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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

"Mom, I Don't Want to Do School Today!"

What to do when you hear, "Mom, I DON'T want to do school today!" 14 Expert Homeschool Mommas Weigh In {The Unlikely Homeschool}

You plan. Your prepare. You create an epic lesson...the likes of which even Charlotte Mason would applaud.

But, instead of a captivated face of interest, you are met with crossed-arms, apathy, and an indifferent sigh passively declaring, "Mom, I don't want to do school today!"

You are met with resistance. 

As a homeschool mom, you want nothing more than to ignite a passion for learning in your child. Lately you find, however, that you can barely kindle a spark.

You are not alone, dear momma.
You are not alone.

We've all found ourselves on the receiving end of opposition at one time or another. We've all been faced with a child who just doesn't want to do the work that has been assigned.

Today, I've asked a few expert homeschooling mommas...fourteen, to be exact...to share their best advice for dealing with a resistant learner. With years of homeschooling under their belts, these mommas want to link arms with you and remind you of one simple truth.

You can do this!

(This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy for full details.)

The Experts Weigh In

Alicia Kazsuk from Vibrant Homeschooling, author of Plan to Be Flexible

"Our children definitely go through stages of being "resistant" to learning! When I see this happening with my child, I mentally run through a series of questions to help me understand the source of the resistance: Is the assignment above their learning level? Are they being resistant as a way of reacting to something else going on in his or her life (or in our family's life)? Is there a better way (or a different way) that they can still learn the information and build a love of knowledge? Do they need to learn diligence and follow-through and be encouraged to finish the task before them (sometimes offering him/her other motivation or rewards for completing the project)?"

Aadel from These Temporary Tents, author of The Art of Strewing

"There are some questions that I immediately go to when a child is resisting or refusing to work. Is the child frustrated? Are they tired?  
Are they having fun? While fun is not always necessary, a child needs to be motivated and understand why they are being asked to do the work. Not a lot of learning actually happens with coercion. Think about all the "stuff" you were forced to learn in school. Most of it was quickly forgotten. But peak their interest, make it fun, make it meaningful and you will have much more success. 
How is your relationship with the child? Do you find yourselves at odds about other things? Sometimes when the relationship is strained it shows in the area of homeschooling. Work on building a bond. Let them have control over parts of the day (when they do school, where, etc.). Work on compromise and making the home more peaceful."

Brenda from Schooling a Monkey

"My eldest often goes through phases where she closes her mind to learning new material because she thinks it will be too hard. When this happens, we usually stop that subject for the day and step back to something easier in that subject the next day to boost her confidence again. A little bit of confidence-boosting works wonders!" 

Catie from Our Catholic Homeschool

"Kids need to see what good will come of learning something.  Even as adults, we do what we enjoy and avoid (or complain) about doing what we don't.  If I exercise, even though I don't like it, I know that I am healthier for it.  Good health will come from my hard work.  To a young child, they need to see an immediate positive payoff of the work they are doing.  For a task that is fun, the reward is in the doing it. But for a task that is not, there may need to be a positive reinforcement once it is finished and finished well."

Cindy West from Our Journey Westward, author of Homeschooling Gifted and Advanced Learners

"Resistant learners are always resistant for a reason.  Sometimes that reason takes a little time to figure out. But once you do and begin working to remedy the problem, things can turn around quickly.  Potential issues to consider include a learning disability, assignments that are too hard or too easy, assignments that are boring, assignments that don't meet learning styles, assignments that expect too much independence, a lack of consistency in the schedule, a lack of consistency in discipline, too much commotion in the room, or even a feeling of loneliness.  Talk to your child and make observations.  Then, so your child begins to take ownership of the problem, work with him or her to make the necessary changes."

Heidi from Starts at Eight

"We have distracted learners in our house who often cause disruptions of some sort. I have found that specific rewards/consequences tailored to each child are good behavior motivators/deterrents. Also being consistent in whatever method you choose is super important (and totally exhausting, I know)."

Jen Dunlap from Forever, For Always, No Matter What

"In my home, my boys are most often my resistant learners. Mostly because they would rather move than be sitting still learning something. Let them move! Short lessons with plenty of breaks. Interesting living books, hands on learning, go with where their interests lie."

Jimmie Lanley from Jimmie's Collage, co-author of Homeschooling an Only Child

"Use humor to diffuse some of the resistance. My daughter used to act like math was killing her.Some days I lightened the mood with silly, exaggerated drama. I would say in my most theatrical voice while wiping imaginary tears, 'It was so great having a wonderful daughter for these 9 years. I will miss her. Now she is dead, killed by math. Evil, evil math! I can't believe it's so heartless to take the life of my precious child!' " 

Jo Anderson from Lasting Thumbprints

"While you're determining the root cause of your child's resistance, remember to be intentional about showing that child love. Working with a resistant learner can be frustrating, but I know my attitude toward this child can help the situation or make it worse. Speak words of life, give extra hugs, and do something fun to help maintain your relationship with your resistant learner during this time!"

