Ride the West with Living Books

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I didn’t see it coming.

Recently, I was reminded that some of the best learning “units” we’ve enjoyed were unplanned and unexpected. They were birthed by questions raised from learning a new word, being involved in an intriguing moment, or engaging in a fascinating event. One of our most recent learning tangents evolved after reading a few chapters of The Pony Express by Samuel Hopkins Adams (Random House, 1950) to my middle schooler. In the process, the elementary learner wondered what the excitement was about and she, too, was hooked. Before we knew it we were all riding the routes of the Pony Express (Mom included after realizing she didn’t know as much as she wished she did), racing through mountain passes, stopping at rest stations, and outwitting bandits.

I remembered we had a few more books about riders on our home library shelf—as well as books about the period of history. I invited my youngest to join me at the bookshelf to find other resources she might enjoy. She was intrigued by the cover of one in particular, Buffalo Bill and the Pony Express by Eleanor Coerr (HarperCollins,1995). Upon opening the book and fanning through the pages—seeing the larger font—she was even more excited. Large font. Easy, enjoyable reading. Unintimidating. We began reading and she immediately recognized some of the rider’s names and station stops from listening to me read to her sister. Learning about the Pony Express just got a bit more personal for her.

Three weeks later, looking back, the “unit” was more than I could have imagined, mostly because of the level of engagement. There was interest and they fully “owned” what they were learning, because they were interested. The more we read, the more involved my learners became. When they had questions, we did our best to find answers. This paved the way to practice research skills.


Language arts. Study skills. History.


I know my girls remember a large percentage of what they learned. That makes my heart smile. But, there was something else that grew along with their knowledge…a relationship. They had something in common, a mutual interest, something they could talk and wonder about. They shared what they learned; got excited together.

I could never have manufactured or orchestrated that aspect of the process.

Even after 26 years of homeschooling, I didn’t see a “unit” growing from this book.

But, it did!!

And, I am grateful.

Today, because of that deeper care for one another, they are outside reading in the fort. That’s another story for another day.

Related resources for riding and exploring the west:

Buffalo Bill, Augusta Stevenson (Childhood of Famous Americans)

Buffalo Bill: Wild West Showman, Mary R. Davidson (Discovery biography series, Garrard Publishers)

The California Gold Rush, May McNeer (Landmark series)

Annie Oakley: The Shooting Star, Charles P. Graves (Discovery biography series, Garrard Publishers)

Jim Bridger: Man of the Mountains, Willard and Celia Luce (Discovery biography series, Garrard Publishers)

Kit Carson: Pathfinder of the West, Nardi Reeder Campion (Discovery biography series, Garrard Publishers)

Daniel Boone: The Opening of the Wilderness, John Mason Brown (Landmark series)

Daniel Boone: Young Hunter, Augusta Stevenson (Childhood of Famous Americans)

The Story of Daniel Boone, William O’Steele (Signature series)









Portfolio Possibilities: What to Include

To keep track of the volumes of work samples for four learners, I am trying something new this year. Well, it isn't really new. I tried it before, but unsuccessfully. 

I decided to give it another try. 

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Different season. It's working...so far! 

In our state, statute requires parents to keep work samples for their children. With four learners, the pile of completed work on my kitchen table grows daily. Books read. Papers completed. Field trip brochures.

If I don't tame the pile, it can get the best of me. 

This year, I am keeping my log of activities (another statutory requirement for our state) on the kitchen table where I can log conveniently. After logging, I place the samples in a plastic tote. Then, sometime over Christmas break, we will have a family sorting party. Each child will receive a binder for their samples. I pass out plastic sleeves for odd-shaped treasures. At the end of the sorting party, each child's portfolio begins to take shape. To lessen the stress, second semester work is placed directly in the binder after it's been logged. The end result will be a portfolio ready for our annual evaluation. 

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What is a sample? 

Samples. Every family interprets the meaning of samples differently. In 24 years of doing home education annual evaluations for other families, we've seen the full range of freedom in terms of samples. One family will bring 5 work samples for each subject while another family brings every.single.paper for every.single.subject. That's the freedom of the law. Parents decide what is needed for their family.

Sample examples. Traditional math lessons come to mind for many. It is what we remember from our school days. Yet, when considering other subjects in light of the variety of educational philosophies held by parents, the possibilities for samples grows. For families with a Charlotte Mason philosophy, there will be book lists and sketches, maybe a nature journal. For traditional textbook families, there will be notebooks of answers and solutions and lists of spelling practice. And those who learn on the road? They may have photos and travel brochures to attest to their learning highlights. 

Over the years, parents we've evaluated saved: 

  • math lessons and scratch work
  • writing or poetry samples
  • journal
  • research papers
  • article critiques
  • reading lists
  • magazine subscription listing
  • book reports or summaries
  • primary source document listing
  • documentary listing
  • lab reports
  • dissection reports and sketches
  • nature notebook
  • sketches
  • theater tickets 
  • movie reviews
  • photography
  • video clips
  • graphic arts samples
  • sports stats
  • sports videos
  • recipes
  • URLs from independent studies
  • community service hours
  • achievement award certificates

Some families happily eliminate paper, capturing everything digitally. In recent years during evaluations, we've swiped I-pads to view scanned work and flipped through PowerPoint presentations of field trips. Other families design digital scrapbooks. In our digital society, portfolio possibilities continue to grow. Be creative! If your family is learning on the go or on the road, consider how you might take advantage of digital technology. 

