Diana's Homeschool Blog

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!

Need more time for homeschooling?

Need more time?

Time. Don’t you wish there was more of it in your life? Time to accomplish more, rest more, read more, laugh more, play more? Especially when your life is filled to the brim with to-do’s? I have written about this before in Slow Down and Enjoy This Time, Intentional Living, and Give Yourself a Break.

But, when it comes to homeschooling our kids, how do we find more time? After all, they’re kids, not robots! They don’t just sit and absorb endless amounts of data. And they have this habit of going off on tangents, don’t they?

Poof! There goes the schedule. . .and your stress levels.

Stop and smell the rosesSo, what do we do? How do we find more time for learning? Well, I’m going to share a radical suggestion: Instead of pushing harder, stop and smell the roses. Surprisingly, this produces HUGE educational benefits.

Here’s a story to illustrate.

Years ago, as we were driving cross-country, my son saw on the map that we were not far from Galena, Illinois, home of President Ulysses S. Grant. This held a special fascination for Michael, because he had just recently learned that he shared a birthday with this famous man. Though we were under pressure to get to the next homeschool convention, we decided to drive the extra hour to Galena. After all, it’s not every day that a teenager wants to learn more about history!

Our Objective: Learn more about President Grant.

Truthfully, though, it grated on my nerves to leave the interstate for this slowly winding road. As time kept ticking, I became more and more anxious. . .until, finally, around one more curve, we arrived. And, it was literally breath-taking—gorgeous, stately, historic, a survivor from a different century.

At the local Tourist Bureau, we found someone who explained why this place looked so amazing. He said that, prior to the Civil War, Galena had been the site of lucrative lead mines, resulting in lots of wealthy people with lots of money for spectacular architecture. And, unlike most places in America, this mid-1800s architecture was not torn down to make room for new styles. When the city was unable to afford to dredge the river, business dried up and most folks moved away, abandoning their mansions. This was, essentially, an elegant 1800s city, frozen in time.

Remember our one objective? In taking a few extra—and incredibly fun—hours to visit Galena, we learned so much more than we had planned:

      • the geography of northwestern Illinois, its topography and river systems;
      • river-dredging on a tributary of the Mississippi;
      • river transport;
      • flood gates and river levees;
      • lead for military weaponry;
      • architectural styles popular among the wealthy in the early to mid-1800s;
      • economics of town planning, and of housebuilding;
      • U.S. Grant’s home (yes, we did get there!);
      • U.S. Grant’s presidency.

All that learning, and we had a fabulous adventure, too!

Learn more than one factAnd, that’s what slowing down and smelling the roses can do for you, when it comes to education. Your kids learn far more than one fact. With time to explore and discover, they come up with their own questions and find their own answers. They engage the material. They become self-motivated. Spending this extra time makes learning fascinating and memorable. And, amazingly, they will accomplish more, read more, laugh more, and play more—all while learning far more—than you would have thought possible. Go ahead, give it a try!

If you would like a curriculum to help you with this exploration and discovery, with engaging your students, and making learning both memorable and fascinating, here's a place to start:

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With time and effort

Working with a horse

A few years ago, I was invited by visiting friends, who are horse-lovers, to attend a natural horsemanship clinic with them. They were thrilled that this traveling clinic was going to be so close to my home—because it was a lot closer for them to attend than from their home in Australia!! During one section of the clinic, we all sat watching in amazement as an instructor demonstrated the relationship she had developed with an "untrainable" horse. The two of them played together, performing beautiful and intricate maneuvers, while constantly reaffirming the special love, trust, and respect they had between them.

Two things struck me about this incredible relationship:

1) It took a LOT of time. The trainer, working little by little, day after day, unobserved by others, eventually developed the extraordinary trust and working relationship which we were seeing.

2) We were the passive audience. Very few of the thousands of the people entertained by this beautiful sight would be willing to invest the necessary effort to experience it for themselves.

 FewPeople-1

What a rich analogy this is for homeschoolers!