Dr. Marie-Claire Moreau from Quick Start Homeschool, author of Suddenly Homeschooling 

"When children resist homeschooling, they are revealing something about themselves and actively trying to tell us something. Our job as parents is to figure these clues out. Discovering the root of the resistance -- whether physical, cognitive or behavioral - is key. Only when the true cause of the resistance [is understood] can this situation be properly addressed."

Michelle Cannon from The Heart of Michelle

"My advice to parents of resistant learners is to shorten the lessons and vary the tasks. Lessons should be short (10 minutes for young children, 30 middle school and 45 for high school). Varying the task means to do something vastly different than the last lesson. For instance, if you do reading, follow it with hands-on art or a nature study. Follow that with math (thinking and logic), and so on. Short lessons and varying the tasks keep the brain alert."

Renee from Great Peace Academy, author of Ohio Homeschooling

"I have a child whose mind gets full of information, so focusing in on one area of learning can be difficult.  I think you have to find what works for each child. For me it was letting him hum or sway or tap, because that rhythmic sound or movement let him focus his mind on the task at hand. I know another mom who lets her child hold silly putty while he works. So find what works for your child and realize that sitting in a chair and being quiet may not be the best way for your child to learn."

Sara Dennis from Classically Homeschooling

"In my experience, a child who resists learning is often being asked to do work for which he or she is not ready, or the child has developed the habit of resisting school work. First I ensure the material is not too difficult by going back to material that is super easy for the child. Then we practice diligently doing our schoolwork cheerfully everyday until it becomes the new habit." 

Stephanie from Harrington Harmonies, author of School of Mary

"Assess the situation. There may be several reasons why a child is a reluctant learner. Maybe the program is boring or too easy? Maybe it’s too hard. Assessing the situation can give you the knowledge you need and clear up whether to treat the problem as a learning difficulty, a focus problem, emotional or just plain discipline issues. It's also important to know your child's learning style and teach to it."

One final word

You might face resistance. But, don't let it define your day or your ability to teach your child well. Remember, a display of dug-in heels is usually just a outward sign of some other issue. As a homeschooling mom you have the very unique blessing of not only being able to teach to the mind, but also to the heart. Don't be afraid to set the books aside for a while and focus your efforts on building a relationship with your child. Take time to ask questions and be willing to accept honest answers. An open dialogue can usually provide some very helpful insight to a child's struggles.

You can do this, momma.
You can.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Pros & Cons of Using Tapestry of Grace

Pros & Cons of Using Tapestry of Grace {The Unlikely Homeschool}

Can I be honest with you? I mean r-e-a-l-l-y honest...the kind of honest that might offend some and anger others?

I wanted to like Tapestry of Grace. I wanted it to be the curriculum that would carry us through the rest of our homeschooling years....an anchor to keep us firmly-rooted in schedule and habit and cadence.

I wanted it to be the "tapestry", shall we say, for which all academic threads of our schooling were woven in and through.
But, after only six weeks into this looks-really-great-in-theory dream, I realized that Tapestry of Grace was definitely not for us.

As a FINISHER kind of momma, I trudged through those first six weeks like the Little Engine that Could...chanting "I think I can...I think I can...I think I can"...assuming that it would surely get better...that I'd figure it out...that I'd eventually find a rhythm to it all.

But, the hurdles were just too big and the rhythm never came.
And so, I did the only sane thing I could think of..I boxed up the curriculum guide, re-shelved what books I could salvage, and created a PLAN B

Before I dive into the nitty-gritty tell-all of what I DID and DID NOT like about Tapestry of Grace, let me first interject by saying four simple facts.
  1. I am an eclectic homeschooler. I have never before used an all-in-one curriculum like TOG for multiple subjects.
  2. I have only ever used a living literature approach when teaching history in our homeschool.
  3. Because we had previously studied Ancient Egypt and Greece, I chose to start TOG in Year 1, Unit 4, Ancient Rome. It is naturally more difficult to come into a curriculum midstream than to begin at the beginning.
  4. I think this is a really good program. Truly. It's just not good for me and my kids...at least for right now.

Pros & Cons of Using Tapestry of Grace {The Unlikely Homeschool}

Tapestry of Grace Pros

Multi-level Learning

With an eight-year learning span between my oldest child and my youngest one, the mult-level learning schedule of TOG was what initially captured my attention. The plans are laid out in such a way that a high school student and a first grader can each be working through history at a similar speed chronologically but at their own academic level. 

