Amidst the messiness of everyday life with young children my husband and I decided to homeschool our three boys a couple of years ago. While I envied the break traditional school days afforded some of my friends, I felt called to spend these formative years with my sons. Heart-work was the main reason - and I just needed more time with them then hurried mornings and evenings balanced between homework and sports. With a few obvious learning challenges thrown in, and a huge homeschooling network in our community, it seemed the right fit.
Now, many months later, and for numerous reasons I've decided not to share publicly (my children will not always be young, and may wish I was a little less free with their challenges), we have decided to send all three boys back to school five days a week.
I was originally going to title this blog post "Why we stopped homeschooling", but after writing that last line I've changed the title to "We stopped homeschooling." I've come to see that the reasons people stop homeschooling are nearly as varied as testimonies of why families choose to start. Each story is entirely it's own. So, this isn't about why, but the journey this choice has led me to take.
GREIF - I've had to grieve these past two weeks as I've transitioned my children into a new school. Grieve as I repurposed my homeschool cabinets, shuffling through all of the lovingly poured over books and lesson plans. Grieve as I looked through the school papers that taught them on work sheets what I had planed to explore with them through great books and conversations. Grieve the vision I had caught. Grieve the joys I had thought would trail like a wake from this sweet time together. Grieve.
FEELINGS OF FAILURE - Hot tears ran thick and heavy, multiple times for a couple days straight. I worried about my tender-hearted child, the one who pleaded to be home schooled two years ago, the one I wanted to give this gift to. It seemed just what he needed; what would fit his needs, interests, and personality best, but it wasn't working. And I felt like a failure that I couldn't muscle through and make it work for him. But I couldn't and it wasn't.
As I dwelled on my failures, asking "What if" and "If only...", my husband lovingly but firmly told me I was believing lies. I had not failed. I had given our son exactly what he needed, but now it had become obvious he needed something else. Wise counselors said the same; even a behavior therapist who specializes in the special needs of children. So many true words of encouragement were lovingly said, texted, prayed on my behalf. But I still had to journey through the many stages of grief.
WHAT IS TRUE - The journey thus far has taken me through the valleys of sadness and down the rapid falls of failure. But all the while I felt God calling me up to the high places where He would reveal many wonderful things to me. So up the side of Mount Horeb I followed.
This is what I heard. "Do you trust me?" Over and over again, "Do you trust me?" While no burning bush flashed, I still discerned the voice. "Do you know that I AM the same God who parted the Red Sea and made a way for my people Israel? Do you know that I AM the same God who overcame death? Do you know I AM the same God who gave sight to the blind? I AM He who redeems brokenness both physically and spiritually. I AM the One you pray to about all of your concerns, the same God who ordered the Universe into place and balanced the planets perfectly."
And I heard in my heart these words, "I AM the same God who parted the Sea, and I can make a way for your children."
"Do you trust me?"
The words went deep-down-deep. Deep to the core. Deeper than the fear. Like light displacing darkness.
"Do you trust me?"
Suddenly I felt empowered to trust Him anew. I confessed my fears as lack of faith, and told my God, "I trust you." And what came next was the most beautiful thing of all. The whisper of God in my heart-of-hearts said, "I AM good and kind... expect good, not evil."
I have learned from experience that when we confess sin in our lives, change is not always miraculously immediate. But in my heart it was that day. From fear to trust. And in my child's life, God's goodness has been on display in powerful ways already. The child who has always been so easily overwhelmed and emotional, has come home from school steady and sure. The academic holes I feared have becomes fountains of papers written in Red Ink A, 100%, Outstanding!
"Do you trust me?... then expect good from Me!"
This post wasn't worth reading if you were looking for the reasons we stopped homeschooling. Those reasons aren't important, I see that now. Everything in our lives, the hard and the happy, and the reasons for them, pale beside the One who orchestrates it and calls us to trust Him amidst it all. Each blog post, each story of His love, every one is a testimony of Him working all things together for good in the hardest parts of our journey here.
Do you trust Him? Expect Good!
Mama and Teacher
We've bounced around educationally these past few years, trying to find the right fit for our family. It's always right about now (late winter to early spring) when I start praying, researching, seeking another educational alternative for our family. This year, however, I am happy to say we are staying put in our HOME SCHOOL! While I am sure we will tweak curriculum and class-day co-ops here and there, I am thrilled to have such surety about the foreseeable future. I honestly didn't expect to love learning with my boys this much.
