High School Electives We Love

I am currently busy planning for the twins senior year, (I am ignoring the sadder implications of this) and have been buying and planning for their electives.  Most of our main curriculum choices are set but I have been twiddling with the electives. I am not including foreign language, science, english, math, history or Bible in this post.  Since I am in electives mode, I thought I would share some of our favorites.

Freshman Year

Intermediate Music Theory – (1) My kids had 7 years of piano and/or guitar lessons but I wanted to make sure they had a thorough grounding in theory and I needed a good fine arts credit on their transcript.  I thought this was a great on-line class. It was small, but it gave my kids the training they needed while also providing them an opportunity to work with classroom deadlines, tests, homework and a teacher other than me. There is also a Beginner class but mine were past that with their previous music education.

Traditional Logic I – (1) We did the Logic from MFW in 7th and 8th grade and then choose to add a more formal Logic in 9th.  This was a little dry, but it gave my kids the background in Logic that I wanted.  We were reviewing these formal logic fallacies just this week to prepare for the SAT Writing Portion and doing some of the logic in math.  I like my kids to really be trained to think critically.

Sophomore Year

AP Psychology -(1)  Sonlight has really developed some great new electives, and this is no exception.  It taught everything needed for the AP exam (my kids both passed) but from a Christian perspective.  This was a doable first AP course but it did take a lot of time and energy on their part. (Remember Honors and AP courses are weighted differently.  An ‘A’ is worth 5 points not 4 etc)

Junior Year

Beginning Java  – (.5) – Collin was originally going to make this into AP Comp Sci A but the high school we take APs through wasn’t offering this test year so, we made it into a semester elective and will take the test next year.  CodeAcademy is a great tool.  We did pay the $20 a month from Aug – December in order for him to do all the lessons and projects and have help available.

Artistic Pursuits II – (1)  This is another elective through Sonlight.  Caileigh loves art and we wanted to give her the time and credit to pursue it.  She has previously gone through book 1 of the High School series but I didn’t give her high school credit for it.

Senior Year

I am still working on this next year but I have found this new elective –

AP Computer Science A – (1) – Sonlight just came out with this elective from CompuScholar that will teach Java and prep for the AP test.  It’s an online subscription, but it is considerably cheaper to add an extra student on after paying for the first. (Score! I have twins!) It is the same price through Sonlight or through CompuScholar, but I got it from Sonlight when their electives were on sale so it cost me $25 less than CompuScholar.  If you have bought previous Cores from Sonlight, Sonlight should also cost you less, but I would look at the deals.  They also have courses for elementary, middle school and other high school courses.

The Value of the Egg Timer in Parenting and Homeschooling

One of the most simplistic, most used and easiest training tools I used with my kids was the simple egg timer. I bought each of my kids an egg timer and let them color it and decorate it to their hearts content.  To get kids to buy in, a little personalization works beautifully.  My kids each had an egg timer by the time they were two or three.  Egg timers were used in several ways in our home.

Blanket Time, Rest Time and Reading Time

When I wanted my littles to stay put on a blanket, I would put toys, activities and books on the blanket and set their timer.  To start this training, I started with 3 min for a toddler. “Stay on this blanket and play until the timer goes off and you will get a treat.” If they stayed on, they got to pick something from a treasure box. If they didn’t, I put them back on and started the time again.  My boys learned this in one try, my darling little girl learned this in about 30 tries, but eventually the fact that her brothers got a treat irritated her enough to stay.  We gradually increased this time to about 15 min.  You can take a shower, drink some tea or teach a math lesson in 15 minutes.  I know this from experience.

Okay, not the blanket time picture I was looking for, but they were so little and adorable.

My kids had rest time each and every day until they were teenagers.  As a matter of fact, my teenagers still have a tendency to go to their rooms and make themselves scarce during the mid afternoon.  It helps us all.  Again, my introverted boys were more than happy to go to their rooms and play by themselves but my daughter needed extra encouragement. She also needed less sleep so she gave up naps by about 2.5.  I would place the egg timer in her room and she was allowed out after an hour.  Sometimes, she stayed in because she was engrossed in her play and once she learned how to read, she loved to sit and read “her books”, meaning books not mandated and chose specifically by Mom.

We had mandated reading of Classics each day, particularly in the summer, and the egg timer allowed them to set their 30 min and read without any help from me.

