Category: Homeschooling

Wisdom and Foolishness

Summer is a terrific time to read Proverbs and work on character training.  I love that God gave us His Word to guide us in raising our kids.  Throughout the years reading and memorizing Proverbs have held us in good stead.  This is another old post but a good reminder for us all.


I have been reading Ted Tripp’s new book, “Instructing a Child’s Heart”. My poor children, I read a book and then they have new training. It’s a wonder they don’t sit down and cry each time they see me with a new parenting book. Anyway, Mr. Tripp was writing about the difference between wisdom and foolishness. He mentioned a verse in Proverbs which started me off on a hunt in Proverbs. I decided that I would read a different verse to the kids each morning to help remind them that they have a choice in how they respond to instruction – with wisdom or with foolishness. I challenged them to think about what they would rather be known by, their wisdom or their foolishness. I told them that I would use those words when I saw either behavior in them.

So far we have read,

Proverbs 1:77 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Proverbs 9:7He who corrects a scoffer gets dishonor for himself,
And he who reproves a wicked man gets insults for himself.
Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you,
Reprove a wise man and he will love you.
9Give instruction to a wise man and he will be still wiser,
Teach a righteous man and he will increase his learning.
We did have a brief talk about who they took instruction from and that we need to be wise in those decisions as well, but that they have a choice in taking instruction to heart whether in school or in everyday life. Our children can choose to be fools or to be wise boys and girls – oh and that appropriate consequences follow each decision.  Caileigh does NOT like to be told that she is making foolish decisions so she made much better choices yesterday! I don’t think the boys like it either but they weren’t near as vocal about it.

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“Let me fry you an egg”…

****Throwback post ***** I still find this advice invaluable.  This year, with Caileigh on all of her different medications which really affected her, I needed to be aware of giving a her a break when necessary.  Taking a moment away from the emotions can also really help to diffuse a situation and be able to look at things with clear eyes.

This spring, I heard Susan Wise Bauer of the Well Trained Mind, speak at the Midwest Homeschool Convention on the things that her parents did really right and did not do as well. One of the things that caught my attention was how her Mom dealt with melt-downs. We all have them and sometimes, our kids have them. This is different than continual whining or complaining which needs to be disciplined. This is the, “I just can’t seem to get control and I know I’m in the wrong but I just can’t do it” melt down. All three of my kids had one of these today. I knew it was coming because we are three weeks into school and hadn’t had one yet so we were due. Susan Wise Bauer’s mom, Jessie, used to ask her kids, ” Do you need a sandwich? A walk? A shower or do you need to take a nap?” when they were in the midst of a melt-down. Growing up, my dad used to ask if he could “fry you an egg”. Either way, sometimes we need to take a moment and help our kids learn to handle these melt-downs. Taking care of our physical needs can sometimes put a screeching halt in these melt-downs.

For younger elementary kids, tell them “We need to get self-control over our emotions and then we’ll take a break for a minute” Maybe go outside and run around for a couple of minutes and then get them a snack and try school again. For older kids, ask them to get self-control and allow them to go to their rooms to do that if needed, have them take a walk or a run, have a snack and maybe move on to another subject for awhile and then hit the hard subject after a bit. Connor often needs a walk outside and success at something else then he can look at the subject with a clear head.  Don’t forget to give them a hug and let them know that it’ll be okay.

I found this to work well on hard discipline days too. Sometimes we just need to break the cycle and get control.  A step away from the emotions can often be exactly what we need to calm the situation.

I needed a nap today. Caileigh needed a hug and a snack, Collin needed a hug and to play with Holly and Connor needed to go to his room then switch to something different for a bit. We all made it and school ended on a successful and positive note. Whew!

 

 

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STEM Activities for Girls

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Caileigh and I just finished a Girls in STEAM Camp for our Robotics Team.  I was so proud of Caileigh as she designed, planned and then taught a camp of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) activities that were also Artistic for girls in upper Elementary.  It was a wonderful camp and the girls learned so much and had so much fun.  One of the things that I heard from several of the Moms was that they were so thankful for an all girl camp of these subjects because these girls are usually surrounded by boys doing boy type of activities in these subjects.  The girls enjoyed the all the color, the pretty flowers and that they could still be girly while also being scary smart.  One Mom remarked that it had been so hard to find a place for her daughter to belong.  That is one of the joys of homeschooling.  My girl didn’t know that she was unusual or that she had different interests than most girls.  She was and is free to be the amazing girl that God designed her to be.