One of the big things we were part of this first year was a group called Classical Conversations. For 24 weeks children (and parents) study History, Grammar, Science, Math, and Latin together through a Classical format. At this stage with young ones that means tons of memorization work. Caleb, now 9, understands much more about what he is memorizing than his pre-school aged brother, but we are all going through the information together.
I confess that doing this class-day each week on top of our full at-home curriculum was a lot for me this first year in the trenches. Truthfully, I wasn't sure I'd take it all on again next year. The worst part for me this year was the guilt I felt that I wasn't doing as a good of a job as the other Classical Conversation moms around me. They were reading more books to reinforce the history learning and practicing their memory more diligently. For goodness' sake, I simply wanted my children to come joyfully to the school table when they were called!
That said, I wasn't sure I was going to be doing Classical Conversations again next year. And then suddenly something wonderful happened. A couple of somethings, actually! First of all, I was dumbfounded to find that my 3rd grader actually had memorized nearly all of his history and science sentences! And the facts we had tucked away began popping up in our conversations together. Then my middle-est, who doesn't like class-days ANYWHERE and fights me tooth and nail to be part of any community, started enjoying our CC days. But the final straw was Dr. Suess! Seriously! I was reading to my pre-schooler one night recently, "HOP ON POP" by Dr. Suess and the last page ended with "CONSTANTINOPLE and TIMBUKTU."
I gasped and said, "Asher, you know about Constantinople! Who was the Emperor who founded Constantinople?"
"Emperor Constantine," he answered rather matter of fact.
"What was it that Emperor Constantine did?" I asked.
"He legalized Christianity." Asher smiled, quite proud of himself, I think,
"And Timbuktu... Asher, do you remember studying Timbuktu on the map? It's in West Africa."
"Yep," he responded, "The Songhei ruled Timbuktu."
I know my pre-K'er isn't heading off to Stanford or Yale tomorrow because he can put together bits of information, but I saw fruit hanging from this grid of knowledge we have begun forming this first year. And Classical Conversations has been a huge part of that!
And so I've signed our family up again, ordered the Cycle Two curriculum, and feel peace. The best part of all. Peace.
If the examples above pushed me over the edge to commit to another year of Classical Conversations, then the dialogue I enjoyed with my 3rd grader last week was icing on the cake and sweet confirmation. We had just began reading through the second volume of The Story of the World over lunch, diving straight into the Middle Ages. I pulled out a coloring book of beautiful, intricately drawn Castles that I had purchased months ago and hid away until this time in our History lessons. Beneath each picture was the name of the specific castle, along with the location and some brief history. As we turned each page I asked Caleb if the location had been part of the Roman Empire (which we had just wrapped up learning about).
"This castle is in France," I said.
"It was called Gaul when the Romans were there," Caleb replied.
"What about this one?" I asked.
"Yep... but it was known as Germania not Germany?
"And these two?"
"Yes, and yes... they're in Britain. Don't you remember, Mom? The British didn't like the Romans and they'd paint themselves blue and come out to fight the Romans all naked!
Once again, he's not writing a thesis paper for his Master's Degree, but we are learning! Learning! It's such a miracle to get to do it together. And a greater miracle still that we know we'll be doing it again next year! (sigh)
We're coming near the end of our first homeschool year and so I've decided to write a short series on what we are doing, what we have learned, and where we are heading. Because I spent some fun learning time with my preschooler today, and because I have more experience homeschooling little tykes than big ones, I will start with this topic: Homeschooling a Preschooler.
Really, I should call this post "playing games" instead, since that is where learning happens for these little tigers. While I have used the Hooked on Phonics set Hooked on Kindergarten with all three of my boys, the pre-reading stage is all play-based, with a little help from Leap Frog's animated DVD, "The Letter Factory."
Once they know many of their letters and the sounds they make, I design their first "treat game" board. I get a large white craft board and make a train of letters, numbers, short words, and common blends like th, sh, ch, and br. We grab a spinner from one of their other board games, a little toy to mark where they are on the board, and a small bowl of "treats."
They spin, they count, they move their marker around the board. When they land on a letter they say, "A, an A says ah, for apple... Z, a Z says zzz for zebra... P, and P says p for popcorn..." When they land on a short word, they work on sounding it out. When they land on a blend they don't yet know, I simply have them repeat the sound after me. When they land on a number they tell me the number, sometimes count to it, and sometimes trace it with their pointer finger. As for the treats, sometimes they get one every time they get an answer correct, other times I give them one special treat when they've made it to the end of the game. Today my big guy didn't use a spinner, instead he read every letter and number and word along the train, and then got to finish up the rest of his Easter candy.
