Welcome to my homeschool blog, which offers insights into loving learning, loving your family, loving history, loving homeschooling, and enjoying your life! With your cup of coffee in hand, take a break to laugh with me, to have your heart refreshed, to be reminded of how cool your kids really are, and to consider the amazing adventure of being a homeschool mom. AND, if you are interested in the History Revealed curriculum, be sure to check out my Teaching Tips!
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Our children engaging their own education—a true story!

Writing might not be your child's passion, it might be mechanics or science or swimming. . . But whatever it is, if they engage it, they will work harder than you can imagine—and find rewards far beyond an "A" on some test.

In January, 1999, my thirteen year old daughter, Melody, entered an essay competition for the V.F.W. (Veterans of Foreign Wars). She loves to write, and, when I think about it, it seems like she always has—she began writing stories when she was just five years old! So, whenever the opportunity arose to write during her homeschool years, she jumped at the chance. 

The topic for that year's competition was "What Freedom Means to Me." Students in the U.S.A., in grades 7-9 from public, private and homeschool were invited to compete. Melody worked, reworked, and re-reworked her essay until she was satisfied. We were astounded by her words but wondered whether anyone else would be. It touched our hearts deeply and we felt that it was her very best.

One day the phone rang to tell Melody, "You've won the local competition!" That was exciting to her... but the tension began to mount. You see, she had won the local competition the previous year but had not won the district level.

Some time later the phone rang again. "You've won the district level!" Wow! That was a real victory for her... but the tension continued to mount. Would it be possible to win the state competition? No one from our town had ever won state.

"Melody? You won state!!" Shouts of joy, jigs danced in the hallway, brothers jumping up and down, deliriously proud parents... but the tension mounted to fever pitch. Would her essay be able to compete on a national level? Since we were going to be out of the country the next year (visiting New Zealand), this was Melody's last chance to place at national.

And then, the phone rang. I had had a headache and was lying down. Isaac was recovering from the flu and was reading a book. Bill was finishing lunch while Michael was out helping someone move. So, Melody answered the phone. We all heard, "Yes, uh huh, umm...." And then, suddenly, "You mean, I WON NATIONAL?????"

I vaulted off the bed, Isaac dropped his book, Bill turned in disbelief as we heard Melody jump for joy! The person on the other end of the line had just heard the news and was calling to congratulate Melody.

Never have I seen my daughter so radiant, so excited. It was a dream come true for her... and an amazing victory in our family. Immediately the thoughts came of the obstacles we had faced from well-meaning family when we decided to homeschool: "You'll ruin your children! How will they ever learn enough to get along in the world? What about computers? What about socialization? What about job skills?"

For years we fielded this kind of concerned comment, and had only our vision of what was possible in homeschooling our children to strengthen our commitment. In the past decade, there has been much more acceptance among family, friends, and community, but, nonetheless, for us there had been those remaining little doubts about the possibility of real success for someone who has never "gone to school." With that last phone call, all of those doubts were laid to rest. I know, and you know, that homeschoolers can do MARVELOUS things. . .but it's so encouraging when it happens right before your very eyes.

One more phone call came from the head of the national essay contest. Melody had stepped out for a moment, so I was on the receiving end.

"Mrs. Waring? Congratulations on your daughter's wonderful accomplishment. You are aware, of course, that Melody has won a $10,000 U.S. Savings Bond?"

I dropped my teeth!

"And, we would really like to have Melody read her essay at the National Convention in August for all of our assembled members... about 15,000 people."

Gulp. Breathe. I picked up my teeth... and began to cry.

So, dear friends, wild things can happen when our kids actually engage with their education. . .when they work hard on the things that interest them most.

