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!

Why quit homeschooling?

Enjoying Everyday Life

If you are a homeschooler, may I ask you an honest question? Here it is:

Have you ever wanted to quit homeschooling? 

I think if we could all sit around a table and talk together, we would be surprised at how much we have in common when it comes to this question!  We would laugh with deep relief as we discovered we weren’t the only ones harboring thoughts of an easier path. . . And, once we felt the freedom that comes from being real, once we knew it was okay to admit we had those thoughts. . .THEN we could think honestly about why we homeschool and if it's worth it to continue.

For me, my decision to homeschool came when I was pregnant with our first child. A friend handed me a book about homeschooling, and I found the whole concept utterly entrancing!  Pictures of perfect days with perfect children danced through my head. . . You probably know how long that image lasted!  Yes, it popped just after a few days of teaching my kindergarten student at home (with two younger ones who kept things hopping).  Though the dreams had been perfect, the somewhat painful reality was that kids learn differently than I expected, they struggled with things I enjoyed and they enjoyed things that were outside my comfort zone.  

And, being a novice homeschooler, I had simply followed the model of school in my head.  We had a desk, an apple, an American flag. I knew when we would have reading, writing and recess. I had all my ducks in a row at the beginning of the school year, but my son wasn’t a duck.  He was a little boy with all kinds of ideas and interests that were outside the kindergarten "curriculum."

After a month of strwhyquituggling with increasing difficulties, like making boring textbooks palatable, I was struck by my son's doleful question:  “Mom, do we HAVE to keep doing this?” I realized that I didn't like it any more than he did. So, I quietly put all the kindergarten books away, and discretely went back to doing the things we had been doing before:

reading books, playing with play dough, taking walks, cooking together, playing with music, and enjoying everyday life.

It took three years of trying this start-and-stop approach to homeschool before it dawned on me that he loved learning a LOT more when we quit doing artificial, fill-in-the-blank, desk-bound school.  When he had a chance to really engage with material, to freely ask as many questions as he wanted and dig into answers, and to follow his interests down the rabbit trails, my son loved learning.

Which brings me back to the idea of quitting.  In the three years that I tried to force him into a narrow educational box, I felt like quitting every day. It was hard, it was distasteful, and I was failing miserably as a “teacher.”  But, to my utter surprise, when we finally discovered the freedom to learn in ways that were appealing to my son, homeschool became an adventure and a joy.

And, who wants to quit when you love what you’re doing???

Need more inspiration to keep going?

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Teaching Tip 2—The Introduction

If you’ve ever watched the Food Network show, Chopped, you know that one of the most important elements the judges consider is presentation. Without that, your tasty dish loses some of its value. And, yet, a tomato tastes like a tomato, regardless of how it looks, right?  So, why go to all the trouble to make it look “just so”? Why does presentation matter?

The truth is that the way it looks will either heighten one’s appreciation or lessen one’s desire for the food on the plate.

It’s not just about food, though.  Have you ever heard the phrase, “dress for success”?  Why do employment books advise this when looking for a job? It’s because “you only get one chance to make a first impression,” and “the first impression is the lasting impression.” Regardless of your skills, your appearance will affect how potential employers consider your job application.

There is something about how we are wired that makes the introduction to a food or a person significant. In fact, it can make all the difference in the world when it comes to being well-received.

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A Child Who Survived the Holocaust

History is far more compelling than any novel

What does it mean to be a survivor?

We use it in many ways: those who beat cancer; those who pull through a life-threatening accident; those who overcome crippling abuse; and, those who go through war atrocities.

As we learn their stories, our hearts are gripped by the real-life drama, and we wonder—from a safe and comfortable distance—how they ever made it through. It can even read like an adventure novel or political thriller, where the author invents twists and turns to capture the audience.

But history is far more compelling than any novel.

Recently, Dr. Jay Wile (read his post here) and I had the privilege of interviewing Dr. Inge Auerbacher, honored internationally for her work in reconciliation, and known for her books on her experience as a Jewish child in a Nazi concentration camp.  Her real life story has incredible twists and turns, from her father being a disabled veteran with an Iron Cross medal after WWI (which made a difference with the Gestapo, allowing this Jewish family to be together in a transit camp for three years rather than being sent to an extermination camp), to being hospitalized after arriving in America for TWO YEARS with tuberculosis as a teenager, to being accepted into medical school in Heidelberg but fleeing when she heard them singing Nazi songs, to becoming a chemist for thirty-eight years, to international renown as an author and human rights activist.

Dr. Wile and I sat, quietly stunned, as she shared personal anecdotes and memories of what every day life was like during the Holocaust, living at the Terezin transit camp. There is something so real about a hungry child’s game of imagining mountains of whipped cream to eat, and of sneaking a look at the infamous Eichmann when he visited the camp. (Inge told us that, as a prisoner, you were not allowed to look at the SS, you were required to bow your heads when they came.)  

