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Archive for the ‘Homeschooling’ Category

IMG_4332[1]We often define a creative person as someone who is artistic—perhaps they’re a gifted musician or painter or dancer. But I think creativity is bigger than that. It’s a state of mind that sees endless possibilities and dreams big, even after facing defeat again and again.

Inventors come to mind when I think of creativity. Alexander Graham Bell created dozens of useful inventions from the telephone to a metal detector, but he also faced hundreds of failures.

Obstacles only make a creative person look deeper and wider for the answers.

Last week I watched a short film on today’s educational system. It raised many questions. Does our educational system kill creativity and curiosity? Does it prepare our children for a changing world? Does it value their unique strengths and interests?

One of the reasons I decided to homeschool was because the current school system seems to be designed to fit kids into a certain mould. I don’t want that for my kids. I want them to love learning and follow their passions and not be afraid of getting a wrong answer—after all, those are the ones we learn the most from.

One day my six-year-old son was painting a ceramic mug to be fired. I admired his bold use of colour. He’d painted a person with brown hair and lovely pointed shoes.  “Who’s that?” I asked.

“It’s you,” he said shyly, looking up at me through his long eye lashes. “But the mouth dripped.”

My heart squeezed with love as I looked at his rendition of me. The dripping black mouth resembled a beard. But it was me he chose to grace his mug. I was honoured. “It’s a beautiful painting.”

I hope he never loses the joy of creating. I pray I never make him feel stupid. I dream that he follows his dreams.

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Here’s the film I watched last week. Very thought provoking! B.C. is bringing in some big curriculum changes for next year. The goal is to create an educational system that prepares kids for a changing future, focuses on their passions, and honours their strengths. I’m proud of my province. 🙂

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Photo credit: ITWeb Tech

Photo credit: ITWeb Tech

 

“How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon.

December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn.

How did it get so late so soon?”  ~Dr. Seuss

 

I’d never read this little poem by Dr. Seuss until I went searching for a quote on the preciousness of time. It’s fun and fanciful—in typical Seuss style—but there’s an element of truth too. How often I’ve dropped into bed at the end of a busy day and wondered at how quickly it flew by and if I’d made the most of it.

These moments that I’m most acutely aware of the finiteness of time make me realize that I must decide what’s important in my life and choose to commit the time and resources needed to excel in that area. If I don’t make a choice, then busyness takes over and nothing gets done properly.

Being awesome in the things that are important is better than being mediocre in everything. At least I think so.

I want to be an awesome mom and wife. I want to do an awesome job of teaching my children and engaging them in learning. I want to write awesome books. I haven’t attained awesomeness in any of these areas, but these are my goals, and they’re there to aim at.

But you can’t shoot for awesomeness in everything. I’m not awesome at housekeeping. Or gardening. Or cooking. And I’m okay with that. They’re not on my awesome list. I’m going for acceptable, fine, and okay. Don’t get me wrong; I’m all for being sanitary and feeding my kids healthy foods, but we live with stacks of books on every flat surface, and I don’t do gourmet.

Everyone is going to have different priorities, and that’s the way it should be! But in a world where there are innumerable things that we could be doing with our time from cooking to cleaning, reading to playing peek-a-boo with the baby, texting to tweeting, watching tv to pet sitting, online courses to knitting socks. And on and on. We all need to choose how we spend the hours we’re given.

As a homeschooling mom of six kids, I’ve learned there are many things that I have to say no to. Not because they’re not valuable or worthwhile, but because there isn’t time to do it all. Because in a few things—I’m aiming for awesome.

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Photo credit: Aiyaz Kidwai

Photo credit: Aiyaz Kidwai

Did you know that the largest man-made explosion prior to the atomic bomb happened right here in Canada?

Our family’s been delving into Canadian history with Canada: A People’s History. I always thought that Canadian history was more boring than counting snowflakes, but homeschooling has given me a second chance to fall in love with learning about the history of our beautiful country.

I feel like it honours those who have gone before us to learn their stories and share them with our children.

Back to the explosion—it happened December 6, 1917 when two ships—one of them full of explosives—collided near Halifax. A pressure wave from the blast flattened the community of Richmond, and a Tsunami that went out from it completely destroyed a community of Mi’kmaq First Nations people.

 

To learn more about the Halifax explosion, check out this interactive website: cbc.ca/halifaxexplosion/

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A couple weeks ago, my oldest daughter compiled this video of the poem “In Flanders Fields.” I hope you are blessed by it as we remember the fallen.