Designed with a Classical approach, TOG divides learning into four major learning levels (lower grammar, upper grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric) and follows a four-year cycle meaning that a child will study through the entire time line of history four times before graduating from high school. 

Socratic method of teaching

True to its Classical nature, TOG follows the Socratic method of learning where students are stimulated towards critical thinking...answering a question with another question and scrutinizing belief systems. 

All-in-one design for unit-study learning

I can see where a "package deal" curriculum that supplies not only the obvious history component but also writing, vocabulary, church history, geography, literature, and art would be appealing to many homeschool mommas. That is most certainly an efficient way to plan a year and would greatly benefit the larger-than-average family who seeks to fit in all the extras.

Quality book selection

While I have packed the curriculum guide away, I have kept out several of the spine books for reference and have designated others to be used during our morning "circle time" next year. To be honest, many of the books are more textbook in nature than we are used to for history, but even spines have their place in a living literature approach. You will find no twaddle among the titles. They are all superior books worth adding to your collection, no matter what curriculum you use.

Multi-sensory learning

As a momma who whole-heartedly subscribes to the project-based learning method, I loved all of the project suggestions included in the weekly lesson plans. Project ideas were never lacking and could be woven into the day quite naturally.

Pros & Cons of Using Tapestry of Grace {The Unlikely Homeschool}

Tapestry of Grace Cons

Confusing curriculum guide

I'm gonna don my "honest but very blunt" hat for a second and just call a spade a spade. As a former classroom teacher and an eclectic homeschooling momma who has used more-than-her-share of different curriculums over the last 15 years of teaching-in-some-form-or-another, the Tapestry of Grace curriculum guide is the most user un-friendly manual I think I have ever come across.

Ouch...that was painful to write and I'm sure painful to read. 
But there...I've said it.

I consider myself pretty curriculum savvy. But even after pouring over the weekly plans for what seemed like hours each week, I felt overwhelmed. There are just so.many.words in the guide. Each weekly lesson plan is about fifty pages long. I wish I were exaggerating here. Sadly, I am not.

Granted, each lesson must meet the needs of all four levels of learners. But, holy-information-overload, Batman! I think I sat in a word coma many nights trying desperately to weed through all the words. ME! A self-proclaimed "I heart words" girl!

I realize that every new curriculum brings about a learning curve. But, even after six weeks, I still felt so clueless.

Too many good choices

At the risk of going against all my firmly-held eclectic learning beliefs, I think that the amount of activity choices provided each week was paralyzing. In an effort to provide an a la carte style schedule, the curriculum suggests a plethora of activities for you to choose from each week. It is up to you to select the ones that will work with the time that you have and be OK with passing up all the rest.

Since I tend to chase after all-things-shiny, I had a really hard time "passing up all the rest". I could never seem to decide which activity was best because they were all so good. In this case, sometimes less is more. Having a selection of two or three good things to choose from is perfect for my personality type. Having a selection of fifteen good things to weed through? Why, that's just asking for spazz-momma to suddenly rear her ugly head...every.single.day.for.six.whole.weeks!

Not in line with our schedule

We are eclectic homeschoolers in every sense of the word. I like the luxury of tailoring all of our learning to our current needs, passions, and educational ideologies. I like rabbit trails. I like slow, deliberate learning. I like exhausting a topic and not feeling rushed to skip to the next one.

Tapestry of Grace was just too scheduled for my liking. Up until this year, we were used to carving out two days a week to devote to history. We would wander through time periods at our own pace and devote ample time to really unpacking the small pieces and parts of an era. With TOG, I had to make the choice of either spending two full days almost exclusively learning history OR spreading out all the reading over a four or five day span. There was just so much to do and not enough time to do it all. Everything seemed rushed and time consuming.

Prior to TOG, we had devoted two entire school years to traveling through Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece. I was saddened with the notion of barreling through Ancient Rome in eight weeks. Eight weeks! An entire era of history in only eight weeks!

Not in line with my methods

As I mentioned, many of the book suggestions, especially for the lower grammar stage, are not living literature in nature and are more spine-like. I would also argue that the books are not always aptly leveled for reading skill. My sixth grader is an exceptional and avid reader, but many of the books listed for the upper grammar stage were unnecessarily difficult and lengthy. They were ALL wonderful books, but ones which I think would be better suited for dialectic-stage students. 

Perhaps due to the lack of TRUE living literature suggestions, much of the actual teaching comes from encyclopedia inserts in the teacher's guide. I was suppose to read pages of background information each week and then regurgitate it all to my children in lecture format. I think?...I'm still very confused about all of that. 