I thought, perhaps you might enjoy reading the essay, written by one of your very own homeschoolers, that won the 1999 National Essay Competition (now called the Patriot's Pen) for the V.F.W. Here 'tis:

What Freedom Means to Me

by Melody Waring

The year is 1942. A chill is in the air. A twelve-foot wall of powerful electrical fencing surrounds the camp. A sneering voice is calling out the roll. Suddenly an emaciated young man falls to the ground in a paralytic fit of coughing. The Nazi official laughs and kicks the man until he lies still, never to get up again. Perhaps somewhere people are happy. Perhaps somewhere people are free. Not in this German concentration camp.

The year is 1936. Behind a locked door, a woman clutches her small son desperately. From outside comes the even tread of marching. With a final, terrified glance at the bolt on the door, the woman hides in a dark corner of the room. She knows it is futile. No one escapes the secret police. No one has any freedom. Not in the Great Purge of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

The year is 1955. A few miles away an orchard smolders in it's ruin. A leader of the Algerian revolt shakes his turbaned head sadly as he is led away by French army officials. He is to be thrown into a concentration camp and tortured, along with millions of other native Algerians. He and his people had struggled and revolted for freedom to no avail; all is hopeless here in sun-baked Algeria.

The year is this year. It is a Sunday morning in America and people nationwide stroll through the doors of churches. It is a Saturday evening and people nationwide are printing deluxe editions of their newspapers, voicing freely their opinions and feelings on everything from dieting to politics. It is a Tuesday afternoon and children nationwide are pouring out of their school buildings where they are taught without prejudice towards race or sex. It is because of our freedom that we do not live in the shadow of a concentration camp; it is because of our freedom that we need not cower behind locked doors afraid of secret police; it is because of our American freedom that we are not in a revolt against an overpowering authority.

Freedom: to worship unshackled, to speak uninhibited, to attend schools without being shunned, to vote for the the leaders of our nation, to stand against what is wrong, and to fight for what is right. This is what freedom means to me.

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Actively Engage Learning. . .

Actively Engage Learning. . .

In the last five blogs, we have considered these things:

But what does this mean in real life?  How do we move from theory to experience?

Well, I would like to draw upon the world of athletics to help us at this point.

First, analyze these two pictures.  What differences do you notice?baseballWhat are some terms you could use to describe the two groups of people in these photos?

In the top photo, how active are the folks involved in that game of tug-of-war?

In contrast, how active are the folks who are sitting in the stadium?

Not to insult your intelligence, but which group is more athletically engaged?

Of course.  All the folks involved in tug-of-war are fully engaged in the experience. The folks in the stadium may be interested, or, then again, maybe not. We have no idea of monitoring the involvement of the spectators, but I can promise you that they are not nearly as engaged as the players on the field OR the people pulling the rope.

And that is what we're after in education.  We want our children to have the opportunity to fully participate in the learning experience, not watch it pass by as a mildly involved spectator. We want them pulling in information, hitting a home-run in learning math facts or reading fluently or understanding WWII!

And, dear friends, there are a number of tried-and-true ways to do this.

No kidding.

I have to warn you, though, it's not going to look like education-as-usual.  It will probably look a whole lot more like the top photo—having a lot of fun, playing outside, working as a team, and putting your whole heart into it!

If that sounds intriguing, we are going to look next at some of the unique ways we are wired to learn—and how tapping into that can engage your kids in ways you would never have anticipated. That's when homeschooling gets exciting!!

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The Power of Laughter in Learning

The Power of Laughter in Learning

Today, I'd like to introduce you to a good friend of mine.  Terry Small is "The Brain Guy"—and one of the most engaging speakers on the planet!  He talks about learning and about the brain—how dry is that, right? But I have watched him hold an audience in the palm of his hand for more than two hours, which is nearly impossible. . . How does Terry do it?  He utilizes all that he has learned about the brain in order to communicate effectively to us about OUR brains.

One of the most important "techniques" Terry employs is laughter.  He says and does funny things during his presentations—which instantly engages the brains of everyone in the audience. He not only does it to help them stay tuned in, but he also teaches us to do it with our students when we are wanting them to stay tuned in.  You see, Terry teaches that we are wired to perk up, to listen more attentively, to engage, to remember when laughter is involved.

