Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Homeschooling Victories ~ following your interests

The homeschooling victory we are celebrating today is the ability to follow your interests and chase down those rabbit trails with glee!

Spring blog hop, homeschooling, delight-directed learning, eclectic education

One of the most fun things about homeschooling is being able to allow our children the time to follow their interests. Their ability to learn about something new is limited only by their imaginations, and our ability to give them school credit for it is vastly different than in a traditional school. We have the freedom to add things together in a way that traditional one-subject classrooms do not have.

We have always followed a Charlotte Mason style of education for our girls, and that continues even today as Arlene is in her senior year of high school. We use short lessons, narration, and living books a much as possible. We have expanded on these ideas over the years and used them for our own benefit. Keeping book work concise and limited, and allowing a lot of time for nature study and outdoor play when our girls were little led to them having a lot of time for field trips. And on those trips we followed their interests as much as possible. 

Basically we field tripped the way through their school years as much as possible. I call this E3 learning: eclectic experiential education. It is hands-on learning at its best because it often immerses them in a new environment while they learn. It allows them to follow their interests and still meet the basic necessary requirements for graduation. A lot of their high school credits were earned away from home. Whether you term it delight-directed learning, unit studies on the go, or E3 learning, it all gives you the flexibility to care more about your child being well-educated than about them being classroom-educated. 

Our girls read a lot, they've always been a regular fixture at our local library. When they were little, if we did not visit each week, the children's librarians would ask what adventures we had been on. When choosing coursework for high school, I often assigned them several smaller, living books, and a lot of hands-on experiments or activities instead of handing them a textbook. One of the hardest lessons for most homeschooling parents to learn is how to relax. How to enjoy the freedom homeschooling offers. Stop stressing yourself and your children out by comparing what they are doing to what someone else is doing. You can meet all of your state's requirements and still have fun!

Both Emily and Arlene have spent several years volunteering at Conner Prairie - a living history museum - where part of their job was to dress  in period appropriate clothing and 'be' a person from Indiana in the 1800's. Arlene's time period is 1863. She is smack-dab in the middle of the Civil War. Her desire to be the best she can at her acting job has spurred her on to study the Civil War beyond anything you might find in a traditional high school textbook. She reads, researches, asks questions of other re-enactors from across the US, and occasionally attends meetings at our local historical society. She took it upon herself to follow that interest in the Civil War and learn more.

Another thing both girls have really enjoyed is the youth spinning program at Conner Prairie. Thanks to their mentor Sue, they've both learned to spin wool and ply yarn well, and Arlene has learned how to be an excellent weaver. They have helped the younger kids learn how to spin and improve their skills. These past two years Arlene has taken a real leadership position in the youth textiles program and devoted extra hours to helping the other youth succeed as well. She even taught me how to use a drop spindle!

Whatever interests your children have, whether it is horses or trucks, photography or zoology, allow them the time to pursue those interests. Follow down those rabbit trails with them - it just might lead to your own Wonderland!

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Matthew 13:52

Scripture Writing, Matthew 13:52, hand lettering

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Homeschooling Victories ~ friendship

Today's homeschooling victory to celebrate is friendship.

homeschooling victories, friendship, cross-generational, cultivating friends

Did you have a best friend while growing up? Do you have one now? How do they influence your life for the better? Some people can have a seemingly endless supply of close finds, and others of us only have a handful of those friendships. No matter how big or how small your inner circle of friend is - they are a valuable treasure - hold on to them!

Friendship is a relationship that requires both people to give, but both can receive so much more than they give. Intimate friendships are often hard to cultivate in this busy world, and that is why I'm focusing on friendship as one of our homeschooling victories to celebrate. I'm celebrating because even after all of these years, our daughters are not just sisters, but friends. In a traditional school setting it is often hard to cultivate a friendship with someone not in your grade, because the nature of the age-graded classrooms separate you. In home education, your children can cultivate friendships with other children of a variety of ages, and even with adults.

Our children learn their model of what friendship is from watching us interact with others. When we call someone our friend, they store up the ways that they see us interact with that person as their definition of friendship. More is caught than taught. You can read all the picture books in the world about friendship with your kids, but if they never see you interacting with your own friends, your children may not think true friendship is important. We must choose to take time to invest in our friendships as adults, and we need to include at least some friends that come with families attached so our families can interact and our children see what true friendship entails.