What about high school portfolios? 

I get this question often, especially since families come back to us year-after-year. As those families move into the high school years, they begin to feel the pressure of credits and college admission. To ease the pressure, I remind them that the types of work samples saved really doesn't change. The point of the portfolio is to show that the learner has made progress at a level commensurate to the ability (at least in our state).

Though the work samples saved during the high school years is generally the same as the elementary and middle school years, I do encourage parents to take special care to log titles and authors of books (in a digital document for easy interfacing to other documents) as well as community service hours (documented on company letterhead). Doing so can save time in the late junior and early senior year when families begin gathering college application documents.  

Taming paper trails doesn't have to be a full time job. I found doing a little bit each week helps keep my long-term sanity. I know you can tame yours as well. Perhaps keeping work samples in one place is a next right step in the positive direction. 

Empower Yourself and Your Children

Things change.

State statutes.

University admission requirements. 

Employment prerequisites. 

I had one of those moments. 

My second son applied to a local state college almost six years ago.

Admission was smooth and relatively easy compared to the essays I had to write for our first son's application to a highly selective university. Though I haven't personally had a student apply to college for several years (I am excited to be doing so again as we graduated another senior this year), I stay in the loop by researching and continuing education because of the privilege Mike and I have of walking along side parents as they help their learners take their unique right next steps. Keeping in the know is what we love and enjoy! 

This week I was reminded of the misinformation which continues to circulate. It happens innocently with the greatest intention being the offering of assistance one person to another. However, though well-intentioned parents (and "experts") may offer their insights and experiences, it is important to remind one another to do our own research and recheck sources. It never hurts to ask more questions.

Requirements change.

For example, when our son applied to the local state college six years ago, the only requirements were a test score (ACT, SAT, or CPT--now the PERT) and a final home-generated transcript or affidavit of high school completion. This week, however, I learned another requirement has been added: a copy of the student's original Letter of Intent filed with the district when the home education program was established. 

A requirement was added since my son applied. I could have easily given parents errant information, unknowingly of course. However, my intention is to always provide families with as accurate and up-to-date information as possible, hence I was prompted to do a bit of research after talking with several parents. Without a refresher--research into current requirements--I could have easily passed along misinformation to other parents based on what I heard instead of what I knew. 

Let's encourage one another to empower ourselves. 

In addition, keeping track of important papers is necessary. As Mike and I are scheduling annual evaluations, often parents mention they "have no idea as to where the learners Letter of Intent has been placed." After learning of the new requirement (at least for this state college), I see the importance of us reminding one another (gently) to be mindful of where we place legal documents. Yes, indeed the county might have a scanned copy to pass along as a replacement, however, personally I feel more comfortable knowing all my documentation is in one place--perhaps a digital file or a paper/accordion file folder. Older children and young adults can learn to keep and organize their records and paperwork as part of this process. 

Let's encourage one another to keep track of necessary documents. 

Our actions impact our children. Having adult children, I understand (with new fervor) the importance of teaching and encouraging my younger children to empower themselves--the hows, wheres, and what fors of finding reliable sources, collecting information, and solving problems. When children are encouraged to empower themselves, and see parents empowering themselves--asking questions, identifying problems, and then seeking out and finding solutions. They've lived and experienced the results of personal empowerment.

Let's encourage one another to empower our children. 

Things change. 

 

 

 

 

 

25 Intentional Moments with Your Teens and Young Adults

"Mom, can we go on a date?"

It starts when they are little, but it doesn't have to end there. 

Teens and young adults LOVE intentional moments with their parents, too. 

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A wise, older mom once encouraged me to foster a relationship with my children when they were young. I have to admit, it wasn't always easy to be excited to watch ants make a hill, walk around the lake hunting for tadpoles, or play Candyland for a second or third time as laundry hollered to be loaded and dinner shouted to be started. There were seasons of new babies and illnesses. 

But, I listened to my friend's her sage wisdom, what she had learned from her experiences.

The purpose, she said,

"If you want a relationship with your young adults, start when they are little and never stop!"

Twenty-seven years into this parenting thing, I can say I was intentional about putting my best foot forward to engage in my children's lives.

But, I will be honest. I wasn't always happy about setting aside my ideas or my activities. 

There were moments I complained. There were days I was tired, but persevered anyway. My children saw my intentions. 

What I learned from that older mom?

My efforts mattered--all of them, even the ones that were not picture perfect.

Fast forward. 

What do we do when children get older, when dates are more than playing a game (though some older children still enjoy games), stopping by the playground, or catching butterflies?

Or, what if life circumstances kept us from spending as much time with our children as we would have liked? Do we throw in the towel and assume a relationship with our teens can't be fostered? 

We start with where we are now--parent and child, parent and young adult.

No one outgrows the need for relationship and time spent on relationships is never wasted. 

So, where do we start (or continue) with our older children? 

Start with what they enjoy, what they like. 

With five very different teens, young adults, and adult children, the times we spend together varies.

