Fear Not Homeschooling

“Fear not,” Pastor Joby said over and over again during this morning’s message. What are my fears? I asked myself. As a homeschool mom, doubts do creep into my heart. I wrestle with questions like, Will my children turn out okay? Will they really excel academically? Will they reach their full potentials or be limited by their homeschool experience? Will I be able to teach them through the years even if I’m not an educator? Will they know how to relate to others without being perceived as “weirdos”? Will they become the people God wants them to be and achieve life success?

He wasn’t speaking this message for homeschooling families, but I was encouraged by what he shared about fear. His title was No God, know fear. Know God, no fear.

Knowing God conquers fear. He is the antidote and answer to every fear we have. This is why he calls himself, “I AM.” He is the “I am” for whatever we need, whenever we need him. For a homeschool mom, this translates to him saying…

I am your patience.

I am your joy.

I am your intelligence.

I am your creativity.

I am your sustainer.

I am your confidence.

I am your partner.

I am your provider.

I am your courage.

I am your hope.

I am your peace.

I am the one who called you and Edric to do this and I am going to make sure you succeed.

I am going to help you be the parents you need to be to effectively raise your children.

As I took in the message and personalized it, I was reminded of this – homeschooling is a life of faith. I have to fortify my mind with this reality. Otherwise, it is easy to get “tornadoed’ by the varying opinions and perceptions of onlookers. Some may call what we are doing radical and counter-culture. Some may think it novel and progressive. Some may think it risky and crazy. Others may think, “Wow, that’s cool but it sounds impossible for our family.”

Whatever statements may be made about homeschooling, it needs to come down to a faith-decision. What does God say about teaching our children? It is our responsibility (Deuteronomy 6:5). So yes, it may be radical, counter-culture, novel (at least in Asia), progressive, risky, crazy, and seemingly impossible.  But we are accountable to God for how we will respond to his word. If we live by faith, the impossible becomes possible. 2 Corinthians 5:7 tells us, “For we live by faith, not by sight.”

Once parents say, “Okay, Lord, we will homeschool in obedience to you and we will do it in faith,” God performs mini-miracles and even big ones in the family.  I’ve seen families who supposedly “needed” a second income, give up the second income so that the mom could homeschool the kids, and they have done just fine financially. I’ve talked to parents who never thought they could teach their children and decided to homeschool because God confirmed they should. And they tell me things like, “Joy, it’s really amazing that my child is doing so well and I’m really enjoying homeschooling.”

Sure, there are stories of those who struggle through it and even wonder if they will homeschool the next year. But, over and over again, these same people who struggle with doubt, keep at it in faith. God doesn’t promise that teaching our children is going to be an easy decision to make or something easy to keep doing. What he does promise is to equip and empower us when we obey him.

Pastor Joby said today, “God’s commandments are always his enablement.”  This is absolutely true. He does this for every single family that homeschools in faith.

A couple months ago, I wrote an entry entitled “Homeschooling is Not One of the 10 Commandments.” In this post, I talked about a mom-friend who had decided to send her daughter back to the conventional school. Well, I’m very happy to say that she called me a month or two after we had our conversation and said, “Joy, we’ve decided to homeschool again this year.” She talked about how God had spoken to her and confirmed that she should continue homeschooling.  When I ran into her recently, her face was glowing. From someone who, just six months ago, was feeling overwhelmed and discouraged about homeschooling, she is pressing on with renewed energy and determination.

What’s my point? The fears parents have about homeschooling are natural and founded. We go through our moments of doubt, especially self-doubt. But if we are willing to listen to God’s call and respond in faith no matter what our fears may be, we will experience how amazing it is to be upheld by our great, “I AM.” Homeschooling is a life of faith and that’s the best kind of life to live!

 “For I am the Lord your God, who upholds your right hand, who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’” Isaiah 41:13

 

No Grumpy Moms Allowed!

Elijah and I were finishing one of his requirements for Filipino one evening because we were cramming some of his work to end before September. Along came Edan who wanted to make the same thing I was making with Elijah – a lapbook. Because I was in a zone (which I tend to get into when I am focused on a task), I was dismissive.