All kids, girls and boys, need to be introduced to STEM activities while they are little.  Science is amazing and the design and care that God took shows in things like math are awe inspiring.  However, the tendency is just to get boys building or engineering toys. One because many of the toys are packaged for boys and sometimes because our girls aren’t naturally drawn to them.  However, I think we need to be purposeful in introducing those topics

 

We were browsing in one of our favorite toy stores today and came across some new books and activities designed for girls in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and I was so excited about them that I not only wanted to share them with you but also put on mu to buy list for the girls in our life for upcoming birthdays and Christmas.

Structuring High School

Spend some time with your teen dreaming and talking about their dreams and plans for life after high school. We need to be realistic but we also need to make sure we are planning for whatever plans God has planned for our kids. We need to spend some time with our teens talking about their goals and aspirations and helping them to see what is possible.

I personally think that we should plan for college. Even if your kids don’t end up going to college, the academic foundation that you can give them now will hold them in good stead all their lives. Not to mention that I am seeing and consulting with far too many parents and students who didn’t plan for college and in the student’s Junior or Senior year they changed their mind and end up desperately scrambling. It is much harder to play catch up than to plan for it in the first place. I also believe that we, as parents, need to be vision casting for our kids that all things are possible with God and we need to be planning for as many eventualities as possible. I hope my kids get married but if that’s not something that God has for them, my boys need to know how to cook, clean and do their own laundry. If my daughter doesn’t get married, she needs to be able to maintain a car, mow the lawn and have a job that can support her. I work hard at preparing my kids for whatever God may have them so that when that day comes that God asks them to follow Him, they can feel as confident as possible in their abilities. My job is to prepare them as well as I can and that includes planning for the possibility of college. Far better to be over prepared than to be under prepared.

Start planning by finding out what your child needs to get into college.  

Most colleges want to see at least –

3 years of Math (Algebra 1, Algebra 2, and Geometry) STEM majors need 4 years, if possible through Calculus.

4 years of English

2 Lab Sciences (Biology and Chemistry) STEM majors need at least 3, if not 4. Physics if possible and and Advanced or AP class.

2-3 years of Foreign Language. Colleges generally like to see all the years in the same language.

2 years of History. 1 needs to be US History

1 Semester of Government

1 Semester of Economics

 

If my child is going to be a STEM major, they need 4 years years of math and preferably, Calculus. Working backwards looks like this:

STEM Majors need 4 years, preferably Calculus.

12th – Calculus

11th- Trig and Pre- Calc

10th- Geometry

9th – Alg 2

8th – Alg 1

7th – Pre- Algebra

By working from what they need in College, you can easily figure out what courses they need in high school.

Carnegie Credit

Per its original definition, the Carnegie Unit is 120 hours of class or contact time with an instructor over the course of a year at the secondary (American high school) level. Strictly speaking, this breaks down into a single one-hour meeting, on each of five days per week for a total of 24 weeks per year. However, knowing that classes usually meet for 50 minutes yields a value of 30 weeks per year. A semester (one-half of a full year) earns 1/2 a Carnegie Unit.[1]

To graduate, most students need between 20 – 22 credits

To have a General College Prep High school students need 24- 28 credit

For a Rigorous College Prep High School students should have 26 – 30 credits

***For a good breakdown on this you can goto the HSLDA website to print out their brochure on Homeschooling Through High School

http://www.hslda.org/highschool/brochures.asp

I can give you a general idea of what colleges want but I highly recommend that you visit different colleges websites to see what each college wants to see in a high school graduate and then what they want for scholarship applicants. I had quite the spreadsheet when my kids were in 7th and 8th grade which helped me prep for high school. As Yogi Berra said, “Know where you are going so you don’t end up somewhere else.”  

Picking Electives

My kids usually have 6 main credits a year (Bible, History, English, Math, Science and Foreign Language) and then 2-3 electives and 2 extra credits.