Sometimes I initiate time together. Other times a child asks will ask to spend time together. Some of my ideas are really creative, others met a daily need, or accomplished a  task. Our favorite times include:

1. Sipping hot chocolate. Outside on the patio or sitting cross-legged on the couch, just the two (or three) of us.

2. Taking a walk. This is a favorite for one of my health and fitness-minded young adults. 

3. Going to the thrift store. Often there's a goal for our adventures at our local thrift store's half-price Wednesday. We most always arrive home feeling great about the time we spent together and the bargains we find.

4. Working out together. This is a HUGE stretch for me (no pun intended!) but makes my young adults chuckle. Yes, we've had some laughs at my expense! Laughter is part of relationship building.

5. Painting the bedroom. At some point in the teen years, most young adults desire to freshen up their room. Spending a weekend choosing a color and applying the new coat of freshness can make memories, for sure.

6. Designing a website. My entrepreneur asked if I'd help her figure out how to build a free site. A few days later, we were able to say, "I couldn't have done that without you!"

7. Going shopping. My children know shopping is not something I really enjoy. I like bargains, but I have other things I would rather do. And, with eight children, it seems someone always needs a new shirt, underwear, or a larger size sneakers!  And, often the request doesn't come at an ideal time. However, if one of my children needs something and asks me to go along, I'm there. In fact, one of my favorite mommy heart moments was when my adult child set up his first apartment and asked me to go with him to give my opinion on a couch. I was honored and accepted the invitation with a warm heart. I will never forget that day!

8. Eating a plateful of nachos. While my boys were playing high school baseball, they would often arrive home starving and needing to process the action of the game. It was often hard to keep my tired eyes open--and I rarely remembered the fine details of every inning--but those late evenings were more than worth the sleep I lost. I will admit these late night dates made maintaining weight a challenge. 

9. Reading a book. One of our young adults loved to read and then engage in conversation, pondering thoughts with someone else. Often Mike or I was that someone else. What an honor and a privilege! Perhaps your young adult might enjoy this type of time together. 

10.  Sharing an appetizer. Sharing an afternoon appetizer at a local restaurant may be just the change of scenery your young adult needs. Often restaurants offer afternoon specials to encourage patrons. Research the deals in your area. It may be just the renewal a relationship needs. 

11.  Solving a jigsaw puzzle. Though this hasn't been a terribly frequent choice, when we did engage in this challenge we were able to say, "We accomplished a task together."

12. Making greeting cards. From the very early years of our marriage there hasn't been a lot of extra cash in the budget for cards. Creating cards to make someone smile, has definitely been heart-warming. Making several to keep some on hand for needs that arise may be a great way to spend time with your creative. 

13. Visiting a museum. One of our young adults enjoyed visiting museums, especially art and history. Interestingly, I became quite interested in both art and history, neither of which were natural interests of mine. I love when the interests of one family member rub off on another. 

14. Volunteering together. When my high schoolers began to need community service hours, we were always looking for venues to serve. Though it would have been easier to drop off and go, when invited to stay, we accepted. As it turned out the experienced blessed several family members for several years. 

15. Enjoying free coffee. I have a young adult who is very frugal...and loves coffee. This has definitely been a favorite date, especially National Coffee Day rolls on September 29.

16. Using a coupon. In a large family where money can be tight, we have gotten creative and in the process have enjoyed great times together, frugally. Honestly, once they got the hang of it, my teens and young adults came up with amazingly great deals and ideas to send time together.

17. Riding bikes. Whether biking for the sake of staying fit or enjoying time outside, this has been a favorite in all stages of life. 

18. Doing a DYI project. If you have an innovator or a creative, this can be a fun way to spend the afternoon. I have learned fun DIY ideas from my young adults. 

19. Enjoying nachos, AGAIN!  WHEW! The high school ball nights turned into freshman year of college--seemingly overnight! My oldest--then a college freshman--invited me to share his nachos, a little later in that season of life...at 1 AM. I said YES! And, I never regretted it. He continued to ask and I gained what I call the Mom Freshmen Fifteen!

20. Going BOGO. One of the favorite date requests for our youngers and olders is BOGO shakes at the local Steak N' Shake. The waitresses know us well!

21. Sharing a tradition. Some of our dates were a vehicle for generational sharing. Consider the traditions of your family and how you might share those with yet another generation--shopping for sibling Christmas presents, coffee with Grandma, attending Memorial Day veteran celebrations have been among our favs.

22. Learning a new skill. Learning is life-long. We parents can model this by inviting a young adult to learn a new skill alongside us or we can offer to help a young adult learn a new skill, perhaps one he or she has desired to learn for awhile. Together, my young adults and I have learned how to make lollipops, plant a garden, paint window shutters, and sew aprons. What new skills may await the relationship with your teen?

23. Opening a bank account. Sometimes life's seasons bring amazing date opportunities. Embracing these times, we have with our young adults matters. Often we grab an ice cream or coffee on the way home!

24. Cashing in on rewards. I wasn't a big coffee fan. However, when one of my young adults wanted to join a reward program so we could date and earn rewards, I was all in! And, we've both enjoyed the time together and the freebies!

25. Sharing life! Moments with your teens and young adults don't have to fancy or elaborate. The important point of cultivating a relationship with your children is being intentional about taking time to share life together. In doing so, the parent-child-young adult relationship is built and fostered.

