. A person who is strong intrapersonally is able to stand against the crowd and do what he knows is right. I hope you are starting to see the incredible value this intelligence plays in our lives as Christians.  People who are strong in this intelligence could be counselors, pastors, philosophers, entrepreneurs, pioneers, test pilots, writers, and people who study thinking (metacognition).

EricLiddellEric Liddell, the Olympian whose life is portrayed in Chariots of Fire, gives an excellent example of the intrapersonal intelligence.  He was able to withstand the incredible pressure of the press and the aristocracy of Great Britain when they tried to coerce him to run his 100-meter Olympic race regardless of his conviction against competing on Sunday.  Instead, he did what he believed to be right and ended up winning the quarter-mile race, an event he had not even trained for!"

Are you refreshed and rejuvenated by having some alone time? If so, that is a good indication you have a strong Intrapersonal intelligence. With that in mind, recognize that one of the most important things you can do for the Intrapersonal intelligence people in your life is to give them plenty of free time for thinking, reflecting, and being alone. Students who are strong intrapersonally will appreciate the opportunity for self-directed and independent study, and may need your support for their creative or entrepreneurial adventures!

My History Revealed curriculum includes numerous opportunities and projects for each of the 8 Intelligences, including the Intrapersonal Intelligence!  You can learn more about the curriculum here. And you can see an example of an Intrapersonal activity here.

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Teaching Tip #9—Pause & Play

How do we engage our kids' self-motivation?Here’s a question for you: How do we engage our kids’ self-motivation?

Do you remember what it was like to walk into a classroom where you were expected to sit still, listen quietly, take notes, read the chapter, and take a test? It seldom actually engaged your interest or invited your ideas, did it?

However, that’s the model. In order to teach 25 children at a time, particularly now that Common Core is the standard in public schools, teachers follow this institutional formula in order to get the job done. But, is it the best way to learn? Does it nurture hungry-to-learn, passionate-to-know students—ones who are self-motivated?

You and I both know the answer is “No, not a chance!”

So, you changed it up. You homeschool your kids (or you are considering the possibilities).  Good for you!!  Here’s the tricky part, though: it’s easy to see what we don’t want to do, but harder to grasp what we can do in order to engage our students and to fire up their self-motivation.

That’s where today’s Teaching Tip fits in. To explain it, I’d like to tell you a short story. . .

In 1999, my family went to New Zealand to attend a YWAM (Youth With a Mission) school. Our teacher one week was a brilliant educator, Rosalie Pedder, who taught us about the different kinds of learners God had created. Her lectures were filled with facts, but her purpose was not to stuff our heads. Rather, it was to engage our hearts and minds. The way she accomplished this was by providing regular opportunities to pause, consider, and play with what we had just heard.

When we allow students to process in ways they enjoy. . .I remember one day in particular. After a thorough description of the Eight Intelligences, she set up eight different stations around the room. Each station had a way of “playing” with what we had just heard, and she encouraged us to go around to each station and do what it said. She set a timer, and off we went, laughing hysterically at some of the crazy things we were attempting. When we had completed our tour around the room, Rosalie sat us down and explained:

“When you hear something for the first time, it’s important to take a break, to reflect on what you heard, to interact with it, even play with it. This ‘recap’ allows your brain the time to process and review what you have heard. That helps you to understand and retain more of this new information, integrating it with what you already know.

"Some of the stations were easy for you, weren’t they? And, the ones you found hard were easy for someone else. When we allow students (young and old) to process in ways they enjoy, it honors the One who created them.”

So, when I revised the History Revealed curriculum, beginning in 2003, I added a process and review section in the Teacher's Guide—entitled Recap the material with an activity—to each Phase One. Once students have read the articlelistened to the stories on CD, and read the Scriptures, it is time to pause. . . Let them play with what they have just learned using one of the eight intelligence suggestions provided.

NOTE: As homeschoolers, you don’t need to set up all eight stations. Just invite your students to choose which suggestion looks like fun to them. Give them half an hour to do this activity and, then, watch their creative ideas spring to life!

Here is an example, taken from Unit 3—The British Empire & Awakenings— in World Empires, World Missions, World Wars:

Spatial: Either individually or in a small group, create a mind-map of the facts you have learned thus far about the British Empire, including its colonies in Asia, the Americas, the South Pacific, and Africa.

Bodily Kinesthetic: Use as many pipe cleaners as needed to create a representation of Darwin’s theory of evolution, his historic voyage, or the effect his theory had upon the nineteenth century.