“We’ll do it later, Edan. You have to wait.” My tone was raised just a decibel. (I still avoid shouting at my children at all costs, but I can have that irritable tone from time to time, which is not acceptable either). He persisted a few minutes later, “Mom, can I make a rainbow, too, like Elijah? Can you help me?” I replied, “Edan, I said later, right?! Elijah and I have to finish this,” and let him feel like he was disturbing me.

My dear son, Edan, sat on the floor and tried to put together the pieces of colored paper himself. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him struggle with his hands and he was starting to get frustrated because he couldn’t attach the papers well. Under his breath he mumbled, “If only SOMEONE would help me…” At that point, my heart went out to him. I asked myself, Why do I have to be such a grumpy mom this evening? Is finishing a lapbook more important than making sure that my children know that they are important to me?

God convicted my heart. I put the lapbook down, turned towards Edan and said, “I’ll help you, babe.” I glued together his rainbow. It only took a few minutes to do so, and he beamed with delight.

That same evening when the boys were seated with Edric and I around the table, I asked for their forgiveness. “Boys, I’m sorry that mom was in a bad mood tonight. I was wrong and I want to ask for your forgiveness. Even if I was busy with something it wasn’t okay that I acted irritated. Will you forgive me?” My children readily forgave me and the atmosphere around the dining table became light-hearted as we played a board game as a family.

By the end of the night, Elijah and I had finished his lapbook and Edan had a mini pop-up rainbow for himself. As I displayed the two books on top of our piano, I realized (once again) that busyness is never an excuse to dismiss or reject my children when they need me. It’s never worth it to wound their spirits just a little. Just a little moodiness is not excusable. Just a little irritation in my tone is not that much better than all out shouting. All these “just a little bits of negativity” can pile up in the hearts of my kids and hurt them deeply.

No grumpy moms allowed! Instead, I’d like to propose my mom’s approach to being a wife and mom. She said that a wife and a mother should be “predictably happy.”

This statement often plays in the back of my head when I’m feeling moody. I think of my parents and the cheerful manner in which they consistently related to one another and to us. When my dad would come home, and say, “Deonna, I’m home!” he always knew, and still knows, that he was coming home to a happy, smiling wife, and not a burdensome, nagging or frazzled one. As children, my siblings and I always felt like mom was excited to see us and be with us. She made us feel like we were more important than ministry work, personal activities, or other people. She still is this way!

Her secret has not been her perfect personality. It really is and continues to be her joy in the Lord. As the Psalmist says, “be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you righteous ones; and shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart.” Psalm 32:11

A predictably happy woman is a woman who walks intimately with the Lord and finds her joy in him. That is the secret! Thank you, mom, for your example to me!

My predictably happy mom giving a heart-to-heart talk to women during The Art of Being a Woman Conference.

Solar Powered Science

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Science is always more fun when it is hands-on! Elijah spent about an hour and a half putting this project together. The time passed quickly and I helped him a little but he kept working till he finished. This kit was from China but I am always on the look out for science kits that are sold locally. Kidz Labs are a great option and sold for relatively inexpensive at Toys R Us or Toy Kingdom.

Araw Ng Wika for Homeschoolers

TMA homeschool held an Araw Ng Wika last Friday. Kids performed, coops set-up booths, families brought food, and Edru Abraham, founder of KONTRA-GAPI, brought the ethnic music and dance ensemble of UP Diliman College of Arts and Letters to perform and conduct a workshop for the kids.

KONTRA-GAPI stands for Kontemporaryong Gamelan Pilipino. They use ideophones such as kulintang, gangsa, tongatong and kalutang; chordophones like the hegalong, kulibet, gitgit, and kuritang; aerophones such as the diwdiw-as, esmi, tonggali, and suling; and membranophones like the dabakan, sulibao and Cordillera drums of varying sizes and shapes. They also use the human body as a percussion instrument through applause, stomping, chest pounding, clicking and other means.

Our family enjoyed the festivities of the Araw Ng Wika and being with other homeschool families. It was great to see homeschoolers come together to celebrate all things Filipino with pride!