Every. Moment. Matters. 

 

 

Helping Learners Foster Strengths and Interests

"Mom! I want to go with you!"

A trip to the electronics store. I was hoping to go alone. You know, time to enjoy quiet; time to think without questions. After all, it is ONLY the electronics store. 

My mind rattled through all the pros and cons.

  • They grow up fast.
  • I need a few quiet moments.
  • It was a chance to spend individual time.
  • I should seize the moment!

"Yes, you can go."

She put on her shoes. We got in the car and talked all the way to the store. We parked and shopped. Paid. My daughter carried the box, proudly, spring in her step--a wide smile beaming across her face. She insisted on holding our purchase all the way home.

She was energized.

After ten minutes of silence, she asked.

"How could I work at that store?"

Followed immediately by, 

"I just love it there! All the electronics, the gadgets, the cables."

How do we help foster strengths and interests in our children (especially when it is not what we had in mind)?

  • Be open. When my daughter announced she wanted to work at an electronics store, my immediate thought was not impressive. I wouldn't have won Mommy Points. Why would you want to work in an electronics store? Stellar, I know. Thankfully, having been in this place before with other children, I learned from mistakes; held my initial thought. Counting to five helped.
  • Avoid a defensive/reactive posture. By waiting, even just a few seconds, I was able to offer an open, positive response. And, being in the car I didn't have to worry about impatiently shifting my weight or a tapping toe, thankfully. I have spoken those unintended messages before.
  • Ask a question. Asking a question keeps conversation and relationship open. This is another hard lesson I've learned. I'm a global-thinking fixer. I see conclusions (sometimes wrong conclusions) and big pictures before the speaker, so waiting for a response or waiting to hear the whole story takes discipline.

"You asked a great question. What skills do you think you would need to work there?"

  • Wait for a response. If the child is processing thoughts, a response may take a few minutes. And likely, he or she hasn't encountered the scenario at hand in the past. When I keep active and engaged while offering patience, the conversation with my child stays alive. When my mind wonders or I feel something else tugging for my attention (and there are many of those!), my daughter knows. 

"I would need to learn about computers, cameras and equipment."

  • Affirm and ask another question. Affirmation keeps the conversation moving forward and also allows children to internalize that their thoughts are worth processing. Remember, the reason the conversation started was to answer a pending question or entertain an important thought. A piece of affirmation and a follow-up question provides motivation toward considering perspectives and ideas which might not be clear, YET!

"Indeed you would need to know about those things. How could you learn more about electronics?"

  • Don't fret. In the process of thinking things out--engaging in dialogue--it is helpful to remember that just because it is said doesn't mean it will happen. Children and young adults (and I would venture to suggest even adults) express ideas which will never come to fruition. This is part of processing thoughts. In other words, if a child or young adult mentions a possibility for employment or the intention of attending an event, it is an opportunity to learn conversation skills and decision making--another opportunity to share and consider. When I short circuit the process of my child or young adult's thought process prematurely, progress halts. I've had to remind myself that my children need opportunities like these to develop soft skills: problem solving, conversational etiquette, consideration of other people, adaptability, time management, and emotional intelligence. If I cut them off, define all the problems and solutions, discourage conversation, I place my children and young adults at a great disservice. Decision making, Interpersonal skills, work ethic, and research skills must be practiced and experienced before my young adults forge out on their own. 
  • Welcome the unexpected. It may be a passing thought. It might never happen. However, when I welcome and am open to the thoughts of my children, there is a greater chance they will come to me when really big things come to the forefront of their mind. Today's thought about working at an electronics store may be tomorrow's thought of whether an entire savings should be used to buy a car. As a parent I've had to keep my hands open. A desire to work in an electronics store isn't the end of the world. In fact, it could be the catalyst needed to deepen a relationship or it could be the gateway to a lucrative career (or a stepping stone to fixing Mom's technology).
  • Brainstorm. What began as a question ended with a wide-open slate of possibilities. Together my daughter and I discovered several ways she could learn more about electronics. As we talked, she became more engaged, more excited, asking if she had to wait until middle and high school to start. Of course not, learning can start immediately! Perhaps there is something you can do or offer today to fuel the excitement in your leaner. 
  • Open to possibilities. As a homeschooled student, my daughter can learn from an array of environments: online tutorials, online certifications, shadowing, volunteering, mentors. And, she has time to do so! JOY! What possibilities wait for your leaner? 
  • How can I help? I am a busy mom with full days. Believe me, it is not easy for me to ask for more to do. However, when my children face a new endeavor or potential change, they usually embrace the chance to have someone walk along side them, cheer them on. I WANT to be that cheerleader. In my twenty-seven years of parenting, I've learned if I don't get excited--walk alongside, ask how I can help--my children will find someone who or some place which will provide for this need. Companionship is something we all need, children, young adults, and adults. 
  • What's the next step? The next step may not be obvious or easy. Even for me as an adult, I'm often not clear about what my next steps might be. It's silly for me to think my children will know, every time, what their next right steps will be. Helping to identify a next steps and then encouragement to follow through offers another opportunity to affirm and build relationships as well as soft skills and life experiences. 

What strengths or interests are your children or young adults asking you to foster? 