In addition, so many of the components of each unit rely heavily on memorization skills rather than TRUE learning. Both the vocabulary and geography elements seemed forced and disjointed and definitely went against my philosophy of real-world learning which gives a piece of information relevance and value.

Not in line with eclectic homeschooling

Since I already had a grammar and writing curriculum that I prefered, a method for teaching REAL vocabulary words, elements of church history in our morning "circle time", art project plans, and children who love reading a variety of different genres of literature, seventy-five percent of the TOG curriculum was wasted in our eclectic homeschool. 

After the first week or so, we ended up doing only the reading elements and scrapping all the rest. It is just not very economically efficient for me to spend a hefty sum on an all-in-one curriculum if I only ever intend on using twenty-five percent of the material. 

One final word

Tapestry of Grace, like all other curriculums, will be loved by some and hated by others. That's just the nature of opinions...they are as individual as the individuals giving them. What works for one person isn't going to necessarily work for another. The elements I didn't like about Tapestry of Grace and which caused me to opt for PLAN B might be the very elements which would work perfectly for you and your homeschool. I, personally, have three dear friends who all use TOG and love it. It works wonderfully for their households and personality types. Their kids are thriving and learning much! Mine were not.

I still believe the program to be GREAT. It just wasn't great for us in this season. I have decided to hang onto the curriculum guide as it just might prove to be perfect for the high school years. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Mid-Year Curriculum Tweaks 2014-2015

Mid-Year Curriculum Tweaks 2014-2015 {The Unlikely Homeschool}

While I'm not an advocate for hopping from one curriculum to the next in a speed-dating dump-and-move-on style, I do believe that sometimes what seems like the "perfect-for-us" curriculum in September, shows itself to be not-so-perfect by late fall. Often tweaks need to be made and in rare cases, a PLAN B needs to be purchased. 

(This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy for full details.)

To be honest, I don't think I've ever had a curriculum that needed to be completely scrapped. I've always tried to at least salvage parts. This year, proved to be a first however...I pretty much abandoned an entire curriculum...well, most of it anyway.

Midway through the year, I've made one major change and a few minor tweaks. And here they are...

Bible

Greased Lightning received the Jesus Storybook Bible for his Gift of Myrrh this Christmas and both he and The Newbie have been using it for their morning devotions ever since. The older three children and I each take turns throughout the week to read them one story from this new Bible at the start of each day.

Mid-Year Curriculum Tweaks 2014-2015 {The Unlikely Homeschool}



Morning "Circle Time"

What we were doing

We began the year diligently learning sign language during our morning "circle time" using several books that we rotated in and out from the library. But, after awhile it just seemed like our time would be better spent elsewhere. 

What we're doing now

We still continue to do all of the other activities that I had originally planned for our morning time, but we end our "circle" slightly sooner. Then, we all grab our current "just for fun" book, spread out around the living room, and read...including momma. (I realized that if I truly thought reading was important, I needed to give it an important time slot in our day. I didn't want "extra" reading to be delegated to "extra" time. I felt that was giving reading a not-as-important ranking. Reading for pleasure shouldn't be an add-on to the day. It should be the core of the day. If I can ignite a love of reading in each of my kids, they will be able to learn with or without me. And isn't that one of the primary goals of home education? To breed life-long learners?)

We usually read for about fifteen minutes and then go around the room and share a little bit about the book we are currently reading or decided to read THAT day...the characters, the plot, the themes, the genre (We've had great discussion about what the word genre means and were able to add it to our GREAT Vocabulary Challenge just before Christmas.)

Quick side note: In addition to this early morning reading time, the kids still have to read a "Mom-assigned book" sometime in the day. You can learn more about how I select the books and what this reading time looks like here>>>

Mid-Year Curriculum Tweaks 2014-2015 {The Unlikely Homeschool}

Science

I breezed through our first-semester of Creation Science: Dinosaurs. Then, I was faced with the mammoth (no pun intended) task of teaching Simple Machines using a homespun unit of living literature-style books, videos, and Lego Eduction: Simple and Motorized Mechanisms.

The books, I understood. The videos, I completed had a handle on. The Legos? Sadly, as the mother of five Lego-loving kids, I have no idea how to build anything...as in A-N-Y-T-H-I-N-G...out of Legos. I didn't have them as a kid. I've never played with them as an adult. Sad, but true.

When faced with the thought of not only having to help my kids build things out of Legos, but also help them build moving mechanisms out of battery-operated Legos, I panicked and differed to the master lego builder...The Hubs. It was decided in a very democratic, "Here! You do it!" kind of way that The Hubs would spend every Monday night doing the Lego project activities with the kids. I host a women's prayer time/Bible study at our house each Monday night which provides the perfect time for the kids to have dad time. He loves doing it. They love doing it. And I absolutely love NOT doing it!



