Friday, July 31, 2009

Salon des Refusés

We began a study of the Impressionists today. After reading the first section of Monet and the Impressionists for Kids, we attempted to paint original watercolors.

I set up an "outdoor cafe" to get the creative juices flowing.

We dabbed the paint onto our canvasses using cotton swabs.

Afterward, I fed parfaits to the starving artists.

We put their art on display in our version of the Salon des Refusés (Salon of the Rejected), named in honor of the exhibit where pieces by Monet and Company were displayed in 1863 after being rejected by France's prestigious Salon. In my opinion, Wilbur's looks more like an abstract than an impressionist piece but he is the true artist in the family so I won't try to box him in... this time at least! :)

This was a fun and easy activity. I plan to repeat this soon and allow the boys to paint using acrylics for sharper images.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Product Review: Web Design for Kids (... and Curious Grown-Ups!)

Have you heard the joke about the secretary whose computer screen was covered in white out? That one could be based on me, folks. That is just how computer illiterate I am! I have been a member of the blogosphere for a little over a year and have been learning as I go. I can handle the writing part, but when it comes to the technical side, I have to call a friend for help and then call for my dh to fix my mistakes.

I now know how to design a web page using HTML all by myself thanks to Click Drag Solution's Web Designs for Kids (…and Curious Grown-Ups), an instructional DVD hosted by middle school computer literacy instructor, Brian Richardson. To be honest, when the DVD arrived, I really had no idea what lines of code or HTML were. I had heard these terms before, like during the Y2K craze, and knew they existed… like we all know that radio waves are out there and that's how the music gets in our cars. Other than being able to explain that they are the stuff that makes the Internet go, I really couldn't say more.

I'm no Bill Gates now, but do you see the green "TOS Homeschool Crew" badge in my sidebar? It used to be white, but I changed it… COMPLETELY UNASSISTED! No "HONEY, what do I do now?" And all thanks to what I learned from Web Design for Kids (…and Curious Grown-Ups). I was able to look at the code, read it, and determine how to change the background and text colors. Thank you, Mr. Richardson!

Okay, so it worked for me. But what about my children? It is Web Design for Kids, after all, though I am thankful they decided to include us computer illiterate, ur… curious adults, too.

My boys, ages 8 and 9, really enjoyed the DVD and assignments, as much or more than anything we have ever completed in school. I was able to play the DVD on my laptop and easily bring up separate windows for Notepad, Paint, and Internet Explorer, the only programs needed to complete the lessons (these come free with every Windows operating system, btw). Internet connection is only needed during the final two chapters in order to access two recommended websites for free background and picture options. Each boy was able to pause the video and navigate from window to window to perform the needed functions. They were completely engaged throughout the entire learning process and were sad when the DVD ended. My nine-year-old even asked me to buy the second DVD when it is available.

The DVD is broken into seven chapters plus a bonus section. For a beginner, like me, I recommend starting with the bonus section. It gives instructions on how to create a file folder, how to save to it and how to cut and paste if you mistakenly save in an incorrect folder. The seven teaching chapters break the process of web design into very manageable chunks. It begins by teaching the ten basic lines of code. From there, it explains the code in terms of a "sandwich". Mr. Richardson has many good teaching techniques, demonstrations, and visuals, like the use of the "sandwich" concept, that make an otherwise complicated subject very easy to understand. The remaining chapters demonstrate how to make subjects stand out, write "stand alone" tags, design backgrounds, change fonts, and add pictures.

One thing to keep in mind… accuracy is a must in programming. This was a bit of a problem for my son who is a reluctant speller and younger than the program's target age of 10. However, designing his web page demonstrated to him the necessity for good spelling habits and for accuracy in work. I really like what it promoted and how it motivated him. On the other hand, he was not able to complete this program entirely independently and needed some assistance from his dad or me. This is something to consider if purchasing the program for a reluctant speller, a younger child, or a special needs child.

I only have two additional and minor criticisms. At the beginning of the DVD, Mr. Richardson seems a little nervous in front of the camera. However, he also seems to relax within a few scenes and is very personable and likable. He seems to be a very caring teacher. Also, there are two student helpers whose responses are a little repetitive. I tired of hearing "sweet" and "awesome". However, nothing inappropriate was said and having children on the video helped to draw my kids into the learning and demonstrate that kids really can accomplish this. It did not interfere with the learning process either.

You can view a sample of the DVD here. Now is a good time to buy since the DVD, regularly priced at $40, is on sale for $19.99 plus $3.99 shipping. There is a money-back guarantee, and part of the proceeds will be donated to five different charities. Overall, I give Web Design for Kids (… and Curious Grown-Ups) two BIG thumbs up and encourage you to check it out!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Quick Update

I just wanted to check in and let my regular readers know that the final articles in the Plan-It School series are almost finished, and Lord willingly, I will post them next week. I took last week off from writing to enjoy a camping weekend with our dear friends, the Kingdom Arrows. We had a wonderful time together enjoying fellowship and the great outdoors. Then, Michael and I had a few days alone together as you may have already read about in Not a Trip to France.

This week I have been putting the finishing touches on my lesson plans... practicing what I preach, in other words. Those are almost done, and I hope to finish today so that tomorrow can be a relaxing last day of summer break. We begin the 2009-2010 school year on Monday.

I have also been teaching the boys from two curricula sent for me to review, Web Design for Kids (and Curious Grown-Ups) and GrapeVine Studies. I should be posting these reviews within the next few weeks. I'm itching to tell you about them now, but it will have to wait for the reviews.

I will also soon be receiving products from SueGreggCookbooks, Nature Friend Magazine and Educational Diagnostic Prescriptive Services. I am excited about the items I will be receiving from these companies.

So I'm off to plan. I hope you will check back in soon for the end of the Plan-It School series and for my product reviews.



Monday, July 20, 2009

Review: Hank the Cowdog

I was so excited when I opened my package from Maverick Books. I am a lover of thematic teaching so when I ripped open the shipping box to find a book with an accompanying CD and board game, ideas starting bouncing around inside my brain so fast that sparks were coming out my ears. With nothing but a bunch of rambunctious boys in my house, the cowdog concept intrigued me too. I just knew this one was going to be a hit with our family.

The Tornado game ($12.99) was an instant hit. It is an adaptation of the classic game Trouble. The game board is smaller than Trouble, folds in the middle, and closes securely, allowing the game pieces to be stored within. The playing pieces are just so cute, too. The little red, blue, yellow, and green pegs each have small replicas of one of three Hank characters mounted on top. My boys loved this feature. It really added to the fun of the game because they could bark like Hank and make buzzard noises and such while playing. The figures on top made the pieces easier for small hands to manipulate, too.

My boys, ages 8 and 9, have played this game more times than I can count on my fingers and toes since it arrived just a few days ago. Because it is compact and self-contained, it is great for travel, too. I was expecting it to have the classic press-and-pop "spinner" because the game is so similar to Trouble; however, the spinner matches the theme and is a tornado-shaped, traditional one. It took a few tries to get used to spinning it properly so it would not get stuck, but after that, it was as fun as could be to watch that twister spin around. The rules allow for a few instances in which a player must move backwards or return to home base. As only a spin of 1 or 6 allows a player to move a piece onto the board, it requires some patience. Game play gets long, too. However, it has kept my boys captivated for hours. Can we say great for road trips?

Now, here's where I have to be a straight-shooter. I was disappointed with the book, Hank the Cowdog: The Case of the One-Eyed Killer Stud Horse ($4.24) by John Erickson, and the CD, Tales and Tunes from Hank the Cowdog ($3). The book I received is number 8 in a series of 54 Hank stories. The concept is ingenious. Hank is the head of security at his ranch located in the Texas panhandle. All the adventures are told from his confused-little-dog perspective, and he has quite an interesting take on things. It gets down-right funny at times.

However, I did not find certain words and themes within the book and the CD (and the cassette tape included for free with the Tornado game) humorous or appropriate for my children. I would like just to leave it at that and not have to delve any deeper; however, I want you to fully understand what I mean and be able to decide for yourselves if Hank the Cowdog will fit the culture of your home. So allow me to explain. Words like stupid, heck, darn, imbecile, shut up, moron, dummy, and gosh are used. There are situations such as a child calling his mother a "dummy" and lyrics to a song that say "swear to the stars above". These may be in the vernacular of a Texas cowdog, but I do not want them modeled to my children, even when they are "just part of the story".

In my opinion, the humor on the CD pushes the envelope, too. The song, A Pox, a Pox on Emily Post, uses a play on words to equate her to the posts within a barbed wire fence and goes on to say, " I thumb my nose at Emily's ghost." In We Don't Give a Hoot, the words "dumb" and "stupid" are used and the singer proclaims that if you don't like his smell, he "will beat you up…." Other songs continue the use of mild expletives, like heck. Though the tunes are catchy and the voices are well-done, I would not allow my children to listen to the CD because of the language and attitudes that are modeled.