❤ Rachel

 

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“Who are you and what have you done with my wife?” Kevin pulled away from me, and his mouth fell open. Moments before we were getting ready to pray together—like we do every night—when I asked him if our daughters could go on a school trip to Hawaii.

It was out of character.

Since our oldest daughter was born, we’d held our children close and sought to protect them. When other 5-year-olds boarded a bus and went to school, I kept mine at home to teach them myself. Our children stayed with us during church instead of going to Sunday school. We felt that it was our duty to teach our children the Bible.

Of upmost importance for both of us was to protect our children. Too sheltered? A greenhouse? Maybe, but our children were happy and thriving, and we wanted them to be strong and have a firm foundation before being thrust into the world.

I’m not sorry for those years of holding them close.

But it dawned on me that there had to be a time of letting go too. In only a few years, our oldest would be old enough to go to college. We’d protected her and sought to teach her truth, responsibility and honesty, but what had we done to prepare her to stand on her own?

I was notified of a Biology 11 class that included a trip to Hawaii. It sounded like an incredible opportunity for hands-on learning, and both of our daughters have interests in that field. The thought of sending them that far away terrified me, but I prayed about it and then asked Kevin what he thought.

“Do you really want them to do this?” Kevin finally asked.

“I don’t know, but Myra’s 14 and she might be leaving home in four years. We need to be thinking about ways to prepare both her and us for this.”

We decided to send them to camp last summer and see how that went before deciding whether or not they would go to Hawaii. Even sending them to camp was hard, but a close friend was going to be the camp nurse for the summer and the kids’ home teacher would be there too.

The girls had an incredible time at camp. They came home tired, happy, and more confident. We signed them up for the Hawaii trip.

The interactive class completely engaged both girls. They took part in v-classes with their teacher and the other students. They did group projects, and were forced to look at some big issues—like evolution—and learn where they stood on them.

They were scared the day we stood in the airport. They cried when they hugged us goodbye, but they were ready for this. We’d spent years loving them, protecting them, and teaching them. It was time to fly.

Of course I worried about them. I’m a mom. On the morning we were to pick them up at the airport, I had a few meltdowns. The hotel put us down for the wrong time for the shuttle to the airport, and the girls’ plane was ahead of schedule. I was beyond upset at the thought that we wouldn’t be there when they got off the plane.

As it turns out…we were there an hour early and by far the first parents there.

I watched them come through the doors trailing their suitcases. They scanned the crowd. Anxiously. Looking for us. I waved, and they came running. They threw down their bags and suitcases and squeezed us tightly. I wasn’t ashamed of the tears on my cheeks.

The girls had been on the plane all night and had slept very little, but it didn’t keep them from talking excitedly about their trip most of the 11-hour drive home. I laughed when Myra said she woke up on the plane and saw Melanie sleeping with her head face down on the table in front of her. I laughed even harder when I heard the story of how they accidently stole a cooler from the beach and when they opened it, it was full of rice. Cooked rice.

It was a celebration. We were together.

Myra is now looking for a job. She wants to go on the school trip to Europe next year. A longer trip. Further away.

They grew up on this trip. They are more confident, more vibrant. The letting go has begun.

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Credit: Kids Math

Credit: Kids Math

I couldn’t get away from school fast enough. My stomach tightened, and I pressed the palm of my hand against the anxiety that balled up in my chest. I’d just barely passed the math test last week, and today’s lesson left me bewildered. Walking down the road towards the restaurant where my mom waitressed, I hoped it wasn’t busy.

Mom set down a Coke with ice and I took a long sip through the straw. “I’ve never really liked math, but I always understood it—until now. I’m scared, Mom.”

“Why don’t you ask Grandpa for help? He’s always been good with numbers,” Mom said as she filled the coffee pot.

Just having a plan made me feel a little better. The corners of my Grandpa’s eyes crinkled with pleasure when I asked him to help me with my math. I pulled up a chair to his recliner and placed my grade 7 math book on a rickety little table between us.

For an hour he reviewed the concepts with me that I’d failed to grasp and made sense of the problems that had left me feeling ill. More importantly, though, he showed me math could be fun like doing a puzzle or discovering the answer to a riddle.

I didn’t learn to love math all at once, but I did come to appreciate it. I became fascinated with geometry, and Pythagoras’ theorem stayed locked inside my mind ever since. The number Pi intrigued me—the key that unlocks circles, cylinders, and spheres. It’s perfect and yet irrational.

