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!

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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Slow down and enjoy this time

Family walking through a winter garden

Have you ever noticed that your kids keep getting older. . .and bigger? Amazingly, the longer you parent, the older your kids will become. And, in the blink of an eye, they suddenly become adults. 

Just yesterday I had three little kids, and today I have one applying for a Ph.D. program, another applying for a Master's degree, and one walking through the unimaginable grief of losing a child. I had no idea that life would happen so quickly.

If I could go back to the beginning of the journey, knowing what I know now, I would make a few significant changes.

I would slow down and savor the relational time.

I would not yield to the "hurry, hurry" pressure.

I would remind myself that this moment, this day, this season is where we can enjoy life—I must not put it off till later.

If you are just beginning to walk along the parenting path, there are so many competing voices trying to tell you what to do, what you are doing wrong, what your children should be doing, and how to parent (and homeschool) better than anybody else.

But, if you can take a moment to imagine your little children as fully functioning adults, living outside of your home, you might be able to sort out these "expert" voices for yourself.  Look at your kids and ask yourself, "When they are grown, what will they be like?  What will they be doing? What will they enjoy?"  I can promise you that the seed of whom they will be as adults is living in your house today.

TreesI remember when one son would drink deeply of amazing adventure stories, particularly of people being rescued.  Today, he is an officer in the Navy Medical Services Corps.  Another son would often become an incredible cartoon character as a child. Today, he is an extraordinary theater professional.  My daughter always wanted justice in our family, with each of us doing what was right.  Today, she is pursuing justice on a much wider scale as she researches issues affecting the poor.

It was all there in seed form. But I had no idea how large the trees would grow.

When we grasp the fact that our kids are going to be adults one day, it gives perspective to the choices we make right now.

The take-away is this:  Enjoy your kids in this season of life. Before you know it, they will blossom!

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The Buttermilk Lesson, or, if you prefer, The Raw Oysters/Pickled Pigs Feet Lesson

pouring milkHow do we pass on to our children the things we love? How do we help them develop a taste for those distinctive traits that make up our family culture?

Here is a lesson in this from my own childhood.

Imagine this:

A six-year old girl is told she must drink buttermilk.

No one in her family likes it. But since they were all required to drink buttermilk by stern teachers with sour faces (impacted, no doubt, by the buttermilk), she must now experience the unpleasantness.

She tries a sip—and it is worse than she feared!!

It tastes SO awful, yet she has no choice but to drink the whole glass.

Tearfully, whimpering with each swallow, this little one chokes down the most disgusting drink of her entire life.

There is no joy here, only a dismal future of consuming soured milk.

Now, imagine this:

A six-year old girl is told she gets to drink BUTTERMILK with her beloved daddy!

It is initiation day into a very select group of buttermilk-lovers.

Her father shares stories with her of how much he, his brother and his dad LOVED buttermilk when he was growing up, and shesmiling girl can tell he means it because of the delight on his face.

He describes how carefully they would search out the best sources of really thick, wonderful buttermilk...And how they sprinkled just the tiniest bit of black pepper on top to make it perfect.

She takes her first sip of what she knows must be INCREDIBLY wonderful, because her father considers it so. YUM!! It is simply the best flavor she has ever had in her entire life.

There is utter delight, a sense of belonging, a new world of flavor opened up for her. The anticipation of her next glass of buttermilk prompts her to ask, "Daddy, when do we get to have some more????"

I have imagined the first scenario, but I lived the second at age 6, in Miami, Florida.

Do you know, until my husband turned slightly pale when I wanted to buy some shortly after we were married, I had no idea that others did not LOVE buttermilk.

I had the same experience, with that same sense of wonder and initiation into the world of oyster-eating, when I learned to eat raw oysters with my daddy when I was four years old. Hood's Canal, Washington.

And, again, when I was introduced into the wonders of eating pickled pigs feet with my daddy at age five. Apple Valley, California.

What are the common elements to these three unlikely-to-be-enjoyed-by-a-kid foods?

It's simple: my father's passion for them.

He not only loved these foods, he thoughtfully engaged me in the experience, introducing them to me with his own delight and with you-get-to-be-part-of-this-amazing-treat-too stories.

Previously, I shared "What's In Youboy with glassesr Cupboard?" to bring to light the remarkable wealth of wonderful heritage, experiences, passions, and knowledge each of us bring to our own table—and the powerful antidote this can be to the "comparison trap." But knowing what you have is only the first step.  The second step is learning how to share it in such a way that our kids think it is FUN!!

The Buttermilk Lesson is a window into how my father shared weird foods with me when I was young in such a way that I totally loved them.

Now, I invite you to consider how you can share what's in YOUR cupboard so that YOUR kids will love it! 

How can you bring fun, delight, adventure, and engagement to the process?

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What's In YOUR Cupboard?

What's in Your Cupboard

What are the things that make you uniquely you? And, how do you share them with your children?

Fortunately, despite the title, this is not one of those how-to-make-a-meal-from-whatever-you-can-find-in-your-cupboard-when-you-should-have-gone-to-the-store-yesterday blogs. Although, if I were to be truly transparent, I might be considered an expert in putting off going to get groceries. . .

Instead, it's a mental morsel to munch on as you go through your day, loving your kids and doing life.

When I was a young homeschool mom, it became SO intimidating to listen to others talk about all of the things they were doing:

"My son is studying with a Ph.D. scientist at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry."

"My daughter is studying Chinese and Arabic with native speakers."

"My children study dance at the Pacific Northwest Ballet."

"My children are taking private harp lessons from the symphony harpist."