Overall, I give Hank the Cowdog one thumb up and one thumb down. The idea is brilliant but is tarnished by the use of inappropriate words and attitudes.

Not Me Monday: Not a Trip to France

I do not like the song, So We Never Got to Paris, by the contemporary Christian duet, Out of the Grey. I do not like it even a teeny, tiny bit. I have not listened to it, oh, at least a thousand times since it was released in 1995, just after Michael and I were engaged. The lyrics have never held any meaning as it tells about a young couple who abandon their individual dreams in order to build a life together. That's just so not us.

In fact, I never had a dream of traveling to Paris or "finding the cafe of our dreams."* So this past week, while our children visited their grandparents, Michael and I did not fabricate a trip to the City of Light.

We did not begin the week at our house playing the latest Nancy Drew game. When we won, we did not exclaim, "We are the Champs Elysees!"

The next day we did not watch three old movies and call it the "Can't Film Festival". We did not set up a cafe in front our Lazy Boys and take all three meals there. We did not devour an entire cheesecake, either. Nope, not us. We would never do that.

We did not spend the next day pretending to bird watch along the Seine, which was not really a creek that runs through the middle of a local state park. Afterwards, we did not find a hiking trail. We did not go too far on this trail and almost pass out before finding our way back to the start. It was not all that cheesecake that weighed us down, either. As I said already, we did not eat the whole thing.

As we drove away from our birding expedition, I did not exclaim, "That was the Park de Triomphe!" I was not proud of myself for finishing the hike and I did not have la Sorbonne(s) the next day.

The best part was not seeing this face...

or this one...

the next day.

So, we may never get to Paris and find the cafe of our dreams, but our table holds a whole world of memories. No, we never went to Venice and strolled the streets alone. But we built our worlds together and we got the best of both. *

*So We Never Got to Paris, Out of the Grey, Gravity, Sparrow Records, 1995

Saturday, July 18, 2009

My Audio School

My friend, Molly, with the blessing of her husband, David, and the help of her sons, has launched a new website for students and educators, My Audio School.

My Audio School currently provides over 350 links to downloadable content, and the list is growing. Priced at only $14.99 for a one-year family subscription, it is a great value and has the potential to help a variety of homeschool families.

Are you looking for classic books in audio format for read alouds? My Audio School is the answer. Do you want your children to listen to quality stories at bedtime but can't afford books on CD? My Audio School is your solution. Do you need audio versions of your emerging reader's books to help them follow along with a print version? My Audio School may just have what you need. Are you looking for a radio drama or audio broadcast of a historic event to liven your history studies? My Audio School has that too. Do you have a child who struggles with reading and needs assistance? My Audio School is there to help. In fact, Molly offers an explanation here of how audio content assists special needs children and allows them to perform on or above grade level.

Though all of the content that My Audio School offers is available online, for free, I would never have the time to search and find it all. My Audio School makes great literature, much of which is required reading for many homeschool programs, available in one place, with one click. Everything is well organized and easy-to-access, with historical content categorized by time period. Additionally, there is an "Everything Else" category for science, art, music, etc.

Many of you are already loyal readers of Molly's blogs, Counter-cultural Mom and Counter-cultural School, and know what a great lady and amazing teacher she is. I am privileged to know Molly personally. We are members of the same church, and our sons are buddies. She is someone you can trust, and My Audio School is yet another way that she has put her talents to work to support and equip the homeschool community.

She has a standard for selecting literature that is rooted in Phil 4:8. I highly recommend her series on the Homeschool Library, available as a podcast, in which she details her selection process. To access it, scroll down her CC School blog until you see the purple Talk Shoe player in the side bar and click the play button. The content made available through My Audio School meets these rigorous standards. The resources you will find there are ones that will challenge your children academically while protecting and edifying them socially, emotionally, and spiritually.

Whenever I need a good resource, Molly is my go-to friend. I can spend hours searching for just-the-right book and find nothing. Then, when I talk to her, she has at least one good recommendation, if not six or seven. Her ability to find quality resources is amazing and has blessed my family time after time. Take a few minutes to check out My Audio School. I have a feeling that Molly will soon be your go-to friend too.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Plan-It School Series: Preparing for Discipline

Caution: You are about to enter The Disorganized Zone. In this sector of the universe, chores are often neglected. Bedrooms look like garbage heaps. Temper tantrums erupt from preschoolers like lava from Mount St. Helens. Mothers are known to scowl a lot and sometimes steam exudes from their ears while lasers shoot from their eyes. Enter if you dare….

Episode III: School Wars

The scene opens with Homeschool Dawn, Orville, and Wilbur at work in their classroom. HSD is dressed in her Martha Washington costume and has Yankee Doodle playing from the CD player.

HSD: Boys, stand and march with me like a soldier in the War for Independence.

HSD begins to march. The boys stand and follow her until Orville accidentally steps on the back of Wilbur's shoe.

W(in a whiney voice, shrill enough to break glass): Orrrrviiillllllle! Stop stepping on me.

O: I didn't mean to do it.

W: Yes, you did!

O: No, I didn't!


O: NO, I DIDN'T!!!!

The boys begin stepping on each other's feet while arguing.

HSD: That is enough. Sit down now! There will be no more of that!! Orville, tell Wilbur that you are sorry for stepping on his shoe.

O: But I didn’t mean to step on his shoe.


O: Yes, ma'am. (with a muffled voice) Sorry, Wilbur.

W (in a monotone voice and rushed speech): That's okay, Orville. I forgive you.

HSD: Now, I want you both to get out your journals and write a few sentences about what you remember about Yorktown from yesterday's reading.

30 seconds later…

O: I'm finished.

HSD: Already? Are you sure? That was awfully quick.

Orville hands his journal to HSD, and she reads it. Orville has (amazingly) written a well-formed essay with many details. However, his spelling is grotesque, margins have been ignored, and the Rosetta Stone is needed for decoding his handwriting.

HSD: Orville, your thoughts are excellent; however, I do not think that anyone other than I could read this. You need to edit your work and rewrite it more slowly and neatly so that others can read your good writing.

O: Do I have to? I already wrote it once. I don't understand why I should write it again.

HSD: Orville, you need to exercise discipline and care about the quality of your work.

O: But mom, I don't want to do it. Can't I rewrite it tomorrow?

HSD: No, Orville. I told you to do it and I expect you to do it now.

O: Mom, I really don't think you're being fair. You told us to write an essay, and I did. You didn't mention that we would have to edit it today. That is the second step in the writing process, and I think it is too much to ask of me to pre-write and edit consecutively.

HSD: Orville, pick up your pencil and get started immediately.

O: Yes, ma'am.

HSD turns her attention from Orville to Wilbur. He is crawling around on the floor beneath his desk.

HSD: Wilbur, what are doing?

W: I can't find my pencil.

HSD: Have you looked in your drawers?

W: Drawers? Oh, yes, I hadn't thought to look there.

Wilbur begins to unbutton his pants.

HSD: Wilbur! What are you doing?

W: You told me to look in my drawers.

HSD: Not those drawers, Wilbur… your desk drawers.

W: Ohhhh!

Wilbur climbs back into his chair, spins three times, and opens the desk drawer where he immediately locates six pencils.

HSD: Wilbur, it has been twenty minutes since I gave the assignment, and you haven't written a single word. You must get started now.

W: Yes, ma'am.

HSD turns her attention back to Orville who has a piece of construction paper and markers on his desk. He is hurriedly using the markers to write on the colored paper.

HSD: Orville, you aren't rewriting your essay with markers, are you?

O: No. I am making protest signs.

HSD: Protest signs? That has absolutely nothing to do with the assignment. You are writing about Yorktown. That is the end of the War. The protests preceded the War.

O: These signs are for me. I am protesting the writing process. It is unfair and makes children do unnecessary work.

HSD: Orville, put the markers away NOW. Get your essay out and begin your revision immediately.

O: Yes, ma'am.

HSD turns her attention back to Wilbur who is crawling on the floor again.

HSD: Wilbur, what are you doing now?

W: I dropped my eraser.

HSD searches with Wilbur for nearly ten minutes. Evidently, the entrance to the Bermuda Triangle is beneath Wilbur's desk because the eraser is nowhere to be found.

HSD (handing Wilbur a new eraser): Here is a new one. Please, do not lose this. It is your eighth eraser in three days.

W: Yes, ma'am.

HSD returns her attention to Orville who is writing slowly and deliberately on his paper. She smiles at the thought of him finally complying.

HSD: Orville, I am glad to see you so hard at work and writing so carefully. Let me see the progress you have made.

Orville hands his paper to HSD. After a quick glance, she has to close her eyes and count to ten, taking deep breaths. Orville has rewritten his essay… but in Latin.

HSD: Orville, what is this?