Good friends are often called the "family you choose" and that has been no truer than with my friend Sharra who passed away last year after a battle with cancer. She was the arms and feet of Jesus to so many people, and she shared her love for Jesus with everybody. Our friendship impacted not only myself, but our entire family for the better. She was a big cheerleader for our daughters, and they miss her too. Her memorial service was attended by hundreds of people who she had impacted - most of whom called her a friend. 

Sharra, the love of Jesus, friendship
Sharra and I -May 2017

I often think of friendship in light of the things God taught me through my friendship with Sharra. Whatever the situation, she always pointed me back to seeking out and following God's path for my life. When I look at the friendships our daughters have been able to cultivate over the years, I am reminded of the joy that having a close friend brings. Today, as young adults, our daughters choose to spend time together because they are not just sisters, but friends. They share a lot of the same group of friends, but they also have individual friendships that do not overlap. 

When I think about how it affects me to spend time with my friends, and how much better I feel about life afterwards, I am encouraged that our daughters have friends who like being zany or serious with them as the moment requires. Our daughters have the gift of friendships outside of their own age ranges too, and that I credit to the many opportunities they have had as homeschoolers. We have had the physical time to make the emotional investment into the lives of other people, and other adults have invested in our children as well. Our daughters have friends that are much older then they are, some even older than Kurt and I are, these friendships have often grown from a mentoring situation, or an interaction of sharing the love of Jesus with others, both inside our church and out. The girls also have younger friends, ones that they are mentoring, or just enjoy spending time with. While I am so very thankful for their friends that are in/ around their own age group, I am thankful they understand the value of cross-generational friendships as well!

Because of the flexibility of home education, our daughters, who would be two years apart in a traditional school, and worlds apart in the social scene at a public school, have experienced life together. Bonds have been forged that tie them together in a way only God could orchestrate. Yes, they do still ague at times, but what holds them together is so much stronger than anything that threatens to tear them apart.

For those of you reading this who are one of those friends of part of or all of our family - thank you! We are so blessed to be able to make time for the important things of life along this home education journey and beyond - and finding you as  our friends has been one of the many highlights, and victories, we have celebrated along the way!

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Monday, April 23, 2018

Homeschooling Victories ~ a love of learning

Today begins the Homeschool Review Crew's annual Spring Blog Hop. This year we decided to let each member of the blog hop team choose their own home education related topic - so you are in for some real treats! Everything from planning your first year of homeschooling to what happens after graduation! For our part, I choose to look back over our 15 years of educating our girls and choose some homeschooling victories to share with you. I hope you enjoy this week's posts. To see what everyone else is sharing, just click the links at the bottom of this post.

homeschooling victories, a love of learning, hands on learning, nature, art

Day 1 ~ a love of learning

Our first goal was not to re-create school at home, but rather to offer our girls an education tailored to their needs. One that helped strengthen them in their weaker areas, while allowing them to excel at their strengths. As such, our days were widely varied, and we rarely used a desk, unless it was to hold our art supplies! Our goal was to instill a love of learning, and I truly believe we succeeded! Not only do our daughters love to learn, they also love to help others learn.

Emily is almost 20 and studying to become a librarian. Her goals are to help adults overcome illiteracy and to make libraries more user friendly for those with learning challenges like dyslexia or dysgraphia. Besides sharing her love of books, she enjoys teaching children about spinning wool into yarn, about animals, and about superheroes.

Arlene is almost 18 and in her last year of high school. She excels in textiles, particularly spinning and weaving, and is always wanting to learn more, plus share what she already knows with others. She is a huge cheerleader for the youth spinning teams at Conner Prairie and is always trying to mentor younger spinners and weavers to help them improve their craft. Arlene has been learning about Indiana's Civil War history for several years and shares her passion for it on the grounds at Conner Prairie, both in first and third person interpretation areas.

Where does a love of learning come from? From God. Our children are born with a fascination for exploring new things, and it is our job as parents to not snuff it out! 

But wait...what if my kids are bored with learning?