We have our kids take atleast 2 years of Physical Education, in our case Karate because I feel much better with all of my kids well versed in self-defense.  We also have them take atleast 2 years of music or music theory and atleast 1 of art or art appreciation.  It is important to us that our kids be well rounded and have a foundational knowledge of the fine arts.  We believe that they bring much joy and beauty into life and want to encourage our kids in those outlets. 

Health is an elective we take, generally only .5 credits and includes nutrition and good habits.  Many of the electives we have our kids take are less about the academics and more about training our kids the best we can for adulthood.  We also have them take atleast 1.5 years of Logic and a year of Philosophy as we are training them to think and to be prepared for the world around them.

We have our kids also pick electives that they are passionate about, things like computer programming, art history, psychology, C.S.  Lewis Literature,  Guitar, Piano Composition etc. 

Since our kids were young, they were allowed to pick 2 extra curricular activities.  They have been everything from Bible Bowl, Robotics, Irish Dance, to Soccer, and Baseball. As these are extra curricular, if they don’t have all of their school work done by a certain time, they don’t go.  School is their priority and everything else is dependent on their school work.

This year, the twins 9th grade year looked like this –

Old Testament Survey – 1 credit

Honors Ancient History – 1 credit

Honors English 1 – 1 credit

Algebra II (Collin) – 1 credit

Geometry (Caileigh) – 1 credit

Honors Chemistry – 1 credit

Spanish 1 -1 credit

Intermediate Music Theory – 1 credit 

Formal Logic – .5 credits

Karate – .5 credits

That gives them a total of 8 credits for their Freshman year.  If they continue with 8 credits a year, they will have 32 credits which puts them in range for Highly Selective Colleges. 

***Just a note, not all kids can or should take this hefty of a load.  You must meet your kids where they are at, and as I have said many times, each student should have an individualized path based on their goals, abilities and strengths.  My kids are strong academically but have weaknesses in other areas.  God creates each child and has a wonderful plan for each of them and they should be encouraged in that path and not made to fit in to a one size fits all mode. I can’t sew, knit, crochet or embroider but what I can do is teach, speak and plan curriculum. I would love to do all those beautiful crafts and I so appreciate those who can, but I am going to be content with who God made me to be. We must help our kids be who God made them to be, we strengthen their strengths and help them to overcome their weaknesses not try to fit them into a mold they weren’t created to fit into.  Someone once tried to fit me into a crafty, domestic mold because they thought that’s what Godly young women should be and I managed to break a very expensive sewing machine, horribly burn myself, made me question my entire existence and the apron that took me 40 hours to make, remake and remake again fell apart in the first washing. Many were very concerned (including me) that I would not make a very good wife and mother.  After 20 years of marriage, 3 kids and a house that is mostly clean, I realize that there is no one size fits all.  Don’t do that to yourself or your kids. Train up a child in the way THEY should go…

Weighted and Unweighted GPAs

I know many are going to ask how I define Honors classes and what does that mean? According to the College Board, Honors courses are tailored for high achieving students, covering additional topics and are in greater depth. They are not necessarily AP courses which must be approved by the College Board, although many of our Honors courses are designed to prepare for the AP test.  I plan an Honors course by take the average credit worthy class of 120-150 hours to take 30 hours longer and adds more books and workload. For instance, to take our curriculum’s English course and make it an Honors English class, I doubled the writing projects and added 10 more books to their readings.

Weighted Transcripts and Unweighted Transcripts

When determining a student’s GPA ( Grade Point Average) each letter grade is given a corresponding number. A= 4, B=3, C= 2, D=1 and F=0. If my student had  4 As, 3 Bs and 1 C (this pains me to type as if my student got a C, they would be redoing the course for mastery) which is a total of 8 credits.  I would add the numerical values of the letters which is 27 and divide by the 8 courses to get an average, or GPA of 3.38. This is an unweighted GPA.

Honors or AP courses are weighted differently. A = 5, B = 4, C = 3, D = 2 and F = 1.  Using the previous example the weighted GPA would be 4.38. You must know both and probably have a transcript reflecting both as some schools want unweighted and some want weighted.  Connor got an extra $10,000 in scholarships because I could easily send the school his weighted transcript.

