Reviving Motherhood

Learning on the Journey


Leave a comment

For the Children’s Sake Friday: Week 1

When a baby is picked up, spoken to, and loved, he is starting his education as God planned it.  For all our lives we are human beings, in an active state of learning, responding, understanding.  Education extends to all of life.  In fact, an educational system that says, one bright summer’s day in the dawn of my youth, “There, Now you are educated.  This piece of paper says so,” is doing me a gross disfavor.  The truly educated person has only had many doors of interest opened.  He knows that life will not be long enough to follow everything fully.

~For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay, pg.8


2 Comments

The Charlotte Mason Method of Homeschooling

~painting by Lee Kaula~

Over the past months I’ve been mulling over my educational philosophy.  For several years I’ve been burned out and paralyzed as I tried to live up to some kind of rigid, artificial, school-at-home homeschool method I imagined was expected of me.  It felt grueling and lifeless.

This past semester I backed off from a few subjects, focused strongly on the 3 R’s, prayed, and observed.  I was inspired by some unschooling blogs.  While I know unschooling is definitely not the right choice for us, reading about families who educate this way helped me understand a lifestyle of learning and exploration.  Soon my kids were spontaneously asking, “Can we research this?”  “Will you help me look this up?”  “Let’s read a book about that.”  I felt refreshed and freed.  I started doing creative learning projects with the kids, and school became fun again—maybe really fun for the first time!

Right before we left for Christmas vacation, I stumbled on a community of blogs influenced by the Charlotte Mason method of education.  I’m familiar with Charlotte’s methods, but it’s been a long time since I considered them.  (Her method is summarized at Simply Charlotte Mason this way:

“A method of education popular with homeschoolers in which children are taught as whole persons through a wide range of interesting living books, firsthand experiences, and good habits.”)

   Reading through these blogs felt like answered prayer.  This philosophy seems like the best of both worlds—excellence in education combined with the grace and freedom to cultivate a life-culture of learning.

I had been praying about which books I should take on vacation.  (Don’t laugh; yes, I think God cares about little things like that!) At the last minute, I grabbed For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay, which is about the Charlotte Mason method.  All during our week away, as I read, my heart kept saying “Yes, yes, yes!”  When I read the book years ago I didn’t understand it.  This time around it made sense.  I guess timing is everything.

I’ll be honest and say that I’m not too interested in being a Charlotte Mason purist.  In fact, I had her original homeschooling series, read it, found it too much to wade through, and sold it several years ago.  At this point I’m satisfied with a synopsis that gives me the heart of her philosophy, alongside the ideas of others who are putting them into practice.  We’ll still be an eclectic homeschool, but I look forward to seeing how some of Charlotte’s ideas play out as we continue our journey.  Already I have some just waiting to be put into practice during the next part of the school year.

In light of all this, I have two announcements.  One is that I plan to have For the Children’s Sake Friday each week, to share quotes from the book that I find inspiring.  Also, I will have a related giveaway soon.  Stay tuned!


6 Comments

Homeschool Mother’s Journal 11-12-11

Image via Pinterest

Linking up with The Homeschool Chick

In my life this week…

We returned from a trip and all got a stomach virus.  It’s a miracle we got anything done.

In our homeschool this week…

We eased back into the swing of things.  I did some school work with those who felt well enough, and worked on catching up on some grading on which I’d fallen behind.  It was a relaxed few days.  I enjoyed working on Thankful Tree art with the kids.  It is so fun to see their creativity and how each one approaches the same project so differently.

Helpful homeschooling tips or advice to share…

If you are a Christian, let God lead you.  There is no way, really, to explain what this is like.  All I can say that as a Christian I know God leads me and speaks to me.  He is my friend and my leader, but sometimes I do not listen.  I am learning to throw everyone else’s opinions out the window about how I should do things, and follow what God tells me to do, not just in school but all of mothering.  How should I discipline this child?  How should I feed my family?  Why is this child struggling in this subject?  How should I configure my day?  Block out the strident voices and listen to the one important Voice.

I am inspired by…

Pinterest.

Places we’re going and people we’re seeing…

Well, this was last week spilling into this week, but we took a fall break of sorts and visited my wonderful sister and her four sweeties while our husbands attended a conference together.  I got to see most of my family and the kids got more cousin time than they have ever had.  Then we visited my husband’s family too.  We were too sick for our normal activities this week, but we saw a lot of people over the last few days all the same.

