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!

Read the instruction book. . .

You know, I hadn't watched TV since 1992 until this past year.

Wow, what a statement! It rather resoundingly puts me into that category of "weird people," doesn't it?

However, this post is not actually about the pros and cons of TV-watching.

So, to continue. Though I don't watch TV  hardly ever, we do watch the occasional DVD. My family jokes that I only watch movies I've already seen—which is pretty close to true.

However, this post is not actually about the pros and cons of DVD-watching.

We own a flat-screen TV which we use solely for watching said occasional DVD.  We bought it on sale four years ago, after our long-lived 13-inch TV became unusable.

At last!  We have now arrived at the point.

Because we were extremely busy four years ago, we never bothered to read the instruction manual from the manufacturer.  We just hooked up a few wires and fiddled with it until we managed to get it to work with our DVD player.

When my children introduced me to the new technology of streaming movies from my computer, I was intrigued.  I had a computer, I had a flat screen TV, and, fortunately, the two were easily connected.

What we were surprised to discover was that, though we could see the movie, we could not hear the movie. 

Huh.  I would have thought that the folks designing flat screen TVs would have figured that out before they put them on the market.

But, you can't have everything.  So, anytime we wanted to stream a movie, we would dutifully hook up our little old speakers to my computer.  They didn't work well, but, at least we could hear something.

Until Saturday night.  While watching God of Wonders, our speakers decided to play only a loud crackling, hissing sound.  No voices, only hiss.

Enter the Manufacturer's Instruction Manual.

Suddenly, I wondered if the unused cables that came with our flat-screen, currently residing in my desk drawer, might possibly have an application to this situation.  We dug out the unread Instruction Manual, and began to try to decipher its techno-language.  To our amazement, we found that those cables DID, in fact, have something rather startling to offer.  When we hooked them up to the flat screen, following the diagram given, and then plugged them into the computer, the built-in flat screen speakers brought forth glorious sound!!

As it turns out, the manufacturer actually had thought through the issues and had clearly addressed each one in the instruction manual.  It was rather humbling to find out that we could have actually been listening—for four years!—to richly rewarding sound, if only we had taken the time to read it. 

Do you know where I'm going with this?

I started pondering right away about how many other areas of my life may have been much less than they could have been if only I had taken the time to read the instructions. What had I missed?  And, dear friend, what have you missed?

Because, you see, we live in an age that does not have time to stop and read and listen and learn. Culturally, we are running just as fast as we can, and there is NO time to "waste" on instruction manuals.  I'm not speaking only of technological toys, either.  It's reading the Teacher's Guide before we toss the curriculum to our kids, it's reading the garden manual before we plop that flower in the ground, it's reading the cookbook before we throw the casserole in the oven.  And, most of all, dear friends, it's reading the Bible—the most important of all Instruction Manuals, given from the Creator of each one of us—before we engage our day.

If this resonates with you, I encourage you to read Proverbs 3:13-18.  It will open your eyes to the amazing possibilities!

Remember, stay relational!



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Intentional living. . .

I made a mistake yesterday.

Actually, I've made the same mistake time and time again.  And, as I thought about it this morning, I thought YOU might take some good from my mistake.

So, here it goes.

I had been speaking at a wonderful homeschool convention in Michigan. One of my friends from the 1990s was there, presenting with her husband.  Karey Swan is one of those people that you just want to sit down and listen to, drinking from her stories and her perspective.  In her presentation this weekend, she, once again, reminded me of our deep need to have space in our life for quiet, for creativity, for living.

I remember being impacted by that notion when I first heard it.  We had had the privilege of spending some time at Monte and Karey's home in the Rocky Mountains back in the mid-90s, and I can still remember how amazed I was at how much living these two accomplished.  It wasn't that they did it all. No one can. But what Monte and Karey did do was make choices of what was important, of what was worth spending time and energy on. Her example of intentionally keeping her life uncluttered from the crazy busyness that can engulf homeschoolers helped me to make some choices to simplify my life, too.

However, I am done homeschooling. My kids are grown, our life has changed. So, what have I done to fill the gap? Work! Work, work, work, work, work!! Now, don't get me wrong. Work is good. But as with all good things, too much of it is bad. As I can personally attest, "All work and no play make ______________ (fill in the name) a dull woman, wife, mom."

But Karey's presentation reminded me once again, as she spoke deeply of the need, even in this season of life, to celebrate life, to rest, to savor and enjoy quiet, creativity and living. I was in awe of the way she has continued to live out her life in an intentional, hospitable, creative, mentoring, serving, loving way. And, once again, I thought, "Yes!! I need to walk with this celebration and joy in my life!!"

But, what can I say? Old habits die hard.

