Called Home

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If you have been called home to educate your own children, WELCOME to this wild and crazy adventure we call HOMESCHOOLING!  If you have been traveling this road less traveled for a few years now and God has called you to continue homeschooling, WELCOME BACK!

Like with most family trips, those traveling probably have different feelings about the trip.  You might be kicking and screaming as you begin your new homeschooling journey, you might be excited about the new possibilities that educating your own at home brings, or you might already be tired just thinking about what you need to “pack” as you prepare for another year of homeschooling.  In the past few years, there has been a mass exodus out of the traditional school system as many moms have felt the stirring of the Holy Spirit to come home and homeschool their own.  Many of us, who are already homeschooling, continue to hear the calling to stay home and to continue home educating our own.  No matter where you are on this homeschooling journey, have no doubt!

You were called home for a reason!  That reason may be abundantly clear to you, or you may still be struggling to figure out God’s master plan for your “call to come home.”  Where ever you find yourself today, rest in the assurance that God has called you home, and He has called you to HOMEschool.  As you embark on another (or your first) homeschooling adventure, take some time this summer to reflect on four key points about being “called home.”

First, what does homeschooling look like to you and your family?  It seems in the past few years the term “homeschooling” has been hijacked.  Today’s homeschooling doesn’t look much like the “vintage homeschooling” of yesteryears.  In the age of the internet, homeschool conventions, and abundant homeschool curriculum and class choices, it is tempting and super easy to do more of your homeschooling outside of the home.  Don’t get me wrong!  We are blessed with much freedom and flexibility in today’s homeschool culture.  However, we may find the freedom of homeschooling a paradox.  With so much freedom and flexibility, we can quickly and easily become slaves to it.

What do I mean?  Well, with so many wonderful curricula, classes, and co-ops to choose from, you may find yourself doing them all!  Is that a bad thing?  No, not really.  But can it steal your time, your freedom, your flexibility, your joy, and your pocketbook?  Most definitely, yes!  We might find ourselves so busy participating in all of the awesome educational opportunities available to us, that we are never really home to actually homeschool together- as a family.

car over packed“Vintage” homeschooling (Charlotte Mason verbiage) or “OG” homeschooling (igeneration terminology) looked very different to what homeschooling is morphing into today.  It is quite ironic that opponents of homeschooling criticize homeschoolers for not being out in the real world, for not learning how to “socialize,” and for not learning alongside their peers when in actuality today’s homeschooler is hardly ever home!  My neighbor used to joke with me every time the kids and I packed ourselves and our stuff into the car.   “Where are you off to today?  Are you sure you homeschool because you guys are never home!”  How true this is for many homeschoolers today.  And yes, because of this phenomenon, carschooling has become a thing!

My prayer for you this year is that you will be intentional about putting the home back into your HOMEschool.  You don’t need all of the bells and whistles.  You don’t need all of the charter funds and all the fancy classes. You don’t need all of the A-G and AP accredited classes.  It is absolutely ok to learn science and/or history together as a family.  It worked for Laura Ingalls Wilder and the pioneers of California homeschooling; it will work for your family too!  Don’t feel guilty that you are reading your way through history or that your older daughter is doing the same physical science experiment (or exploding mess) as her younger siblings, or that your morning hike was also your science lesson for the day.  You have permission to stay home as often as you want in order to learn together at home and as a family, and you have permission to take advantage of as many field trips as your heart desires (and pocketbook will allow).  It is perfectly fine to take a break one day (or even a whole week) from endless math workbook pages to spend the day playing number and strategy games instead.  Sometimes the brain just needs a little break to chew on and marinate in new concepts in order to understand and apply them.  It’s not only permissible but highly recommended and much needed that you follow God’s plans (not yours) for your day and for your teaching.  He called you home for a reason, so He will provide the wisdom, strength, and perseverance to get you through it.  And don’t forget to have some fun together and to get a little silly!