In fact, this is one of the amazing discoveries that have been made by researchers studying the brain.  Check it out on Terry's website, in his Brain Bulletin #15. (While you're there, I'd encourage you to sign up for his monthly Brain Bulletin—free!)

Where else have we heard this idea of the value of laughter making things easier to do, easier to learn?

Spoonful of sugar Well, if you don't mind me fudging a bit, I'd like to draw from that fount of wisdom, Mary Poppins.  After all, she is the one who taught us, "Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down—in a most delightful way!"

A spoonful of laughter surely does help the learning go down. . . deep into the brain's long-term memory storage.

Which leads us to the real source of wisdom.  Proverbs 17:22 tells us, "A merry heart does good, like medicine." 

I know you may have thought about this proverb in connection with physical health.  That's great!  But will you consider this in light of what you have just learned about your brain's health?

Brain

With this in mind, I will write a prescription—a homeschool prescription—for you and your children.

      • Laugh.  Intentionally find things to tickle the funny bone in your family.
      • Laugh often. Read about funny animals, read funny jokes, play funny games—include it in your daily schedule.
      • Laugh gently. Laugh about things that everyone finds funny, rather than jokes told at someone else's expense.
      • Laugh humbly. Laugh at your own mistakes, not at the mistakes of others.
      • Laugh joyfully. Laugh with delight at the humor you find in the universe—like cleaner fish and platypus and river otters.

You know, this was such an important part of our own homeschooling journey that I've been talking about it for years.  In fact, when it came time to write the History Revealed curriculum, we made sure that there were many opportunities for laughter and healthy humor!

Remember, stay relational!

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The Power of Enjoyment in Learning

The Power of Enjoyment in Learning

Well here's a wild thought for you:

In the seventeenth century, a Christian teacher named John Comenius, came to believe that it was possible for students to enjoy learning.

Okay, before we get into that, let's talk a bit about some of the educational ideas that had come before.  In order to give you a foundational grasp of this, I'd like to quote a bit from the eye-opening book, Education That is Christian, by Dr. Lois LeBar. (LeBar was one of the preeminent Christian educators of the mid-twentieth century, and was the chair of Christian Education at Wheaton for many years.)  She described two sets of factors that affect a student's education: the inner factors (which refers to things inside of the learner—their attitudes, their experiences, their ideas, etc.) and outer factors (which refers to things outside of the learner—the teacher, the course of study, the room, etc.).  LeBar writes:

Diverse weightA quick survey of the history of education shows that the prevailing tendency of human nature is to overemphasize outer factors. In the ancient nations of Assyria-Babylonia, Egypt, India, and China, outer elements were practically the only consideration.  The general outlook was backward rather than forward, the major aim being to preserve the past or the status quo rather than to improve them.  Memory and imitation stand out as the chief methods in a transmissive, authoritarian system.  Because study was not interesting, discipline was severe.  Because individuality was suppressed, art and science were undeveloped, literature barren and formulistic. . . Even when education gave priests or artisans practical preparation for taking their places in society, this preparation was mechanical and stereotyped.  The stress was upon outward conformity.

"The education that the Lord God gave the Jewish people whom He chose for His own purposes was theocentric and practical, with a salutary balance between inner and outer factors.  They were to glorify Him in national destiny and personal character. He taught them by questions and moral discipline, memorization and sensory appeal.  Their worship of Him and their daily morality were closely connected.  These were also the methods of Christ Jesus, the Master Teacher. . ."

LeBar continues on through a brief synopsis of the history of education, closing perceptively with these thoughts:

"Thus we see that throughout the ages teachers have most often considered their tChild Discoveryask to be that of exposing pupils to factual content and of getting them to give back in words this outer knowledge.  They have relied almost wholly upon verbal communication of facts."

And then comes her zinger: "How much of the factual knowledge to which you were exposed in high school is now your personal possession?"

