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!

Kindness in our hearts and words

Kindness in our hearts and words

I’ve been pondering the concept of kindness this weekend. It’s not something we see modeled in our culture, it's not an attribute generally valued in movies, in magazines, and certainly not in current political speeches.Yet, it can change your world—and transform your children’s lives.

One of the most stunning characteristics of the Proverbs 31 woman, in my opinion, is that she “opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness.” 

Frankly, I think this is the most difficult and demanding thing she does because it reflects what is in her heart—you know, from Matthew 12:34: “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”

Ouch. This is where the rubber meets the road. Our words reflect our hearts.

So, here we are, working morning till night, feeding our kids, teaching them, making sure homework is done, dealing with sibling rivalry, balancing the checkbook, going to the grocery store, getting everyone to co-op or music lessons or soccer. . . Whew! We’re tired, we’re overwhelmed, we’re busy, and there’s no end in sight. And now I’m talking to you about the words that come out of your mouth??

Yes. 

Words have powerWhy? Because our words have power, particularly in the lives of our children. Words can affirm and words can accuse. Words can build up and words can tear down.

By the way, it is not just women who need to be careful and kind in their speech.  In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul makes an interesting and similar connection between teaching and a heart attitude when he writes to Timothy: “And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient. . .” (2 Timothy 2:24)  He also describes (in Galatians 5:22) the fruit of God’s Spirit in a human heart: love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Did you notice that? Kindness is just one of several attributes that can revolutionize our parenting and teaching! 

If you're interested, here’s a more in-depth article, The Surprising Ingredient in Teaching.

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Creating A Family Tradition

Creating your own family tradition

Forging a family tradition takes time and effort. . .May my faltering experiences with this bring you hope and encouragement in this season.

"Joy to the world, the Lord is come..." As the disbelieving eyeballs of customers and tellers at our local bank peered at us in astonishment, my children and I continued to quietly carol as unobtrusively as possible in that most unusual setting. Why were we caroling in a bank? Because friends who worked there knew that we enjoyed Christmas caroling and that we were used to performing for strangers—we were headed for our local Mexican restaurant to carol next! How did Christmas caroling in oddball places become a family tradition? The answer took twenty years, with many fits and starts, to get us to that moment.

It all started when I visited a friend’s class in college. The professor said, "Tradition and ritual are the glue that holds families together. They give a strong sense of belonging and continuity, which is absolutely vital, especially in today's culture. . ." Coming from a broken family, I really wanted that kind of glue! It was determined right then: whenever I married and had kids, we would come up with family traditions and rituals to give us this sense of belonging and community. The problem I didn’t understand was that instituting a tradition—for the sake of tradition—could easily become a mere external effort with little meaning. . . Only when the traditions come out of your heritage, or from the things that give your unique family joy, can that amazing sense of family continuity and strength develop. And it will take time to find them.

I learned this the hard way. I kept trying the traditions others raved about, growing weary and grumpy as nothing seemed to stick. My children watched me with puzzled faces as I kept growling instead of grinning my way through all these attempts.

I had forgotten the reason we were doing this.

The external rituals and traditions are valuable only as they come from the heart of the family.The point wasn't to hear exclamations from friends about how incredible our traditions were or have magazine-worthy photo shoots! The point was to simply give our children and ourselves a special sense of belonging, an ongoing sense of being the "Waring family," a delight in the distinctives which make our memories. I slowly discovered that the external traditions and rituals are valuable only as they come from the heart of the family.

Somehow, the tradition of caroling began to rise to prominence for our music-loving, concert-giving family of singers. It was such fun to see the delight on friends' faces when they opened the door to our homemade music. There was a camaraderie with one another as we raced from house to house to give our special "Waring" gift to people all over town. And, there was the continuity of caroling year after year, since it didn't take much time and required no monetary funding, just a warmed-up voice and a stout scarf and hat. . .and gloves. . .and boots. . .and parka!

I realized how important this tradition had become when my college kids began to ask over the phone, "When will we be going caroling?" and to express, "I can't WAIT to go caroling!" This was the one tradition that stuck. It was the one Waring tradition that brought all of us joy and satisfaction.

So that is how, several years ago, we came to carol in a bank. . .and a Mexican restaurant. . .and a music store. . .and all over town.

May you discover this season some repeatable expression that can give YOUR unique family a special tradition that brings joy to you all!

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Is it time for Christmas Break?

Do you find your thoughts running to Christmas?

Have you noticed that your kids are more fidgety, more distracted, and less enthused about studying Daniel Boone than they were in October? Why is that?

Actually, are YOU less enthused about math and science and history right now? Do you find your thoughts running more and more to Christmas—when to get the tree, when to decorate, when to clean the house before guests arrive, how many cookies to make, and what gifts would delight the hearts of your family?

Are you feeling guilty about your lack of “commitment” to homeschooling and frustrated with your kids because they’re not with the program, particularly if your lesson planner tells you that if they could just finish THIS chapter, THAT project, and THOSE books, you could be “done” in time for Christmas? Is the pressure mounting?

Believe me, I understand. In the words of a good friend, “Been there, done that, got the bumper-sticker.”

I’ve been learning a lot lately about the value of listening to your heart when it comes to these kinds of struggles and pressures. Though, like you, I can force myself to do things I don’t want to do, ignoring ongoing internal messages like, “I wish we had time to enjoy this season,” often means ignoring what the Lord is offering us.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that I’ve missed a lot of wonderful opportunities to take in and enjoy the moment, the season, the special time of year because I was so busy trying to get my impossible to-do list done BEFORE I could rest and enjoy. These moments, these seasons, these Christmas-when-my-kids-are-home don’t last forever. . . If we’re determined to keep marching through our planned out schedule, the precious gifts—the laughter, the fun, the making-memories-that-happen-when-you-do-unexpected-things—will be lost.