Those strengths and interests may begin with a question and end with answers. Or, those strengths and interests may begin with a request to tag-along and end with an opportunity to walk alongside. And even still, those strengths and interests may start with you--the parent--pointing out an area you see your child could excel, something of which he or she may not even be aware.

Potential is ripe, right where you are--your child and you--together. 

Oh, I forgot to mention. 

Within twenty-four hours, my daughter had spent a good bit of time watching online tutorials and how-to videos about building computers, extracting parts, wiring circuits and more. And her interest began with a tag-along opportunity, some engaging conversation, and insight into next steps. 

I wonder what she will do tomorrow? 

I wonder what your learners might discover TODAY!

This blog post is intended to offer an example of personal experience. It is in no way intended to be legal advice and should not be taken as such. Parents own the sole responsibility for the training and education of their children. 

 

 

 

 

32 Ways to Learn from Real and Relational

Some of my children love making lapbooks, others prefer unit studies. Still others learn best when we incorporate field trips into our days. And, our middle and high school young adults? They have learned at co-ops, through online courses, and with personal independent study. 

In our twenty-three years of homeschooling, our children have benefited from activities rooted in just about every educational methodology.

As beneficial and pleasurable as these experiences have been, the greatest rewards in retention and relationship have come from incorporating life moments into our days together; discovering God’s creation, serving the needs of others, and engaging in conversations.

In the younger years, we:

  • Watch busy ants carry food to their hills, commenting on their phenomenal strength and work ethic.
  • Till a small garden and sow seeds, watering and weeding with hopes to enjoy the abundant harvest, the fruits of patience, diligence, and perseverance.
  • Build a birdhouse, hanging it in a nearby tree and observing the types of birds that enjoy the shelter.
  • Weed the flower bed, discussing root systems and parts of the plant.
  • Pull out a blanket after the sun goes down and gaze upward, identifying constellations, studying the night sky.
  • Study and sketch the moon each night, pondering its changes.
  • Solve a jigsaw puzzle or play a game, building critical thinking and problem solving skills.
  • Sing together, experimenting with high and low pitches and encouraging vocal giftedness.
  • Sort the laundry, learning the difference between lights and darks while engaging in conversation.
  • Tidy the house, encouraging young helpers to be a part of the family team, doing what they are able.
  • Peel carrots together, strengthening small motor skills while discussing life’s profound questions, like why are bats nocturnal. 
  • Make lunch together, slicing bread into half-inch slices and cutting sandwiches into halves and quarters.
  • Make lemon meringue pie, marveling at how the egg whites change and stiffen.
  • Slice and quarter lemons, stirring in one-half a cup of sugar and filling a pitcher with water to make lemonade.
  • Cuddle on the couch, reading page after page, book after book, traveling to unknown places, meeting extraordinary people.
  • Look through family photo albums, recalling favorite memories and sharing family history.
  • Invite people of varying backgrounds, cultures, and careers into your home, broadening our children’s understanding of the world.
  • Make homemade holiday and birthday cards, sending greetings to those who might need extra cheer.

During the pre-teen, teen and young adult years, we:

  • Discuss theologies, philosophies, and belief systems, expanding our young adult's understanding of how people think and apply knowledge, while building and refreshing our own knowledge base.
  • Learn with our young adults, discerning when to encourage independent study and when to be involved.
  • Embrace our young adult's talents, giftedness, or special interests, offering to help in the discovery and research process.
  • Start a sewing project, learning and creating alongside, shoulder to shoulder.
  • Sweat with our teens, practicing sports and fitness skills, caring for their physical health.
  • Walk briskly around the neighborhood, praying for the neighbors while setting a foundation for life fitness.
  • Complete a task together (cleaning a bedroom, washing a car, mowing the yard), lightening the load of doing it alone and engaging in conversation which may not happen otherwise. 
  • Take our teens on dates (clothes shopping, tea rooms, book cafés, or sports stores), enjoying our alone time together away from the hustle-bustle of everyday life.
  • Read books together, sharing feelings and insights.
  • Sit with our young adults, engaging in conversation, helping them sort through challenges, uncertainties, and frustrations.
  • Strive to be quick to listen, asking questions that help our young adults move through difficult circumstances or relational snags using problem solving and conflict resolution skills.
  • Relax together, watching a movie or discussing a recently read book.
  • Serve at a local shelter, mission, or children’s home, blessing those who need an extra dose of love while encouraging one another to care for the least served.
  • Offer childcare for single moms or moms on bed rest, meeting her practical needs.
  • Go on a mission trips together, experiencing new cultures and serving people whose existence matters despite difficult circumstances. 

As our children move to adulthood and away from home, I often ask what mattered most in their learning and living years at home. By far, the experiences which have impacted them most, shaped their being, are the experiences which involved the real and relational. 

As you move about your day today, embrace the real and relational. Those moments matter and they will impact your family for years to come.

Time Management for Middle and High School Young Adults

As Mike and I consult with parents one of the most frequently asked questions is

"How can I get my young adult to

manage his or her time?"

The answer is in the question.

Our goal as parents has always been for our young adults to manage THEIR time by the time they entered high school (though the means by which we've achieved that goal has changed and the progress varied from young adult to young adult).

(Read...I am not saying they did so perfectly or that it was achieved by every young adult (but the goal remains).