O: You said to rewrite it neatly but you didn't specify a language.

HSD (trying not to explode): Orville, go to your room NOW. Sit on your bed until further notice.

Orville leaves the room, and HSD turns her attention back to Wilbur. He is moving his pencil frantically. She leans over to see that he is doodling… on his desk.

HSD: Wilbur! What are you doing?

W: I don't know.

HSD: Well, are you writing your sentences about Yorktown?

W: No, ma'am.

Wilbur's lips turn downward. His big, blue eyes widen, and he gives HSD an innocent look of despair, similar to Oliver's before he asked, "Please, sir, might I have some more?"

HSD: Wilbur, have you written anything?

W(handing his journal to HSD): Yes, ma'am.

HSD looks at the journal entry. Wilbur has written the heading and nothing else.

HSD: Wilbur, we have been at this assignment for an hour, and all you have written is the heading.

Crocodile tears pour from Wilbur's eyes.

W: But I don't know how to write.

HSD: You don't know how to write? Wilbur, we write all the time. What do you mean?

W: Well, I do know how to write, but it is so hard I think my fingers might fall off if I do it for too long.

HSD(ready to scream): Wilbur, please go to your bed.

Wilbur leaves the room. HSD somberly slumps into the chair at her desk and despairingly drops her head into her hands.

HSD: *sigh*

I know all of you must think I am a terrible disciplinarian after reading that sketch. I do have my bad moments, and they usually come when it seems that both boys are intent on doing the opposite of what I want and need them to do like in the above scenario. The bad behavior seemingly hovers around me, pressing inward, and makes me feel beaten down. However, we do not have to feel defeated or deflated. Though we do not know exactly when or how bad behavior will rear its ugly head, we can prepare for it.

"Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him." Proverbs 22:15 is the place to begin in preparing for discipline. Our children's hearts are full of folly because our children are sinners in need of God's grace. In those moments that my children's actions interrupt and try my patience, I am always tempted to focus on myself. I get angry because my plans have been interrupted. I huff and I puff because my good teaching is not being appreciated. I worry because I think I am not doing this school thing as well as all the other moms out there. I sin and try to apply my methods for correcting and rebuking and not God's.

I have been known to say things like, "how could you do this to me?" or "if you embarrass me, I'll…." or "don't you know how you hurt me (or frustrate me or anger me…) when you do that?". But, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge." (Prov. 1:7) As much as I try to make my boys' misbehavior about me, it is not about me at all. My discipline must not center on my feelings, my damaged hopes, or my prideful dreams. My discipline must point my children to the Lord. To prepare myself to teach my children the fear of the Lord, and not just the fear of the rod or the fear of me, I make a list of Scripture passages that correct a variety of sin problems. I also have a prepared response to each of four categories of misbehavior that when followed, keeps me calmer and more likely to discipline in a God-honoring way.

The first category of misbehavior is "Power Struggle", and students exhibiting these behaviors are acting as controllers. The controller is the one who talks back, disrupts, and willfully disobeys. Their actions can provoke us, but controllers must be dealt with calmly yet firmly. A power play in our home earns an automatic spanking. However, the controller is often sent to his room for a cool-down period first. If I try to discipline these actions immediately, I am more likely to discipline out of anger or pride. I take some time to pray. Then I go to the controller and show him from the Word how he was wrong. I set him in my lap or kneel down to his eye level while we talk. Then I apply discipline and leave him to reflect on the relevant Scripture. Afterward, we pray together and he makes the necessary apologies. Then he is hugged and loved.

The second type of misbehavior is "Revenge". The retaliatory child lashes out. These behaviors can be aggressive like stepping on a sibling's toe or passive like pouting (in the child's mind, not speaking to Mommy is a way to get back at her). Their actions are often effective, too, tempting us with feelings of guilt, failure, or hurt. I believe the most affective reaction to the revengeful child's actions is very similar to that of the controller. When applying the Word, I add a talk about how his attempts hurt him much more than me or his brother or whomever he was attempting to harm. We talk about that fact that harming your neighbor is a sin and how sin separates us from God and how hurtful that is. We follow with a discussion of our need for grace, our need to be gracious, and that vengeance is the Lord's.

The third type of misbehavior is "Attention Seeking" and the attention seeker's actions tempt us with feelings of annoyance. I am less prone to spank the attention seeker than the others. That doesn't mean that I won't spank him; it just means that I try to exercise wisdom with this one. The attention seeker after all likes the spotlight, and misbehavior, and sometimes punishment, is a way of shining it directly on him. Sometimes these attempts are mild, like telling a joke at an inappropriate time, and I think are best just to ignore. He wants attention, right? So why give it to him by correcting him? In fact, there is the potential for a vicious cycle to ensue… he misbehaves, you correct, he gets attention, he likes the attention, he misbehaves again to get more attention….

If ignoring him, however, does not correct the situation and he persists, it is time to apply the rod. When his attempts to get attention are purposefully timed to disrupt or infringe upon other rules, he must be removed from the situation immediately. I have sent my attention seeker to spend time alone in his room. This was not a "time out" but a "time away". His isolation was spent in his room (about an hour) with toys and other "fun things" removed. He was allowed to leave for the restroom but for no other reason. He had to learn that as long as he tried to manipulate us he would not get the attention he so desired. I have found that sometimes he must spend time after discipline in isolation, too, because he will try to get attention afterward, doing his best to make sure everyone feels sorry for him. When we do things right, we do not give him what he seeks. When he repents and acts appropriately, however, we make sure to give him the attention he so desires through lots of hugs and compliments.

The fourth type of misbehavior is the one that must be handled most carefully. "Avoidance of Failure" behaviors tempt us with feelings of frustration. Why won't he read his book? Why does he keep losing his pencil? Why does he take so long to complete such simple assignments? Sometimes these actions really are the result of immaturity and they really do require the rod. In this instance, they are probably more of a power play than an avoidance. However, sometimes they are something more and are rooted in something much deeper. There could be a gap in his learning, a place where he needs a little extra motivation to jump a hurdle, an issue like vision problems, or a learning disability. This is not a time for us moms to be paralyzed by guilt or feelings of inadequacy. It is a time to pray for wisdom and to find help. It is a time to talk with your child and get to the bottom of what he is experiencing.

There really were a couple of months in which Wilbur was constantly under his desk, making silly excuses, and dragging his feet. I was really frustrated, too. I tried a carrot or stick approach with him by rewarding him for completing tasks in a timely manner. I set the timer for each assignment and allowed him to go to the candy jar whenever he finished his work on time. However, during this trying period, rewards did not motivate him. Likewise, discipline only caused him to become sneaky about hiding his struggles to complete his work which made the day even harder for him and me.

One day, I determined to get to the bottom of this and sat down to have a heart to heart with him. He finally explained that he was having trouble reading. He started reading at a young age and had never struggled before, so I probed more deeply. He finally shared with me that the words on the page were blurry. After a visit to the optometrist and new glasses, the "misbehavior" stopped. His actions in this instance weren't really misbehavior as much as they were a coping mechanism. He did not want to admit that he was having problems. Though there were some lessons for him to learn about pride and honesty, he was not acting out as much as he was protecting himself.

Regardless of the type of misbehavior, we must be diligent to apply the Word. "All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work." 2 Tim 3:16 As we prepare to train our children in the Word, we are equipping and preparing ourselves for the work of discipleship. As we couple the rod with the Word, we are teaching, reproofing, correcting and training our children in righteousness, not to fear us, but to fear the Lord. Below is a list of Scripture passages that teach to the heart of the matter concerning each of the four types of misbehavior.



Power Struggle: Ex 20:12, Eph 6:1, Prov 1:8-9, Prov 3:11-12, Prov 4:1-9, Prov 4:14-15, Rom 6:12-14, Eph 5:15-17, Tit 3:1-9, 1Cor 13, Gal 5:16-24, Heb 13:17
Silver Lining: Each of the four misbehaviors has a silver lining. The power-struggle child is a person of vision and determination and he has the potential to accomplish great things. Pray continually for your controller that his vision and determination would be subject to God's authority. Pray that he will learn to hate sin and that he will mature into a Godly leader who is determined about the things of the Lord.

Revenge: Prov 3:29-35, Rom 12:19-21, Rom 13:10, Rom 15:1-2, 1Cor 13, Gal 5:16-24
Silver Lining: A person inclined to take revenge is a person who feels things deeply. He wants to hurt others because he is hurt. He has the potential to be incredibly compassionate. Teach him to take his pain to the Lord. Pray that your revengeful child will become a merciful person and that his passion would be for Christ alone.

Attention Seeking: Prov 27:2, John 12:43, Heb 2:12, Heb 13:15, 1 Pet 4:11, Psa 115:1, 1Cor 13, Gal 5:16-24
Silver Lining: Your attention seeker wants YOU! Teach him limits but revel in the fact that he wants love and give it to him unconditionally. He also has a big heart, big personality, and the ability to make friends easily. Pray that he will consider others more important than himself and that the Lord would make him unashamed of the Gospel.