Character and Academics Matter



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 developement 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 propsition, they can be different sides of the same coin – a great homeschool enviornment.

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 developement, 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 except 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 perseverence 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.



I Love Homeschooling 

Pathos.com – Notes at the End of a Long School Year

Hmmm, I have some mixed emotions about this blog.  First, I really want to take this Mom to tea.  She sounds exhausted, as we all are, at the end of a School year.  I know, personally, how hard homeschooling can be.  It is hard, it is draining, no question about it. However, it is my favorite thing to do and I love it.  Not every moment of every day do I love  but for the vast majority of my days and overall, I completely love it.

I also understand what the author is trying to say about the world. The world is a scary place but so was the world when I was homeschooled 25 years ago. We were facing the Iraqi war, terrorism was beginning to effect the world and the economy was in bad shape.  During WWI and WWII the world was a scary place, during the Reformation or in Ancient Rome, the world was a scary place.  We should not base how we happy we are or the joy in our home on how scary the world is.

Homeschooling is hard and the pressure to make sure our kids are learning what they need to know is huge.  It feels like the weight of the world is on our shoulders.  However, I do my homework, we write our achievable goals, research the best curriculum and we step in and work hard at it.  We work hard, we are diligent and we give it to God. I do my part, make it my priority after my relationship with God and my husband, and then I let God do His part. I actually do feel confident in what we do with our kids and I don’t have a teaching degree or a Master’s in Education, I am just a Mom who works really hard at it. I think we can feel confident in what we are doing with the understanding that no one’s perfect, except Jesus, and my kids are not going to be super stars in everything and I don’t expect that.   I find that if I keep my eyes on God and what we are doing, refrain from comparing myself to others and keep realistic expectations, I stay pretty confident.

I think that if we surround ourselves with people who also keep God in the center of their lives and we can help and support each other in this crazy life and can keep a good sense of humor, we’ll be fine. The majority of my Homeschool friends are also pretty happy and confident in the job they are doing.  We help each other and provide a listening ear when necessary. 

I am going to go out on a limb and say that we can have those idyllic Homeschool days.  Maybe not every day.  Some days may be  a ‘terrible, horrible, no-good’ Homeschool day.  If we have a plan, keep a schedule, keep up with our academics then on that horrible day we can just snuggle in, have a cookie and just read our read aloud that day. I think if we plan something fun everyday, even a little craft or a fun snack, and keep our outside commitments to a reasonable amount then we can find joy in our school.  It is possible and I want to strive for that. 

Why Homeschool High School?

Anyone who is thinking about homeschooling their High School student feels nauseous, frightened, and more than a little worried.  Seriously, anyone in their right mind would.  It’s downright scary.  Now it matters.  If you, as the parent, mess up now, it will permanently affect your kid’s future. No pressure.  

The temptation is to homeschool during the younger years and then put them into a more traditional school setting during high school because high school can seem so daunting.  It matters now because I need to G35C2270have a transcript and each class needs to be creditworthy.  I know when my oldest was in 7th grade I went to the convention and went to every class on preparing for high school.  I started noticing that there was a small herd of us that seemed to be going to all the same classes.  Finally, I asked the person next to me what grade their child was in and the whole room of us realized that we were all parents of students that were going into 7th or 8th grade and we were all terrified of making a mistake. It actually made me feel a lot better to see a whole room of parents that were as nervous as I was.  Now 7 years later, I can tell you that it was a good idea to prepare then, but I didn’t need to have so much fear.  My kids are thriving in high school and indeed, beyond into college.  It has been worth every sleepless night, every panicked call to my best friend, every hour spent on their transcripts to see who they are becoming and how they are stepping in to God’s path for them.

In High School you finally reap the benefits of all those other years of homeschooling.  I put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into my kids and the high school years are when you start to reap the benefits.  I never thought I could say this with a straight face but high school has been a wonderful blessing and some absolutely great years.  There are some real quantifiable benefits to homeschool through High School.