Ouch!  I don't know about you, but very little of what I studied in high school remains with me to this day.  And that, my friends, is what we are seeking to change in the lives of our own children.

So, that brings us to John Comenius.  He lived from 1592-1670, spending most of his life as an educator.  Through personal experiences as a student, along with ground-breaking work as an innovator in academics, Comenius gave to the world brilliant insights on education—drawn from Scripture and from nature.  In fact, he had such an impact in the 1600's that he became known as the "Father of Modern Education."

With that as an incredibly brief background, listen to what Comenius wrote in his transformational book on learning, The Great Didactic. In the preface, he described his goal, “To seek and to find a method of instruction, by which teachers may teach less, but learners may learn more, by which schools may be the scene of less noise, aversion, and useless labour, but of more leisure, enjoyment and solid progress; and through which the Christian community may have less darkness, perplexity, and dissension, but on the other hand, more light, orderliness, peace, and rest.”  (emphasis mine)

Surprised GrandmaAmazing! Teachers teaching less, but learners learning more??  How is that possible? 

I believe that if we can make learning come alive through the power of enjoyment, if students are encouraged to play and be active, that something dramatic will happen in their education.  

I'm looking forward to next week, where we will actually address how teachers can teach less and learners learn more.  We'll be looking at some of the most recent discoveries about the brain, and what has been learned about learning.

Remember, stay relational.

Diana

 If you are intrigued with this idea, and would like to see a curriculum that invites students into an enjoyment of learning, please click on the yellow button below.

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Study with Pleasure

smiley

Since enjoying learning—especially for teens—is so radically different from the normal approach, may I continue to introduce you, one by one, to the people and Scriptures that have brought this to life for me?

I hope you're nodding your head right now.  Not nodding off, mind you!  That would take us in an entirely different direction. 

BibleSo, for today, let's open our Bibles to discover a glimpse into God’s heart, His wise and loving ways in education.  After all, if He is the One who created human beings with the ability to grow up and beget other humans, then He must have had something in mind for how adults could teach children!

power of learningPsalm 111:2 says, “The works of the Lord are great, studied by all who have pleasure in them.”

Okay.  Did you see that go by?  Did you notice those two words "studied" and "pleasure" in the same sentence????

Amazing. The obvious scriptural implication here is that it is possible for us to have pleasure in studying His works.

This generates, at least in my mind, a question: What exactly is included in “the works of the Lord”?  Is it solely knowledge of theology, doctrine, evangelism, and eschatology—you know, church stuff?

Well, no, I don't think so. If you start reading in Genesis, you’ll quickly discover that everything good comes rightly under the category of “the works of the Lord.” That would include:

      •  biology
      • chemistryExperiment
      •  physics
      •  mathematics
      •  language
      •  geography
      •  zoology
      •  history

BeakersBut wait, there's more!  According to the Bible, people are created in the image and likeness of God.  One result of being created in His image is that people are creative.  The things we do, the creative works, form another category, a sort of sub-heading of academic studies, which fit under "the works of the Lord."  These would include:

      • Spatial art
      •  architecture
      •  drama
      •  music
      •  literature
      •  athletics
      •  home economics
      •  computer technology
      •  gourmet cooking
      •  car mechanics
      •  hair design
      •  interior decorating

Are you with me?  When we stop and actually consider the categories which fit under "works of the Lord," all of the subjects we can imagine—and more—are suddenly seen as potentially enjoyable to study.

Notice tLittle bakerhat Psalm 111:2 does not say anything about the enjoyment being limited to little kids.

Hmmm. 

What IF we are each hardwired to enjoy learning?  What IF there are ways we can tap into this when we teach our children?  What IF there are possibilities far beyond what we have even imagined?

Well, that's enough for today.  On Friday, Lord willing, I'll be sharing with you some thoughts from John Comenius, the Father of Modern Education.  Intrigued?  Great!  See you then. 

Remember, stay relational.

Diana

 

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