We did have eye doctor appointments today.  We have three new pairs of glasses on order.  I can’t wait to see again.  Neither the receptionist nor the doctor (a man of about 70) had ever met a homeschooling family before.  They were full of questions such as “Do they make friends?”  Ummm…Seriously?  When I explained that they had many friends through their homeschool group and church, among other places, it seemed like a new concept that children could make friends anywhere besides school.  I think I could have made a better case for homeschooling in the conversation, but I have to admit that I was a bit taken aback.  Once my friendly children started talking, asking questions, and being their normal engaging selves, the doctor seemed more convinced that we are not some kind of sideshow freaks. I did appreciate that he did not grill my children like some adults do, as if to perform some kind of inquisition.  He was full of questions for me, though, mainly about the legality of homeschooling.  It is amazing to me that some people have actually never met homeschoolers.  Their social circles must be very narrow!

My favorite thing this week was…

Feeling better.  My kids feeling better.  My husband feeling better.

What’s working/not working for us…

Something that is working really well is combining art and writing.  I have come face to face with the fact that I am an artist and a writer at heart and that is the way I teach best.  When I try to force myself into a rigid, cold, academic mold because I think someone expects it of me, our school days lose all their life.  God made me to be creative and when I operate in the strengths he has given me, that energy flows to the kids.  So that is really working beautifully.

I need to work out a better time for grading their work consistently (instead of letting it pile up over a few days).  This is one of my weakest points.  I tend to fall behind but it is something I am determined to work through.

Questions/thoughts I have…

This has nothing and everything to do with school.  How can I make our bedtime routines better so that our mornings flow smoothly when we get up?  I know that making sure everyone tidies their rooms and lays out clothes for the following day is key.  We are really good about early bedtimes, but it’s the leading up part that needs help.  I read a great post by Sally Clarkson this week on this very thing.  It inspired me and made me determined to work more on this.  Speaking of Sally, I know I mention her a lot but she is a person God is using in my life right now to help me become a better mother.  I have lamented the lack of older ladies who are willing to share their wisdom with us young moms, and I’m grateful for those like Sally who are stepping up to the plate.  I’m not idolizing her, God has just put her writing in my path for this season when I need it very much.

Things I’m working on…

This week I really want to get the house clean enough and the laundry caught up enough that I can sit down for awhile with a cup of tea and my knitting.  It’s fall, and I’m craving some cozy knitting time.

I’m reading…

The Message paraphrase of the Bible.  I only pull it out every now and then, but it’s a refreshing change.  Also Rod Dreher’s blog.  It’s different from other blogs I read and I don’t always agree, but Rod’s writing always makes me think.

I’m cooking…

Homemade bread tomorrow.

I’m grateful for…

Getting to see my sister last week.  We so rarely get time together.  If you have a sister you get to see often, treasure that gift!

I’m praying for…

Someone I love who is having health difficulties.

A photo, video, link, or quote to share…

This is an awesome idea for a birthday, especially for an adult.  Imagine getting so many notes from people who love you!


3 Comments

Homeschool Mother’s Journal 10-24-11

Linking up again this week.

In my life this week…

I was sick. What started as a killer headache went on and on and on the 3rd day I started running fever and aching all over. I have no idea what it was. No one else is sick, and I hope it stays that way.

In our homeschool this week…

I schooled from the couch a lot. On Friday I couldn’t even get up, but the kids were so sweet about coming to me and letting me supervise from bed. One downside is that when a homeschool mom gets sick there is no sub! I know I could take a day off if I really had to, but I prefer to save those days for great fun or real emergency.

Helpful homeschooling tips or advice to share…

You don’t always have to be at the kitchen table to have school. Have it where it makes the most sense. If it means teaching from the bed, from the rocking chair while you nurse a little one, listening to a reader while you wash dishes, or having a lesson outside, go for it. I am learning, finally, after so many years of burnout, that those veteran homeschoolers had it right when they said, “Don’t try to copy institutional school at home.” You’ll kill yourself.

I am inspired by…

Jessica at Teachable Moments. I have been reading her blog for awhile and it always encourages me.

Places we’re going and people we’re seeing…

We continued swimming lessons this week. Since I was sick, that was about it. We didn’t even all make it to church. My 8-year-old did tag along to a football event with a friend Sunday, but this was a light week in the socialization department.

My favorite thing this week was…

Probably just loving on my little ones. I love that they are still little enough to love snuggling.

What’s working/not working for us…

We are successfully integrating language arts. The younger kids read to me daily, and they practice their handwriting independently. Otherwise, we have been doing group art/creative writing projects several times per week which they ADORE. For example, this week we made a list…something like a bucket list or “before I die” list…But I did not want to get that morbid with little ones. We called it “Some day I would like to…” and everyone made a list or poster about things they would like to do one day. We also illustrated our lists. Some of us had more illustration, while others had mostly writing, but everyone both wrote and drew something. I do these creative projects with them, which makes them happy. Clarice at Storybook Woods clued me into this when she once mentioned that children are far more likely to become engaged in an activity if they see you doing it too. I have found this to be true. They love it when I participate with them.