15 Minute CleanUp

My kids have cleaned with me since they were little.  Before they were allowed to have screen time (after school, chores, piano, outside time and quiet time), we did a 15 minute cleanup.  Generally, this was right before I had to make dinner and prepare for my husband to come home.  As anyone who has spent more than 10 min with a small child knows, children are messy.  Learning and playing are serious business which apparently requires every toy, book, Lego, doll, tupperware etc to be pulled out and strewn across the house.  I never worried about this too much during the day until 15 min cleanup.  I would set the timer and everyone would quickly put everything away.  I gave each child a zone, Connor pick up all the books, Collin pick up the Legos, Caileigh put the shoes and tupperware away and we would move as quickly as possible to cleanup.  When the timer was up, and if we had finished, the kids got a fun snack and watched something while I made dinner.  Daddy came home to a mostly straightened up house, dinner was on it way, and kids were happy.  It was a win, win, win.  This worked a good 75% of the time.  The other 25%, I met Scott at the door where I took the car keys, left him the kids and told him to text me when they were fed and in bed.


The egg timer was a life saver during school.  We did most of our subjects together but math and LA were done independently.  Each child had an independent folder each day filled with math facts, copywork, handwriting and Bible and poetry memorization. While I worked with one of the kids teaching math and grammar, the other two were to work on their notebooks.  I set a timer for 15 min in which they were to work independently without distracting me while I taught their sibling.  If they worked diligently and well, they received a marble for their jar, at a certain marble number, they received a prize or a date. If they did not, I gave them double the work.  This allowed me to have one on one time with each child.  I always started with the younger children first.  Since I had twins, I traded off who went with Mom first.  Caileigh found the timer harder at first but she quickly got used to it.

Once I had taught them their math or grammar for the day, I would write how much time I thought a certain assignment should take them (I always added a 5 minute bumper), and they would get to work.  Some kids find the timer hard to work with, but as many tests are timed, I felt like this was a good time to train this skill.  Obviously, certain learning challenges might find this impossible, but I think its worth a try.  I think it’s better to train this with younger kids than try to wait until high school tests that really matter.

Here’s the type of Egg Timer I used.  However, look at all the amazing ones they have now! My daughter would have loved this Kitty Timer.  This Star Wars one would have thrilled Collin, and Connor liked anything Streamlined.

5 Ways My Kids Aren’t Normal

Our Pastor spoke Sunday on how we are are to be different from the world and how that difference should make the world different. We, as Christians, should be a little strange, set apart to be a light. As homeschoolers, that difference is intensified. We are walking a path that’s less traveled, less mainstream, less normal. Sometimes, it seems downright odd.

When we first start homeschooling, whether that be at the start of formal schooling or in the midst of their education, one of the worries is whether our kids will be normal, will they fit in, or are we making them social outcasts? I think every single homeschool parent has had these worries and, if we are honest, we think about it again at the start of middle school, during high school and when we graduate them and they start making their way into the world. We want them to belong, to have friends, to have community. Homeschooling seems to fly opposite of those wants and wishes.

However, after 15 years of homeschooling and having a kid in College and 2 as Juniors in high school, I have come to a realization. My kids are not normal and I am really happy about that.

1. My kids are free to be who God designed them to be.

When my kids were little, they each had a style that seemed to fly in the face of fashion. Connor loved really bright colors and wore them together. The more neon the better. As a matter of fact, my 6’4 introverted Computer Science Engineer still loves bright colors. He loves his bright blue, green, coral and burgundy pants and wears them all the time. He stands out in a sea of blue, beige and black in the Engineering College. Caileigh loved to wear all the patterns, all the time, together. Polka dots, stripes, paisley, all together on her tiny, petite frame. Collin liked all of his clothes to have numbers on them. If there wasn’t a number on his shirt, his Grammy ironed them on. They liked what they liked and they were free to do so.

Now, this plays out in who they are. Girls aren’t supposed to like machining and fabrication? Caileigh has never been told that and she loves it, so she machines. Collin seems to just gather the best and the brightest around him without even thinking about it all while being the “Dad” friend. You know, the friend that is the moral compass of the entire group. One of our beloved Bible Bowl Coaches mentioned this to me recently. He just said that he loved how the homeschoolers in our group just seem to be free to be who they are. His kids were all in traditional school throughout, but he said loves to watch the homeschoolers just be who God made them to be regardless of what others think of that. Blue hair? Fine. Take charge of the group to plan on how to maximize their time to ride all the roller coasters? Great, let’s do it. Knit and program a piano scarf to actually play music.? Perfect. Have the worst puns ever, but make everyone happy to be with them? What fun!