We figured out (by making mistakes) we would not be able to manage our young adult's time as long as we had thought. And, the young adult would not be magically able to flawlessly direct the minutes of his or her day after high school without practice. So, we purposed to start with what each learner was able to manage, allowing them to gain responsibility and confidence. 

We've made mistakes. 

Of course, Mike and I  manage (read scheduled play dates, library visits, and the like) schedules and routines when our children are young. In doing so, we are able to model time management techniques. In fact, I--and auditory external processor--became known for working schedules aloud.  I found out (by mistake) that my need to process externally actually helped my children. They saw and heard how I processed our days.

Mike and I also schedule family connections (usually on Sunday afternoons) where our family members come together to discuss the weekly schedule. During this time, family members bring activity requests and ideas to be added to the schedule. As our discussions about weekly schedules have evolved over the years, our children have come to learn that their desires and requests will effect other members. Hence, our family has to work together to plan the weekly schedule, to give and take if need be, to allow another person to participate in something necessary or something that has been prayed for over time (for example, music lessons). Though not always easy, we've learned how to problem solve and talk through challenging seasons. 

Modeling scheduling and planning prepared our young adults (little chunks at a time) for the season when they begin to manage their activities and daily schedules--experiential, real-life learning opportunities in time management. Again, we haven't done so perfectly, but we've definitely learned from our mistakes. Plenty of opportunities for apologies. Great learning for us a family.

However, we've learned there is much more to consider as our middle and high schoolers grapple with managing time on their personal daily or weekly calendar.

We've learned...

The biggest lesson we've learned...our children don't manage their time or decisions like we do. Different doesn't mean wrong. If they learn how they best manage their time--not just adopting how we manage time--they've learned an essential life skill.  Often learning styles and management tools weigh in on how our young adults manage their time. 

We've also learned that several life facets motivate middle and high schoolers to manage their time:

  • knowing they have skills to solve a problem bigger than themselves,
  • having a project to complete or a problem to solve, and
  • understanding they can use their skills to contribute to a cause.

When these aspects are discovered and fostered, managing time matters. It matters to them! And, if there is more to accomplish than there is time, time management becomes a necessity. For example, when our children hit the middle school years, they often begin to have aspirations--owning businesses, creating inventions, writing books. Interestingly, many parents we've talked with tell us their middle and high have the same desires!                                                      

  • Two children wanted to start businesses
  • One son wanted to become an Eagle Scout
  • One middle schooler wanted to learn to play the violin; a high schooler, the piano
  • One young adult wanted to self-learn art, an independent study I didn't see coming

We had to process, plan, talk. How would he or she proceed with their goal? How did he or she plan to complete other school work or fulfill previous commitments and add this new endeavor? Did we need to pray for a mentor? 

As our children began to forge their paths to personal planning--time management--Mike encouraged our children to use a spreadsheet as a visual tool to analyze their use of time. Usually, Mike and I and the young adult discussed priorities—appointments, classes, deadlines, practices, and special events—as well as why these items should be placed on the schedule first. Eating, exercise, and personal care were considered priorities and also added. After priorities, they logged less significant tasks and events--meeting a friend for lunch, perhaps. Their completed spreadsheets (whether paper or digital--depending on the learner's preference) provided a visual representation of how and where time was being spent. 

This tool helped our students plan and manage their days.

Did they mismanage time? Yes, especially when they first started planning. However, we encouraged them to keep trying, reminding them that adults make poor choices, too.

This Chart is included on the Time management Log Sheet offered below.

This Chart is included on the Time management Log Sheet offered below.

A spreadsheet is only one time management tool. Your student may prefer a single-page weekly schedule, a digital application, or a spiral bound planner. If one method is not effective, try another.

A young adult who is comfortable with a method will be more likely to use it efficiently.

We help our young adults look for wasted or dead time--when they ask. Oh, yes, it is hard to remain quiet at times. However, nagging never produced the fruit we intended. Personal motivation--an aspiration, an internal motivator--did. 

For example, our daughter had an extensive vegetable, flower, and herb garden. It was her idea. Every morning she would head outside to water her plants, standing while allowing water to flow from the hose. One day, I noticed she was wearing a cooking apron while watering. Watching from the window I realized she was using the apron to tuck her Kindle safely inside. While she watered, she listened to Anne of Green Gables. Amazed at her ingenuity, I affirmed her creativity, praising her when she returned inside. I learned from her in the process.

Part of being a good time manager is being organized so time is not wasted on extra steps or errands. For middle and high schoolers to be successful at managing their time, they must learn to manage and organize their resources, to put all the essentials for the tasks at hand in one place. That will be the topic of another blog post.

Until then, I am with you on the journey!

This blog post is intended to offer an example of personal experience. It is in no way intended to be legal advice and should not be taken as such. Parents own the sole responsibility for the training and education of their children. 

College-Ready in Middle School?

At a recent outing, I fielded a common--and becoming more common--question.

"How can I get my middle schooler college-ready?"

I heard the immediacy in the mom's voice.  I also heard the fear. Fear of failure, of not doing enough. This mom was looking for the one right answer, the right formula. I wanted, with all my heart, to give her a solid, tried and true answer. But, I couldn't.