Have you noticed how much time you spend with your kids??  Of course you have. That's one of the inescapable facets of homeschooling. So, right from the get-go, you are already spending what is absolutely required to develop a relationship with your kids—hours and hours, days and days, weeks and weeks, months and months, years and years together.

And, you are working at it. You've probably heard someone say that they would never be able to homeschool because they couldn't stand being around their kids that much. It's sad, but, oh, so common.  You, on the other hand, are already miles down the road toward building relationships with your kids because you are investing the effort to figure out how to do this in real life. You keep learning, moment by moment, how to get along with each other. You keep discovering the nuances of how to teach them math facts while you learn important subjects like "laundry off the table and dinner on the table!"

You have chosen to take the time and effort to be "corralled" with your kids. . . And I, for one, want to take this moment to recognize the amazing progress you have already made, and enthusiastically say, "Well done!!"

Now that you recognize that you have made progress in leaps and bounds toward achieving a relationship with your kids, I have two quick suggestions (that take a lifetime to implement):

mini-pony working with trainer1) Laugh more. A lot more. Intentionally find ways to add humor into your daily life.  Read funny books out loud, practice funny jokes, play funny games, observe funny animals. You name it.  If it's funny (the good kind of funny—not making fun of somebody else), do it!

2) Enjoy your kids. Right now, just as they are. Those things that drive you crazy are actually the immature version of their adult giftings. (Can you imagine Mikhail Baryshnikov's parents trying to get him to sit down and be still? Or Barbara Walters' parents trying to get her to stop asking so many questions??)

Take the time. Savor the journey. Reap the healthy relationship with your kids. Believe me, THIS is the life!

And, just for your delight, here is a beautiful video of Parelli foals.

 

 

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The Adventure of Art

Art is Relational!

When it comes to the arts—and how to nurture your child’s inner artist—I have some opinions.   At one time, all three of my children were majoring in the arts in college: one studying classical ballet, one studying piano at a conservatory, and one studying theater.  Life happened, challenges came, and only one graduated with an arts degree. (The other two graduated in other fields.) However, the arts play a huge part in our family's culture.

So, how does this happen? How does this sort of arts-loving, beauty-making thing develop in kids?  Obviously, there are natural giftings and talents that come into play.  You already know that.  But beyond what is hard-wired into them, there are two suggestions I would make that can inspire and nurture your child in the arts.

The first is to recognize the wonderland of opportunities moms and dads have for exposing their children to greatness in art. 


When the land belonged to GodWhen the land belonged to God, by Charlie Russell

My husband taught me this when our kids were 9, 7, and 5.  He knew we would be driving through Helena, Montana, and was aware that this city boasted a number of Charlie Russell paintings.  To prepare our kids to really “get” this great American painter of the West, he went to the library and found a children’s book of Russell paintings.  As we traveled, my kids—especially seven-year-old Michael—pored over the pages.  When we actually arrived at the museum, I was stunned to see my elementary-aged son stand mesmerized before one of Russell’s paintings, “When the Land Belonged to God,” which depicts vast herds of American bison on the plains.  After many minutes of his absorbing the painting, I tentatively suggested that we leave.  Michael turned to me with shining eyes and said, “Mom, that’s MY painting!”  He was noticeably moved by the greatness of what we had seen.

So, think about it.  What can you see, hear, or watch in your local area—or on your upcoming summer vacation—that displays the beauty of a master painter, composer, dancer, or playwright?  If at all possible, prepare your children beforehand for what they will see, using books, CDs, or DVDs.  It will help your kids “own” the actual art as something uniquely special for them.

Second, consider your own approach to the arts. 

Nurture your child's Inner ArtistIf you want to nurture your child’s “inner artist,” how do you personally respond to art?  Whether or not you find that music, painting, dance, and theater touches your heart, you can still be supportive as you intentionally begin to appreciate the beauty, power and expressiveness of the creative arts.  Your children learn a lot from your responses.  If you are interested, chances are they will make a note of it.  If you are bored, they will pick up your cue.