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The Spoon

The scene: One of my sons started crying out loud because he was frustrated with his older brother. Another stormed out of the room because he was hurt. And a third dramatized the whole thing in a tone that bordered on losing his cool. This was the situation a couple of days ago when the boys could not get along while playing with Lincoln Logs and Magna Tiles.

So I called them out for a “conference” in the living room, on the couch, and I brought out a wooden spoon. At first they thought I was going to use it as a make-shift spanking rod. “Are you going to spank us, mom?”, one of them nervously asked. But I told them, “I am not going to spank you. We are going to discuss what happened and whoever holds the spoon gets to talk. No one interrupts while the spoon is being held by someone.” This made sense to them and they nodded their heads.

I handed the spoon to Titus. He explained why he got upset in short sentences (he is only 3). “Elijah hit my head. I got angry.” Elijah was about to interject because it had been an accident and he was protesting that Titus’ over reaction was not fair, but I reminded him of the spoon rule. He quieted himself.

Next up was Edan. Edan took the spoon and articulated how he kicked down the tower he was making when a part if it was unintentionally knocked down by Elijah. But he acknowledged that he was wrong for losing his temper.

It was then Elijah’s turn as he reached out eagerly for the spoon. He was a little combative at first about the whole thing, “It was just an accident when I hit Titus’ head and when I bumped the tower and they got sooo angry at me!” But we stuck to the issue and isolated the root of his hurt — which was that he felt that Edan and Titus didn’t want to play with him. (He is a very relational person.) I had to tell him, “Edan and Titus were not right for losing their temper but you still need to remember that the accidents caused by you were very upsetting to them and you also need to say sorry.”

As we ended the meeting and everyone had a chance to share what they did wrong, what upset them, and how they needed to change, I reminded them about the Bible verse Edric had asked them to memorize. James 1:19 “Be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.” They agreed about how they had to apply this and that they had done things and said things that made Jesus sad.

At this point, I asked them all to hold on to the spoon and I said, “Now it’s time for each one of you to ask for forgiveness, forgive each other and say that you love one another.”

They followed wholeheartedly and their differences were settled in a loving and God-honoring manner. And they went right back to playing together and having fun!

This conflict resolution experience was a good lesson in parenting for me. As I listened to them and facilitated their restoration, God reminded me that I need to teach my kids how to settle conflict properly. It is extremely important that they grow better and not bitter from conflict with one another and with others.

The Lord reminded me that they are not yet equipped to process their feelings, identify and focus on the root issues in their conflicts. They also need encouragement when it comes to admitting their own faults, saying sorry, choosing to forgive one another, and recognizing that it boils down to their relationship with God. They must be taught that the most God-honoring solution is the best solution. While Edric and I don’t always have to be their referees, we are responsible for their relational health, and how they will deal with conflict in future relationships. After all, proper conflict resolution begins at home.

 

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Essential Pre-Writing Skills

I’ve created a separate entry for this list so that you can get ideas each time I add a new video / photo of homeschooling my toddler, Titus, or come across a site that I have researched.

Checklist for your toddler:

  • Hand Muscle Strength (Ex. Being able to hold, squeeze, pinch, pull, push, press, etc.)
  • Hand Dexterity and Hand-eye Coordination – Use hands to build and make things, manipulate objects like puzzles and toys, lace beads, tear paper, handle tools like measuring cups, spoon and fork, paint brushes, roll and pass a ball, etc.
  • Drawing, Scribbling, Coloring, Tracing, Copying
  • Hold a Pencil Properly

Ideas for you (videos):

Helpful Resources:

Related posts:

Essential Pre-math skills 

Homeschooling the Toddler Years

 

Character — Awareness

Last week, my husband, Edric, gave a devotion on the character of awareness. He asked the kids to memorize James 1:19 “Be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” Edric explained that one of the ways awareness can be practiced in the home is to avoid making judgments right away. As he talked with the boys, he shared that they can apply this by listening to one another first when they are frustrated or upset with each other. Awareness, according to him, also means being aware of one’s emotions and controlling them.