History

What we were doing

As was my original plan, I started the year with Tapestry of Grace Year 1, Unit 4 (Roman History). This was a brand new endeavor for us. (Up until this year, we had always used Truth Quest history and had loved it!) In an effort to find a curriculum that would grow with my children and be a bit more multi-level-learning-friendly, I decided to try out TOG.

I wanted to love it. Honestly, I did. 
But, I just couldn't. 
We struggled through it for about a month until one day I had a what-was-I-thinking moment and decided to pull the plug.

I still believe it to be a really good curriculum. It just wasn't good for us. At least not in this season. I've kept the rather pricy teacher's manual and will maybe revisit the idea in a few years when I have high schoolers. (Please see my full review of TOG for further details of its pros and cons.)

What we're doing now

I spent the better part of a weekend in late September writing out my own Ancient Rome unit study that will take us all the way through the end of the year. With the help of The Usborne Encyclopedia of the Ancient World, I divided Ancient Rome up into the following six time frames:
  • Early Rome
  • The Roman Republic
  • The Birth of an Empire
  • Everyday Roman Life
  • The Birth & Life of Christ
  • The Early Church
  • The End of an Empire
I used the Truth Quest Ancient Rome guide, the TOG Roman Unit guide, and a handful of resources that we already owned and compiled a list of books, videos, and projects in chronological order. We have been slowly working our way through my homespun history guide and are loving it! 


Mid-Year Curriculum Tweaks 2014-2015 {The Unlikely Homeschool}

Art

We spent the first half of the year doing weekly art projects from my Art Ideas Pinterest Board and working our way through a few of the video lessons on my Art Tutorials youtube Playlist. That was working just great! But after viewing a few of the free lessons offered by Home Art Studio, I decided to try out the entire third grade course. Since we do art together, I thought the third grade video lessons would present a nice middle-of-the-road skill level. And they have. 


PLAN Bs are always difficult. Change is always difficult. But, in the end, each one of the changes I've made to our curriculum, no matter how great or small, have helped to create a more perfect-for-us school year. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Creation Science Dinosaur Unit Study

Creation Science Dinosaur Unit {The Unlikely Homeschool}

Per my children's request during my 2014 end-of-the-year delight-directed curriculum planning, we started the 2014-2015 school year with a dinosaur unit. We learned so much and gained a new-found awe for God's creation and handiwork. 

Below is a sampling of many of the books and resources we used and others we have explored in the past. Please note that we are YOUNG EARTH CREATIONISTS. All of these materials, unless otherwise stated, begin with a young earth world view. 

(This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy for full details.)

Dinosaur Books

Newer Books


Harder-to-find/Older Books


Other Creation-based Dinosaur Resources

Awesome Science with Noah Justice Video Series specifically the one entitled Explore Dinosaur National Monument



Buddy Davis: I Dig Dinosaurs



T-Rex Excavation Kit- This kit comes with the supplies necessary to bury the separated "bones" of a T-Rex, "unearth" them, and then reassemble them. The introduction portion of the instruction manual does present an evolutionary explanation of dinosaurs and dinosaur extinction.

Creation Science Dinosaur Unit Study {The Unlikely Homeschool}


Kids Answers Free Videos- Not all of these are specifically about Dinosaurs, but all present science from a creation perspective. The entire Kids Answers site is packed full of Biblically-based science info and activities.

Jonathan Park Audio Drama Volume 1: The Adventure Begins

Archaeologists Dig for Clues-This is NOT creation-based and comes from an evolutionary world view, however, I found it to be a helpful resource for showing how the excavation process works. I strongly suggest reading it with your children and discussing how it contradicts the Bible at some points.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Why My Kids DON'T Read Many Award Winners

Why My Kids DON'T Read Award Winners {The Unlikely Homeschool}


This past Monday, the 2015 ALSC Book and Media winners were announced...among them, the Newbery and Caldecott honorees. As always, the list created quite a stir in children's lit circles.

Sadly, many parents and teachers rushed out to be the first to stock their shelves with these titles deemed medal worthy by the "experts." With little to no regard for who these "experts" actually are and the criteria they use for judging children's literature, well-meaning folks plunk down their dollars in hopes of buying "quality" for their budding readers.

Medals and accolades EQUAL quality...right?

Well, I suppose that depends upon who you ask.

"Consider the source"...that's what my momma always told me.