Art is a very relational subject.  The way you expose your children to its greatness, and the way you respond yourself, will be the most significant ways you can help your children develop a love for the arts.

 

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The world-changing gift of languages

The world is bigger than us!

The world is bigger than us. 

That should be obvious, but sometimes we live with cultural blinders. What I mean is that we go through our day, thinking thoughts in our own language within our own culture.  And we don’t really pay attention to the reality that there are multitudes who think thoughts in another language in another culture.

I have some experience with this myself. When I traveled to Europe with my father in 1971, I remember standing at Piccadilly Circus in London and watching a young salesman handling several international customers at a time—each one in a different language.  I was incredulous that anyone could speak that many languages, let alone use them in rapid-fire succession!

My second experience was when I traveled across the U.S. with a Youth With a Mission team to the Montreal Olympics and then to Boston.  It was there, in Boston, that I met an Egyptian who spoke English with a perfect British accent. It was fun to chat along in English about our shared experiences, and it felt like I was speaking to someone from Great Britain. But, when he turned to an Egyptian friend and spoke in Arabic, it was absolutely shocking to realize that English was not his native language! I could barely grasp the fact that these two Egyptians really understood each other as they chatted along in Arabic—it seemed to my very American ears to be a very difficult language.

Prague Rooftops Right about then, I came to the life-changing discovery that lots of folks speak and think and live in a language other than English.

The lesson was that learning someone else’s language is a gift—and a responsibility. It opens doors and expands horizons between people and nations. And it very efficiently helps to remove those cultural blinders that Americans so easily wear.

Dear ones, there is a huge wide world out there to serve, and learning a foreign language is great preparation. Perhaps more potently, it will better equip our children to change the world!

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Balancing Character and Academics

When it comes to character, we are the textbook our children are reading.

I love new days, new years, new opportunities!  There is an invigorating freshness when we start new, isn’t there?  All things are possible.

And, for homeschool parents, this is a great time to bring fresh eyes to this age-old challenge: how DO we balance building character and academics?  After all, academics is a big deal. It’s half our job title: Homeschool (Parent). It occupies most of our waking hours and we think about it through many sleepless nights.

How do I teach Sally that 2x2=4? 

When will Bobby finally read on his own?

Should Jessica take the pre-SAT tests this year, and have I taught her everything she needs to know?

This makes sense. It is logical, measurable, and students can win awards with this stuff.  

Character, on the other hand, is not so much taught as caught.  What I mean is that, if we read a book on generosity to our kids, for example, will that make them generous? Obviously not. . .  If only it were that simple!  

In many ways, our kids will pattern their character after us.  If they observe our honesty, if they see that we highly value honesty, and if we lovingly call them to the same standard, honesty will become foundational in their lives.  And, contrarily, if our kids see us lie and cheat, they will learn that character lesson from us.

The somewhat uncomfortable truth is that, when it comes to character, we are the textbook our children are reading.  What a good thing that it is a NEW YEAR and we can have a fresh start!

Okay. So, we have logical, measurable academics and the real deal of our kids learning about character from us.  Now, how do we balance the two?  Do we spend 4 hours a day on academic lessons and 4 hours a day on developing character? What do real people do?

To answer this, let me ask you a question:

How do you balance eating and sleeping?

It’s obvious, isn’t it?  You eat when you’re hungry and you sleep when the lights go out.  You aren’t puzzled about this.  You seldom sit down to a meal and wonder, “Oh, dear, should I eat or sleep?”  The situation (and your body’s needs) give obvious clues to what is appropriate.

In the same way, academics and character-building provide obvious clues. When Mary asks, “Mom, what is a preposition?”, you know that what is needed is an academic explanation (and maybe some fun “Preposition Charades”).  When Jimmy says, “Mom, Willie took my truck and won’t give it back!”, you know that it is time to talk with Willie and Jimmy about respecting one another’s property AND sharing.

You are good at this!  You’re the mom!!  Enjoy the journey!!!

This is one of my articles from The Homeschool Minute. Here's where to subscribe: www.TheHomeschoolMinute.com

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