Inge’s voice trembled a bit as she described that when you went to the camp, virtually everything you owned was taken from you. You had no money, no power, nothing with which to bribe officials. But, somehow, she was able to keep her doll, which survived the concentration camp along with her.  (It now resides at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.)  This blonde, blue-eyed doll, whom Inge named “Marlene,” was made for the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, and given to her when she was only two years old by her beloved grandmother (who would later die at the hands of the Nazis at Riga).  Her story of how she and her friend, Ruth, would play with their dolls was so typical of young girls.

WeStillHadHopeAnd, that was what struck me me the most. Some of what Inge described sounded as normal as the child next door: imagination, games, play.  She even told us that people in her camp put on actual theater productions from time to time!  And, yet, in the same breath, she talked about how few children her age were still living when the camp was liberated.  She described her best friend, Ruth, being sent on a train—which sounded so desirable to Inge—only to die at Auschwitz. When I asked her what it felt like, to be in the camp as a child, she said, "We still had hope." And that is, perhaps, the most critical component of surviving.

Life and death. Hope and helplessness. Family and forced separation. These were the real life experiences for a child who survived the Holocaust.

“I stand tall and proud, My voice shouts in silence loud: I am a real person still, No one can break my spirit or will: I am a star!” Inge Auberbacher, From her book, “I Am A Star” published by Penguin Putnam Inc.

Homeschoolers at the GHC conferences in Ft. Worth, Greenville, and Ontario will be able to hear her amazing story for themselves.  Don’t miss this incredible opportunity!

 

 

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Give Yourself a Break!

Give yourself a break

When I began homeschooling in 1985, I was naively oblivious of the time commitment I was taking on. . .for the next twenty years!  But it didn't take long to figure out that being a homeschool mom tends to be a 24/7 career because our kids are always there, always needing something to be fixed, explained, picked up or cooked.  Now, don’t get me wrong—there are amazing benefits to this job that money can’t begin to buy.  If you want to have the ongoing energy to stick with this demanding career, however, there are a few things that can make a real difference.  One of them is giving yourself permission to go “off-duty” at times.

For me, one of the lifesavers of homeschooling was the daily quiet zone we had after lunch.  Once the dirty dishes hit the sink, we would each go to our rooms to sit on our beds for an hour!  (You're dubious, right?  But your wrigglers are no wigglier than mine, and you are already training them to sit for meals and church and car rides.  We just took one more step.)  As long as the activity was quiet, each of us could do what we liked.  For some, it was the perfect time to build with Legos, for others, it was a treasured free reading time.  For me, I could rest, read, chat on the phone or contemplate new thoughts over a cup of coffee—ALL BY MYSELF.  If you can imagine lounging amidst the palm trees and water of an oasis after hours toiling in the sun-baked desert, you will understand how welcomed this daily break was for each of us.  

Go off dutyOnce a week, I had a date with my husband, while a friend baby-sat.  Because we had limited funds, it was always a cheap date. Sometimes we just walked and talked, other times we splurged on a bite of food, while discussing everything under the sun. It was vital time for us as a couple to catch each other up on our thoughts and ideas, and, since sharing about our respective jobs was a big part of what we needed to share, it also provided me with a sounding board for the difficulties I had encountered that week. These weekly breaks provided fresh perspective, renewing my zest for work (that 24/7 homeschool mom job!).

And, for a time, I was scheduling monthly friend time at a lovely English tea shop with another homeschooler.  What refreshment!  In that completely "off duty" time, we enjoyed the break, enjoyed the pampering, enjoyed the friendship. And, by the time we had laughed and cried and shared the daily challenges we were each facing, we had not only gained an understanding that our unique problems weren’t all that unusual, we were energized and excited to get back to our kids.

I know that nowadays, interaction with other homeschoolers is as close as your internet connection.  But the luxury of tea served in a china cup, with a precious friend to share it, and the mini-vacation aspect of a few hours away still makes it richer and more deeply refreshing than our daily face time with a computer screen.

Daily, weekly, monthly. . .taking time for restoration and renewal is time well spent.  It will pay huge dividends for you and your family, because the old saying happens to be true: “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”  

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Teaching Tip 1—You are ALL smart!

Is it true? Are we all smart? The answer, believe it or not, is YES!

Does that surprise you? If your experience in school was to convince you of the exact opposite, you may want to keep reading. . .

Today begins a series of tutorials on my History Revealed curriculum. Element by element, phase by phase, we are going to drill down into the details.  So, if you are using (or thinking of trying) Ancient Civilizations and the Bible; Romans, Reformers, Revolutionaries; or World Empires, World Missions, World Wars, this will be the place to ask questions and find answers.  

If you don’t qualify as a customer, but are increasingly weary of treading down a very tired education trail, you are welcome to join us in discovering what happens when you work with your students’ Learning Styles, their 8 Kinds of Smart (Multiple Intelligences), and their interests and passions. These dynamically transform the learning experience.  It’s true.  Kids can actually LOVE learning!

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