Avoidance of Failure: John 5:24, Rom 8:1, 2Cor 3:5-6, 1Cor 13, Gal 5:16-24, Prov 16:18, Prov 29:23
Silver Lining: Though this child probably struggles with perfectionism, it is because he really cares. Teach him that mistakes are okay. Give him work to do at which he will excel and praise him for a job well done. In areas where he struggles, encourage him to always try his best but not to be paralyzed by the need for perfection. Lead him to the Throne of Grace. Pray that he would adore Christ, who alone is perfect.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Plan-It School Series: Preparing for Household Responsibilities

Caution: You are about to enter The Disorganized Zone. In this sector of the universe, crock pots are never plugged in. Laundry piles are as high as Mount Everest. Opening the refrigerator door qualifies as a science experiment, and mops, brooms, and dusters are mythological creatures. Enter, if you dare….

Episode II: Hey! Why's the Chicken in the Drier?

The scene opens with Homeschool Dawn in her kitchen gathering ingredients for that evening's dinner. She is preparing a crock pot meal which must cook for eight hours. The time is 7:30 a.m.

HSD (reading her recipe): Okay, I need chicken. Oh no, I forgot to put the chicken in the refrigerator to thaw yesterday.

HSD takes chicken out of the freezer and places it in the microwave to defrost. The chicken needs thirty minutes to thaw so she decides to start a load of laundry. She opens the lid on the washer, turns the dial, and reaches in the cabinet for the detergent.

HSD: *GROAN* No more detergent here. (She looks in the pantry where there are three boxes of fabric softener sheets, two bottles of Shout, five bottles of Febreze, and forty-seven bottles of Dawn dish washing liquid. She is a Grocery Gamer, after all. However, there is no laundry detergent.) Boys! Put your shoes on. We need to go to Wal-Mart… quickly!!

Ten minutes later…

Wilbur: Mommy! I can't find my shoes.

Orville: I can't find any socks. Wilbur took the last pair.

Wilbur: I did not. My socks were in my shoes.

Orville: How could your socks have been in your shoes if you can't find your shoes.

Wilbur: Oh yeah… well, I still didn't take the last socks.

HSD: Let's not argue about who did what. Instead let's find Wilbur's shoes. Orville, there are clean socks in the drier. (Orville leaves the room) Wilbur, where did you take your shoes off yesterday?

W: I don't know.

HSD: *sigh*

An hour later socks and shoes have been found and the trio have returned from Wal-Mart with laundry detergent. HSD pours a capfull in the wash and throws in a load of clothes. The trio head to the classroom to begin school.

HSD: Yesterday, we read about life on the farm. Farmers grow their own food and raise animals such as cows, pigs, and chickens…. CHICKEN!!! *GASP* I forgot about dinner. Boys, get out your math workbooks and complete the next section while I get dinner started.

HSD runs to the kitchen and hurriedly throws the ingredients for dinner in the crock pot. She puts the lid on and switches the dial to "low". She returns to the classroom, checks the boys' math work and finishes the lesson on farms. It is now time for lunch, and the trio return to the kitchen. The boys go to the kitchen table and HSD goes to the washing machine to switch the laundry. She discovers she left the lid open, and the wash cycle never began. She quickly closes the lid and goes to the refrigerator to get what she needs to fix lunch.

HSD: Where is the lunch meat? I just bought some yesterday.

W: Wooly (the plush toy lamb) got hungry last night, and I made him a sandwich.

HSD: Where are the carrots? I just bought those yesterday, too.

O: Uh, Mom, I ate them.

HSD: When?

O: This morning with breakfast. I realized yesterday that I need more vitamin A. It promotes healthy vision, you know, and carrots are chocked full of it.

HSD: I guess it's peanut butter sandwiches and raisins then.
W and O: *groan*

After lunch the trio returns to lessons. It is Monday and time to clean the bathroom. HSD helps the boys begin their assignments and then gathers her cleaning supplies. As she walks toward the bathroom, the phone rings…

HSD: Hello.

Caller: Hello. Mrs. Olive Plants, my name is Rainbow and I'm with the Foundation for the Preservation of Fungi Growing in the Serengeti. Would you….

HSD: No thank you. We are not interested.

HSD returns to her cleaning chores. One minute later, the phone rings again.

HSD: Hello?

Caller: Hello, Mrs. Olive Plants. This is Rainbow, again. The fungi are in danger…

HSD: As I said before, we are not interested. Please, do not call again.

HSD returns to the bathroom. Moments later, the phone rings once more.

HSD (trying not to be hateful): We are not interested. Please, stop calling.

Caller: Um… Dawn, this is Ms. Daisey, your small group leader. I just wanted to remind you that you are bringing the snack to our meeting tomorrow.

HSD: Meeting tomorrow…? (looks at calendar) Oh, yes, thank you. I had forgotten.

HSD rushes to the kitchen and whips up a snack for the meeting. From the classroom, Wilbur calls for her. He does not understand his assignment. She works with him until 4:45 when Dad walks in the backdoor.

Dad: Hello family!

HSD: Hello, dear. You're home early.

Dad: Actually, I'm late.

HSD: You're late? What time is it?

HSD suddenly realizes that it is almost 5:00 and she has not cleaned the bathroom. She rushes back to her work and completes it by 5:30. She washes up and returns to the kitchen to put the finishing touches on dinner. She opens the crock pot.

HSD: Oh no!

Dad: What's wrong?

HSD: My crock pot must be broken. It is cold, and the food is not cooked.

Dad comes to the kitchen and takes a look.

Dad: Um, honey. The crock pot isn't broken.... You forgot to plug it in.

The family goes to McDonald's for dinner, returns home for family worship, then goes to bed. Just as HSD starts to drift off to sleep, she is shocked awake by a thought....

HSD: Oh no! I forgot to put the laundry in the drier.

A compliment I often receive is "you are sooooo organized". Here's the truth. I am a complete and utter mess. The organization that those who know me personally see has been earned the hard way. I have learned through many, and I do mean many, mistakes to make notes, have a routine, and keep a schedule and planner. It is the only way a forgetful gal like me can keep it all together. From time-to-time, my system unravels, and what follows make my drama above seem mild. However, here are my top ten tips that help me prevent disaster (most of the time):

10. I turn off my telephone's ringer during school hours. There is enough to do without adding unwanted phone calls to the mix. Even though we are on the no-call list, we still get wrong numbers, campaign calls, and the occasional telemarketer. I keep my cell nearby and ask family and close friends to call that number. If I don't have the cell for some reason (like I let the battery lose its charge), I screen calls. Either way, I let my family and friends know that I will pick up for something important. However, I politely ask them to keep calls to a minimum because the phone ringing easily distracts my boys and gets me off task.

9. The Job Jar has been a lifesaver. We pull two-four jobs from it per day and make the time to complete them right away. The kids are actively involved in keeping the house clean. As keepers of our home, we moms are the managers of its upkeep. I emphasize the word managers and give you permission not to feel like you are the servant of your home. A good manager is a servant at heart. We must roll up our sleeves and be hard at work ourselves and lovingly care for our families. In fact, there are some jobs that I do not want my children completing. However, a good manager also knows when to delegate and teaches her crew how to be successful.

8. Keep a file of recipes. Whether on your computer, in a index card file, or in a folder, have a good number to choose from and keep them handy. Color-code them or file them according to ease of preparation. I save my favs to my computer. I have files for quick dinners, formal dinners, easy sides, slow-cook sides, etc. I love, too. You can join and keep an online file of recipes available at their site. I have been able to find a recipe there for almost anything I want to cook.

7. Make menus and keep them on file. I don't always have time to plan what we will eat each week. Having a few menus on file allows me to pull one and get a shopping list together quickly. Consider joining Menus4 Moms. It is free to join. There are ads and offers you have to click through, but I have found their service extremely helpful.

6. Stockpile! I find it incredibly helpful to have at least two of each cleaning/household product we use in the pantry. I join two times per year for the purpose of stocking up at rock bottom prices. Just be careful not to get addicted to buying dish washing liquid because you can get it almost every week for 25 cents or less. This happened to me, and I really did end up with 47 bottles of Dawn (ironic, isn't it?).

5. I put one load of laundry in the washer at breakfast. I remind myself to make sure I close the lid! I move it to the drier at lunchtime, and fold and put it away before bed. If I do this everyday, the laundry is less likely to pile up, and I don't resort to stacking piles of clean laundry on the bed to ensure I put them away before bed, only to end up moving it all to the couch so we can go to bed only to move it back to the bed to ensure I put it away before bedtime, only to move it to the couch… you get the point!