Elizabeth, my oldest, has been working on a story that takes place in the historical period she’s studying (ancient Rome). I have been noting misspelled words from her writing projects (and even her texts, haha) and making a list. Each day we have a “spelling bee” for 10 or 15 minutes. They are not competing against each other, only themselves. I give Elizabeth words she has missed and I give the younger kids age-appropriate words that they need to learn. I will probably start using a curriculum list to come up with these words. For each word they get right, they get a penny. I got this idea from Pioneer Woman. I think she gives her kids candy, but pennies work better for us.

What’s not working is my haphazard method of record keeping and grading. I do it, but not in a way that is as organized or consistent as it needs to be. It’s kind of like brushing my teeth, not my favorite thing, it’s just something that has to be done. I don’t feel upset about this, it’s just the next thing to work on and master.

Questions/thoughts I have…

How can I add more grammar to our language arts? They will learn most of it just by writing, but there are some things (like parts of speech) that have to be learned more from the book. I’m thinking through the best way to do this.

Things I’m working on…

Notes and letters. Catching up after being sick. Phone calls. Very mundane things. I need to upload pictures to send grandparents. I’m notoriously bad about this.

I’m reading…

I was going to re-read Mere Christianity this week, but I can’t find it. Maybe it ended up in my husband’s office? I need to track it down. It’s time for a dose of CS Lewis.

I’m cooking…

Hamburger steak, steamed cauliflower, and…not sure.

I’m grateful for…

Feeling better.

I’m praying for…

My children.

A photo, video, link, or quote to share…

Am I the last mom in the universe to know about this website? Brain Pop. Great educational stuff!!!


Leave a comment

This Week

I have resisted making this a “homeschool blog” because I want it to feel like a safe and inclusive place, and I know educational choices can be polarizing.  But the truth is that homeschooling does consume a huge amount of my life, more all the time.  So this week I’m joining The Homeschool Mother’s Journal.

In my life this week…

I feel like I’ve been barely staying afloat–or rather, dipping below the surface a few times!  It’s been a full week!

In our homeschool this week…

We are trying to find our rhythm.

Helpful homeschooling tips or advice to share…

Be a learner.  I learn from every mom I’m around and talk to.  I love to observe people, see what they are doing well, and adapt their methods to my own life.  It’s a lot better than winging it alone.

I am inspired by…

Right now, interest-led learning blogs.  Unschooling isn’t the right choice for our family for a number of reasons, but I see enthusiasm and a spark in unschoolers and relaxed homeschoolers that I don’t see in many other families.  And when I read homeschool blogs by hyper-organized moms with color coded binders, I want to cry.  When I read about relaxed schoolers, I think, “I can do this.  And it could even be fun.”

Places we’re going and people we’re seeing…

The kids had swimming lessons last week.  The facility where they are taking lessons had a scheduling difficulty for after-school hours, so the swim coach offered to do daytime lessons just for us.  I’m so happy since this instructor pushes them harder and they are learning more than they would with a high school-age instructor.  We had yearbook pictures with our homeschool group, and a birthday party for everyone in the group who had birthdays recently.  We had friends over last Sunday afternoon and we ended up inviting them for supper too.  Fun!  Sweet friends had us to their home Monday for delicious Texas barbeq

My favorite thing this week was…

Seeing the kids learn to swim (and improve their skill, for those who already know how).  I love to see them learning things that kids their age in our culture need to learn.  There is a long story behind why I appreciate that, but it makes my heart smile.

What’s working/not working for us…

I’m mentally re-working the way we do language arts.  We are currently doing each subject separately (spelling, English, etc.) and I need a way to integrate them.  It’s taking too much time and no one is enjoying it.  We have tried some creative writing projects and I’m working on how to incorporate that while still teaching the kids what they need to know.  But seriously?  I think they have learned more from a few fun writing projects than from weeks of book work.

Questions/thoughts I have…

Will this be the year we hit our stride?

Things I’m working on…

Still plugging away at the kitchen, even though I’m not blogging about it.  All the cabinets need to be cleaned out and organized.

I’m reading…

Sadly, nothing except my Bible.  I should pick up a book.

I’m cooking…

Grilled chicken and veggies, chicken soup, and white beans.

I’m grateful for…

Beautiful, amazing fall weather.

I’m praying for…

An acquaintance who lost her son in an accident this week.

A photo, video, link, or quote to share…

How about a few?