  • Better Academics – Just as in the younger years, in High School we can tailor a child’s education.  We can meet them where they are and that will show in their test scores.  They are also more likely to attend college.  Statistically, 76% of homeschool students had taken college courses versus 46% of the same age group of 18 – 24 years olds.
  • In 1999 Stanford University accepted 27% of homeschooled applicants which was twice the acceptance rate of publicly and privately schooled students.
  • MIT states on their webpage that, ” they have a long history of admitting homeschooled students and these students are successful and vibrant members of our community.”
  • Studies show that in testing, homeschooled students score significant higher than either their public or private schooled peers. If these stats don’t convince you that you can provide an academically strong education through High School, I dont know what will. National Home Education Research Institue
  • Biblically Strong – The ability to mentor and disciple our children.  After high school graduation, homeschooled students are statistically shown to internalize the values and beliefs of their parents.  We spend two years reading and studying through the entire Bible so we know what God’s Word says and then we spend the next two years studying Worldviews, Apologetics and learning how to answer challenges to our faith.  We study philosophy and psychology and learn to be Bereans by taking every theory and testing it against what the Bible says.  We study Logic and Rhetoric so that we have the skills to defend our faith.  We work hard to develop habits like everyday Bible reading, daily prayer, accountability and keeping fellowship with others so that when our kids leave home they know how to and have practiced the habits that help them to keep their faith strong.  We are so blessed that homeschooling has allowed to spend this kind of dedicated time to disciple our kids while still having time to give them a strong academic foundation.
  • The ability to help your child find and develop their passions.  How To Be a High School SuperstarDo Hard Things and Start Here are three books that changed our homeschool and allowed Connor to follow his passions through high school and are now helping Caileigh and Collin to do the same.  I know I talk about this often but I can’t tell you how strongly I feel about it.  My kids are learning who God made them to be and to follow His leading in their lives now.  Get these books and read them now before you even start planning the academics.  
  • The time to Volunteer – We have told our kids that they must accumulate a total of 100 hours of Volunteer hours to graduate from our High School.  Volunteering has helped our kids start changing the world now.  Our teens need to know that they can change the world around them right now.  It helps them to see that the world doesn’t revolve around them.  It helps them to follow James’ mandate in James 1:22, “ But prove yourselves doers of the Word, not merely hearers who delude themselves.”  We require our kids to pick a place to serve in church by the time they are in 7th grade.  It’s an easy place to start, most churches desperately need the help and they can serve alongside us.  My kids, depending on their interests, have done sound, manned the computer, helped in the toddlers class, led small groups, cleaned up the church grounds etc.  Once they get in High School our kids have branched out.  Connor taught STEM classes to kids around the country via the internet, flew to California and taught kids in inner city LA and has moderated and mentored kids in the SCRATCH community.  Connor volunteered more than 100 hours in the summer between his Jr and Sr year alone.  ( One of the unexpected benefits of this was major scholarships because of his dedicated volunteer work ) Caileigh mentors a group of third grade girls during our churches Princess Classes.  She helps to teach and shows them what modesty and purity really look like.  The 20 minutes she spends with those girls are far more powerful than anything I say.  Collin co-leads a weekly small group of 4th and 5th grade boys.  Those two teen boys who lead that group of rowdy boys are a Godsend and are changing the lives of those 15 kids.  The twins also volunteer through their Robotics team teaching STEM camps, deliver meals and this fall I think we, as a family, will lead a First Lego League team.  We need to teach our kids to the value of volunteering while they are young.  Now, the downside to all of this is that I have to drive them to all of these things but I can see the growth in my kids and the lifelong learning they are getting so I am willing to step into that.
  • One of the real benefits that I didn’t expect, was the fact that my kids have had the freedom to be who they have been created to be.  They have had very minimal “peer pressure” to fit into a certain mold.  I have a College student who confidently wears bow ties, composes beautiful piano pieces, has spoken at conferences around the world and still likes to Geek out about the newest Rebels cartoon with his siblings.  I have a daughter who dyes her hair blue in support of her Robotics team, draws beautifully, can program,  plays the guitar so sweetly, can wield power tools and still loves to play with her 4 year old cousin.  Collin confidently teaches 15 boys a week, can machine a part, consistently wins the “Most Christlike” award at Bible Bowl but can also wipe the floor with his Dad on video games.  They are happy to be who they are and are confident in that.  I don’t see that same freedom in most kids in more traditional school settings.  That is a huge benefit in my mind.  They are in the world but not of the world.  They are not isolated but they have been protected from the worst of peer pressure until they are old enough and mature enough to handle it appropriately.