 

My challenge to you this school year is to reflect on how you can put the HOME back into your homeschool.  If you are new to homeschooling, my challenge to you is to not pack your days with so many activities and outside classes, that you never have time to enjoy the freedom of being HOME with your kids.

Second, what is the main reason you decided to homeschool?  I suspect it was a myriad of academic, social, and scheduling reasons: too much homework, sleep deprivation, wasted time, schoolwork not challenging enough, invasive secular worldview agendas, teaching to arbitrary standards, a wasteland of busy work, school safety (or lack thereof), mindless testing practices, inappropriate lectures, and /or array of mind-numbing books and textbooks.  However, I know the main reason the majority of us accept the call to homeschool is because we feel God is calling us to it.  We long to make God’s Word the focal point of our lessons, to use curriculum with a biblical worldview, and to teach values that are in line with our Christian beliefs.  In essence, we want to teach and live out Deuteronomy 6:4-9.

deut 6-7Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you.  Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

seek first kingdomAs your schedules begin to fill up, curriculum begins to arrive, and autopilot begins to take over your car, take a moment to remember your calling and why you came home in the first place!  God first, then everything else.  Family first, then everything else.  Home first, then everything else.  Pray about ways you can keep God and His Word as the focal point this coming school year. Spend time in God’s Word and on your knees asking God what that might look like for you and your family this coming year.  I promise you won’t regret (and your children won’t mind) that you chose to not only learn together, play together, eat together, but to pray together, study God’s Word together and grow in your relationship with Jesus Christ together.

img_0729.jpgThirdly, find a support group you can call your “home away from home”!  Is it possible to take this homeschool journey alone?  Sure, but it is easier and more fun with others!  “A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12 NLT).  Find like-minded moms who are on this homeschooling adventure to support you, pray for you, and even learn with you.  Finding a community is just as important for your kids as it is for you.  Sometimes it can feel like it is us against the world.  God calls us to fellowship and to do life in a community.  This year, make sure you find the time and make community a priority.

Finally, why has God called you home to homeschool?  Is it to mend a broken relationship?  Is it to work on character and heart issues?  Is it build family bonds?  Is it to keep God and His word a priority (or to make it a priority)?  Is it to pour into that strong-willed child?  Chances are the main reason you were called home to homeschool has very little to do with academics and everything to do with God.  Sometimes we don’t really fully understand God’s call home until much later in the journey.

This year’s theme for our special weekend for homeschooling moms is Homeschooling Adventures:  A Weekend to Rest, Refresh and Rejuvenate. “Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths”  (Ps 25:4).  We will explore how to follow God’s path for educating our own at home and how to turn our homeschool calling into an adventure!  In keeping with our travel theme this year and the topic of this post, “Called Home,” I wanted to end with an important reminder about our walk with the Lord, our ministry of motherhood, and our homeschooling journey.

We are only sojourners here.  Our home and citizenship are in heaven.  (Phillippians 3:20).  If you stand out like a sore thumb doing what you are called to do or if you feel like you just don’t fit in because you are following God’s path for your family, that is a good thing!  So don’t set your mind on earthly things.  College acceptances, scholarships, academic accolades, musical and/or artistic excellence- they are definitely well-earned and well-deserved fruits of your mothering and homeschooling labor, but they are not the reason for your calling.  You are set apart, you are chosen, you a royal priesthood and a holy nation.  (1 Peter 2: 9-12).  Walk in the confidence that God’s plan for you and your family is exactly what your family needs in this season and step out in faith that home (with your kids) is exactly where you are supposed to be this year.  WELCOME HOME!

May God richly bless your homeschooling adventures this year for His glory,

Carrie De Francisco

For more information on our special weekend for homeschooling moms in March 2020, click on our “Upcoming Events” tab.  We hope you can join us!