4. I often cook a double or triple portion of each planned meal and freeze the extra servings. On nights that I am in a hurry, or forget to plug in the crock pot, my homemade frozen dinners make an easy, healthy, and inexpensive meal.

3. I make a list of what I need to do the next day before bed each night. I number the items on the list by importance and complete them in that order the next day. I highlight those things which must be done the next day to help me remember. The next night, I finish any highlighted items before going to bed and bump any other unfinished chores to the next day's list. Also, I give myself about four blocks of time during the day for chores. I find it works well to do school in small chunks with chores scattered in between. If I try to do too much of either at once, I start to feel overwhelmed.

2. I give myself days off from school here and there for big jobs like spring cleaning. I give myself breaks for planning, too.

1. I limit my daily computer time. Blogging is a great pastime, but we must be careful that it does not keep us from our responsibilities. Set limits to your online time that work with your schedule. Some days, I have two or three hours for online time. Some days, I have none. I have a morning routine during which I check my e-mail. If something requires a lengthy response, I save it for later. I also check my blog traffic. At lunch, I read any new posts by my favorite bloggers. In the evenings, I write for my blog as I have time.

Blessings and Happy Planning!
Return soon for Plan-It School Series: Preparing for Discipline

Monday, July 13, 2009

Developing a Strong Work Ethic

I thought I had a strong work ethic until I met Dr. I.M. Tuf , my math methods instructor in college. Okay, you got me. That was not her real name, but she really was tough. She was the kind of teacher who never let students just float through her class. To earn a passing grade, you had to produce, and produce well at that. At first I rebelled, at least inwardly, against her standards.

"This is my last semester before I student teach," I thought to myself.

"I only have a few months left on campus and want to enjoy it," I reasoned.

"No one needs to know how to teach math this well, " I tried to convince myself.

I waited until the last minute to complete her "unreasonable" assignments, rationalizing that everyone else in the class was doing no better than I was.

At mid-term, my average reflected my efforts… a 64. I had never made less than a B in my entire academic career. Appalled by her seemingly unattainable standards, I scheduled an appointment to discuss my grade with her. I sat in the chair across from her and complained about how she was ruining my GPA and that I might not graduate with honors because of her. I offered a ton of excuses for my poor performance. I was taking 21 semester hours and could not give her class as much attention as she required. I had just gotten engaged. There was so much to do to prepare for a wedding, and I didn't have time for meetings with florists and caterers because of her. She was ruining this special time in my life. I even cried. She heard me out and then asked some very wise questions.

Do you want to make an A in my class or do you want to be a good teacher?

I answered, "well, both." However, I knew what she meant and in my heart knew the right answer.

Do you want to graduate with honors or do you want to make a difference in the lives of children?

I closed my eyes and took in a deep breath.

Do you want to stand during graduation and be recognized or do you want to stand for what is right?

I had to confess how self-centered I was being and ask God to forgive me.

Setting our course for the path of least resistance feels good because it is what our flesh craves. However, as parents, we have to teach our children to hate sin because God hates sin. This includes the sins of slothfulness and complacency. In a society plagued with mediocrity and apathy, we cannot gauge our expectations against the standards of the majority. We must press toward a higher standard.

More importantly, we have to teach our children that though the flesh is weak (Mark 14:38), God is our ever-present help (Psalm 46). We believe that working hard, not being complacent or content with mediocrity, is a spiritual issue. The effort our children put into their school work reflects their attitudes toward stewardship, and we want them to learn the value of hard work that flows from a desire to love, obey, and glorify God. We also want them to learn to call upon Him in any circumstance for help, even while doing their school work.

The book of Proverbs contains many warnings for the sluggard. One such warning is found in chapter 18. Verse nine says, "He who is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys." If we are slack in our work, or in other words if we are not good stewards of our time, gifts, and talents and are not faithful and diligent in carrying out our responsibilities, we are brothers of the enemy. It is Satan who would have us neglect our responsibilities, to be sluggish about spiritual things, and waste what God has given us. The enemy would have us compare ourselves to a lost and dying world and be proud of how well we are doing.

Conversely, Proverbs has many good things to say about the diligent. Chapter 22, verse 9 asks, "Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings…." The man who is industrious, who knows his calling, and who works cheerfully at what the Lord gives him is promised blessing.

How important then is it to teach our children the value of work hard? I would dare to say very important.

The third essential goal we have for our children's education is to provide a curriculum that promotes a strong work ethic. In all their areas of study, we want them to be actively engaged in the learning process. There is memorizing and sometimes worksheets to be done. However, more often than not, they must produce authentic work… reading, discussing, writing, creating, presenting, building, and more. I believe we need not find a curriculum that merely keeps them busy but one that keeps them productive, teaching them to value hard work and giving them the opportunity to reap its rewards.

This is a tough goal for me to meet sometimes. I get tired. In fact, at the end of this past school year, I was closing in on throwing in the towel. We had worked for three months to remodel our house. Then, the hot water heater leaked and destroyed part of our brand new kitchen flooring. I was tired and struggling to see God's providence in this. After that, I had to help undo the ruined remodeling work. This left behind a sticky sub-flooring that I could not get clean and had to live with until the new flooring could be installed. On top of this, our last unit of the year was on the Civil War. The most complicated and depressing time in our nation's history, and that was how we were to end this really hard school year.

While I was planning for this dreaded unit, I wrote for my Facebook status one day, half-joking, half-not, "Dawn is considering how to teach a unit on the Civil War. I am contemplating saying 'There was a big war.' then giving them coloring sheets of Lincoln, Davis, Grant, and Lee and being done with it." I know slapping down coloring sheets with no real objective or purpose other than to check something off my list is not being a teacher of stewardship.

When I fall into that attitude, I am not being a steward of my time, talents, materials and one other very important gift that God has given me… the young minds who gather at my table each day to learn from my good teaching and by my good example. My bad example stood only to teach them to do what is easy, what feels good, and what does not require too much of me. Even worse, it stood to teach them it is permissible to be frustrated by providence. Instead of by prayer, making my requests known to God, I was modeling a form of anxiety... one that demonstrated I was afraid God was requiring more of me than I could handle. (Phil 4:6)

We originally committed to this third goal with curriculum selection in mind, and it is a driving force behind what we choose. I want my children engaged in meaningful work. I want them doing more than skill and drill. However, this goal also touches upon my implementation of our curricula. To instill a good work ethic in my children, I must model that ethic in my teaching, in my managing of the home, and in everything the Lord gives me to complete.

Holding to this goal, as well as the other two essential goals I have described in this series, is challenging. Please understand that I do not claim to have lived up to any of my goals perfectly, nor can I even come close to reaching them on my own. When I felt discouraged this spring, my husband gently guided me back on course. I need his leadership. My friends prayed for me and encouraged me. I need their support. My pastor and elders, who just happen to know a lot about the Civil War, offered help. I need their wisdom.

Most importantly, when I wanted to walk away from it all, when I wanted to choose the path of least resistance, when I was tired and empty and drained, the Lord was with me. He showed me the error of my ways. He filled me with His grace. He renewed my strength. He enabled me to move past selfishness and teach the Civil War unit to His glory. More than I need anyone else, I need the Lord. "But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wing as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint." Isaiah 40:31

In the first article of this series, I encouraged you to set the course for your race with goals. Since then, I have encouraged you to set your course for a distinctly Christian education. I have encouraged you to set boundaries for your course with a Biblical worldview. I have encouraged you to set the pace of your course for hard work. I want to end, ladies, by encouraging you once again to run and to run like you want to win. Run as one who cannot wait to reach the finish line and hear the words, "Well done, my good and faithful servant." Matt 25:23

Compartmentalized Education

I met my husband, Michael, during my first week in college at the Baptist Student Union (BSU). In one of our get-to-know-each-other conversations, we discussed our majors. He told me his was Spanish which piqued my interest since mine, at the time, was French. I had chosen a foreign language as my major because I had enjoyed my French studies in high school. I was unsure about how a degree in French would help me in the future. I asked him why he had chosen Spanish and what he planned to do with that degree, hoping for some insight that would help me with career planning. His answer left me dumbfounded.

"I am praying about being a tentmaker, like Paul, only in South America." he said.

Even though I had grown up in church, I had no idea what he was talking about. I smiled at him and nodded in agreement. I think I said something like "great" or "interesting". However, I secretly wondered if there was a Coleman factory in Caracas and why he needed a college degree for such work. For the next few weeks, I was on the constant lookout for this guy, Paul. Who was he? Was he a BSUer? Was he a Spanish major? I just had to find him.

A few weeks later, I did find him. During a Bible study on the book of Acts, there he was in chapter 9, on his way to Damascus. Thoughts from Sunday School of flannel board pieces depicting Priscilla, Aquila, Paul and their tents flashed in my mind. "Oh, thatPaul!" I thought. A number of facts I had learned sporadically over the years converged in my brain. Suddenly, Michael's statement made sense.