I mean, how could I possibly do all of those things for my children? Thinking that those activities were what we needed to be doing—though impossible for us at that time—brought a level of burden and guilt that nearly crushed me.

You with me so far? Does this sound familiar to you??

Well, dear one, let me share something that was a great antidote to this "comparison trap."

Think about what's in YOUR cupboard when it comes to your heritage, your interests, your experiences, your knowledge.

For instance, we have friends who love to snow ski. And they are good at it. REAL good. It was a joyous part of what Bruce and Barb did in the early years of their relationship, and it became a natural part of their homeschooling journey. I was constantly amazed to hear about the incredible places they skied, the wild adventures they had, and the way it knit them together as a family.

I don't ski.

Lake Louise with Warings We have other friends who live in the Canadian Rockies. They intentionally chose to make the most of the great outdoors where they lived, learning as a family how to camp, canoe and hike in a wilderness setting. Daryl and Kathy shared extraordinary stories with us as we drove along the Ice Fields parkway, providing not only a vista to the Rockies, but a glimpse into the incredible experiences of this family.

I don't camp.

Good friends of ours spoke Hungarian at home. When their children were little, they chose to begin teaching them both Hungarian and English. This wildly difficult langauge to learn became part and parcel of two little boys' lives because their mom and dad knew the langauge.

I don't speak Hungarian.

But, when considering what was in MY cupboard, I realized that music was something that we could actually give to our children. My husband, a band teacher, brought a variety of musical styles and a knowledge of music history to our kids, while my love for folk music (playing folk guitar and singing) provided an opportunity for them to play with—and enjoy—a unique interaction with music.

At last, something I could do.

For instance, when teaching our children how to sing harmonies, I used humor, rhyme and rollicking musical fun in this ridiculous round (which my middle child vigorously protested):

The African Crowned CraneMy dame had a lame tame crane. My dame had a crane that was lame. Come Mistress Lane to my dame's lame tame crane. Feed it and return again.

That was us, the uniquely Waring family, giving to our kids something they would not get anywhere else. It helped define who we were as a family, it provided engagement and interaction, and it was a LOT of fun!

So, what about you? You may not snow ski, camp, speak Hungarian, or sing. But there are amazing things you bring to the table—fabulous gifts to give your children—that no one else can give them in your unique way. Looking at yourself, your spouse, your extended family through appreciative eyes, consider the treasures you have to share with your own children. Ask yourself: What ethnic heritage, particular passion, interesting experience, or fascinating knowledge do I have to give to my children? In other words, what's in YOUR cupboard?

For more on this topic, watch this video blog, "What is Your Family Culture?"

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Relationship lessons from. . . Birdwatching?

In my previous blog, I talked about the incredible impact it makes when a teacher knows her students.  But this topic is so essential, so vital to really wrap our minds and hearts around, what I think we need is some good old-fashioned birdwatching.Bill & Paul watching birds at zoo



Yep, that’s what I said:  birdwatching.



Stick with me here, because it just might connect some dots in your life and family!



Have you ever lived with a birdwatcher?  If so, you know that they are a breed set apart.  They constantly listen for birds and watch for a flash of color—with a constant delight in each bird’s peculiarities.  They study the habits, the plumage, the flight patterns, the etc., etc. of birds.  They think nothing of tramping through the woods with a notebook and binoculars to follow an elusive birdcall, jotting notes about what they discover.  They have journals filled with specific dates of spotting specific birds, which they treasure beyond reason.  They take time and trouble to do all of this.  Why?  Because they ENJOY birds.



I know all of this from personal experience, because my husband is a birdwatcher, a man who takes incredible delight in spotting, listening to, looking up, and journaling about birds.  When we were in Australia in 2009, he had the joy of going birding with our old friend—and lifelong birdwatcher—Paul Rushworth.  I went along for the ride, and was amazed at the depth of knowledge Paul has of Australia’s gorgeous birds.  Here are a few photos—mostly from Paul's camera—from that memorable day.



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So, what does that have to do with you and homeschooling?  Actually, it is quite illustrative of what it means to know your students.  Obviously, there is a huge difference between knowing the fiction books your daughter prefers and knowing her own dreams and struggles.  You understand that though you might know your son is not talkative around strangers, it doesn’t mean you know why.  Is he shy or merely quiet?  A parent who watches her children like a birder watches birds will be able to find out these things.  In fact, if we can imitate the birdwatcher in this, we will make it our aim to observe, noting carefully what our kids are doing (mind you, watch with care, not criticism).  It is through the detailed observation that birdwatchers differentiate between birds that look similar. . . it is in your detailed observation that you will be able to see beyond the outer appearance to the inner person.



What is the primary requirement for this depth of knowledge?  What secret can we learn from birdwatchers?  Here it is, in living color:  Birdwatchers know so much about birds because, first and foremost, they like birds.  



Dear one, if you are really going to learn to know and understand your kids, you need to like them.   However, this is not as simple as it sounds.  Parents, who have had children for longer than two or three minutes, know that this can challenge you to the very core of your being.



If that is your dilemma, may I write a simple four-step prescription for you?



First, ask yourself what specific things you enjoy or appreciate about the challenging child.  Second, write these observations down.  Third, look at the list several times per day.  Fourth, add new observations as you see them.



If you will focus on the good, rather than what is currently difficult, it will help you to increasingly like—enjoy, delight in, want to be around—each of your kids.



And, if you like them, it will be much easier to observe them in their habitats, their feeding, their flight patterns. . . In essence, you will be able to know your kids.



Stay relational!



Diana



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Birdwatching in Australia. . .


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