We drove home Monday from the convention, through the snowstorm, to our little home. And yesterday, instead of savoring and resting and crocheting my grandson's birthday present (which is what I really wanted to do), I jumped with both feet into answering emails and writing newsletters and all the minutiae of stuff of coming home. By the time the day was over, I was disgruntled, disappointed, disastrously tired.

Like I said, I made a mistake.

This morning, however, I recognized that what I need to do is give myself permission to not do it all. I need to recognize the need for rest. I need to make room for my need to be creative with my hands, not just my words.

And, dear friend, with all that is on your plate, I imagine you might need that same kind of permission.

So, here it is. For what it's worth, I encourage you to take time in your day-to-day life for space, for quiet, for creativity, for celebration, for laughter and fun.  


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Demystifying Education, Part Two

In the last post, we looked at the first Demystifier—children are always learning.  Today, we'll take that a step further.

Demystifier #2:

It's not really learning until it changes you.

Learning changes you. Getting it right on the test doesn't mean you have learned it. I took a test to get my driver's license, and I had to know the speed limit in order to pass the test. But if I blithely drive twenty miles over the speed limit, did I really learn it? The police officer who stops me will not be impressed when I say, "Oh, I know the speed limit." He will write me a ticket, I'll pay a lot of money, and my insurance will go up. What are the odds that from that point on, I will pay attention to the speedometer, and actually drive the speed limit? If I do, then I will have learned my lesson.

Learning changes you. If I learn French, then that means I can actually speak it or read it. If I learn punctuation, I will correctly place my commas. If I learn percentages, I will save money at the grocery store. These are all indicators that real learning has taken place.

So, are your children really learning history? Are they adept at using their math facts? Have their biology lessons made a difference in food preparation? Are they able to write a letter to the editor concerning a local issue or, if they are much younger, a thank-you note to Grandma? Can they remember what they read in the story yesterday?


When we begin to see the importance of letting them learn until they actually have mastered and are able to use the material, we will slow down our mad rush through facts. We will make sure that our children understand what they are studying, that they have time to interact or play with the subject matter, that they have processed and reviewed the material in a way that brings the meaning to life, that they have had the light bulb go on. In short, when what is being studied is no longer a factoid that can float out of the head just as easily as it floated in, but has become a living, interwoven part of their being, then it has been learned.

If you will put these two basic truths -- to help them love learning, and to have them interact with the material to the point of mastery before you move on -- into everyday practice in your homeschool, your children will astonish the world.

Remember, stay relational.


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Demystifying Education, Part One

In our quest to educate our children, sometimes we can't see the forest for the trees.

You know what I mean.  There you are, trying to manueuver three children (or 1 or 6 or 12) through math (or lit or science or history), and it doesn't look anything like school.  Instead, it is much closer to herding cats—which is next to impossible.  Why did it seem so easy when you listened to that speaker, or read about it in that homeschooling book, or watched that neighbor do it? 

Well, here's the deal.  Math, lit, science, history are all trees.  They are part of your children's education, but if you don't know the size and shape of the forest, you might feel lost.  If only you had a map, or someone who knew the forest well enough to help you make it safely through!  Wouldn't that make all the difference?

With that in mind, can you and I have the talk that I wish someone had had with me when I began my homeschooling journey?  You just might find a whole lot more joy in your homeschooling—enjoying those massive trees—than you knew was possible.

Ready?  Here we go.

Demystifier Number One:

Children are always learning.

They may not be learning what you had hoped, like the date of Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo. It may be that they have just learned how to appear as if they were studying diligently while they enjoy a bout of daydreaming. Or, perhaps, instead of learning that 3x3=9, they learn that math is something to be dreaded because Mom gets upset if they don't finish on time. But they are learning something, either way.

The truth is that people -- young and old -- are wired to learn. Learners range from people eagerly scanning the morning newspaper for the latest football scores to a con artist learning a new way to do an online scam. It could be a microbiologist looking for a new virus or a surfer looking for a better beach. Learning happens. We are all constantly learning something we want or need to know.

So, the question is not, "How do I get my kids to learn?" but "How do I get my kids to learn the things that will benefit them?"

8 Kinds of Smart & Learning Styles

Two of the most powerful answers to that question are 8 Kinds of Smart and Learning Styles. When we begin to discover some of the unique ways our children are wired to learn, we can offer educational opportunities that are right up their alley. A basic understanding of the 8 Kinds of Smart and the 4 Learning Styles will become invaluable tools you can use to choose curriculum and adapt the curriculum you already have.