When an older brother wants to play along I let him, but each letter needs to be a noun, every number is multiplied, and each word must be made into a sentence with a subject and predicate. Ha! But today it was just a little game with my youngest.
Another of our favorite games is "Stack the Numbers." As with "The Treat Game," we use "Stack the Numbers" once the child is mildly familiar with their numbers. Write one number on each index card. Begin with numbers 1 - 10, then arrange them out of order for the youngling to pick up in order. Right now my preschooler is mastering numbers 1-30, as well as counting by 10s from 10-200.
Here are some pictures from a couple of years ago, when my middle-est was working on Numbers 1-50.
The last ingredient while growing kids at home, whether you are home schooling, private schooling or public schooling, is to read aloud to them liberally, no matter their age. Since my boys struggle listening to a good book together (insert: hitting, crying, complaining, trying to make each other laugh, doing back flips), this is not always a peaceful, enjoyable experience for their dad and me. However, as we work on their manners they are learning to recieve this gift that is key to both bonding and learning at home.
Our last Read-Aloud was Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingals Wilder. Today I picked up The Apple and the Arrow - The Legend of William Tell by Mary and Conrad Buff, for my husband to read with the boys this weekend while I'm gone on a women's retreat. I'm sure there will be much archery and tree-house designing while I am away, so I thought a Father-Son story would be perfect.
I am by no means an expert in this homeschooling thing. But now that my oldest two are 9 and 7, I often look back for inspiration to these early days, simply playing, being together, and learning along the way.
I believe it was in Gary Thomas' book "Sacred Marriage" where I read (something in the price-range of) "Marriage is the laboratory where Holiness is cultivated." The idea was lodged into my brain even though it didn't seem to be my experience. And then I had children and suddenly I found myself strapped into a
straight-jacket lab-coat, in the laboratory where my own holiness is being cultivated. And if that wasn't challenging enough, I am now homeschooling our 3 sons. So if mothering is the laboratory, then homeschool has proven to be the petri dish!
Sometimes I think I shouldn't blog about what I haven't mastered. But I am compelled to write instead from the hard places; hoping everyday to point myself, my children, and any readers who come along, to Jesus.
Last Spring I went to a homeschool convention where Susan Kenmerer spoke about "Grace-drenched Homeschooling" and this morning, following yesterday's graceless school day, I woke-up and went looking for my notes from 8 months ago. Here are a few verses she cited that are pointing me back to grace today:
You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Such confidence we have through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Corinthians 3:3-6)
Verse 6 absolutely captured my heart in a most profound way this morning, "He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." Most of my trouble with the boys begins when I shun grace and return to the letter of the law, requiring perfection, which leads us to shame. When legalism invades the home, grace flees! LIkewise, when I grow weary of extending grace, legalism crouches at the door, eager to come rushing in again.
This petri dish, homeschooling, has brought to light (without the need of a microscope) that I am weak and imperfect. I mess up, and yesterday it got messy. So this verse, jotted down months ago, gives me great hope today:
And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
A new covenant had to be made between God and his people Israel, because the letter of the law was impossible to keep. Man, with all his atoning sacrifices could never spill enough sacrificial blood to atone for their own sins. And so God sent his Son to be the perfect, forever sacrifice to die once for all. And therefore a new covenant was established by God, through God. And by grace and grace alone we are recipients of the promise. But if a new covenant has come, why do we continue to return to that which has been done away with?
By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear... For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. (Hebrews 8:13 & 9:15)
The law has been abolished! It is done! Hope and grace, forgiveness and new life, peace with God and peace with one another is available through Jesus! No more shame!
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you[a] free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. (Romans 8:1-6)
I never knew this part of my salvation thirsty soul until I had children and now more-so as we learn to homeschool together. Maybe God has allowed me to know my lack of grace that I might not boast in myself as I parent, educate, and encourage mothers coming up behind me. No. only to Jesus and His sacrifice can we look. Setting our minds entirely on the new covenant that He alone has accomplished through the generous, costly outpouring of His own blood.
Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,
My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.
Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10 - The Message)
Wherever God has purposed your laboratory, in marriage, child-rearing, single-hood, illness, or great financial distress, submit to the petri dish and the cultivation process. Author Gary Thomas is also known for these challenging words "Marriage wasn't intended to make you happy but to make you Holy." O, can we let Him? Will we allow the refining fire wherever his anointed laboratory? The transforming process leads us from the old, obsolete, legalistic way of living and loving, and into new life? Can we? Won't we? He can. He will!
I've mentioned before that this is our first year homeschooling our boys. It is also our first year being part of a Classical Conversations community and working through their rich curriculum. For elementary aged, grammar stage children, a classical education primarily means memory work. "Pegs", that's what I've heard these memorized facts referred as. Memory pegs are hung in place so that later, as the child's ability to understand increases, great pictures can be hung upon them. Eventually the walls of a classically trained child's mind will be filled with pieces of understanding, but it all began with "Pegs" - simple, memorized pieces of information.
That said, at 4, 7, and 9 my children want to know what some of these facts are all about and so we delve into what we are memorizing (to varying depths) at home, reinforcing the memory work with applications and learning. History and Science facts are our favorite rabbit holes to chase down throughout our homeschool weeks.
I'm going to list a couple of resources that have helped me to reinforce our weekly Memory Work, giving us opportunities to sketch simple pictures that can already be hung upon the "Pegs" we are learning.
Karen at Wisdom and Righteousness has put together 4 lap-books for each Classical Conversations Cycle / year (there are three Cycles in all). Each quarter includes the science, history, geography, Latin, English, and fine arts covered each 6 week period. They are organized so that the children (with your help) can record what they've learned and display it on a grand poster board. It's quite a fun project and one your tactile learners will really get into! I have decided to instead combine all four lap-books into one great folder. We do the projects then glue them onto 8 x 11 sheets of white paper then put them into our binder. Take a look at all of Karen's resources!
Today we used one of her worksheets to diagram "some kinds of leaves and leaf parts", then went on a nature hike to find examples of what we had memorized earlier this week. These pictures and their plastic baggies will make their way into each of their Memory Books as well.
The other resource I've utilize this year is the copy-work generator found at WorksheetWorks.com. I enter CC's history sentences for each week's copy-work then print up a wonderful worksheet for each of my two big guys. I use the "Pre-Cursive Handwriting" option for my 7 year old and "Cursive Handwriting" for my 9 year old.
This is all so new, I'm no expert, which is why I am deeply grateful for the ladies who are blazing a trail for so many others. Thank you Brandy and Karen to sharing with us what you've done with your families. It's a true gift and one that's been received many times over!
I used this quote on another post this week, but feel it's applicable yet again:
If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.
- Isaac Newton
One of my coming-of-age "ah-ha" moments happened late one night in a restaurant. It was more like a super-club really; upstairs above a bar on Sunset strip. I was waiting tables because too much time had passed since my last acting job and I needed money for rent and the basics. So I grabbed a job waiting tables, knowing I'd only be there as long as it took to get me to the next string of acting gigs that would allow me stay afloat a while longer.
It was on this night as I hustled back and forth between tables, with a tray of drinks in one hand and a table's bill in the other, that a woman at a sunken velvety booth waved me over and asked, "Are you an actress?" I stopped and looked her fully and unapologetically in the eye and said, "Yes, yes I am."
She slammed her fist on the table and exclaimed to the man across the table from her, "I told you so! I saw her running around here tonight and just knew she had to be an actress!" I assumed they were tourists. Not the locale fare. "Would I have seen you in anything?" she asked with great hope. I rattled off a number of shows I had appeared in over the past two years, all small guest spots that weren't very memorable. She looked a bit disappointed really. Then she said, with the sincerest tenderness, "So, how long are you going to give it?"
"You know," she went on to explain, "acting... how long are you going to wait it out for your (air-quotations) "BIG BREAK?"
I had never thought through my answer in this way before it came out of my mouth in that next moment, but I said, "Are you asking me how long I'm going to give me to be me?" She looked confused. "You're asking me how long I'll give myself to be an actress before I simply choose to be something else? But you see, this is me. I don't doubt it will look different in different seasons of my life, but I will always be an actress. I'm sure of that."
As I walked away I thought to myself, "Oh, I should have told her about my recent spokesperson role on a late-night infomercial for a men's hair replacement system." I was getting recognized from that job A LOT. That would have impressed her for sure!