2. They know how to interact with others of all ages.

My kids know how to talk to adults, to kids their age and to little ones. When we do a co-op or get together with friends for a game night, we invariably have a wide age range. Everything from a baby or toddler and a grandparent or two. You just never know, and they are comfortable with all of them. The segregation of people based on age seems odd and pointless to them. Our friend’s Grandpa always has a fun math riddle or game for them and if a toddler or baby shows up, then someone gets to hold the baby or play Legos. It’s a win-win situation. All age groups have a benefit to them.

3. They love each other and love to spend time with each other. They seem to even like us!

Just like all kids, they had their spats and fights, but we always stressed that if they couldn’t be each other’s best friends, then outside play dates were cancelled. There were years that we had to work through Peacemaking for Families, but they learned how to handle conflict appropriately and learned to pick their battles. Now, they love to spend time with each other. Nothing makes this Mom’s heart happier than to see them all huddled together talking and laughing. They choose to go to movies or dinner together, inviting other friends too, but often just the three of them. I love that. Connor even invites us to go to events with his college friends. Scott went to a midnight movie with Connor and his entire Engineering Honors Dorm. Just Scott and all the college students. It didn’t even seem to faze Connor, he wanted his Dad to go, so Connor invited him. That’s not normal, but it is beautiful! His college friends say that our entire family are just clones of each other. I don’t know what they means, but I think it’s good.

4. They know what they believe and are firm in that.

When Connor went to his first year in College, living in an Engineering Honors Dorm in a large secular public university, I was a little concerned. When Caileigh and Collin started spending 30-40 hours a week at Robotics and were the only homeschoolers, I was concerned. I knew we had taught them well, I knew we prayed over them, I knew they understood the difference between right and wrong, but how would that hold out against the world around them? God had them, He didn’t need my worry or concern. Connor spent a summer at MIT interning and found a good, theologically sound church and went by himself and stood firm. Caileigh and Collin have a great time at Robotics but they hold firm and aren’t afraid to speak their mind if it’s necessary. They haven’t been swayed, their faith is their own.

Some resources that helped us teach our kids how to hold firm –

Does God Exist

Who Is God?

5. They love to learn.

Let’s be clear, they don’t always love school, but they love to learn. Caileigh spends a lot of her free time listening to science podcasts while drawing, Collin reads BBC religiously and Connor still asks me to find “good” books on his college subjects. They take on subjects themselves that have nothing to do with school just because they are interested. A comic book that also teaches Computer Science? They read all of them. I don’t see many other kids actively searching to learn new things just because they are interested. That’s not normal, but it’s wonderful.

Normality is highly overrated. I love that my kids aren’t normal. I love that they get to be who they were designed to be. I love that they stand out in a crowd. I love that they are challenged to do hard things, to go the extra mile. They don’t stop from doing something just because no one else is doing it. They are their own people.

3 Steps to Transitioning Back to School

We had a wonderful holiday. We didn’t travel, we played, rested and watched many movies. It was a great break but alas, it’s time to step back into the real world. Coming back to school or going back to work is never easy, but here are some things I have found that ease the transition.

Three steps in going back to school that might help you not lose your mind –

1. Start Slow! We are only doing two subjects this week for three days. Just a gentle, rolling start. Next week we will add a couple more subjects and by January 15th we will be fully back. Seriously, do everyone a favor, and start back slowly.

2. Get Back Into Your Routine! The first thing I do to get back into our routine, before attempting a full school week, is to get our sleeping schedule back into some kind of semblance of order. My teens like to go to bed late and sleep in even later, but as of today, bedtime and wake up time will be enforced. Getting bedtime routines in place also help us to get eating habits back in place. I started tossing all the extra pies and cookies in the trash this morning to help get off the sugar for the start of school. Once bedtime routines are back, the kids slip back into eating at regular times. I find having scheduled meal and snack times to be really helpful. Our cleaning routine will also go back into place as of tomorrow. Getting sleeping, eating, exercise, and screen times back into place will also help with the next item – attitudes.