I often hear students and parents bemoan that they will never use the math they are learning, but take a moment and think of how dreary our lives would be if we limited our education to what we thought we would use every day. Why bother going to school beyond grade 3? Do we really need to know how to write a poem or how many planets circle the sun? Do we need to know who Alexander the Great was or Isaac Newton? Most of us don’t use this information in our day-to-day lives, but undoubtedly it enriches us. So does math.

Owning math concepts—not just knowing them enough to pass a test—is what makes them useful. I’m not sure in what grade I learned cross multiplication, but I’ve used it countless times since for reducing a recipe or comparing the prices of similar products. I’ve used Pythagoras’ theorem to determine how long the rafters should be when we were building our house. And just like a magnificent waterfall can give us a glimpse into the nature and beauty of God, math can reveal a little of God too—his perfection and infiniteness.

Just spending one hour with someone who loved math showed me math could be useful, fun, and beautiful. I challenge you to be that for your children, the person who sparks in them a passion for learning—even learning math.

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Echo Lake

Echo Lake

We all have them, those little quirks that make us unique. Some of my “quirkiness” rose to the surface last weekend, and I’m still shaking my head.

I’d been looking forward to the weekend all year. It was the homeschool mom’s retreat at Echo Lake. It’s one weekend a year to spend time with a group of women with similar goals. Invigorating. So much so, in fact, that I couldn’t sleep.

When I’m nervous or shy, I get very animated—obnoxious really. Friday night, we stayed up late talking. One lady read a story about a woman’s experience with bikini waxing. I laughed until tears ran down my face. I made those horrible cackling noises that I make when I’ve lost all control. But I didn’t care. I was having a blast.

We all said goodnight and headed to bed, but I was buzzing like I’d slammed two pots of coffee. I read for two hours before I even tried to get to sleep, and then I laid in bed and turned over every 20 minutes for the rest of the night. I might have slept as much as two hours. Maybe.

It’s embarrassing to admit that you are so excited you can’t sleep all night. Am I twelve? Quirk number one.

I didn’t want to miss a thing, so I got up to run with a lady at 7:00. (I only begged her to walk once. It was a big hill. Honest.) Then I went for a power walk at 10:00. (There is no way I could keep up with some of those ladies. I’m blaming it on my short, little legs.) Then we went for a lovely canoe ride in the afternoon.

I was sore for days. It was a good thing I was so active, though, because we ate amazing food and lots of it. (Thanks, Rebecca!)

I crashed pretty hard in the afternoon. I even went down to my room and laid down for half an hour, but I kept thinking, “What if I miss something fun?” So that didn’t last very long.

That evening we watched a movie and painted ceramic mugs. On my mug, I painted all of my children (as stick people) doing the things that they love. Yes, I was loving every moment of my mom’s retreat, but I was missing my family too.

That evening we stayed up late talking again. One has to soak up these moments, you know. It was after everyone else had gone to bed that I realized I didn’t know where I was sleeping. We’d shuffled the sleeping arrangements to make room for two more ladies. I’d been moved, but I forgot to ask where. Sleeping on the couch seemed like a better option than shining a flash light in people’s eyes and asking if they knew where an empty bed was.

I tried to sleep. Really I did. But I had this unpleasant realization that I’d told my family I’d have my phone with me all the time, and if they needed me they could call. The problem was my phone had died a few hours earlier.

Quirk number two: I’m neurotic about keeping my word to my kids. I act irrational and freak out if situations prevent me from fulfilling a commitment to them.

I gave up trying to sleep. As long as my phone was dead, I’d be worrying about someone being injured and having to go to the hospital while I was out of reach. I padded up and down stairs looking for a cord I could borrow. I went to my van twice—barefoot (couldn’t find my shoes) until I could successfully charge my phone.

By the time I headed back to bed (actually couch) It was 3:00 am. The floor dipped under me like a boat deck. I was dizzy with exhaustion, but I didn’t feel tired. Bad sign. I got about two hours of sleep again.

The next morning, I tried to write a cheque, but it took me a full minute to remember what month it was. I thought it was finished, but I realized I hadn’t written in an amount. It’s not a great idea to hand out blank cheques.

I did question whether I was in a state to drive, but after a couple of cups of coffee I felt more coherent. I said good-bye, prayed for God’s protection, and headed home. The only weird thing I did was stop for the mail. (It was Sunday.)