Back then I had no idea how true my own words would echo in my heart and mind to this day: I'm not in Hollywood anymore, and I'm not going in front of movie producers or casting directors like I had been back then... but I'm still an actress. It looks different today than it did back then but even now, as I sit here typing out my story, I'm the same gal I was that night. I'm not on stage but the crux of the matter is that I am, and always will be, a story teller. I write here, I tell stories to women's groups with the hope of transitioning into the Gospel message of Christ - the Greatest Story of all!
I'm continually surprised at how God has brought be out of Hollywood (Egypt in many regards) to bring me into this new land (a metaphorical Canaan, I suppose). All of the skills came along with me, from acting coaches or lessons learned on Independent films that shot 18 days straight with little time for sleep or anything else. God has brought it all with me and is allowing me to use it in thrilling ways in this present season of my life.
What does this have to do with Home Schooling? Well, tonight a dear friend of mine came over with her kids. We had dinner together then let the kids pile on the couch for some Phineaus and Ferb episodes while we caught up with each other. After sharing a bit of the ups and downs from my first semester of Home Schooling she asked me, "So, how long are you going to give it?" Okay, maybe she didn't say it that way, exactly. I think she said, "Do you see yourself Home Schooling beyond this year?" Whatever her exact words, my heart response surprised me. As with my realization 15 years ago that I am an actress to the core, so I realized tonight that I am my children's greatest teacher. It's a solid fact within.
As with my acting life, I realize my role of teacher may flux, change and morph from year to year. Today I am Home Schooling through a public charter program that gives me a lot of support as well as class days for my kids. Another year I may choose to venture out completely solo or take advantage of more nearby or online resources... but the truth of who I am to these little ones will stay the same. I can't guarantee how it will look over the years, but I have come into my own as i've begun leading them into their own.
Wow! I like that.
I have come into my own as I've begun leading them into their own.
What an exciting place to be. Realizing how God made me. Who I am. Embracing it. Embracing me. Embracing life. Embracing them.
Home Schooling this morning... Brody looked up all the verbs in the Literary Masterpiece, "The Gingerbread Man."
Last night as I tucked my oldest into bed I reached for our weathered copy of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass and thumbed through looking for something that might capture my 8 year old's heart and imagination. I struck GOLD with this one:
O CAPTAIN! My Captain! Our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weather'd every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.
O Captain! My Captain! Rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up--for you the flag is flung--for you the bugle trills;
For you bouquets and ribbon'd wreaths--for you the shores a-crowding;
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here Captain! Dear father!
This arm beneath your head;
It is some dream that on the deck,
You've fallen cold and dead.
My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;
The ship is anchor'd safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;
From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;
Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
But I, with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.
Here is Asher, my littlest Roman!
Today in our homeschool we ventured into the life of Julius Caesar. We read about his military conquests and ascent from one of Rome's three Consuls to Dictator over the entire Roman Empire. The boys were listening well (for three squirrelly boys that is) but when their Dad told them the story of Julius Caesars assassination by his close friend Brutus and others in the Senate, the boys leaned in with eyes open wide and jaws dropped. The story ended with Caesar in a pool of his own blood on the white marble floor of the Senate. Looking up into the eyes of his betrayer Caesar whispered the words, "Et, tu Brute?" Silence. "Even you, Brutus?" my husband said again.
From there we moved on from Rome to Math. As Brody studied his math facts a big black fly buzzed annoyingly around his head. He put down his flashcards, went to the kitchen counter for the fly swatter, then swatted the fly against the window in one attempt. The bug fell to the ground and Brody squatted down to poke at it. I was near enough to hear him whisper the words, "Et tu, Brody?"
My immediate thought was, "O, I wish they were older so I could break out some Shakespeare!"
A friend of mine read this post a few days ago (I am now back revising it based on her encouragement.) She challenged me not to wait to introduce my three to Shakespeare. Here is what she wrote me:
They ARE ready now! I do Shakespeare with all my girls including my 5 year old. In fact, no joke, as I am laying here reading this post, I have on my lap a comic book version of Julius Caesar that I am previewing. It is called Graphic Classics by Barron's. Usborne also does some great storybook versions of Shakespeare's plays. On youtube, look up Shakespeare animated tales for a 30 minute cartoon version of many plays using original language. I usually read and discuss a children's version of a play and then show the video so they are already familiar with the storyline and characters and then the video exposes them to how the original language sounds without frustrating them because they already know what is happening. By the time they get "old enough for Shakespeare" the plays will feel so comfortable and familiar to them that the language will not be the put off that it is to so many. It is kind of like teaching kids Bible stories when they are young, with the goal of creating familiarity to so that we can transition them into reading original source down the road.