According to the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), the "experts" responsible for awarding such prizes as the John Newberry Medal, the Randolph Caldecott Medal, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal, the Odyssey Award, the Pura Belpre'Award, and many others...according to them, this book is quality...a book worthy of one of the highest citations in the literary world, a Caldecott honor.

In full disclosure, the Caldecott is given
"to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children." ALCS
It's awarded to an artist, not a writer.

The problem, however, is that the average well-intentioned parent doesn't necessarily know WHY a bright silver badge was placed on the cover of a book. They just trust that an award-winning book MUST BE award worthy.

I wonder if these same parents would still purchase this year's honoree if they were privy to this sampling of words taken directly from its graphic...very graphic...pages?

  • tits
  • ta-tas
  • sluts
  • f***ing
  • sh*t
  • bl** j*b
  • and so much more
I guess it's not called a "graphic novel" for nothin'.

This YA book WILL be purchased by librarians and teachers all across the country and will be tossed on the shelves along with all the other "award winners". With an age range of 12-18, YA books are becoming increasingly sadistic, sexually-charged, and wrought with adult themes. 

But, YA books aren't the only ones brimming with this R-rated "quality" content. The middle grade Newberry winners of the past fifty years, like this one and this one, have garnered their own share of accolades simply for pushing the envelope. For doing something "new" with tween lit. For talking of witch craft and "scrotums" and oh so much more.

The literary innocence crafted by Laura Ingalls Wilder and fanciful imagery painted by C.S. Lewis are long forgotten in award circles. Shock value and bibliotherapy are more in vogue.

Maybe it's time we, as parents, spend as much time protecting the hearts and minds of our kids as we do their bodies. We do all we can to make sure they are eating "green"...and taking their vitamins...and wearing their bike helmets...and slathering on sunscreen. We have grown quite accustomed to all that physical "safety" demands. But, do we even pause to consider the damage we might be doing to their souls?

Society, at large, cries fowl when a parent hands a child a drink of alcohol (and rightfully so). But, we think nothing of passing out books filled with soft-porn. Every addiction starts somewhere. We are negligent, at best, if we think flooding the mind and heart of an impressionable child with trash will not bring long-lasting consequences.

These are the facts as I know them to be.
I hand them to you to do with as you wish.
But, if you're asking me what I do when I breeze by a library shelf and see a book plastered with silver and gold stamps from the mid 1960s and beyond...

I "consider the source" and just keep right on walking. 

There are far too many great books for my kids to read to waste their time and hearts on an "award winner".

I apologize for the graphic nature of some of the words in this post. It is not my intent to fill your mind with anything other than what can be filtered through Philippians 4:8. In this case, I feel it is necessary to include actual verbiage from the books in order that you might see the disparaging content for yourself. 

To be clear, my children DO read award winners including the titles shown in the photograph. With the exception of a rare title like The Whipping Boy all the award winners that pass my critical eye were published before mid-1960 and all display excellence in content and literary merit. I merely used these books for the photograph, because I don't personally own the ones I do not recommend. 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

What We're Reading in February 2015

What We're Reading in February 2015 {The Unlikely Homeschool}


As I welcome in February, I hope to enjoy a good book each day with a coffee cup and saucer at my side. A large clunky coffee mug has been my steady reading companion for the past eight years. But, I think it's time we part ways. 

(This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy for full details.)

As I see it, the few treasured moments I get to steal away each day to fold myself up in the pages of a book will somehow feel even more lavish if I'm drinking from a cup that forces my pinky high into the air. Cups and saucers just seem to slow life down a bit...they make you speak in mannerly tones and use sweeping gestures. They're just fancy. And, to be honest,  I could use a bit of fancy around here. Who knows? Maybe I'll even start reading out loud with a British accent or something?! 

February...it's the month of fanciful things!
Cheers to a good book. Pinkies up!

Here's what we'll be reading...

Read aloud- Everybody

Henry Reed, Inc.- We're about half way through reading the mid-adventures of Henry and his friend Midge and are really enjoying the light humor of it all. It has a very Homer Price-ish story line...ironically, the illustrator is none other than Robert McCloskey, famed author of Homer Price and many others.



Jamie- That's me!

Healthy at Home- I'm not anti-traditional medicine...I have a doctor. I see my doctor. However, I think that, sadly, our society has become so dependent upon prescriptions, pills, and big pharma that we have no idea how to remedy even simple colds and flus without first checking in with Urgent Care. Gone are the days of simple and natural. We've replaced common sense with little white capsules. And while traditional medicine usually can fix basic maladies, the "cures" come at a great price. As author, Dr. Tieraona Low Dog (herbalist, midwife, and certified M.D.) says, "For all its magic in treating serious disease and trauma, for minor problems, [using modern medicine] can often be like using a chain saw when a paring knife would do."