3. Doing Attitude Checks! Seriously, nothing will torpedo a positive start back into school like bad attitudes, both mine and theirs. I remind myself that homeschooling is a privilege and getting my attitude in place is always the first step. I usually call a, “Come to Jesus Meeting”, with my kids at the beginning of the transition time to go over rules, expectations, discipline and rewards that are standard at our house. Somehow during the holidays, these seem to disappear and be forgotten by them and by me. Having an official meeting to set these back into place helps me to outline my expectations and give them a place to start. I am not a fan of just expecting the kids to know what I want without me clearly explaining and teaching the behaviors and attitudes I expect. This needs to be deliberate.

Remember to plan something fun, too! It’s hard to have all the fun in the holidays and then the pretty lights are taken down, treats are thrown away and we have to start school. It makes me sad (good thing my birthday is two weeks after Christmas) and I know it makes my kids sad. Planning a fun craft, watching a fun movie, or even a drive to a special park will help.

Prepping to Step Into the World

This week we had a lot of firsts. First time the twins had a real, actual job, first time they drove to their job, first time Caileigh volunteered at a secular conference ( it was a super cool Space Symposium) by herself. All of these firsts make me a little nervous, and I find myself praying over them a lot. Especially for Caileigh. She’s the only female at the Robotics company (her brothers both work there so it’s fine), and she was walking in to Volunteer in a place where I don’t know anyone. As a Mom of a beautiful 16 year old, this gives me a pause. Letting them go into the world means some anxious moments, but there are some things I felt really good about.

1. Talking honestly about the world. We have tried to be honest about the world in age appropriate conversations. It is a scary place and our kids need to know that and be prepared.

2. Teach them respect for themselves. We have had conversations from when they were very young about appropriate behavior of others and how they were “the bosses” of their body and their hearts. No one should be allowed to infringe upon that. No one. And if anyone tried, they should speak up and tell.

3. Pay attention to their surroundings. As a daughter of a law officer, I was always told to pay attention to my surroundings. Know where the exits are, keep an eye on anyone acting oddly, and know where the authorities in the room were. I still sit where I can see the doors and scope out all the exits in every movie theatre and mall.

4. Be with them. I never left my kids with anyone, including church, sports, clubs or camps unless I either sat with them or I knew the people in charge until my kids were old enough to handle themselves. Don’t be cowed by the fact that none of the other parents do that, it’s your responsibility to know that your kids are in good hands. There were times that my kids were not, and I bustled them out of there and then got supervisors involved.

5. Teach them self-defense. I was never so glad of the 6 years Caileigh had in karate until this week when I watched her walk into a conference, by herself, in her professional clothes and high heels. I took great peace knowing that if anyone tried anything, she has the skills to flip them over her head or take them to the ground. I know that sounds violent and a little unloving towards others, but I want her to be able to defend herself. I had to when I was young, and it gave me great confidence. Our boys also know how to defend themselves and others. You would never know to look at my computer loving, engineer geek, but a bully once tried to push Connor and found himself on the ground with Connor over him telling him, “I warned you not to try it.” We had a great sensei who always instructed them to try words first and taught them to be fierce with their words and tone long before they resorted to force, which we appreciated. He once said that Caileigh was the scariest little thing he had ever encountered, she could go from adorable little blonde to frightening little monster in 2 seconds flat. I have to say that I found that reassuring as I watched her walk into a conference room with all adults by herself.

Just as I prep them for college and career academically so that they can step in confidently, I think we need to prepare them for the reality of the world. We will not be able to walk beside our kids forever and we need to be wise enough to teach them the skills they need.

12 Days of Christmas Study

This is an older blog on a Christmas Unit Study that we did in 2012.  We decorated our tree last night and pulled these decorations out and even 5 years later, the kids laughed and reminisced at how much fun we had during this study.  Our ornaments are hysterical and very rarely exactly match the song, but man are they funny!

Here is a very quick overview of our study this season.

Main Book – The 12 Days of Christmas by Haidle

Coloring Book – 12 Days of Christmas Coloring Book

Activity Book – Christmas Activity Book

I loved the main book as it explained that the original song was used to explain Biblcal concepts to children and how Jesus was our greatest gift.  Every day it explained a new concept and tied it to the classic song.  The coloring and activity books were great to give my girl something to color and my boys something to figure out and do.