Fear not! You can rekindle that love of learning in them. It just takes patience and time and room to grow. You need to stop thinking about how your children compare to the kids down the street or how they compare to their cousins and focus on making learning fun again. Our favorite ways to enjoy learning include art supplies and time spent outdoors. 

Have you ever heard of square foot exploration? You take a 4 foot long string and make a one foot square out in the yard. Now give your child a paper and some crayons or colored pencils and let them record what they find. It is not a race, just a fun way to sit outside for 15-30 minutes and learn how to observe. Maybe all they think they see is grass, or dirt, or sand. Give them time and let them find the worm, the ant, or the tip of a blade of grass. Let them look for tiny flowers or aphids on the back of a leaf. It is time to not be rushed. Maybe hand them a magnifying glass and walk back over to your own square. Too often we want our children to hurry up and finish a lesson so we can move on to the next thing.

What if the next thing is really doing nothing?

Sometimes our children's greatest need is to relax. 

To just be

To watch with their eyes and listen with their ears and see what God has placed around them. This learning to be at peace in a natural setting is a great lesson to absorb when they are young. It grounds them to the natural world and can be used to make them better stewards of the resources God will someday place in their hands. 

Will your kids get dirty? Oh, I hope so! God made them washable for a reason! Let nature soak into their souls at an early age and God will use it to speak His lessons to them as they grow up.

I still have a love of learning inside of me. My parents cultivated it by letting me explore: the backyard, the art museum, the beach, the woods. Kurt and I have tried our best to create a home environment where everyone is free to explore new things and learn at their own pace. 

Do you have enough down time in your schedule for your children to explore? If not, it is time to re-think your schedule and add in some margin. Some unplanned time each week where a love of learning can flourish. Allow yourself some time to learn something new as well. Our children learn more from what they see us doing than what they hear us saying. 

When did you last learn something new? Just a couple weeks ago Arlene started teaching me how to use a drop spindle to turn wool into yarn. It is not easy, but I am having fun learning! If you want to see how it is going you can check out our Instagram feed.

Stop back by tomorrow to hear about another great homeschooling victory!

Now where is my wool ...

homeschooling victories, a love of learning, hands on learning, nature, art

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Friday, April 20, 2018

More wildlife options!

*this post contains affiliate links*

The Old Schoolhouse, April sale bundle, nature learning

Ok, I just heard that this month's The Old Schoolhouse sale bundle is all about nature ... kind of reminds me of that post about I wrote for this past Monday...

So, if your children are nutty for wildlife, or you need a swift and easy way to cover nature and the outside world, check out the bundle sale that includes 4 print magazines and 13 digital products for only $29! It is the "Cultivate What You Want to Grow" bundle, and covers all sort of natural wonders, from how sunflowers grow to zombie fire ants. And ... if you're still really struggling to incorporate nature into your homeschool - fear not - check out Creative Nature Study, one of the 13 digital products. 

I always enjoy the print magazines. They're timeless, so the ideas and articles can rejuvenate your learning and teaching time for this Spring and beyond. They're great to keep in your bag, or in the seat-back pocket of your car so you always have one available whenever you find an extra 5-10 minutes of wait time. We live in a town with a lot of trains, how many? So many that John Dillinger never robber a bank here because he knew he would get caught by a train! So... I've been known to put the car in park and read that print copy of The Old Schoolhouse that's right behind the seat for five minutes at a time while I wait for the train. Us working and homeschooling mamas know how to squeeze the most from what few free minutes we have. :)

The Old Schoolhouse, April sale bundle, nature learning

Remember, next week is the Spring Blog Hop, and I think you'll be both encouraged and surprised by some of the great articles coming up from members of the Homeschool Review Crew. My friend Hillary over at Walking Fruitfully is writing about post-graduation options other than college. I'm looking forward to reading her words of wisdom, and hope you'll be sure to stop in each day to read our offerings and then hop over to read hers. This home education journey takes a lot of twists and turns, and it is great to know you have options that will work for all of your kids!

We'll be off in nature ourselves this weekend. Follow our Instagram feed to find out where!

P.S. If you're a member of, remember to go to your dashboard and sign up to have this summer's print copy of the magazine shipped to your house! If you're not a member yet, check out the scavenger hunt and maybe you'll be a prize winner!