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The Homeschool Unicorn

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While chasing down the elusive homeschool unicorn, how many of you have turned into a wild-eyed hampster on a perpetual spinning wheel?  Come on, you know what I’m talking about!  The Homeschool Unicorn is the perfectly groomed, serene mild-mannered magical mama who lovingly teaches her kids, prepares daily dreamy dinners, and grants wishes and makes dreams come true.  She whispers words of encouragement and never loses her cool.  She comes to the rescue of her husband, her fouls and friends and firmly stands in the gap to protect those she loves.  Her beautiful mane is flawless and flows in the wind while her eyes twinkle with joy, her hands are freshly manicured and her hindside is tight and firm.  There’s not a wrinkle to be found, a flabby roll to be seen, a hair out of place or a harsh word to be heard.  Why she wears so many hats her beautiful horn is never seen.  It is covered by her wife, mom, teacher, daughter, caregiver, ministry leader,   personal chef, and chauffeur hats.  This perfect, harmonious, selfless, beautiful creature is the Homeschool Unicorn!

hamster-wheelLet’s face it!  We all want to be her!  We spend countless hours reading books, searching the internet, going to conventions, and asking for advice to find this elusive creature.  Even after 20+ years of homeschooling, I know I still scour bookstores and constantly ask friends for advice on the perfect method, the perfect curriculum, or the perfect group.  While searching for the perfect Homeschool Unicorn, I have become that chubby, short-tempered, imperfect little hamster who perpetually runs in circles on my little hamster wheel hour after hour, day after day, and year after year!  Yes, searching for the Homeschool Unicorn turned me into the crazy little hamster.

Ok, just to be fair to my sweet family and friends who are reading this and saying, “Gosh, Carrie, you’re too hard on yourself!  You are a beautiful unicorn to us.”  Then I will not beat myself up and admit if I were a homeschool unicorn, it would be her!

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But still if I’m being honest, I think I really am the hamster on a perpetual spinning wheel!  Are you one of the crazy little hampsters on the wheel with me?  Grant it, I do have a few homeschooling mom friends who are pretty darn close to being that elusive Homeschool Unicorn but I’m pretty sure many of you see yourself on the wheel with me!

So what happened in the search to turn us into these crazy little furry creatures?  Comparison!  Let’s face, mamas!  We are experts at comparisons.  And it is hard not to compare.  The proverbial Jone’s don’t live next door anymore. They live on our computers 24/7 constantly reminding us how we don’t match up to their perfect little families, their perfect little homes, and their perfect little school rooms.  It is hard not to compare our crazy little families, messed up kitchens and incomplete workbooks and we are all guilty of it.  In our well-meaning efforts to be the best mom and teacher we can be, we left the lush pastures and cool waters and jumped on the crazy train (or should I say the crazy wheel).

Did you know the wheel doesn’t go anywhere?  Yeah!  I know!  I was ticked off too when I figured that out.  Did you know the unicorn is imaginary?  Yeah!  I know!  I was ticked when I figured that out too!  So what have I been chasing?  How in the world did I get on this hamster wheel and more importantly, how can get off this thing???!!!

hampster stoppedFirst, we need to stop peddling.  The wheel will come to a screeching stop if you just stop moving your feet.  ( I know, when my husband suggested it I couldn’t believe how simple it sounded.  It was almost too easy!)  So I stopped peddling (and all of the other movements too!)  I stopped waving my hand that said, “Wait for me!  We are joining you in that new awesome class even though my kids already take 5,000 other classes!”  I stopped wagging my finger that nagged, “You get that math done right this minute or I’ll…. I’ll do something and you won’t like it!”  I even stopped flapping my lips that said less than edifying and encouraging words.  I just stopped moving.