I don't think I misunderstood my future husband that day because of total ignorance. I did know who Paul was and had learned the stories in church. I think I misunderstood him because I had received what I call a "compartmentalized education". Church was the place for Bible instruction. School was the place for academic pursuits. Having been educated in a government-run school, I had been asked to leave my faith at the door each morning. I had willingly complied and as a result had never contemplated a life of total surrender to Christ in which academic pursuits fall under His Lordship and serve His purposes. This, I believe, is why I had thought of Michael's study of Spanish as something that would solely prepare him for a vocation and had not thought of it in terms of preparation for ministry.

Not wanting our children to experience a compartmentalized education is the driving force behind my husband's and my three essential goals for our homeschool. The first of these goals is that their education be distinctly Christian. I think many people equate a Christian education with having a daily Bible class. That is, in part, what we are implying. We believe "all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness." (2 Tim 3:16) For this reason, we want the Bible to be taught systematically to our children. This is why we have a time in our school day for a more thorough teaching of God's Word and times that we complete a read-through of the Bible as a family.

For us, a distinctly Christian education also involves the study of doctrine and theology, so we catechize our children. This sounds like something far more complicated than it is. It involves memorizing a series of questions and answers that teach doctrine. The Westminster Shorter Catechism sets a foundation for studying the Bible and discerning truth from error. The first question and answer teach that "man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever." From there, it establishes a basic understanding of God, sin, salvation, the Ten Commandments, prayer and more. 1 Pet 3:15 teaches us to be prepared to "give an answer to every man who asks" about our faith. Catechizing is one way we give them this preparation.

A third essential element of a distinctly Christian education is keeping Christ at the center of all our studies. No compartmentalizing is allowed. We study history to learn of God's providence. We study science to see Him as a magnificent Creator. We read books that build up our faith. We write with the hope of our pens being tools for God's glory. Even those subjects that don't seem to be distinctly Christian in and of themselves, like math, are built upon absolutes which point us to God. Moreover, all subjects can be completed with the understanding that God is preparing our children for the future work He has chosen for them to do and that being diligent students is their current calling.

Deuteronomy 6 commands us to teach God's commands "diligently" to our children throughout the day, each and everyday, at various places, through various means. In other words, God is instructing us to make our children's discipleship our priority. Though we should absolutely have our children in church, we should not rely on the church as the sole source of discipleship. Our children should be involved in learning to love and obey God with us at church but they should be learning those lessons at home and at school as well.

In my opinion, homeschooling facilitates this goal more easily than any other schooling option. We have the freedom to choose our curricula, and there is a wide selection of Christ-centered curricula available. Likewise, having our children with us all day everyday is an opportunity. It affords us the time to disciple our children well, addressing their spiritual needs throughout the day with Biblical instruction and discipline as situations arise.

For those of you reading who have chosen other schooling options for your children, I want you to know that I do not believe, nor am I trying to assert, that being a Christian and being a homeschooler are synonymous. I cannot speak against anyone who follows God's leading and I know godly people who are bringing their children up in the fear and admonition of the Lord without homeschooling them. I also acknowledge that I miss the mark often and that my family's standing with God is dependent upon His grace alone. It is not the result of anything we do, including homeschool our children.

However, I am compelled by Proverbs 29:19 (JKV) which states, "Where there is no vision, the people perish." Often we hear this verse being used to promote the need for a mission statement or an overarching purpose that will keep a team on the same page. John Gill, in his commentary on this verse, asserts that the word "vision" used in this context is not referring to something man sees, imagines, or dreams of accomplishing. He explains that it is "prophecy" or Biblical teaching. In fact, some Bible translations, such as the Revised Standard, use "prophecy" in place of "vision".

The Living Bible translation states it in a way that made me think. "Where there is ignorance of God, the people run wild; but what a wonderful thing it is for a nation to know and keep his laws." When I read this, I can't help but think of the United States of America. I mourn over the condition of my country. There is a lack of solid Biblical instruction in the U.S., and the people are running wild. I believe American Christians, including myself, need to be more faithful to the reading and teaching of the Bible. We need to faithfully attend a Bible-teaching church and we need to teach the Bible at home and as a part of educating our children as well. I believe that whatever schooling option we choose, we need to make sure it is not derailing our efforts to build our children up in our Christian faith. We need to be careful that we are not allowing them to compartmentalize and determine that they can have Christ here but do as they please there.

Some say a distinctly Christian education, particularly one completed at home, shelters children. To a certain extent it does, and to an extent, that is what we want. It is true that one day our children will have to face the challenges of living in a society that is currently growing more and more hostile to the Gospel. However, for my children, I pray that their education at home will root them in God's Word and set them on the path of obedience so that when that day comes they will not embrace that world or be confused by it. I pray instead that they will be prepared to stand at the gate of the enemy and give an account of what they believe. (Psalm 127:5) I pray that my children will not compartmentalize their faith but by His grace will learn to love God supremely and serve Him in all that they do.


I know there are many different opinions about Facebook. Some love it. Some find it annoying. Some detest it. I am one who enjoys it for a number of reasons. I like being connected to friends who do not live near me. I like being able to publish links to my blog, allowing non-bloggers to easily access my latest post. I am a member of a few Facebook homeschool groups. This network provides the opportunity to get and give advice and encouragement. Facebook is also a place to share prayer requests, look at pictures, and yes, even play the occasional trivia game.

There is, however, one thing that drives me batty about Facebook. VIRAL E-MAILS! I have fallen prey to them twice now. They are so tricky and are always sent in a way that gives them the appearance of having been sent by one of my friends. When it lands in my inbox, it has the name and the profile picture of the person whose account was hacked, a person I know and trust. This ploy is effective and has been my downfall both times. I see my friend's smiling face, let down my guard, and open the deceptive mail, infecting my computer.

Similarly the enemy guises himself. 2 Corinthians 11:14 teaches us that he comes as "an angel of light". Verse 13 explains that likewise false prophets are deceivers who "disguise themselves as apostles". Keeping this in mind, my husband's and my second essential goal for educating our children is that they develop a Biblical worldview. This means that we want them to develop a proper view of God and of man and be able to take the truths of the Bible and apply them. With a proper worldview, they will view the world around them through the lens of the Bible and will be equipped to discern truth from lies.

A child's worldview must begin with the Bible since it is the only source of absolute truth. However, there are two subjects, in my opinion, that are most likely to strengthen or corrupt a child's worldview. If not taught carefully, these two subjects often contradict the Bible and can confuse a child as to what he should believe.

The first subject is social studies. History and geography open the world's door for a child. The events of the past and the places around the globe can ignite their imaginations and stir their curiosity. If what they study in this area contradicts the Bible, however, these studies can instead open their minds to lies.

For instance, where does the study of history begin… millions of years ago or in Genesis 1? Does the progression of eras point to the evolution of man or the providence of our sovereign God? Do the high points of history glorify man or the Lord? Do times of suffering suggest God's absence or affirm His authority? Should we look to people groups and celebrate their individuality or rejoice in the Lord of the Harvest?

To support our goal of building a Biblical worldview, we have chosen Tapestry of Grace as our Social Studies curriculum. Tapestry teaches history chronologically from the Garden to the end of the Twentieth Century. Their integrated approach means that Bible, church history, and geography are taught within the context of the relevant time period. TOG is unabashedly Christian and teaches children at all developmental levels about God's providence, presenting history as a tapestry of time that is "woven by God"*.

TOG is serious in its approach to developing a Christian worldview. Younger children read about missionaries and answer questions about God's goodness and faithfulness. Older students must answer more difficult questions, such as "How does a sovereign yet benevolent God allow cruelties like the Holocaust?". That may seem like a loaded and potentially destructive question, but TOG gives parents the confidence to teach their children how to formulate answers to these questions that are rooted in Scripture. They are not just taught the components of a Biblical worldview but are given the tools and the know-how to defend it.

The other subject that stands to build up or tear down our children's worldview is science. Consider the following questions regarding this study:

Does it suggest, even subtly, that life on earth began in a cesspool or teach wholeheartedly that God spoke His creation into existence? Does it imply that humans are the offspring of apes or insist that God formed Adam with His own hands and breathed life into Him? Does it suggest that man can, through his inventions, solve all of His problems or does it exhort students to trust in the Lord? Does it implant fears of imminent cataclysmic events unless man changes his ways or does it point to the I AM who holds the future in His hands?

Over the years, we have used two different science curricula, Apologia and Christian Kids Explore. Both of these hold to a young earth, creationist view. Both approach science with the intent of praising the Creator and using the complexities of the creation to point to how magnificent God is. These curricula never attempt to use science as a means of scaring children into conforming to the ideology of any political agenda. Evolution is only mentioned in the context of learning to refute it Biblically first and then scientifically.