Thank you, Jennifer! Your advice is so simple and very similar to the way I've introduced my guys to other great authors. I don't know why I didn't think to do it with Olde William. From the time my first born could read I've read simply children's adaptations of literature such as White Fang and Little Men, allowed the kids to watch a film adaptation, had them read the children version and then follow it up with me reading from the original text.
Julius Caesar, HERE WE COME!
But this post is really something bigger than Shakespeare or even introducing our children to great literature. I'm learning that young boys are ripe for learning so many thrilling and exciting things right now! As part of a Classical Conversations group the boys and I are learning history and geography chronologically, memorizing a history timeline as we go. Few things are more precious or surprising to me than watching our four year old recite his memorized history sentences and songs. But it's more than memorization, these boys' minds and their imaginations have fully engaged in the learning.
At 4, 7, and 8 my guys still play superheroes. They dress up, build forts, and attempt to conquer one another every day. Heroes from history, the Bible, and literature are natural segues into learning. Our time in Ancient Egypt complete with Pharaohs and tomb robbers was great fun for the boys and included tons of dressing up and art. Then there was Greece and their powerful gods, Odysseus and his Odyssey, the story of Marathon, and the Olympics. Moving on to Rome these past few weeks has continued to thrill and inspire the boys with stories of Gladiators fighting to the death and Hannibal (Military Commander of Carthage) attacking Rome on a herd of Elephants.
Over the past couple of years it was clear to me that traditional classroom learning wasn't working for my two oldest children, and so I began to imagine bringing them home and wooing them toward knowledge with fun, exciting, even masculine stories and adventures. It is day #60 in our first year homeschooling and I have to say that while every day brings challenges, the joy of attempting to do this great thing outweighs the difficulties. I am humbled, thankful, and in awe tonight.
Next stop India. (Any ideas of Great Literature we can tie in here?)
Some of the reasons I wanted to homeschool my three sons:
-I wanted them to get outside and live what they were learning.
-I didn't want them bored.
-I wanted them to learn to love real, living literature.
-I wanted to raise men who knew the history of our world from a Christian perspective.
And so I have tried to tie our History, Bible, Geography and Literature together with creative and masculine adventures.
Last week we wrapped up our time in Ancient Greece with a study comparing the men from Sparta to those in Athens. Susan Wiese Bauer's The Story of the World - Volume 1 was a great place to begin. After reading about the warrior men of Sparta my husband and I took the boys outside to practice military training (since boys in Sparta were sent to military school at age 7). They also learned that young Spartans had to learn to train their bodies without complaining. Caleb ( 8 ) and Asher ( 4 ) acted the part as they ran up and down the property, stopping at targets set up by their father, to practice their archery. As they ran up the back acre toward the house Brody (6) broke down and said, "I hate being a Spartan!"
"That's all right, you and I can be from Athens" I said. We went inside and read and wrote and colored the rest of the afternoon away as my warrior-sons grunted, collecting their arrows to go at it again.
It was exciting for Brody to school his brothers that evening at the dinner table about the Athenians. Boys from Athens trained their bodies too, but they also trained their minds. They were the politicians, the poets, and the thinkers of the day.
Alongside this outdoors learning Caleb read two different children's adaptations of Homer's The Odyssey and wrote a report on the main adventures Odysseus had on his way home from Troy to Ithaca after the Trojan Wars.
I am thrilled and delighted to see that they are learning: They aren't learning for a test but for life! And we are having so much fun!
Truth be told, there are still many days I'm told I'm "the meanest and worst teacher ever!" for simply making them do their grammar and math.
I guess they forgot that young Spartans don't complain.
"When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home." It was the first time the opening line to a book lodged itself into my mind. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton was the book. And I was 12.
The Outsiders spoke to my young inquisitive mind, my romantic heart, and my poetic sensibilities. After I wrapped up the book I rented the movie. To this day I can hear Ponyboy (C. Thomas Howell) quoting the below Robert Frost Poem.
NOTHING GOLD CAN STAY
Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow's wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away.
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
For the grapes' sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost--
For the grapes' sake along the wall.
As I read through each line I translated words and meanings along the way. Half way through he gently raised his little hand to touch mine and said, "I understand it, Mama."
I nodded and smiled. Of course he understands so much more than I can imagine.
“A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.” (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)