As a mom of past middlers, a mentor of parents who've trod this path and a wife of a twenty-seven year veteran middle school teacher, I could only offer this mom insight to potential considerations; insights from our experiences and the experience of other parents we knew. And, perhaps those insights could set her on the next right step for HER child. 

College was still five years away.

I reminded her changes would take place. Physical development and brain maturation would continue. I told her to seek insight but be wise, discerning, to ponder possibilities, not taking the first opinions or ideas tossed her way. 

I encouraged her to embrace the current season, less she miss it worrying about tomorrows. 

I affirmed middle school is indeed about content and skills, but it is even more about the relationship between parent and young adult, the middle schooler's interests and what captures the middle schoolers heart.

Walking alongside the ingenious, changing person, being present and willing to process ideas and aspiration, helping her middle schooler discover gifts, strengths and areas of growth would impact who her middle schooler would become. 

  • Reflecting upon the young adult's interests. What are the current interests? How does he or she spend free time?  What activities does the young adult find fulfilling? In our experience, these interests helped determine course selection and extra-curricular choices as high school approached and then became reality.
  • Anticipating interests which might still be hidden, yet to be discovered. What does the middle schooler wish to try or experience in the next few years? Mike and I came to realize early in our middle school parenting experience that the lesser known interests were just as important as the obvious talents and strengths. In fact, several of our then middlers found the lesser known to be more influential in planning their next steps toward high school. 
  • Considering how the middle schooler learns best. Does learning happen best outdoors? Is there greater retention in independent study or experiential opportunities? Our middle schoolers have ALL learned differently. Every. Single. One. One needed quiet. Another needed hands-on experiences. Yet another needed creative outlets. How middlers learn best matters.
  • Learning study preferences. These are different than learning preferences. These are things like note taking, skimming and scanning, and study skills. Would 3 x 5 cards with vocabulary words penned opposite side definition work better than an online auditory drill game? Or would the oral input be more beneficial? Is a word web better than outlining because a visual image is saved by the brain? What about taking notes in color? Study preferences become key components of learning when higher learning becomes focused or must be time efficient. 
  • Focusing on the development of soft skills. We have found soft skills were more difficult to acquire and internalize than learning Algebra formulas, but were increasingly more important to our young adults in high school and post-secondary education. Is the student working to be more independent, more able to solve problems independently but also proficient in working with other people in collaborative projects? Was the young adult able to self-govern emotions, choices and attitudes? Parents can only control choices, attitudes and time management for a time. We found our young adults, as well as the young adults we work with, must be academically ready for college but even more importantly, be ready emotionally and spiritually. 
  • Processing tough questions. Middle schoolers face challenges. Hormones. Friends. Disappointment. Middle schoolers need both encouragement and grace to navigate those challenges, as well as plenty of opportunities to make mistakes and regroup. Mike and I have found it essential to be  available to field questions and process possible scenarios. This processing was key to moral and social development of our children.

As my time with my friend came to an end, I knew there was much more that could be said on the subject, and likely ideas I hadn't considered or experienced. I reminded the mom there would be as many opinions as there were options.  

I knew she could find the answers she needed today as well as for the questions of the many tomorrows yet to come, however multi-faceted they might be.

And, with a hug, I told her she was the best mom to find the answers for her middle schooler and that she would find answers by wisely seeking and pondering; though the process may not be easy or comfortable. 

She knew college as on the horizon, but the answers were in the questions of her todays.


I recently shared insights and stories from over 27 years of middle school experiences; how Mike, I and our middle schoolers found answers to the questions we had along the journey. The audio of my workshop Celebrate Middle School: Fostering Ingenuity presented at FPEA in May can be found  here.

This blog post is intended to offer an example of personal experience. It is in no way intended to be legal advice and should not be taken as such. Parents own the sole responsibility for the training and education of their children. 


 

 

 

 

Summer Reading List

Summer’s here!

Vacations. Mission trips. Summer evenings reading on the couch.

Summer brings new opportunities, needed refreshment and necessary refueling...and the TIME to do such.

Family members looking for summer reads?

Our summer reading list continues to grow, some titles added this month, others compiled over the years. My lists have been published magazines, state newsletters, Appendix D of  You HAVE to Read This One: Raising a Contagious Reader and Celebrate High School (high school lists categorized American, British, world and ancient).

Parents often ask, "How do we chose books?" 

Choosing a book depends upon many factors, some unique to an individual or circumstances, however the most universal depend upon 

  • a student’s reading ability, age and maturity
  • a family’s values and worldview
  • a whether a book is to be read aloud or read independently.

All these factors, or a combination of these factors, help determine what titles may be appropriate for your children. 

Summer picture books for little learners

  • Arnosky, Jim, All About Turtles
  • Arnosky, Jim,  Deer at the Brook
  • Berkes, Marianne, Over in the Ocean in the Coral Reef
  • Carle, Eric, A House for Hermit Crab
  • Carle, Eric, Mister Seahorse
  • Carle, Eric, Slowly, Slowly, Slowly Said the Sloth
  • Gibbons, Gail, Ducks
  • Gibbons, Gail, The Berry Book
  • Krauss, Ruth, The Carrot Seed
  • Lionni, Leo, Swimmy
  • McCloskey, Robert, Blueberries for Sal
  • McCloskey, Robert, Lentil
  • McCloskey, Robert,  Make Way for Ducklings
  • Zion, Gene, Harry by the Sea

Chapter books for middle elementary to middle school readers

The spectrum of age and maturity of students in grades four through eight is great. As a guide, selections marked (2-4) may be considered acceptable read-aloud titles for grades 2-4. I have marked titles considered more difficult—by vocabulary, sentence structure or content— with (M). Parents may decide to wait until grades 7-8 to introduce these books. As always, if in doubt, read the book first.