 

I know the thought of homeschooling through High School is daunting but the benefits are so very worth it.  In the next couple of weeks, I will get into the nitty gritty of structuring and planning along with a list of my favorite resources, but I feel like the first place to start is the benefits and motivations of homeschooling through high school. It’s so very worth it, if I can survive it both as a graduate of homeschool and now as a parent of a homeschool graduate, you can too!

Make sure you have read Middle School Vision Casting and Passion led High School!

 

Called by God

***Throwback Post *** this post is even more meaningful now, 10 years later.  The decision that I made then, to make those faces my calling, has impacted our lives in such a meaningful way.  I am so glad that I did, it has been the best thing for our family and has allowed us a lot of success.  God did call me to being their Mom and what’s more, their teacher.  The confidence in that calling allowed me to fully step in and not doubt what I was doing or why I was doing it.  Previous to that deliberate decision, I did doubt and I did struggle with being enough or doing enough or whether others were better suited to being my kids’ teachers. After that, I just stepped in and trusted God.  I imagined myself being one of the priests stepping into the raging Jericho River at His command.  I know He will catch me or part the raging river and I try to fully step into His plan for me and thus far, He has and has incredibly blessed us. (On a completely side note, aren’t they so very cute? I can hardly see those little faces in their teen faces anymore.  I miss those little faces sometimes)

These faces are my calling, what’s your calling?

“Your career is something you do to get paid, your calling is how you were made.” our pastor said this last Sunday. He then referred us to Romans 1:1, “Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus , called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God.”

I was listening but I wasn’t really thinking hard on it until Scott elbowed me and said, “He’s talking about you, honey”. I sat and thought about that for awhile. “Am I called? What am I called to?” Instantly, the answer came to me. I am called to be my kids Mom and their teacher. It may not be others’ calling, but it is mine. I think that’s what Scott was me elbowing for ( I could just ask him but ….). I think I feel so passionate about what I do and so confident that this is what I am to do that it’s a good indication of calling.

All of my devotions this week have been on calling and I started each day with the thought that God has called me to being a Mom and home schooler. It’s made me think of what I do in a different way, if God has called me to this then I better work at it with all of my heart. Col 3:23 says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” It also gives me an extra incentive to be an excellent Mom and home schooler as I am working for the Lord. It gives me confidence and a sense of purpose to be called and to be doing the will of God.

I hope that you know what you are called to do and that it gives you confidence.

Middle School Vision Casting

Often we see Middle School as just a stop-gap between Elementary School and High School but it is a vital step to prepare our kids properly for High School so we can then properly prepare them for College or Career.

Middle School is the perfect time to teach independent learning, time management, stuff management, as well as start vision casting.  It is so important in these Middle School years that we spend time chatting with our kids about what they think they might be interested in. It is important that we tell them that God has great plans for their lives and we want to partner with God in that. Start talking about whether they see themselves going to college and if so, what colleges and for what.  Start asking them where they see themselves in 10 years. Allow them to dream and talk about their passions and desires, this is the time to talk to them about the fact that God has a purpose for their lives and it is our job to help prepare them for that.  Spend some time looking at careers and talk about schools that might help them follow their passions and God’s will. Let them know that it’s not time to make decisions, it is time to dream.  Want to be an Astronaut?  Okay, great, let’s see what that takes. If they don’t know, that’s okay too, but maybe there are a few things they are interested in and see if we can pursue them.  This is a great time to let your Middle Schooler know that you believe in them and that you are willing to help them put in the hard work that it takes to follow their dreams.

I recommend the book, Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell which talks about people who did extraordinary things, not because they were necessarily extraordinary, but they were willing to put in the work. He talks about the fact that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something and that’s the difference between many people who do extraordinary things – the time and hard work expended.  We need to be telling our kids this.  They are smart enough to do whatever they want, but are they willing to put the 10,000 hours of hard work in to follow their dreams? Have them read the book.  It is fascinating as it shows real examples of people who had the talent but not the perseverance and they failed and those who had just enough talent but serious determination and they achieved great things.