Second, we need to reach out to the hampster next to us on the crazy wheel and offer our hands.  You will be surprised how many of your friends want to get off the crazy wheel but since you are on it, they figure it must be the right wheel to be on.  Or perhaps they are just afraid to take the first step.  And while you are at it, take your husband and kids off of it too.  Chances are they have been in perpetual motion this past school year because you were in perpetual motion.  They may not even know how or when they got into the crazy wheel but all they know is they need help escaping too! So offer a hand, scurry of the wild and crazy ride, and take a friend (and your family) with you.

matt 11 weary burdanedFinally, take a deep breath.  Enjoy the fresh air outside of the cage and then run!  Run free!  Am I encouraging you to run away from homeschooling and to give it up?  No way!  I am encouraging you to homeschool the way God has called you to do it!  Every family is different which means every family’s homeschool days will look different.  God doesn’t want a bunch of perfect Jone’s.  He wants imperfect De Francisco’s who are made strong in His weaknesses.  He wants obedient Mayeur’s who trust in the Lord with all of their hearts and who do not lean not on their own understandings.  He wants faithful Gonzalez’s who believe He who has begun a good work in their children is faithful to complete it.  Whether God gently called you into this adventure we call homeschooling, He used neon signs and roadblocks to get you here, or He chased you down until you couldn’t ignore the call anymore, He who calls you, He will equip you.  God calls us to be faithful servants, not phenomenal teachers or perfect moms.  Did you catch that?  Let me say it again. God calls us to be faithful servants, not phenomenal teachers or perfect moms.   If we are faithful to our call (whether it looks like a perfect homeschool unicorn or an imperfect messy hampster), He will say at the end of this journey, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

psalm-23-2-3All you who are weary from the crazy homeschool hampster wheel and burdened by self-doubt and silly comparisons, come to Jesus.  He promises to give you rest.  This summer as you rest, relax and rejuvenate, unplug, unwind and undergo a whole new makeover.  Stop chasing the magical homeschool unicorn.  Get off the crazy homeschool hampster wheel.  Stop comparing yourself and your homeschooling calling to those around you. This summer, let God lead you to fresh waters.  He is calling you this summer to lie down in green pastures so He can refresh your soul.

Happy summer and may God richly bless your break for His honor and glory,

Carrie

 

 

 

Redeeming Lost Time & Ending the Year Strong

“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—”  Joel 2:25

joel-225.jpgI remember sitting on the floor of the bathroom wondering when the morning sickness would subside.  I was well into my sixth month of pregnancy and the violent vomiting still plagued my mornings.  Since vomiting induces a vagal response in the body, I seize and pass out every time I gag or vomit.  My morning ritual in the bathroom would wipe me out for most of the day.    At this time, I was homeschooling my daughter, and my husband wasn’t working from home yet.  Needless to say, not much homeschooling or learning was taking place.  Well, at least that is what I thought and that is definitely how I felt.  Later that year, my son was born, and I was exhausted.  He never took a nap longer than 20 minutes.  One morning I noticed the back of the house was unusually quiet.  I rushed to see what was happening. To my surprise, my daughter was reading to my son.  Big deal right?  Well, it truly was a big deal for me.  I attempted to teach her to read during the year while I was pregnant but to no avail.  Between my exhaustion, passing out, and recovering from childbirth, we never really got much school work done.  I thought I had failed.  I thought we would have to catch up and work harder in the next school year.  However somehow along the way, my daughter figured it out.  She had learned to read.  All of the “fruit” and labor I thought were eaten up and wasted by the swarm of locust that “invaded” our home and homeschooling that year were actually redeemed and replenished by the Lord.  The past year was not wasted.  It had not been for not.  Through God’s power and grace, our school year was blessed and was fruitful.

 

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Fast forward a few years later.  My son was iron deficient, which manifested itself in some odd ways.  While my daughter and I attempted to do schoolwork, my son would try to eat any chalk, marker or crayon we were trying to use.  If we attempted to do schoolwork outside so my active son could run and play, he would eat the dirt instead of play in it.  After realizing this was due to an iron deficiency, we treated the problem and thought now we could actually get some schoolwork done.  Ha! The same baby who didn’t take naps as an infant still didn’t take naps as a toddler.  We tried to do important lessons in the afternoon while my son slept but that never really happened.  In the early years, we belonged to a homeschool group that required yearly standardized testing.  I hated that week, and I dreaded the scores this particular year.  I knew for sure the scores especially in math would come back beyond deficient.  Once again, God redeemed the time and the “fruit” eaten by the locust (or should I say, literally eaten by my son).  My daughter scored in the 90th percentile in just about everything.  Again, the Lord not only redeemed and replenished the year and the fruit, but He supplied an over and abundant crop.  