For instance, if you have (as I did) a child who is constantly moving, fidgeting, twisting, jumping, running, etc., and it is time to teach multiplication, then offer that one the opportunity to MOVE while learning 3x3=9. When my son was offered the chance to do jumping jacks while learning multiplication tables, his eyes lit up, and his body literally jumped for joy. He was not only jumping, however, he was learning. In a much shorter amount of time than I would have thought possible, this Body Smart learner memorized his times tables. (Also, check here for the Sensor Learning Style.)

Or, ask yourself, "Do my children love to be around others, play games together, dialogue and discuss?" If so, then provide educational opportunities for these People Smart learners to be with people while they are learning. This might be at a co-op, at a learning party you host, on a field trip, with a neighbor. . .the possibilities are nearly endless, as long as there are people within shouting distance, especially yourself. It can make all the difference for these kinds of learners! (And, check here for the Feeler Learning Style.)

On the other hand, do they prefer books, numbers, orderly schedules, and knowing exactly what is expected of them? If that is the case, your Logic Smart (also called Number Smart) learner will enjoy a well-planned lesson assignment—where they can see from start to finish what will happen and what is expected. This kind of organization will assure them, and can set them free to love learning.  (This also corresponds to aspects of the Thinker Learning Style.)

Or, do you have a child who is always coming up with new ideas about how to get the job done? This is the Intuitor Learning Style, which could show in any of the 8 Kinds of Smart. . . For instance, your child might suddenly decide to put on roller skates in order to take the trash out, or they might figure out how to spell "encyclopedia" by composing their own rhythmic melody. Invite these creative learners to be part of the process of deciding what educational opportunities might fit your family. If State history is on your schedule, your Intuitor student might brainstorm this plan: first, read aloud a library book on the pioneers of your state, and, next, to make a board game called Wagons Ho!—with miniature horses as the game pieces. It might seem impractical to you, but if you set these learners free to intuit their way through learning, the result will be delight and motivation to learn more.

Whatever you do, make it your quest to teach them in such a way that they can love learning.

Remember, stay relational!

Next week, we'll talk about the 2nd element in demystifying education.


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If it's in with the new, then it's out with the old. . .

On January 4, I wrote, “More than any other teacher on the planet, you can be flexible with your lesson plan and schedule.  If you see a sudden interest arising in your student, then make it a priority, change your schedule, and allow it in your lesson plan.”

So, what does that mean? How do we change our schedule, and allow something new into our lesson plan? In other words, if your plate is already filled to overflowing, how on earth do you add something else?

Great question!  To answer it, may we first step away from academics to some tips from a professional organizer?  This person was paid real money to organize people’s homes and offices, and when she offered a low-cost workshop on organizing, let me tell you that I jumped. . .

Here’s the biggest tip of all—it is so stunning that I don’t want you to miss it!!  Are you ready?

Tip #1 to change your organizing life:

When something new comes into the house (or office), then something else of equal size has to go out.

Do you already see the analogy? Or are you asking, “Huh?  What’s that?”

Maybe I should have started with her preparatory step.

Tip before #1 to change your organizing life:

Everything needs a place.  Everything.

Okay.  If we’re going backwards, maybe I should add this little bit, too.

Tip before Tip before #1 to change your organizing life:

You have a finite space, meaning it’s not expandable.  So, room to room, look at each thing you have.  Is it useful to you?  Is it important and worth keeping? Then keep it. Is it worn out, outdated, no longer useful?  Then get rid of it.

Let me set the steps in order so they make sense.

Look at your stuff and decide what you can keep, based on your space.

Assign a place for each thing you’ve kept.

When you bring something new home, get rid of something else.

Now, let’s apply this very common sense approach to scheduling, lesson planning and flexibility.

What is your daily, weekly, monthly, yearly schedule like?

As you look at it, remember that you have a finite amount of time—it’s not expandable.  Do you have enough time in your schedule for having fun, taking breaks, free time, and family time?  If not, it’s too full!

Now, how does the daily and weekly schedule look? 

Did you remember co-ops, music lessons, trips to the library, grocery shopping, housecleaning, and mealtimes added in?  They have to live within the schedule, so if it’s not going to work on paper, I can promise you it won’t work in real life.

When your kids find something compelling to study, something else needs to drop off the schedule.

Whether it’s learning about King Tut (a potential field trip!) or ice skating (a potential physical education class!), if your kids are interested, it is VALUABLE.  Think of it as a Ming Vase coming into your home.  When you know the value of this treasure, you won’t mind getting rid of that $3.89 vase you picked up at Goodwill five years ago. 

It’s all a matter of perspective, isn’t it? 

Your schedule can reflect the things your children consider treasures, rather than looking like an overstuffed storage shed. . . IF you remember that to take in something new, something else has to go out.

Stay relational!


P.S. If you have a copy of our book, "Things We Wish We'd Known," I highly recommend reading Joy Schroeder's article on this topic, beginning on page 106.


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