It took me all week to recover. I do know that it’s pretty ridiculous to go away for a retreat—which should refresh—and come back home too exhausted to function. I’m telling myself that it’s better to know your neurosis than to have these issues and not know about them. Everyone has quirks, right?

Have an awesome weekend!

 

 

 

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Photo credit: Lusi

I always have a niggling dread as the end of summer approaches. I just don’t feel ready to launch back into being teacher to my kids. I wasn’t prepared when the first week of September swept upon us; I hadn’t made up lesson plans or even had a good look at this year’s curriculum.

Life was just that busy. Last year’s school schedule was still on the wall, though, and it gave us the framework we needed to start the school year. (Ominous drum roll.) We faced the first day with fierce determination. But it was an awesome day. It felt so right to be back in the books. The children got along better. The hours of our day flew along with incredible efficiency. (I didn’t feel like I should be doing housework!)

I love being teacher to my children, but I forget that sometime in early spring. By Easter we’re tired and cranky and need a break. And by September, as the days cool off and the leaves start to change colour, we’re ready for structure and intensive learning again—even if I don’t know it yet!

To all the homeschooling moms out there: I wish you passion for your journey. May you pass onto your children a love of learning that will last a lifetime. ❤

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I saw this quote on my box of granola one morning as I was eating breakfast. It made me smile. The granola makers had a sense of humour to pair their seedy cereal with these words.

It also made me think.

Many of us are moms with small children. There are many frustrations that we face every day. We toil. We struggle. We laugh. We cry.

I won’t tell you this job is easy. I never have. We are planting seeds—seeds of love, joy, faith, hope, perseverance, laughter, and tears into the lives of eternal souls. Is it worth the pain and the heartache? Definitely.

 

And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season

we shall reap if we do not lose heart.

~Galatians 6:9

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Photo credit: nkzs

Photo credit: nkzs

Is there anything as satisfying as curling up to read a book—a cup of tea nearby—at the end of a long day? Mmmm. Makes me feel all snugly inside just thinking about it.

I’ve loved reading ever since I realized that letters made sounds and sounds made words. My first memory of reading is while riding in our noisy blue van. I suddenly realized that there were words on all the signs. Excitement leaped within me as I tried to read every sign that we passed. A whole new world had opened up to me.

The Secret Garden was the first book that I got lost in. Little Pilgrim’s Progress and The Black Stallion soon followed. I was hooked.

Is it any wonder that I wanted to pass on my love of reading to my children? Reading has given me much pleasure and joy over the years, but it has also been my doorway for life-long learning.

In my passion to learn more about special-needs, I read books on Down’s Syndrome and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. When I was pregnant, I devoured countless books on pregnancy and birth. And when I decided to pursue my dream to become a writer…I went to books to learn the art.

An even more subtle benefit of reading is the moulding of character. I saw characters who were selfish and weak grow through difficult circumstances until in a crises they were able to act in courage and self-denial. Their courage made me want to be courageous. When a character makes a mistake and learns from it, I’ve learned from it too.

For years our bedtime routine has included an hour of our entire family snuggling on a couch—now two couches—while I read aloud. We’ve read everything from Good Night Moon and Charlotte’s Web to Animal Farm and The Lord of the Rings. The discussions that have come from reading those books are helping to prepare my children to face the world on their own one day.

Out of my four school-age children, two of them took to reading like they were born with a book in their hands. The other two enjoyed it when I read to them, but they wouldn’t just pick up a book to read for pleasure. I recognized that they have amazing gifts, and I encouraged them in their strengths. But…I wanted them to love to read too.

After praying for a way to engage them in reading, I came up with the book reward system. Maybe you’re not a big fan of rewards. Have you seen them backfire too? Like when your kids start learning Bible verses for the chocolate bars instead of for its eternal value. Ugh. An effective reward needs to be intrinsically tied to the activity we are trying to encourage. The reward needs to reinforce the activity not defeat it.

In the book reward system, my children must read a challenging book for 100 minutes or more a week for six weeks. The reward: they get to choose their very own book. They choose a book from Amazon that they want to read. They impatiently wait for the book to arrive. They devour the book.

The fact that the book is the reward makes it more valuable, and valuing books makes them want to read more—a system that encourages reading. Yes!

I am happy to report that all of my school-age children now love to read and have been caught setting the table with a book in their hand. 🙂

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