 

frustrated school workMany years later we discovered my son was dyslexic and had visual processing disorder.    I wrote about God’s provisions in our March post entitled “Miracles and Manna.”  While his fourth-grade year seemed to be eaten up by testing, tutoring, tantrums, toiling, and tears, the Lord gave us triumphs and a triple fold bumper crop at the end of the year.  We literally did nothing but intense reading therapy.  No math.  No science.  No history.   Just read alouds and Lindamood Bell.  Guess who skipped a grade in math the next year and started Algebra 1 in 7th grade?  Yep, the same kid who couldn’t memorize his facts (still can’t so thank you, Jesus, for calculators), who had no idea what day of the week it was and who had no concept of time management.  Where I felt like a failure, God stepped in and redeemed.  While the locust may have stripped me of my confidence and joy, they did not deplete my son’s.  The Lord gave back the weeks and months lost to testing and tutoring and in abundance.  Don’t get me wrong, I am thankful my son made huge strides in reading and somehow learned more math than I actually taught him.  But I am most thankful for what God did outside of schoolwork.  He redeemed my relationship with my son, restored his confidence, replenished my son’s strength to persevere,  and taught him to rely on God to get him through anything.

 

cup run overThere have been so many examples over the past eighteen years when I have ended the school year feeling like a failure, yet the year was restored by God’s grace.  There have been so many times I felt the homeschooling year was a waste, yet the year was redeemed by God’s mercy.  There have been so many years I believed the fruit had been destroyed, yet the year was replenished and multiplied by God’s faithfulness!  This school year has not been an exception.  It has been a year of loss and mourning, but God has turned “my mourning into dancing … and [He] has taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy”  (Psalm 30:  11).  It has been a year of betrayal and brokenness, yet the Lord has “bestowed on [me} a crown of beauty instead of ashes” (Isaiah 61:3).  And yes, it has been a year of wasted hours and stolen minutes, however, God has promised me he will “restore the years that the locust has eaten… Behold [He is] sending grain, wine and oil, and [I} will be satisfied… The threshing floor shall be full of grain; the vats shall overflow with wine and oil. . . . [We} shall eat in plenty and be satisfied”  (Joel 2:  18-26).  

 

holy groundAt the beginning of this school year, God commanded me to remove my sandals because my family was standing on holy ground.  It was our verse for the year, and I knew this year would be consecrated to the Lord.  While I didn’t understand why and did I know how,  I just knew God was promising that this year would be special and set apart for His honor and His glory.  As our family’s school year comes to a close, it is now obvious to me that God had bigger and better plans for my daughter, my son, my family, our homeschooling and for me.  “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor 2:9).  My feeble,  weary, and skeptical little mind and my sinful, hurting heart could not even fathom the plans God had for our year and how He would restore the lost year “eaten by locust.”

 

joel-225As your school year comes to an end, do you also feel this was a “locust year” (or a lost year)?  Do you find yourself full of regrets?  Are you full of guilt about things not done or full of shame about things said?  Has this been a year you have lost a loved one either through death, divorce or betrayal?  Has this been a year of rebellion and constant repetition of reprimands?  Does it seem like you are dealing with the same heart issues that only seem to get worse instead of better?  Or do you feel this has just been a year of waste- wasted time, wasted effort, wasted money, wasted forgiveness?