I took a video of the boys reciting their verse as I often do with their memory verses. It helps them to develop public speaking skills and reinforce what Edric is teaching for the week.

Edan and Titus recite James 1:19

Elijah recites and explains James 1:19 in his own words

I Am A Dinosaur!

When Elijah was about two years old, he was so into dinosaurs. By age three he had nearly memorized all the names of the dinosaurs. He even thought he was a dinosaur. He would only use three fingers on each hand to pick up objects in the house. And he would walk around the mall or other public places looking for “prey”.

In fact he looked like a crazy and weird kid when he would hide behind stalls or racks of clothing, follow people around pretending to attack them, and walk in a zig-zag pattern, hunched over like a dinosaur! Sometimes I would feel quite embarrassed!

One day I said to him, “Elijah you are not a dinosaur, you are a human, a person. God created you as a human being. Everything about you is special and unique.” I was not trying to quell his interest but I was getting a little bit concerned about his sense of reality. And sure enough when I said, “Look at your hands. You have five fingers and you can move each one…Dinosaurs don’t have hands like you do…” Elijah raised up his hands and showed me his fingers but he did not hold them up like human hands. He curled up his pointer, middle and ring finger and joined his thumb and pinky so that his hands looked like dinosaur claws! I could not help but laugh aloud because he was completely serious.

As I tried to explain to him why it was so wonderful to be a person, Elijah started to cry. There was nothing more in this world that he wanted than to be a dinosaur.

So what did Edric and I do? We decided to make the most of his interest instead of making an issue out of this phase. We took a positive approach to his interest and capitalized on it.

I got him dinosaur books and every kind of dinosaur toy I could possibly find (that was not too expensive!) so he could collect them and learn their names. He became inspired to learn to read. He exercised his memory skills. I also used dinosaurs to teach him math concepts. For example, “If there are two brontosaurus’ and a stegosaurus comes to play with them, how many will they be?”

When Elijah wanted to learn more about dinosaurs and there were not enough books around, I would research online with him. Together we learned the biblical perspective on creationism and at what point in history dinosaurs came into the picture.

When Edric’s sister, Denise, invited a then 4 year old Elijah to talk about dinosaurs to her preschool class, he did just that. I helped him put together his power point slides but he was the one who decided what to talk about. He did a wonderful job presenting to the kids and handled himself like an expert on dinosaurs. He even corrected me a couple of times during his talk for mislabeling one of his dinosaurs as an omnivore or something like that.

Dinosaurs also became a motivational tool to inspire good behavior.

Elijah, years ago. :)

That was four years ago. He has since developed varied interests like planes, Beyblades, board games, and origami. No matter what his interests are, I have used them as springboards for learning in some way. I have done the same for my other kids.

Interests (for as long as they are not harmful) are a powerful tool to inspire learning. It takes a little bit of creativity to integrate the subject matter but the responsiveness makes teaching a whole lot easier! So tap into that interest!

Hugs, Kisses and I Love Yous

Two days ago while one of my sons was doing a writing assignment he got really frustrated. He was so upset that his handwriting was not “perfect” that he threw his pencil on the floor and kicked his paper away from him. I was a bit stunned. He had never done this before and I had to process what I was going to do next. He looked at me as if expecting to be reprimanded.

Praise God for the wisdom he gives! He gave me the idea to “just hug him and tell him I love him.”

So I looked at my distressed son and said in a sweet and reassuring tone, “Come here.” I did not mouth out corrections or commands. Instead, I took him in my arms, hugged and kissed him and said, “I just want to hug you and tell you that I love you. I will love you no matter what. I will always love you and you don’t have to be perfect. I love you just the way you are and I know that you try your best and that what matters.” I also added, “I will only stop hugging you when you feel better!” And I squeezed him real tightly. He started to giggle and then laughed.

When I was confident that his emotions had settled down, I let him go. He went right back to doing his work and finished 17 pages of his language arts material with cheerfulness and gusto!

What I learned: Big hugs and sincere I love yous have an amazing medicinal and motivational effect on our children. So keep them coming!