Throw textbooks in the closet & enjoy the next 3 weeks!So, dear friends, if I could share a bit of wisdom that I wish someone had shared with me when I was homeschooling, when you see your kids and yourself longing for Christmas break, consider carefully throwing the textbooks in the closet and thoroughly enjoying the next three weeks!!

Play with your kids, plan special times, decorate cookies together, make a snowman or go swimming (depending on your climate!), go caroling at a senior citizens’ home, and all of the other things you’ve wished you had time to do. Immerse yourself thoroughly in giving and celebrating this Christmas in the ways that matter to your family.

And, just so you know, when you take this kind of a thorough break, when you come back to “school,” your hearts will be refreshed and ready to go. That’s what makes listening to your heart a win/win!!

Remember, stay relational.

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Doing the Priority — Relationship!

Loving. Being there. Really there.

Do you ever feel like you have way too much to do? Do you valiantly attempt to do it all anyway? It’s part of the homeschooling mentality—that sense of juggling twelve balls in the air at a time—cooking, cleaning, chauffeuring, nursing, teaching, shopping, listening, laundering, reading aloud, picking up, devotions, exercising. . .What did I miss from your list?

Oh, yes. That’s right. Loving. Being there. Really there.

And that, my friend, takes time.

At this season of life, my way-too-much-to-do-but-try-to-do-it-anyway looks slightly different from yours, because my children are grown. Normally my list includes writing articles for publications, blogging, preparing to teach an online world history class, working to upgrade our website, strategizing for our business, plus cooking, cleaning, shopping, laundering, picking up, devotions, exercising.

But, last month, I had two opportunities to love, to be there, really there. And it utterly blew apart my to-do list, as loving others tends to do.

First, I went to Chicago to help my daughter get ready to move. After two years of hard work on her Master’s degree, she is heading off to do her Ph.D., and that meant packing, cleaning, and helping transport stuff to a new city, a new state. As you know, it is so much easier, with far more laughter, when friends and family help with a move! But, in the midst of packing and cleaning, there was the incredible joy of simply being together. Chats over coffee, experiencing downtown Chicago, laughing over her cats’ antics, and most of all, checking in with each other, are precious building blocks of our ongoing relationship.

The second opportunity was tied to the first. My son brought his sons from Virginia to Chicago, so that he could be the MUSCLE in the move, and so that we could all watch his sister graduate. And, in an extension of the plan, so that Bill and I could have two incredible weeks with our grandsons.

Lovingly termed “Z1” and “Z2,” these 9 and 5 year-old boys have spent very little time with us. Their dad is in the Navy, and they have lived far from us most of their lives. In fact, next month, they are moving overseas for three years. So, these two weeks were a big deal. A BIG DEAL!

Time for play, time for the zooWe decided that this opportunity was more important than anything else that needed doing. It was time to play, to relax in the hammock, to go to the zoo, to blow bubbles, to read Hank the Cowdog, to pray and sing to Jesus together. It was time to simply love, to be there, really there.

So, that’s what we did. It was an all consuming, 24/7x2 for these non-experienced grandparents. It was exhausting, exhilarating, challenging, joyous, and precious beyond belief. I didn’t accomplish my normal to-do’s. I didn’t blog. I didn’t strategize. I didn’t plan (except meals). I'm back in the office again, and my normal to-do list is topped up and running over. But we wouldn’t change a thing about these past three weeks. It was the right choice to make, the right priority to do.

When your to-do list is interrupted by your relationships, it’s not the time to fret about the impossibility of meeting all the demands, because the other items on the list are only supporting the real priority. Loving. Being there. Really there. Taking time to embrace the relationships.

Honestly, isn’t that why we are homeschooling in the first place?

Enjoy those kids, dear friends. This moment soon passes.

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Humor at Home

Humor at Home

Do you remember the saying,

"Give me a fish and I'll eat for a day, teach me to fish and I'll eat for a lifetime"?  

It is as true for laughter as it is for seafood!

"Tell me a joke, and I'll laugh for a minute.

Teach me good humor, and I'll laugh for a lifetime."

This actually became one of my parenting goals: to teach my kids good humor in the context and safety of home. In the process of learning how to do this, some basic principles began to emerge. I call them my 10 Rules & Regs for Humor.  (This quick list is excerpted from one of the most popular workshops I ever presented, The Hilarious Homeschool.)

1) Don't gain a laugh at someone else's expense—If it makes fun of someone else, don't do it.

2) Snide remarks, put-downs, and demeaning sarcasm  are NOT allowed—Speak the truth in LOVE.

3) Ethnic jokes CAN be, "We belong, they don't!"—Making fun of other cultures and people-groups devalues those made in God's image.

4) Crude jokes are in bad taste—Adults need to be the ones who set the standard for wholesome humor.

Teach them WHY it is funny5) Puns are FOUNDATIONAL—Start with a basic "Knock, Knock" joke, and teach kids why it is funny.

6) Memorize a few good jokes—Give your kids success through tried-and-true laughter makers!

7) Play with language—Try traditional ways, like limericks or "spoonerisms."

8) Home must be safe—Make sure your entire family plays by these rules: demeaning, disrespect, and making fun of others is NOT ALLOWED.

9) Practice makes funny—Take time and make the effort to play with humor. . .Put it on your calendar and in your schedule!

10) Good humor at home uses wisdom—"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." Philippians 4:8

According to Proverbs 17:22, "A cheerful heart is good medicine. . ."  And, believe me, you need this kind of prescription!

Remember, laughter is one of the best ways to cheer up a home, especially one filled with fun-loving kids!!

For more explanation of these ten rules and regs, along with some of the funniest stories from my homeschool adventures, check out my Hilarious Homeschool Workshop on CD.

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