 

well done faithfulI am here to remind you that NOTHING is wasted in God’s economy.  After much pain and loss, God rewarded Job’s faithfulness. “The Lord restored the fortunes of Job when he prayed for his friends, and the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before”  (Job 42: 10).  Jesus’ work on the cross was not in vain.  He came to give us life and life in abundance (John 10:10).  If this year has been a year of plenty, rejoice and praise the Lord for His favor.  If this year has been a year of loss, rejoice and praise the Lord too!  Trust me, it may seem like your year, your efforts, your blood, sweat, and tears produced nothing, but I know our God is a powerful God.  Nothing is impossible for Him.  He will turn your mourning into dancing.  He will turn your ashes into beauty.  He will restore the years eaten by locust.  He will turn to you at the end of this school year and your homeschooling journey and say “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”  (Matthew 25: 23).

 

feet in the sand.jpg.600x315_q67_crop-smartEnd this year strong knowing God is ultimately in control.  Then pack away the textbooks and start your summer break.  Remove your sandals.  Lift your hands in praise and bow on bended knee.  Remember the good days and wait on the Lord to redeem the bad ones.  Relish in the warmth of the summer sunshine. Sink your feet into the sands of the beach as you enjoy your much-needed and much-deserved break.  Let the gritty sand rub away the hardness that developed over the course of this year and let the waves wash away your guilt, shame, and regrets.  Summer is here!  It is time to share in your master’s happiness for a year a faithful service.

God bless and enjoy your summer,

Carrie

**Visit our website and subscribe to our blog so you don’t miss exciting news about next year’s special weekend for homeschooling moms!  We will be announcing the date and theme soon!  If you have a homeschooling friend who is feeling discouraged, please share this month’s post with her.**

Building Hearts & Home (Schools) for Christ

How do you build hearts, homes, and homeschools for Christ?  Where do you begin such a building project?  Does your homeschool need a little remodeling, an updated renovation or perhaps a complete demolition and “do over”?   Before you answer this question, let’s do a “walk through” of the different rooms in your “home.”

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mom-conference-building-2019-e1537298777781.pngAt our Homeschooling Mom Event (March 29th & 30th), we will do a deeper inspection of each “room” in our home and homeschooling.  We will explore in more detail how to build hearts, homes, and homeschools for Christ – one room at a time.  We will share ideas on how to develop more meaningful personal quiet time with the Lord and more meaningful family devotions with your family as well as share ideas on how to spend your leisure time as a family in a God-honoring way.  We will explore how to incorporate traditions and service into your homeschool days and how to build more meaningful relationships with those we love (and teach.)   But for now, I would like to give you a sneak peek of our upcoming Saturday session Building Hearts & Home (schools) for Christ by sharing in more detail how to “build” The Study or The Homeschool Room.

 

The Study (or the Homeschool Room) is where the bulk of academic learning takes place.  In your home, you may have an actual school room filled with bookcases, supplies and whiteboards, or perhaps you do the majority of your teaching on the floor in your family room with projects on the kitchen table and artwork drying on top of the washing machine.  Probably, your home might look and sound like a combination of the two:  books (and bookshelves) everywhere, pencils and pens spread throughout the house and experiments growing in the kitchen sink (mainly because no one has washed the dishes in a few days!)  Whether your homeschool “room” has four walls or no walls at all, this is the area of your home that makes your home a homeSCHOOL.

reading on floorBecause my husband works from home, we do have an “office” in our house.  Our school stuff has slowly taken over his space but oddly this is not the room we do most of our work.  Both kids have desks in their rooms but only my daughter uses hers. Currently, my son’s desk is covered with baseball cards, theatre scripts, peppermint essential oils, and toilet paper.  ( I have no idea why there is a roll of TP on his desk.  Sometimes it is best just not to ask.)  Together, we do history and read alouds in the family room.  We do family devotions at the kitchen table during breakfast.  My daughter is in college now but when she was homeschooling high school, she and my son did science separately and each took outside science classes.  When they were younger, we usually did science together either outside in our backyard or we made a mess dissecting something in the kitchen!  My son likes to do most of his school work in the family room while I work on my computer.  He likes the company.  My daughter always retreated to her room to do her math, English and Spanish work.  We do have maps hanging on the walls in the office (or “schoolroom”), but we have bookshelves everywhere!  We even have a closet and a bookshelf filled with games!  Basically, our school “room” isn’t one particular area of the house; it is where ever we find ourselves for that day.