Caileigh often compares herself with others and generally puts herself in the negative. Last summer, I really started talking to her about the value of perseverance and hard work.  We talked about setting goals and then spending the time and hard work to meet those goals.  She set some big goals for herself and then put her head down and got to work.  I have never seen her so determined and hard working and she has met her goals and exceeded them.  It is so amazing to see and it has given her great confidence.  Not because I told her she could, but because she has worked hours and hours and is seeing the fruits of her labor pay off  and she feels good about her hard work so she works harder.  What a great life lesson this has been for my 14 year old girl. As a matter of fact, she set two goals for herself in some of her passion areas and despite the fact that she has been on Chemo level drugs for her Autoimmune disease, which make thinking hard, she has more than accomplished both.  Not by just sheer talent, but by a massive amount of hard work.  She works hard and long until she accomplishes those goals.  There have been times that she has sat in tears on my bed because things come easier to others, including her brothers, but she recognizes that she can accomplish what she wants to by will power and long hours.  She wanted to be a Rookie of the Year for Robotics, she set the goal in October and she, her brother and her best friend were awarded the Rising Star award in Robotics last Saturday. Much of the success for Collin was that he was encouraged, goaded, and pulled into the things that Caileigh was excited about.  Both Caileigh and Collin set a goal to be on a tournament team for Bible Bowl at the beginning of the year and they put in the work to make it happen.  We must stress to our kids that the difference between talent and success is hard work.

Our job as parents is to take some of of their dreams and aspirations and help our kids get started.  If they are interested in Engineering, get them books, sign them up for Lego League.  If they show interest in Knitting, get them some books, and some cheaper yarn and needles and set them free.  Are they interested in physics?  Get some books and then some science kits.  Start little, then if they start showing more interest, dig deeper.  Talk to people who specialize in that interest and find out how they got started.  Be interested and help them see the possibilities and keep telling them it’s possible with enough hard work.  If they decide it’s not for them, that’s okay, that’s why you start with little things.  If they talk about being an Astronaut, don’t start by sending them to Space Camp ( unless you are my husband, but he just needed an excuse to go himself) start by watching Earth to the Moon and playing Kerbal.  If they show interest, then help them by taking a step and getting them some books from the library and then watch to see if they want to take the next step.

Start looking at colleges that have what your kids are interested in and figuring out what requirements they need to get in. We started looking at Colleges with Connor at 12.  He wanted to go to MIT or Cambridge.  We started talking about what he would need to do to make that happen. Connor didn’t end up going to school at either of those places, but he did end up being a finalist for the Boettcher Scholarship, which is a very prestigious full ride scholarship in Colorado.  He didn’t win it but because he was finalist he was awarded enough scholarship to almost pay for his college tuition for all four years of school.  He also was accepted in the Engineering Honors program at CU which will allow him to be double honors at graduation which will help to get him into Grad school.  We started planning and setting these things up in Middle School.  Dream big and let them dream big at this stage. That will help to give some guidance to our kids and start showing them that we believe their goals and dreams are possible with a lot of hard work.

Next read a Passion led High School

 

Passion led High School

As we are entering the last semester of High School with Connor, and have had a surprising level of success both with admissions and scholarships, I have been asked several times recently about how we made Connor such an attractive prospect to schools.  Ultimately, the answer is God.  God has a plan for Connor’s life and made him such a unique, wonderful guy that we knew God has paved the way.  That being said, there are some things that I have both seen in Connor’s High School career and in the High School career of friends who are seeing the same level of success, that I think can be quantified.

1.  Excellence – We have always pushed our kids to strive for excellence, not perfection, but excellence.  If we are not as good at something or don’t get it right the first time, that’s fine but we will not move on or give up until we understand. If they got a problem wrong in math, that’s fine but we work on it until we get it right.  Understanding is the key and we work on something until we know it and can do it successfully.