Certainly, these are not the only curricula that hold to these principles. There are other non-essential goals that guided us in further narrowing our curriculum search to our final decisions. This is when we consider our children's learning styles and interests and take into consideration strengths and deficiencies. I like hands-on activities and projects. I prefer an immersion approach to a cyclical one. However, these things are comparable to the color of my car… nice if I can find what I want but really of lesser importance. I try to separate what is being taught from how it is being taught. In my opinion, it is better to compromise on methodology than it is to compromise on content.

Think back to the computer virus I mentioned earlier. It took two days and three different anti-viral software applications to rid my computer of it. Similarly, a large portion of my adulthood has been spent "debugging". Evolution, feminism, humanism, post-modernism… the list of lies being taught directly and indirectly in most schools is a long one. The ideology of faulty, unbiblical worldviews were introduced to me in public school as angels of light. They appealed to my flesh, and I bought into them wholeheartedly. Praise God that the more I grow in Him the more His grace abounds and the less I want of these things. In Christ, we can redeem the time lost.

However, I want to try something different with my children. I want to educate them in a way that they won't have to debug later in life. With God's help, I want to keep them as innocent as doves while teaching them to be as wise as serpents (Matt 10:16). I want them "to take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them" for what they really are. I want them to be equipped with the "whole armor of God, that [they] may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil'. (Eph 6:11) I want their education not to confuse them but to edify them and then later rejoice as they, through God's grace, soar like arrows shot from the bow of a mighty man. (Psalm 127:4)


Thursday, July 9, 2009

Plan-It School Series: Organizing Supplies

Caution: You are about to enter the Disorganized Zone. In this sector of the universe, craft supplies run amuck. Materials for science experiments attack the unsuspecting people who open pantries. Messes spread like a fungus. And scissors are lost in the vast cosmos of God's creation, never to be held by human hands again. Enter if you dare….

Episode I: The Hunt for the Red Pipe Cleaner

The scene opens with Homeschool Dawn, Orville, and Wilbur seated at the kitchen table, unaware that they are about to be transported to The Disorganized Zone.

HSD: Boys, today I want you to use the craft supplies on the table to create a 3-D model of a caterpillar's metamorphosis into a butterfly. Each of you has a shoe box…

HSD looks at the table. There is one shoe box, but she does not see the other one.

HSD: Boys, did one of you move the shoe box?

O and W: No ma'am.

O: I have not seen a shoebox except for the one here on the table.

W: I don't even know what a shoebox is.

HSD: Okay, let's pause for a minute and go get another shoe box.

Our three characters get into the van and drive to WalMart. After successfully begging for a shoebox, they return 45 minutes later.

HSD: Now, you both have a shoebox. I want you to cover it with construction paper… now where did the paper go?

HSD looks on the table, in the cabinet, in the storage baskets in the classroom, in the closet, on her desk, and finally under the bed.

HSD: A-ha! Here it is… cover your box with construction paper.

W: Mommy, I can't get the paper to stick.

HSD: Wilbur, sweetie, that is because you have to use some glue. Did I not give you some?

W: No.

O: I don't have any either.

HSD looks for the glue. She finds one bottle that is empty and another that is mostly full. However, the cap on the full one was left open and the glue inside has hardened. She pops the top off the bottle and digs through the crusted glue mass along the opening. She evidently applies too much pressure because the liquid glue breaks free and squirts out onto her face, hands, and shirt. After cleaning up, HSD pours some glue into a plastic bowl and goes to the craft closet for two paint brushes.

HSD (while digging through mounds of craft sticks, art paper, bottles of paint, and craft pom poms): Now, where are the paint brushes?

W: I know, Mommy.

Wilbur opens his desk drawer and proceeds to pull out crayons, markers, dried-up glue sticks, stickers, and water colors that have been used until all the palates are black, but no paint brush.

HSD: I guess it's back to Wal Mart.

20 minutes later they return with paint brushes and more glue bottles. After the boys glue the construction paper to their boxes, HSD continues with the next step.

HSD: Now take your red pipe cleaner and cut it into four pieces using your scissors.

W: I don't want to clean the pipes. It's scary under the sink.

O: Wilbur, she doesn't mean the pipes under the sink. She means a pipe like Grandpa's. Mom, I thought Grandpa's pipe makes you cough. Is that why you want us to clean it?

HSD: No one will be cleaning any pipes, kitchen or otherwise. Pipe cleaners are the different-colored, fluffy sticks that we use in crafts. You should each have a red one on the table. Now, where did they go?

HSD returns to the craft closet. When she opens it, all the paint bottles she moved in her previous search roll out and land on her feet. The papers and pom poms start to slide, and she quickly throws herself against the shelves, blocking the landslide. While pushing against the mound of supplies with the left side of her body, she reaches around with her right arm and pushes everything back inside the cabinet.

O (from the kitchen): Mom! I found the pipe cleaners.

HSD (rubbing her sore arm, side, and feet): Where were they?

O: Under the table.

HSD: *sigh* Okay, cut your pipe cleaners into four pieces.

W: How do we cut them?

HSD: Carefully use your scissors to do it.

O: I don't have any scissors.

W: Me either.

HSD: Where are they?

O and W: I don't know.

HSD(exasperated): Oh, never mind.

When I read this scenario to my husband, his reaction was to ask (in disbelief) if this had ever really happened. "Well, yes and no" is my honest answer. This particular situation is fiction but it is based on reality. I have spent many hours looking for paper or scissors or paint brushes. I have made numerous trips to Wal Mart in the middle of the school day to purchase a forgotten supply. I have been injured by supplies toppling out of an over- crowded cabinet. Worst of all, many a well-planned activity has been abandoned because I did not gather the needed supplies ahead of time.

I already mentioned my best piece of advice for new homeschooling moms in this post. The second most important thing I would advise you to do is make a list of what you need before each and every unit and then check it twice.

Before school begins, I look through all my teacher's guides and plans that I have written for my first unit and make a list of all the materials that will be needed to complete it. I try to keep a stockpile of certain materials; however, I keep it to the basics like construction paper, crayons, and paint (we LOVE to paint). Be careful when making stockpiling decisions because you do not want a cabinet full of things that you "might need".
To avoid the landslides, I store these materials in shoe boxes, trays, crates, or any other inexpensive or free storage container I can find. I keep these inside a cabinet and do not look for pretty containers. Cheap or free and durable is what is important. I label the outside of the boxes so I know the exact contents. After I have my list together, I check off anything that I have plenty of on hand. If I see that I am running low on an item, I leave it on the list so that I can restock.

I have taken two different approaches to the next step. The first two years I homeschooled, I wrote out a weekly shopping list for school materials and placed each list in my planning folder in the front of the section for the week before I would need the supplies. Each week, I removed the list and added it to my grocery shopping list. I also wrote books I would need to check out from the library on this list and made my library stop on the way to the store.

I found this approach did not give me time to get materials organized and I would still find myself scrambling at the last minute for something I had forgotten or misplaced. Two years ago, I started buying everything that I need for an entire unit in one shopping trip. I plan this shopping trip for a day that I have time to organize the materials immediately upon my return home. I put general items, like construction paper, that will be used during multiple lessons in the correct storage bins in my school cabinet. I put items that will have a single use in a bin that is numbered according to the week it will be needed. I store all science supplies in the kitchen and have dedicated one shelf for those things… with the exception of common, household items like baking soda. Those are easy to find when needed and won’t send me on a scavenger hunt during school hours, so I leave them in their normal spot.

The 2009 Schoolhouse Planner has a shopping list with room for writing in schools supplies. There is also a form to help you keep track of library books.

To keep messes under control, I have arranged the boys' desks front-to-front so they serve as an individual work station or as a shared space for projects. Each boy has his own garbage can at his desk and is required to check it daily and empty it as needed. I also have an old, king-sized sheet that when folded covers the entire workspace and prevents paint, glue or other messes from damaging the desks. The paint has stained it, but I can throw it in the washing machine when finished to wash away the messy, sticky remains of a project. If we will be working on a painting project for multiple days, I spread newspapers beneath the sheets as the paint splatters will soak through if left to sit. The sheet over the newspapers prevents the boys from getting ink on their fingers (and arms, face, the furniture….).

Make sure you buy plenty of pencils, erasers, crayons, markers, and glue at the beginning of the year, too. Our state has a tax-free shopping weekend. I have found that the week before is the best time to buy though. The back-to-school sales usually run during that week, at least in my area, and the prices are so low that even after paying tax, it is a much better deal. I keep a basket on my desk for storing extras of these items close at hand and keep a can of pre-sharpened pencils there, too.

How do you stay out of The Disorganized Zone? Feel free to share your tips, too!

Blessings and Happy Planning!

Return soon for Plan-It School Series: Preparing for Household Responsibilities

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Plan-It School Series: Preparing for Assessment

The principal of the school where I taught always said that there are three keys to good teaching…




When I say "assessment", what is the first thing that comes to mind? A written test, right?