A few words for overwhelmed mamas of little ones…

Encouragement on out-of-the-box kids

More from Sally, Discipleship is a choice that will cost you everything…about discipling our kids…


2 Comments

Preschool Guilt

Let me begin by saying that this isn’t an anti-preschool post.  Our church has an amazing preschool with beautiful, gentle, dedicated teachers.  If I had a need for a preschool, there would be no place I’d rather put my little ones.  It is a wonderful place.  So I’m not against preschool.

However, I do believe that our culture has an over-emphasis on the need for structured learning at a very early age, and this can create some guilt and anxiety among moms (and I suppose, dads) whose babies just aren’t ready to be away from mom, or who aren’t interested in even the most basic of early education.  But we’ve been conditioned to think that preschool is essential for our childrens’ development.

Maybe I’m just simple, but when I think about it I realize that preschools have only been around for a very short amount of time.  Even most parents my age did not attend preschool.  Did you?  Did your parents?

Very early education is not resulting in better educated people.  Just talk to most elderly people you know.  They are better educated than many people of my generation, and they did not have preschool—or kindergarten, for that matter.  They learned to read and write and do basic math in first grade.  I imagine they learned things like shapes and colors at home.  Many of them had parents who read to them, and they had a lot of time for imaginative play.  And they turned out OK—in fact, many of them make up “The Greatest Generation.”

We just think about education differently these days.  I hear moms saying, “Johnny is turning 2, so she will be in preschool this year,” just as parents of previous generations said, “Johnny is turning 6 so he will be in first grade this year.”  It’s expected.  Other parents say, “Suzy is 2 [or 3] and she should not be around her younger sibling all day, she should be with kids her own age!”  Really?  An excellent public school teacher told me one time that the main purpose of preschool is socialization.  Yet, while I agree that socialization is very important, I don’t believe it’s that important in preschool.  Again, our grandparents did not attend preschool yet are very socially well-adjusted as a whole.

Some preschools do introduce academics early and there is nothing wrong with that.  If a child is ready and has an interest in learning to read at age 4, then go for it!  But I think this is another area where parents can fall prey to guilt.  If their child is not reading and writing in preschool, their child is now “behind.”  If I can be a broken record and hark back to previous generations again, well-educated people who came before us started formal learning at age 6 or 7 and were none the worse off for it.  Another one of my teacher friends, a very well-respected educator with a Master’s in education told me that regardless of when children start or when they are developmentally ready to begin formal learning, they all even out by middle school anyway.  A child who reads at 4 is unlikely to have an edge over one who learns to read at 7 in the long run, unless he’s a genius.

Some kids are just not ready for school at an early age.  One of mine was not interested in learning even the simplest letters and numbers when he was 4.  I was so worried that he’d be behind.  One of my wise preschool teacher friends told me, “Don’t stress so much.  Remember, he has only been alive for 4 years!”  Now he excels at math.  When he was ready to learn, everything clicked into place and he got it instantly.  All the early education in the world wouldn’t have forced learning.

Kids are all different, with different needs.  So are their families.  Many families have legitimate reasons for choosing preschool, but guilt should not  be one of them.

~Join me on Facebook!~


1 Comment

Teaching Children to Write, Lesson 1

I realized recently that I needed to beef up our creative writing activities in our homeschool.  After some thought, I decided to use the same writing prompts I used as a kid.

I’ll be recording our experiences as we follow each prompt.  “The pen,” Napoleon said, “is mightier than the sword.”  I believe that it’s important for our children to learn to write well, and any parent can do simple creative writing exercises with their kids, whether they homeschool them or not.  If you desire for your child to be a good writer but are unsatisfied with the instruction they are receiving at school, you can teach them to write at home!  It’s fun!

Today Elizabeth, my 10 year old, and I did “Free Writing.”  I find that when the teacher does the exercises as well, it’s a lot more fun and less intimidating for the child.  During free writing, you simply write whatever comes into your head for 5 minutes.  It’s a great exercise for overcoming writer’s block.  At the end of 5 minutes, you finish your sentence and then read what you wrote to everyone else.  As much as I hated this part as a kid, it really helps build confidence.

My E is not as insecure as I was at that age. She loved it.  She jumped straight into fantasy land with the story that was going through her mind. I was completely amazed at the poetic story-like description that she came up with in an unstructured, unplanned 5 minute block of time, without much prior experience.

I have heard that good readers make good writers; that the best way to learn to write is to read.  My girl reads A LOT.  In fact, she’s a gifted speed reader and can race through many chapter books a day with perfect retention.  I wasn’t that fast as a kid, but I did love to read.  Even if you have a reluctant reader, they can be exposed to good writing if you read aloud to them.  It’s an important component in the writing process.  This is what experienced writers have told me, and I believe them.

So that’s our experience with our first writing lesson.  Look for a report on Lesson 2 soon!