We started our countdown on the 13th, but traditionally it starts on the 25th and goes through Jan. 6th which is Epiphany. It was a great study to do before Christmas as well, and as an added bonus, I didn’t have to get my act together until the 13th of December instead of the traditional advent.

We went on a 12 Days of Christmas Ornament Hunt on the 12th of December which was amazingly fun. We went to at least 7 or 8 different stores to find an ornament that represents each day.  Some are traditional, and some are hysterical.  Some of my favorites are the Dancing Hippo Lady that represents 9 Dancing Ladies or the western dressed cow that represents Maids a Milking.  We giggled and laughed and joked through the evening and made some wonderful memories.  When we got home we took gold and silver pens and labelled each ornament and then each day as we read the day, we colored the sheet (mostly) and put the ornament up.  We also did a small St. Nicholas celebration and a fun St. Lucia Day celebration.

These are a few of my favorite things – Christmas Edition

My poor kids.  I like to give presents that are fun but that have some educational quality to them. When Connor was 12 or 13 he started asking before opening his presents was whether they were fun or were they School? I usually answered with a, “yes”. I still like giving presents that are both.

I thought I would share some of our greatest hits for fun, educational presents.

For Toddlers –

Lauri Travel Tote
We actually had two of these, one for the car and one for the classroom which only came out for blanket time for the twins. My twins loved this toy and we used it for years.

Rainbow Blocks
These blocks weren’t around for my kids but I bought them for my niece and nephew and they loved them.  I always think blocks are a good idea.
Pre-School and Early Elementary

Play Grocery Store
For K and 1st, the twins only played math games and didn’t do any formal math until they tested into 2a in Singapore (although I had them start in 1b).  They thought math was fantastic and the best thing ever.  We used a grocery store similar to this.  I put “prices” on all the food, gave them real coins and fake dollars, and printed out simple forms for them to write the prices of the food out to add and let them play.  The twins and I would play together for about 20 minutes and then they would spend 30-40 minutes playing with it on their own. They learned money, adding and subtracting and how to give change all through play.  It was great.

Coloring Playhouse
There are several versions of this.  We have had the Playhouse and the Castle.  This is the toy I would buy when I needed for the kids to be occupied for long periods of time.  Last year, I bought this for my niece and nephew for Advent and then had new markers, stickers, gingerbread men crafts every other day for all of December.  My sister told me it was a complete hit and kept her kids busy during a sick spell at their house.
Upper Elementary

Snap Circuits
If you don’t have Snap Circuits, don’t wait any longer.  We still pull these out for Elementary kids who are visiting.  We have had several different kits throughout the years.  There’s even an Arcade Game kit.

Keva Planks Contraptions
Connor rolled his eyes as he opened this toy one Christmas but within an hour the entire house, including grandparents, were playing with them.  Then I was asked why I only bought one set.  We used this to build Roman buildings, Jamestown, The Taj Mahal, the Egyptian Pyramids and a marble run that started on the kitchen counter to the kitchen table, chair and then floor. This became the toy they played with while I read Story of the World and they would build something from our reading.

Art Paper Dispenser
For my little artist, Caileigh, this art dispenser was pure gold.  Along with art supplies all in a basket, she was thrilled.  It saved some of the muss and fuss and we actually used it to make some history timelines as well.
Middle School
Little Bits
For those techie kids, Little Bits is a wonderful thing.  Connor loves these.

Mini Weapons of Mass Destruction
I took the supply list in the beginning of this book and made an “Awesome Box”, as the kids call it.  We have several of these books and all the kids, their friends, their Dad, his friends and all of the men in the family love them.  They are addictive and fun.  Be warned that building can get messy and normal looking pens may explode ( just enough to startle you).
**** check out my blog on Making Christmas Memorable!

Becoming a Student of Your Child

When I was young and before I got married, I worked at Focus in the Family.  I worked there for five years and one of my responsibilities was to listen to the broadcast and write a summary for our phone staff.  I also read all of Dr. Dobson’s books and articles to make sure our phone staff had all the info they needed to be able to answer the phones. That’s a lot of Dr. Dobson.  Sometimes, I tease that I don’t know if I have an original thought regarding parenting or marriage or it’s just that Dr. Dobson is fully programmed in my head.  One of the things Dr. Dobson always said was, “Be a student of your spouse and your children.”. What he meant was that we are to study and know those loved ones.  Not just spend time with them or even spend time teaching them, but to spend time watching them, learning their nuances, their love languages, their personalities, their likes and dislikes.  In studying them we begin to know them at a deeper level, we are able to help them, support them and even do a better job teaching them.  

