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!

At Monticello with Jim and Randy Weiss

Life happens.

I'm sure you know what I mean. There you are, with good intentions and great ideas, and suddenly, POOF! All your time, energy, brain-power, and effort evaporate into nothingness.

Happens to me every year during the homeschool convention season!! But, now, it is August and the 2013 conventions are over ...

Time to get back to work, back to the joys of blogging, Facebooking, weeding, and cleaning the house.  Well, at least the first few sound like fun. smiley

Before I launch back into the "How God Made You Smart" thread, I wanted to share one of the most delightful experiences of this convention season. Through the years, my husband and I have come to know and appreciate Jim and Randy Weiss, of Greathall Productions. But getting to know other speakers at conventions is incredibly limited, so, at the Great Homeschool Conference in Cincinnati this year, when Randy said to me, "Diana, why don't you come stay with us for a few days before going to the HEAV convention in Richmond?" I was thrilled. It sounded like such fun, and, believe me, it was even more delightful than I had imagined it might be. They are wonderful hosts and fascinating people, generously warm and compassionate friends that we are privileged to know. And, Randy is a fabulous cook—a woman after my own heart!!


In the planning of our time together, Randy suggested a trip to Monticello, home of Thomas Jefferson. I had never been to this historic site, and, you know me, when a place is dripping with history, I am as thrilled as a robin with a worm, a fox with a henhouse, a climber with a mountain, etc. However, I had not realized that Jim had actually done research at Monticello for one of his story-telling CDs, Thomas Jefferson's America. What amazing anecdotes he whispered as the guide took us through the house! He pointed out fascinating items, told us stories of Jefferson's life that I had never heard, and made it an absolutely riveting walk-through. As we all strolled through the gardens, Jim described the unusual setting for Monticello, as most plantations of the time were in the valleys, not on the hilltops—where obtaining water would be far more difficult. As Jim talked, the reality and challenges of day-to-day living became increasingly visible, even as the wisps of Jefferson's great accomplishments continued to float across my mind. And for that, I am incredibly grateful.

History, it seems to me, is so often something "out there"—something unattainable, done by those few IMPORTANT people—and it has no real impact or bearing on our lives.  And, yet, when history comes to life, with brilliant color AND drab mundaneness, it has a power to challenge us, to change us. Tom Jefferson's curiosity was one of the take-aways for me. He nurtured his curiosity, asking questions, investigating possibilities, spending time to discover, writing down his observations. Instead of seeing him solely as President of the United States (a job I will never hold), if I disover that he was a person who remained curious his entire life, I can allow it to challenge my life, to change my life. Rather than being content to just make it through each day, I just might give myself permission to follow the rabbit trail when it looks interesting!

I would love to hear your thoughts about learning history.  And, in fact, if you want to share how Jim Weiss and Diana Waring have made learning history memorable, challenging, even life-changing, we will enter you into a contest to win one of Jim's Thomas Jefferson's America CDs.  On August 21, we will randomly choose five winners from those who have left comments on this blog.

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How God Made You—and Your Kids!—Smart: Spatial Intelligence

Rod & Alexis' Dining RoomI used to live next door to an amazing artist, Alexis Wilson Russell, a vibrant painter and committed Christian. Her Cherokee husband (now deceased), was a preacher of the Gospel of Jesus, and, together, they had ministered in many nations of the world—before ending up as my neighbors! Here is a photo of their tiny dining room, displaying an artist's love of color, texture, and visual interest.

White Buffalo WomanMany years ago, we accompanied Alexis and Rod to a Native American gathering in South Dakota, which to my wondering eyes was a brilliant tapestry of culture, color and sound. As we were leaving, Alexis spotted a Native woman's spectacular regalia, and ran to ask permission to take a photo in order to paint it. I remember watching Alexis paint this glorious painting, and yet, as an absolute novice when it comes to all things artistic, I still have no idea how she was able to recreate this. Here is the final result—a detailed, vibrant depiction of beauty, color and Native culture that still takes my breath away.

How can anyone do this??

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How God Made You—and Your Kids—Smart: Musical

Böttcher,_Christian_Eduard_-The_Music_Lesson_-_1860Music! For some of us, this is the word that makes us glow inside. Music can powerfully stir our hearts, vividly connect us to memories, and help us express emotions ranging from joy all the way to grief. In a profound and practical way, music adds a depth of richness to our everyday lives, doesn't it?

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

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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. . .

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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