Interpersonal: In groups of 3, with one student acting the part of a European colonist in Africa, one acting the part of an African, and one acting the part of a Christian missionary, communicate honestly the struggles each has with one or both of the others.

Musical: In a small group, list four songs, whether secular or Christian, that remind you of some aspect of this Unit.

Linguistic: Imagine and rewrite a different ending to the story of the American Civil War. One option would be to write it from the point of view that a divided America would be the quickest and most sure-fire way to end the American experiment in democracy. Another option would be to write it from the perspective that America was divided into numerous countries, much like Europe.

Math-Logical: Make a prediction of what will occur in Africa if the European nations at the Berlin Congress decide it would not be in their best interests to colonize this continent.

Intrapersonal: In reflecting on the Great Prayer Revival and the stories of God moving among people of many nations and ethnicities, write a journal entry where you ponder what it would mean to you personally, and also to our current culture, should God bring this kind of revival once again.

Naturalist: Choose an Australian animal to represent life in Australia or a New Zealand bird to represent life in New Zealand during this era.  It may represent the indigenous people, the Europeans, daily life in that land or some aspect of being colonized.  Be prepared to explain why this particular animal or bird was chosen.

When we invite our kids to take time to play with what they have been learning (in ways that are fun and interesting to them), it can actually engage their self-motivation. So, go ahead. Give them the opportunity to Pause & Play!


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Teaching Tip #8—The Spiritual Focus

The spiritual focus in homeschoolingI love seeing whales and birds in the wild. Unfortunately, because they appear at unscheduled moments in unpredictable places, they can be pretty hard to spot.  In fact, it is nearly impossible without a good pair of binoculars. But the deal with binoculars is that they have to be in focus in order to see the whales, the porpoises, the eagles, the hummingbirds. . . .

Have you ever experienced, though, the frustration of looking through a pair of binoculars only to find that it is so out of focus that you can’t see clearly? When that happens, you just need to move the central focusing wheel until the blurred image becomes crystal clear. Whew. What a relief!  The experience has now become an adventure.

In the same way that the binocular’s central wheel brings everything into focus, prayer and reading the Bible have an amazing capacity to bring clarity and insight to what we study.

This is true, regardless of what we are studying. I remember speaking at a support group in Chicago one year, talking about the incredible way that praying and asking God for insight can breathe life into what we are learning. In the Q & A that followed, a somewhat skeptical mom asked, “My 8th grade daughter hates learning grammar. Are you telling me that if we PRAY, God will help her start to like it?"

Honestly, I love these kinds of questions!  What do you suppose might happen if we invited our kids to pray with us, daily asking God to help us understand why grammar is important, helping us grasp how we might enjoy studying it? My experience is that, when you bring your questions to God, the sky’s the limit when it comes to His answers!!

The scenario that I envisioned that day went something like this: 

“Okay, so you and your daughter begin to pray and ask God what the big deal is about grammar. . . You tell Him the truth, that it seems pointless to both of you. But, you also ask for wisdom and insight into why it might be worthwhile and how to enjoy learning it.

Learning becomes a life-changing adventure!“A few weeks after you’ve begun to pray about this, your daughter stumbles across the book, Bruchko, by Bruce Olson. She is captivated by Bruce’s story, discovering that he loved languages, that he actually studied linguistics at university before heading to South America. . . And, suddenly she puts two and two together.

Mom!!!!  I just read this book, and I figured out that grammar is like the structure of a language, and that knowing it helps missionaries figure out what the structure of an unwritten language is. . .And, Mom, I get it now!!  I want to learn this and become a missionary with Wycliffe Bible Translators!!!"

Wow. Though that is just my little sketch of what might happen when they prayed, God's answer might be even better—since it would be personally suited to that woman and her daughter. Prayer is powerful. Reading the Scriptures is life-changing. And, it can dramatically affect your homeschool and your kids.

Adding the spiritual focus to your history studies allows the learning experience to suddenly become a life-changing adventure!

Ancient Civilizations & the BibleSo, what we did in the History Revealed curriculum was to include Bible readings for each chapter (Scriptures that have relevance to that historic era) in the Read For Your Life section, AND, to include in the Teacher’s Guide “Spiritual Emphasis” icons at appropriate places.

The Icon Key at the beginning of each Teacher’s Guide says this about the “Spiritual Emphasis:”

Since this curriculum seeks to understand history in light of what God has done—tracing the history of redemption—and, since the object of the curriculum is to not only gain knowledge of the content but also an understanding of God’s character and nature, there are opportunities in each Unit to engage your students on a spiritual level. This icon can include areas for prayer and discussion, as well as suggestions for activities with a spiritual purpose.



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