We have had a fall break and drove to Seattle, WA for a family wedding.  I personally think a road trip is one of the better times for this type of study. Musical tastes, topics of conversation, how they handle stress or exhaustion are all telling.  Even a morning at a beach reveals traits. Collin looks for the perfect skipping rock and analyzes and rejects stones until he finds one that is suitable.  After he throws the rock, he analyzes his throw, the trajectory and determines how to make the next throw better.  He is continually thinking strategically and is planning on how to makes things, schedules and situations better. Caileigh is infinitely curious. She looks for new and interesting things and then wants to show someone her findings.  She and her Dad zigzag slowly across the beach stopping frequently for something noteworthy or beautiful. She searches continually and then wants to know why or how it works.  She is the one who also has facts about almost anything biological at her fingertips.  

I usually fall back and watch my kids.  I note their interests, what grabs their attention, and I file the info to think about later.  I use this information to help tailor curriculum, to help direct them into activities and ultimately to help my kids as they chose colleges, majors and careers.  It’s funny how often I still help Connor in some of these.  He wants me to talk through some of the tracks and internship opportunities he has. Generally, I just repeat the things he has told me about his classes or how certain things he enjoyed and others he hasn’t.  We talk through his God given personality traits and where he needs to stretch a bit. None of what I say is earth shattering, it’s just that I have studied, noted and spent time analyzing my kids and then I can use that to help better support them.

Even with little ones this is effective.  It’s how we decided what to buy for Christmas.  Scott and I would take them to a toy store and let them play and watch what they gravitated to. We didn’t necessarily buy anything but we spent time watching. They may say they want that ‘cool’ new toy but if they spend only a minute or two looking at it and then they spent 20 minutes rebuilding the wooden train set, there was no way I was going to buy the ‘cool’ toy.  

This type of study is also useful is discipline and correction.  Personally, I think a negative consequence is far more useful if it’s meaningful to the child.  Losing technology was brutal for Connor, Caileigh hated isolation and Collin dislike losing the freedom to do what he wanted. I also used this strategy in developing positive consequences for each child.  If Caileigh stayed focused during school and worked hard, we would do an art project. Connor could have an equal amount of computer time each day as the amount of time he spent in piano practice and foreign language. Collin could watch Stars Wars or play video games with Daddy on Friday if he did all of his chores. One size does not fit all. Our expectations and rules were all the same but how we achieved them were not, they were tailored to meet each child’s needs. 

Dr. Dobson is completely right.  To be the parents ( and spouses) that God wants us to be we must be students of our loved ones. 

Keeping Connection in High School -Morning Meeting

When my kids were in Elementary and Middle School we always started the day together.  We talked through prayer requests, prayed together, did Bible together, and started our day together.  When Connor hit high school, his curriculum was designed to be independent and I had only planned to meet with him once a week.  It took me three days into the new school year to decide that I really dissliked that and we changed the structure before the next week started.

Since that time, we have a corporate Morning meeting and then I touch base with each of my kids through out the morning.  Obviously, that was more difficult when Connor was in high school and the twins were not, but it was so much better. 

During the corporate Morning meeting we –

  • Talk through prayer requests
  • Pray together
  • Read poetry – we read the Children’s Book of Poetry and/or the poetry books included in high school
  • Talk about current events- my kids are supposed to read at least 3 news article a week and be able to summarize them. We then discuss. 
  • Go through our daily schedule and events
  • Read aloud. We have read everything from Lord of the Rings, Susan Wise Bauer’s, ” The Story of Western Science” to “A Christmas Carol”. 

Daily Individual Meetings-

I have tried to read at least one to two books in my high schoolers curriculum so that I can have a thorough discussion with them and maintain a connection with their learning.  I also do all the Bible questions out loud instead of  having them write them so that I can make sure they are thinking through the Bible and keeping the Bible verses in context. We go over all their daily lessons and look ahead in their week so that I can help them begin to help them to prioritize their time.  I ask my kids to take thorough notes in math and science and at least once a week  I ask to see these notes to make sure they are thorough.

