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!

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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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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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!



Diana



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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