  • Alcott, Louisa May, Little Women (M)
  • Bagnold, Enid, National Velvet
  • Barrie, J. M., Peter Pan
  • Baum, L. Frank, The Wizard of Oz
  • Beechick, Ruth, Adam and His Kin
  • Brink, Carol Ryrie, Caddie Woodlawn
  • Bulla, Clyde Robert, A Lion to Guard Us (M)
  • Carroll, Lewis, Alice in Wonderland (M)
  • Crane, Stephen, The Red Badge of Courage (M)
  • D'Angeli, Marguette, The Door in the Wall
  • Dalgliesh, Alice, The Courage of Sarah Noble (2-4)
  • duBois, William Pene, The Twenty-One Balloons (M)
  • Edmunds, Walter D, The Matchlock Gun (2-4)
  • Forbes, Esther, Johnny Tremain (M)
  • Fritz, Jean, The Cabin Faced West (2-4)
  • George, Jean Craighead, My Side of the Mountain
  • Green, Roger Lancelyn, The Tale of Troy (M)
  • Henty, G. A., For the Temple (M)
  • Latham, Jean Lee, Carry on Mr. Bowditch (M)
  • Lenski, Lois, Strawberry Girl (2-4)
  • Norton, Mary, The Borrowers (2-4)
  • Sheldon, George, The Cricket in Times Square
  • Swift, Jonathan, Gulliver's Travels (M)
  • White, E. B., Stuart Little

Summer reads for high school young adults

A comprehensive list is included in Celebrate High School.

  • Aristolte, Complete Works
  • Austin, Jane, Pride and Prejudice
  • Bronte, Charlotte, Jane Eyre
  • Chaucer, Geoffrey, The Canterbury Tales
  • Chesterton, G. K., Favorite Father Brown Stories
  • Cierco, Orations
  • Cooper, James Fenimore, The Last of the Mohicans
  • de Tocqueville, Alexis, Democracy in America
  • Dickens, Charles, The Tale of Two Cities
  • Faulkner, William, The Sound and the Fury
  • Foxe, John, The Book of Martyrs
  • Graves, Robert, Claudius, the God
  • Green, Roger Lancelyn, Tales of Ancient Egypt
  • Hamilton, Edith, Mythology
  • Hemmingway, Ernest, Farewell to Arms
  • Homer, The Odyssey
  • Hurston, Zora Neale, Their Eyes Were Watching God
  • Keller, Helen, The Story of My Life
  • Lewis, C. S., The Screwtape Letters
  • Mc Cullough, John Adams
  • Plato, The Republic
  • Rawlings, Marjorie Kinnan, The Yearling
  • Scott, Sir Walter, Ivanhoe
  • Shakespeare, William, Julius Casear
  • Steinbeck, John, The Grapes of Wrath
  • Stevenson, Robert Lewis, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
  • Thoreau, Henry David, Walden
  • Verne, Jules, Journey to the Center of the Earth
  • Virgil, The Aeneid
  • Washington, Booker T., Up from Slavery

Happy summer reading!

Delighted to Be a Speaker at FPEA 2016

I am thrilled to be back at FPEA again this year. New workshops. New insight. New stories and practical helps to equip and encourage at every stage of the home education journey, preschool through high school.

Come see me at my workshops! I'm walking the journey with YOU!

Friday 10:30am

7. Celebrate Simple! Intentional Home Education

The simple teaches the profound. Cheryl shares stories and offers insight from her 21 years of homeschooling eight children — the everyday teachable moments, the simple yet ingenious ideas, the interest-driven learning — the things her graduated and grown young adults say mattered most. Learning together, building family relationships, is priceless. It's simple and worthy of celebration!

Friday 3:55pm

68. Happy (High School Paper) Trails to You!

High school is not a one-size-fits-all experience. It is a time to refine the skills needed to polish a student's God-given gifts and talents. But what does that look like on paper? How do you tailor courses which will prepare your child for what God has planned for their future? Cheryl walks parents through answers to these questions.

Saturday 1:45pm

129. Celebrate Middle School: Fostering Ingenuity

Middle schoolers will surprise you! When they do, be ready to foster ingenuity, seize opportunities and think outside the box. The middle school years, ripe with potential to impact entrepreneurial ventures, employment or college/career paths, can also be conflicting for parents and children. In this workshop, Cheryl offers practical tips from experiences as a homeschool mom and a wife of a 27-year middle school educator.

Saturday 3:55pm

153. Teaching Precious Preschoolers and Little Learners

Young children have an insatiable curiosity to learn and a natural desire to work alongside people they love most. How do we utilize these innate qualities to maximize their learning potential at home? Drawing from 28 years of experience of teaching early learners, Cheryl challenges attendees to look beyond societal and educational pressures to the emotional and developmental needs of young children.