I'm only a few chapter in, but so far I've found this to be an excellent 101 style guide to the remedies of old...a practical primer on using the wealth of God-created nature to keep yourself healthy naturally. 




Sweetie Pea- 6th grade

Calico Bush- Since my daughter just began an extensive research project on Ellis Island and immigration, I thought the courageous story of a young French emigrant would pair quite nicely with her studies.



Super Boy-3rd Grade

Davy Crockett: Life on the Frontier- Truthfully, this reader-style book is a bit basic for my son. But, after seeing him slough through the oh.so.lengthy.and.wordy chapters of Beverly Cleary's Ribsy, I knew he needed a quick-read filled with adventure this month. 


Blonde Warrior- 2nd Grade

The Courage of Sarah Noble- After turing the last page of The Bears of Hemlock Mountain, my son saw that the author, Alice Dalgliesh, had written another award winning book and immediately asked if we could get it from the library. He was not at all deterred by the fact that the protagonist is a girl. He recognized his own appreciation for the author's writing style and wanted to explore more of her work.

I'd say that I've got myself the makings of a life-long reader...someone who is growing a literary pallet and is hungry for more.


Greased Lightning- Kindergarten

Scholastic Phonics Ready Readers- This is a series of graduated phonics readers that come in multiple boxed sets. He's on the set 3 of the series.



So, that's what we'll be reading. How about you?

Monday, February 2, 2015

5 Homeschooling Myths and the Truth That Will Set You Free


I sat motionless as I watched the tears fall unbidden down her cheeks. As her head fell forward and her chin slumped to her chest, she let out a long sigh...the kind of sigh that exhales weeks of bottled-up emotion. I couldn't tell wether she was trying to hide her gaze out of sadness or embarrassment...maybe a little of both. 

Her three kids had been the "naughty" ones at church...AGAIN...and she felt like a failure. 

She had gotten the sidelong glances and awkward stares from folks bent on proving that this whole "homeschooling thing" was a huge mistake. 

But, it wasn't suppose to be this way.

Weren't homeschool kids the "good" ones? Isn't that why she chose homeschooling in the first place...so that HER kids would turn out different than all those OTHER ones? 

But what she couldn't see...
and what she needed so desperately to hear...
is that homeschooling is not a savior.

That's a myth that she had come to believe...a lie that had wormed its way into her truth. And now, because things did not seem to be turning out as she had hoped, she was beginning to think that maybe all those folks were right--maybe this homeschooling thing was a huge mistake.

But, that's the thing about myths...about lies...
They imprison you with self-doubt...with failure...with hopelessness. 

But the truth, will always set you free!

You may have believed the myth. Now it's time to take hold of the truth. 

Myth #1-Homeschooling kids are always "good" kids.


Truth:   We are all imperfect people living in an imperfect world. That includes our kids. They are going to make wrong choices. They are going to misbehave. They are going to sin. Even in public. So often when our kids misbehave, we, as homeschooling moms, see their poor choices as a reflection of us...of our ability to parent, to homeschool, to fill-in-the-blank. Suddenly their "failures" become our failures. But what we can easily forget is that sinners will sin. Even homeschooled kids.

"for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 
Romans 3:23 (ESV)

Myth #2-Homeschooling is a savior.


Truth:   So often, homeschooling parents rank homeschooling as the answer to everyone else's problems. As homeschooling moms, we can see a friend's public-schooled child falter socially, spiritually, or academically and pridefully announce that homeschooling is the answer...the quick fix that will right every wrong. We see our "perfect" curriculum and our "perfect" methods and our "perfect" well-ordered plan and begin to prescribe it to all our friends and their "obviously-in-need-of-change" children. We place homeschooling on the throne of God and forget that change...true life altering change...comes only through Him. He changes hearts...and He can do it with or without homeschooling.

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come."   
2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV)

Myth #3-Homeschool mothers always like homeschooling.


Truth:   While I love homeschooling, I don't always like it. But, I would venture to say that this is true of any life choice. When I was a working mom years ago, I had plenty of I'd-rather-be-at-home days. Then, when I became a stay-at-home-mom, I fell victim to the please-someone-peal-these-children-off-of-me-for-a-few-hours kind of days. Because that's the nature of nature...the grass always looks greener in your neighbor's yard...especially on hard days. But my occasional longing look over the fence didn't mean I didn't love my job when I was working or that I didn't love my kids when I wasn't. It just meant that sometimes the days were hard. Really H.A.R.D.

Now, as a homeschooling mom, there are days when I don't like homeschooling...when I want to flag down the driver of the big yellow bus and sneak four kids through the back emergency exit. But, on those days...on those really H.A.R.D. days, I cling to the Truth God grants me each year and know that His mercies will be new the next morning.  And they always are.