God does the same thing with us and he paints a picture of his love through the story of the prodigal son. “So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. (Luke 15:20 NASB)

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Pre-Reading Skills Part 1

 

Letter recognitionhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Uax85N8B8s

I asked Titus to string letters. He had to look for the letter and then put it on a string so they were facing the right direction.

Phonological Awarenesshttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EAnlFjjYVyM

Titus and I do Sing, Spell, Read, and Write together. I let him listen to the music so he learns the phonetic sounds of the letters. In this activity, I “tested” his knowledge of the sounds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Readers Don’t Just Happen

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I gave my older son a project the other day. “Elijah, please pull out all the books you read this year, categorize them and then take photos or a video to show what you have read.”

This activity was one of his portfolio requirements for ending grade 2. It took him about an hour to organize everything and when I came into the room I was presently surprised. He had grouped his books by novels, chapter books, encyclopedias, general knowledge books, bible and character stories, short stories, magazines, origami, and he had a miscellaneous section.

Elijah has become such an avid reader. It has been great for me because he is more independent with his homeschooling.

God has blessed him with an amazing capacity to read and comprehend easily but I would also like to share how I encouraged him to love reading. First, I exposed him to literature early. I would read my Bible aloud while breastfeeding. This helped me have my quiet time, too! And, I believed in the power of God’s word to speak to the heart of Elijah — even if he was a wee little thing and asleep while I was reading.

Hebrews 4:12
For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

At 4 months I started reading children’s storybooks to him and I would interact with him by asking questions and identifying the answers as I read.

Instead of buying him alot of toys I was on the look out for good books. When he was a year old I introduced him to Sing, Spell, Read and Write (SSRW). He did not do the workbooks but we listened to the music together to learn the phonetic sounds of the letters. As much as possible he was not watching tv. In fact we did not have cable for a while so that helped alot.

I also read to him frequently – picture books, short stories, classics, nursery rhymes, bible stories, etc. By the age of five he had heard all of C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. He got me to read through all of them in six months. My mouth would get so dry reading aloud and I would sometimes fall asleep. He was so cute. When he noticed me start to clear my throat, he would say, “I’ll get you water, mom!” very energetically and run to the kitchen and back.

I used the SSRW program faithfully as well and it got him reading phonetically and with comprehension by 3. As soon as he got it, he just took off. He would read everything he could, even manuals! As we stuck to SSRW his reading ability improved.

When I would take him to the bookstore, I would let him pick out a book or two as a reward for good behavior or working hard.  And I would get books that targeted his interests — from dinosaurs to the solar system to bugs to airplanes. This kept him interested in reading and it also motivated him to excel in reading (so that he could read about everything that he fancied). In fact, I told him (as I have told my other kids), that “there is a door of knowledge that can only be opened with a special key and that key is reading. Once you learn to read well, you can unlock the door of knowledge, behind which is an amazing world where you can learn about anything you want to. I will not always be able to answer all your questions, but if you learn to read, you can answer those questions for yourself.” Maybe in another post I can actually write about a story I made up about the three doors — knowledge, understanding and wisdom (these three concepts were borrowed from Classical homeschooling). I have used this story to inspire my kids to read.

As Elijah’s reading ability continued to improve, he moved on to reading chapter books and an adult bible. He began reading an NIV Adventure Bible in January of this year and in six months he read Genesis to Kings. He turned 8 this year and hopes to finish reading through the Bible, too. :)

Last year he became interested in Hardy Boys books so I continue to buy him those. He is also reading a series of books called Left Behind.

In summary, if you want your child to love reading consider the following: have the right environment — one that is literature rich with a variety of reading materials made accessible to your children, read to them daily and dialogue about what you read, value books and literature, model a reader’s lifestyle, teach your child to read phonetically and with comprehension, and cut out competing activities like tv which make them disinterested in reading.

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Here is a picture of our kids’ reading nook at home. This holds a majority of their books but it’s still not big enough for everything so I had to give a way a big pile of books the other day. Edric and I created this space to make reading more an adventure because the kids have a to climb steps to get to these shelves.