Multiple choice, essay, fill-in-the-blank, and even standardized tests are what most often qualify as assessment. Though it is true that these are types of assessments, evaluating what your child has learned is an on-going process. It begins with pre-assessments and continues each day through several forms of evaluation.

Pre-assessment occurs at the beginning of a new unit or before teaching a new skill. It can be formal. You give your child a work sheet of problems or questions that pertain to the material to be covered. It can also be informal… a simple discussion in which you determine what your child already understands. A KWL table is a great way to begin the assessment process. Before you begin a new unit of study, your child fills in the K column with the information he already knows. If your child can produce this information in this way, you can feel confident that he has mastered it and that you do not need to teach it.

I find questioning to be the best form of on-going assessment. It is simple yet effective. At the end of a lesson, take a minute or two to close out the lesson. In Setting the Stage, I compared the set of the lesson to an introductory paragraph of an essay. Similarly, the closure of a lesson is like the closing paragraph of an essay. After writing the body, a good writer takes one last paragraph to summarize and end his presentation or argument. In the closure of a lesson, the teacher takes a few minutes to ask questions that pertain to the lesson or reading or activity. This informal assessment lets you know what your students grasped and where they need a little more work.

Writing is another great way to assess. Remember those dreaded essay tests we took in school? That is one way to assess through writing; however, anything that you have your child write that demonstrates a knowledge of the content area can be used. If you have your child journal or notebook, allow him to write about what he is learning. Younger children may only be required to write a sentence or two. The older the child, the more he should be required to write.

Sometimes a more formal essay is appropriate. Younger students can be asked to write a few sentences on a topic. Middle aged children can be assigned a three-point essay while older students must write a research or term paper. If you assign a writing project as a means of evaluating what your child has learned in a different content area, it is advisable to give two grades… one for the writing quality and one for the content. The content grade can be averaged in with other grades in that particular subject. You would not want your child to receive a poor History grade because he failed to use commas properly. Likewise, you would not want him to receive a good History grade because his grammar was good while his content was lacking. Rubric grading is a great way to grade writing. The rubric can be generated to include both content and style or two rubrics can be used, one to assess writing quality and one to assess content.

Alternative assessments offer many options for closing out a unit of study. I love portfolio assessments. They help me stay organized during the school year and end up as keep-sakes later. They also make for a good place to keep attendance, standardized test results, and other records. You can read about how we organize a portfolio here.

Performance-based assessments ask students to put in action what they have learned. I observed a teacher once who assigned her class the task of creating a restaurant… not a pretend one, a real, functioning restaurant within their classroom. They had to seek out investors for start-up money, create a menu, hire a chef, set the classroom up to function as a restaurant, shop for food, décor, furniture and other supplies, send out invitations to the restaurant's "opening (and only) night", and serve as the restaurant's wait staff that evening. They put to use skills they had acquired in math, writing, health, economics and art. The teacher graded their performance in each of the core subject areas, and the attendees, including a restaurant reviewer for the local paper, evaluated their overall performance.

I have had my children complete a few simpler-to-pull-off performance-based assessments. They have created a grocery store which sold play food to the stuffed animals of our house. They created a society for their plush toy birds and organized the Birdieland government. They have written and performed short plays (at home with family members as the audience). All of these fall into the category of performance-based assessments because several skills from different content areas were put into practice. The success of their endeavor was measured by how well they used what they had learned.

The form of assessment I use most often is project-based. Technically, project-based learning is more of a style of teaching, and the projects are assessed with a checklist or a rubric. However, overseeing a project always gives me a clear understanding of my boys' abilities. A good project usually integrates skills from many different subject areas. It also involves organizational skills. Each time my boys complete a project, I am able to assess how well they can take a large job and break it into smaller steps. In the early years, I had to think through every project for them. Now that they are 4th and 5th graders, they can organize their work themselves and only need guidance from me. We complete so many projects that I compiled a list of 101 different project ideas.

So, let's review. What did you learn in this post? What is a portfolio assessment? What are performance-based assessments? What assessment form can you use to grade both writing and projects? Did I just make you look back over this post? Ah Ha! This, my friend, is what we call closure! :-)

Please post your answers as a comment and feel free to leave any tips you have, too!

Blessings and Happy Planning!

Return Soon for the next article in the Plan-It School Series.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Plan-It School Series: Setting the Stage

Setting the stage for learning is something I was encouraged to do during my teacher training and years as a public school teacher. I have found it helpful as a homeschool mom, too. The "set", as it is called in education circles (at least back when I was in that circle), is similar to an opening paragraph for your writing. When writing, you do not want to just jump into the body of your work. You write a introductory paragraph that draws your reader in and directs their thinking toward the topic. Opening paragraphs can vary in style from exciting to thought provoking, but whatever the style, they serve a singular purpose. Likewise, it is helpful not to jump into teaching but to find a way to open your units and your lessons that draws your students in and makes them want to learn more.

I begin each unit or mini-unit I teach with a set activity. I usually try to make these the highest interest activities and I try to develop a set that will help my children warm up to the topic of study and engage them. Here is a list of a few unit sets I have used in the past:

  • Creating a banner
  • Dancing
  • Music
  • Decorating the house for the theme
  • Drama
  • Field trip
  • Playing a game
  • Role play
  • Feast

One of the most elaborate sets that I did with my children was as an opener to a unit on The American Revolution. Michael and I named our home Great Olive-tain. Each room of the house was a different part of the Kingdom, and the boys' bedroom was declared the Colonies of the Kingdom. Michael was crowned King of Olive-tain, and I played the role of Parliament.

The day before school began, I wrote and a read a proclamation which placed unfair laws and taxes on the boys. There was a Quartering Act in which they had to move out their bird collection to make room for some of Michael's and my belongings. There was a tax on play time. For every hour of play, they had to pay us $1 from their Piggy Bank (we did not keep this money, btw, but returned it after our role play). The boys were outraged. I told them that as citizens of Great Olive-tain they had the right to appeal to the King. He, of course, took no mercy on them. Instead, he declared them rebellious and blockaded their bedroom.

Like I said earlier, this was my most elaborate set ever. It gave their brains a jump-start, and they were fully engaged. As we read about the events that led to the Revolutionary War, the boys would say things like, "That is just like what you did to us, Mom," or "Dad did that to us, too." Though a role play like this must be handled carefully… our boys are thick-skinned and enjoy reenacting history, even if they have to suffer a little… it demonstrates how abstract or foreign concepts can be brought to a child's level and made applicable for them. This is what engages them in the learning process.

I make sets for individual lessons much simpler. Sometimes questions are the best way to begin.

  • What did you learn yesterday?
  • How do you do x?
  • Why do you do y?
  • How is x different from y?
  • What do you already know about x?
  • What do you hope to learn about y?

If the lesson involves reading, we thoroughly discuss the book cover and make predictions.

  • What do you see on the cover?
  • What do you think this character is doing?
  • Why do you think the book is titled ____?
  • What do you think will happen in this story?

Sometimes I do the unexpected.

  • Don a costume. (Like the one in the picture at the top of this article. I dressed as a mad scientist for the start of our Chemistry unit and performed a science demonstration with a surprising result.)
  • Perform a science demonstration.
  • Do something that is purposefully and obviously incorrect (like before a lesson on verb tenses, write on the board "The boys went to school tomorrow.")
  • Show a picture that relates to the topic and discuss.
  • Tell a joke (that relates to the lesson of course).
  • Read a poem that relates to the topic.
  • Dance, jump around, act, or rap. (Once again as it fits the lesson. Oh yes, I really do "rap"... Notice I put that in quotes. :) You'll have to ask me to do the continent rap or verb conjugation rap sometime.)

More times than not, I show a picture or object that illustrates the concept to be learned. For instance, when teaching a lesson from our Chemistry curriculum on lab equipment, I placed a pen, paper, and books on one table and a fireman's hat and play hatchet on another. We discussed who would use each piece of equipment and why. We also discussed how each could not use the other's equipment. A pen would be of little use to a fireman as he fights a fire. A teacher could be sent to jail for carrying a hatchet to school. This drew them into the lesson and began the process of thinking about why a chemist needs a particular set of tools.

Think for a moment about the parables in Matthew 13 that the Lord Jesus used to teach us. In these parables, he was teaching about the Kingdom of Heaven. For us, that is an abstract concept. It is a place we have not seen, yet we know of it because of His teaching. Think about what He used to explain Heaven to us… treasure, a mustard seed, a pearl… all concrete, tangible items that held meaning for his students. He used the familiar to explain the unfamiliar. This is, in a way, is what we are to do with a lesson set.

What do you do to jump-start your children's thinking? Feel free to share.

Blessings and Happy Planning!

Return soon for Plan-It School: Preparing for Assessments