"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."  
Lamentations 3:22-23 (ESV)

Myth #4-Homeschooling mothers have to have it all together.


Truth:   My children get to see my daily ugliness...and I theirs. It is one of the many blessings of homeschooling. They get to see my flaws day in and day out. They know I don't have it all together...far from it. There's no escaping the truth of my depravity...as a wife, as a mother, as a child of God. The awful truth of ME is left open and exposed for them more times than I care to admit. But, that truth is a gift. If I could somehow hide all my imperfections from them...if I could masquerade as one of those have-it-all-together mommas for even a day...I would show them a woman who has no need for a Savior. I'd be a momma pointing them in the wrong direction.

"He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure."  
Psalm 40:2 (ESV)

Myth #5-Homeschooling is the "perfect" way to educate.


Truth:   Homeschooling, like ALL educational paths, has its flaws. It comes with a lengthy list of struggles and successes. But, while homeschooling might not be the "perfect" choice, it might be the perfect choice for you. In other words, the unavoidable pros and cons of homeschooling might be exactly what God wants to use to purify and refine your children...and you. And because of that...because He is able to use even broken things to make something beautiful...homeschooling can be perfect for all those who are called to it. 

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope."  
Jeremiah 29:11 (ESV)

On that day...that very fateful is-homeschooling-just-a-big-mistake day...I took hold of her hand and filled it with truth. The myth was just too heavy for her to hold any longer. 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Help! I'm Homeschooling a Middle School or High School Student!

Help! I'm Homeschooling a Middle School or High School Student! {The Unlikely Homeschool}


The Hubs and I just registered for our state's annual homeschool conference. It is not until mid-April, but as I rank it rather high on my Homeschool-Mommy-Sanity-Saver list, I wanted to be sure to grab a ticket while the grabbib' was good.  It is a much-needed weekend of refreshment...a chance to assess our homeschooling endeavors and gain some fresh perspective and encouragement to KEEP ON the journey.

What's more, this year, I registered for the pre-conference HOMESCHOOLING HIGH SCHOOL session. 

Yep. THAT'S upon me. There's no avoiding it. My daughter is already doing some high school level work. And with high school officially starting in only two years, I guess it's high time I pull up my big girl pants and figure it all out! I'd rather take the time NOW, than wait two years and start high school with a deer-in-the-headlights look.

(This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy for full details.)


While I never hesitate in my enthusiasm for attending the conference, I usually take a deep breath and a big "there's no turning back now" gulp as I purchase the tickets.  You see, the conference is always hosted in one of the three main metro areas of our state and because we live here in teeny-tiny Mayberry, we have to make a several-hour trek to attend.  In addition to the price of the conference tickets, we have to factor in an overnight hotel stay, gasoline, several restaurant bills, and parking fees.  It all adds up to a pretty pricey weekend retreat.   

In the end, the conference is always worth the added annual expense.  But, I know many homeschool mommas who just can't squeeze all that into the budget.  

iHomeschool Network online Webinar for homeschooling Middle and High School {The Unlikely Homeschool}


That's why I am so excited to be able to announce the MIDDLE SCHOOL AND HIGH SCHOOL iHomeschool Studio Online Webinar, a 4-day on-line homeschooling conference with an emphasis on transitioning to upper-level learning that you can attend right from the comfort of your own couch. Imagine hearing some of the most encouraging homeschool veterans while wearing your jammies.  

Webinar Details

  • The convenient, online sessions will be hosted during the afternoons and evenings of Tuesday, February 10th through Friday, February 13th, 2015.
  • Tickets for this 4-day conference are $25 and can be purchased securely through Paypal starting Tuesday, January 28th, 2015.
  • Ticket prices include access to the 24 live sessions, MP3 recordings of all the 24 conference sessions (available to download March 3-May 31, 2015), and special discounts, door prizes, and giveaways.
  • All the workshops are delived via GoToWebinar over the internet.  All attendees must have access to the internet as well as speakers or headphones.  GoToWebinar can be accessed with an app on most digital devices.  For more information, please see the complete details regarding system requirements



Webinar Sessions and Speakers

Planning for Upper Level Homeschool & Beyond Graduation

Entrepreneurship

Math for Middle School and High School

Language Arts/ English for Middle School and High School

History

Electives

Parenting

While I enjoy going to my state convention each year, I cringe at the everything-adds-up price of an entire weekend away. Wanna experience the refreshment of a conference without forking over your entire savings? DON'T MISS this 4-day, on-line conference. Get refueled, refreshed, and refocused right from your couch. 


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