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 SchoolhouseTeachers.com 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 SchoolhouseTeachers.com, 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!

Monday, April 16, 2018

Wildlife options at SchoolhouseTeachers.com

*this post contains affiliate links*

There are two weeks left in the Spring Scavenger Hunt at SchoolhouseTeachers.com and it got me to thinking... what do you do the most of in your homeschool? Do you have one subject you cover every day like maybe reading or math? Or is there one topic your children keep asking you to go back to? 

For us the recurring theme was and still is Nature Study. Next month Arlene will turn 18. In this last year of her homeschooling journey we are still finding ways to add nature learning into our daily learning. Just yesterday afternoon after church we took a short trip to see some birds. What kind of birds? White Pelicans! Yes, truly, we saw pelicans in Indiana! They are known for their migratory stopover in southern Indiana, but Kurt and I saw a flock of about 2 dozen of them here in Central Indiana Thursday evening and we drove the girls by to see them this afternoon. Likely by the end of the week they will have moved on, but in the interim, we got to enjoy them!

On Saturday Arlene, Emily, (17 & 19) and I stopped at Conner Prairie to see some of the new spring babies in the animal encounters area. Emily used to volunteer in this area a lot, and I could tell she was feeling a little blue. So we stopped for some baby animal (therapy) fun. Lots and lots of baby goats and lambs. By the time we left everyone was smiling.

Do you like to regularly take your kids out in nature, or is it a struggle for you? You do not have to live in the country to enjoy nature. We started by taking the girls out into the yard and letting them crawl around when they were less than a year old. I have an infamous picture of Arlene on the wall that shows her eating dirt just before her first birthday. Did it hurt her? No. Is it a funny memory for me? Absolutely! Does she love the outdoors? Yes!

If you are struggling with finding ways to incorporate nature study or biology into your home education routine then why not check out the offerings on SchoolhouseTeachers.com? There is a Nature Journal PDF suitable for any age to use to record their finds. Your 3rd-6th grader might enjoy the Wildlife Adventures course. Your older students could probably learn a lot from the Biology or Botany courses. Or maybe you just want to get better at taking pictures of what you find while you are outdoors? Then check out the 30 week course in photography and learn the skills to work with your camera instead of against it!

Whatever your child's interest, there is probably a course on SchoolhouseTeachers.com that can fill a need. With over 370 to choose from, why not take another look around? Remember, the scavenger hunt is only through April 30th and someone will win a laptop. Others will win a Kindle Fire or a year's membership to SchoolhouseTeachers.com
It could be you! But only if you go play and enter!

Remember that next week is the Spring Blog Hop where we will be talking about homeschooling victories! Have a great week - and get outdoors!