Does this take more time? Absolutely.  Was it difficult when I had a kid in high school, two in middle school and a pre-school niece at my house? Yes, yes and yes. 

To be able to do all of this and still be able to work with the pre-schooler and then do the twins history and science together, I had to have daily independent lesson plans made for each child.  Each child also had to be trained to keep going on the next task, even when they got stuck, to stay on task and had to learn not to interrupt Mom while she was with someone else.  Generally, individual meetings took less than 20 minutes and I would take questions between meetings. This also meant I needed to train my niece in blanket time.  If my kids were in Elementary, each child had a folder with their daily independent work in it.  Similar to workboxes, but took way less room. Folders had copywork, handwriting, spelling, daily math facts, and math ( if I didn’t need to teach anything).  If my kids finished with their folder, they were directed to read out of the book basket, practice the piano, or read their literature book from the General Reading List which they picked weekly or bi-weekly. 

I found that High Schoolers need more connection and help than the weekly meeting.  They also miss the being together (even if they refuse to admit it), and I find a lot of value in praying together.  I found that the daily accountability was really useful to my freshmen as they couldn’t quite handle that level freedom and needed my help in priotizing and keeping a schedule which included all their extra curricular activities. Training in keeping and following a schedule, making to do lists and looking over an entire weeks schedule has been really vital for my busy college student and my twins who are crazy busy all the time.  They get all their school work done, do their chores, study for Bible Bowl, maintain their social lives, and spend massive amounts of time in leadership at Robotics and have time to sleep because spent time in those early high school years teaching them how-to manage and maintain a schedule and much of that training happened in morning meetings. 

If It’s Worth Doing, It’s Worth Doing Right!

Homeschooling is difficult.  It is a constant balance of doing the have to and the want to, it is balancing being the Mom and the teacher.  It means we balance several full-time jobs that all require our constant attention and still strive to have a well-ordered, happy home that our hard-working husbands can come home to each night.  It is a constant balancing act of plates that could all drop on our heads at any moment.  I live this constant high wire act every day and I understand the strain but I want to add two more plates to the act.  The balance of character training and that of academic excellence.

Often we hear that we must choose our priority in homeschooling, whether we are going to strive for character development in our children or that of academic excellence.  I think this is a faulty premise.  Character training and academic excellence are not mutually exclusive.  They are not an either/or proposition, they can be different sides of the same coin – a great homeschool environment.

One of the goals in our homeschool has been to train and prepare our children for whatever God has for them.  In Jeremiah 29:11 it says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  He has plans for our children and whether they are to be a wife and a mom or a Pastor or a Professor of Mathematics, I want them as prepared as possible to walk the path that God has set them on.  To do that, I believe that we need to focus on character development, spiritual disciplines and academic excellence.

Perhaps we are simply not asking the right question.  Perhaps the question isn’t whether we should focus on character or academics.  Perhaps we need to simplify the choice by focusing on excellence.  The philosopher Aristotle said this, ” We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, then is not an act, but a habit.”  Perhaps this is what we need to focus on, striving for  excellence in whatever we do and making it a habit. If we are training our children in character, with patience and diligence, we refuse to accept unkindness or dishonesty.  If we are teaching our children, we refuse to accept a paper that is less than their best.  We need to calmly, lovingly and consistently ask for our child’s best whether we are dealing with sibling rivalry, their bed not made or a math paper that is not done correctly.

Excellence should not be confused perfection.  I love what the actor Micheal J Fox says, “I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection.  Excellence, I can reach for; perfection is God’s business.”  We are not asking our children or indeed ourselves to be perfect, we are asking for diligence and the perseverance to strive to do better.  We are not asking a child to get the answer the right the very first time but to promise them that we will keep going until they have it mastered.  We need to promise our children that they are not alone in this process but that we will be there to stand beside them encouraging and mentoring them.

At the beginning of each year, my husband and I set goals for our children in three areas, spiritual, personal and academic.  We recognize that our children need all three areas to be properly prepared to do what God has for them.  They need to know and love God, they need to be able to get to a class on time with all of their books and be able to to have the education they need to succeed.  We want to stand beside them and say, “You have some wonderful gifts that God has given you.  Let’s work on your strengths to make them stronger and strengthen these areas of weakness”.  Let us not limit our children by failing to recognize that we need to ask for excellence in whatever they do, whatever they say and how they act.