2.  Failure is an option –  we have tried to instill in our kids that we should always try.  We might fail but then we just get up, brush ourselves off and try again.  Failure is just an opportunity to do it again, but better.  What if Abraham Lincoln or Thomas Edison gave up at their first sign of failure?  The world would be a much worse place.

3.  Middle School is vital – Middle School is where we ramp up, it’s where we start making judgements on the world, it’s where connections start making sense.  Middle School is where we really have to start paying attention to our kids passions.  It’s where we start talking to them about what interests them, what makes stand up and pay attention, what makes them tick. It’s also when we start dream and aspiration casting.  “What do you think you want to do?  What colleges do you think you are interested in?”  At this age, we set no limits.  Cambridge, Harvard, MIT?  Sure, all of that is possible but it’s going to take WORK!  Academics needs to be really kick started in Middle School because it’s where we prep for High School which is where we prep for College or Career.

5.  Follow their Lead –  In or Around Middle School we really started paying attention to our kids interests.  When we went to the library, I would tell our kids to get a history and a science book they were interested in.  I started paying attention their choices and patterns started emerging.  Caileigh picked out gardening books and books on gross germs and diseases.  I gave her some seeds and a patch of the garden and got more books on Biology.  Connor wanted books on programming and inventors.  We started him on Scratch and started looking for First Lego League teams.  Collin likes facts, physics and Legos.  We started buying more Physics books and talking about what things he likes to build.  We asked why they were interested in those subjects.  What would they like to do about those interests?  Tried to find people in their life that they could talk to about those interests.

6. In or around 8th grade, we have them read, “How to be a High School Superstar” by Cal Newport. This is a great book that talks about following a passion, not only following but purposely structuring time and energy both towards finding a passion and then following that passion.  We also like them to read, “Do Hard Things” and “Start Here” by the Harris brothers.  We want them to do hard things in God’s kingdom and these books are a great starting place. This is also a great time to discuss that we can be workers in God’s kingdom without following the traditional path of Pastor and Missionary.  For kids who want to do God’s will sometimes they can miss the fact that God can use them in many different areas.  Connor has taught inner city kids Computer Science and witnessed to Professors in major secular universities by being involved in Scratch and SNAP!.  God created our kids and will work His will into whatever paths He leads them in and our kids need to understand that.

7.  Structure High School to allow time to follow their passions. – I actually struggled with this with Connor.  I had a pretty rigorous plan in place before I read, “How to Be a High School Superstar” and I struggled with the thought of changing those plans.  After much prayer and discussions with my husband, we restructured.  I kept a base level of an academically sound education in History, English, Arts and Foreign Language which would prepare Connor for college but then ramped up Math, Science and Computer Science.  We also gave Connor extra time in his day to work with Scratch.


8. Be willing to say, ‘yes’ and follow through. –  Looking back I can see several times that we could have said , ‘no’ to Connor because it was too hard, too time consuming or too far fetched which would have completely changed Connor’s High School career.  It is hard and sometimes it seemed completely far fetched, like Connor actually be invited to speak to Comp Sci a educators in Barcelona.  I mean, who expects that a 15 year old can figure out a problem that graduate students at Berkely haven’t been able to?  We said ‘yes’ and allowed Connor the time to do so and he did.  We said ‘yes’ when they were interested in First Lego League (FLL) and started a team.  We said ‘yes’ to Caileigh when she was interested in Aquaponics and Scott spent hours helping her figure the system out and she did and successfully built an enclosed system with fish and plants which then fed us with fresh herbs and vegetables.  It does add more work and time and sometimes money.  Start small with their interests, buy seeds and give them a plot of ground with some library books if they are interested in gardening.  If they are interested in knitting, buy them cheap needles and Wal-Mart yarn and see if they follow through.  If they do, take the next step.  Find a class for beginners to help them and then watch to see what they do with it.  When we did FLL we discovered that Connor didn’t like building the robot, he liked programming the robot.  We took that and moved in a different direction. It takes a lot of work on a parents part to say, ‘yes’ but ultimately it is worth it.  I know it can seem really expensive but I can also see where God supplied the money when we needed it.  Sometimes the kids worked for the money, Grandparents have helped out or we had an unexpected extra job to help pay.  Now, it is paying off