It is not the room that makes the homeschool; it is what happens in that room that counts!  Building a home (and homeschool) starts with building hearts for Christ.  Our main objective in homeschooling is to share the love of Christ with our family, teach the Word of God to our children and help our kids build a personal relationship with Jesus.  With this in mind, building hearts and home (schools) for Christ begins with our relationship with our kids. Relationships should always come before checklists.  On those really bad days, is it more important to finish all of the math problems or to take a much-needed break to restore a broken heart?  We should always remember we teach children not curriculum.

 

Remember, this is a calling.  Many of us homeschool our children because we feel God is calling us to do so.  Often times, I feel God has called me to homeschool so He can teach ME important lessons.  However, I know no matter how inadequate I feel or how overwhelmed I may get, the best place for my child to be is home and the best teacher for him is me.  I may not fully understand how to balance chemical equations or how to conjugate a Latin verb, but I do want the best for him, and I am the only teacher who truly knows him, understands him and loves him unconditionally.  Building relationships is the most important part of homeschooling.  Because of homeschooling, I have more time to build deeper connections with my children, to dig deeper into their hearts and to have more meaningful conversations.

The best lessons do not come from finishing challenging workbooks, exploding science experiments or even hands-on history projects.  The best lessons happen when I take the time to hear them, really hear them, their hearts, their frustrations, their dreams.  The best lessons happen when we finish a book, burst out into tears (well that’s me, not the kids) and then erupt into a meaningful conversation about the character’s courage or sense of loyalty.  The best lessons happen when my daughter fails a math test but realizes this is something she needs to work harder at if she wants to pursue the calling God has placed on her heart.  The best lessons are not that my son learned how to cook a Cornish hen but that he voluntarily cooked a cornish hen with all of the fixings for a neighbor who just got home from the hospital.  Even on your worst school days, if you had an opportunity to teach your child about God’s character, to create a special memory or to just sit and talk about life and their dreams, you are building a heart, a home (and a homeschool) for Christ.

messytableRemember:  Keep it simple and keep it real!  It is also important to remember that there is no perfect curriculum or methodology.  We should not be a slave to a curriculum; we should be the master of it.  The teacher’s guide is a guide.  It is there to help and give suggestions.  Never feel guilty for not doing every activity listed in a teacher’s guide.  If you find that one particular curriculum works best with your family and your family’s schedule, then great!  Stick with it!  However, you may also find that not one curriculum fits the different needs of your family.  Feel free to mix and match.  Use what works in math for one child and use something different for your teen or struggling student.  Just keep it SIMPLE!  Sometimes less is better!  At last year’s homeschooling mom event, we discussed in our last session how to S.I.M.P.L.F.Y our homeschooling.  We used the acronym  S.I.M.P.L.F.Y to help us remember the 7 easiest ways to destress our homeschool:    Start with the end in mind (and work backwards).  Invite others into your life.  (Don’t do this alone!)  Mark Twain’s quote is an important reminder to  “Never let schooling get in the way of your education.  Plug in & Unplug! (Get involved with a homeschool group and get outside!!).  Less is more and simple is better.  If Plan A doesn’t work, there are 25 other letters of the alphabet.  (Be flexible!)  Your job is to be a faithful servant not a perfect mother!

Since we homeschool, we do need to teach the basics.  (Most homeschoolers go over and beyond what is expected or even required!)  So how do you literally and figuratively remodel or renovate your home’s “School Room“?

First, put the HOME back in HOMEschool!  If you are never home, you will always feel behind.  Prioritize your schedule.  Remember, less is more and simple is better!  You do not have to take every awesome class that is offered outside the home.  You do not have to go on every field trip posted (although field trips are a great way to learn!)  You don’t have to participate in every co-op, book club and sports team in your community.  There is a season for everything. Perhaps this is the season to skip dance and soccer to concentrate on family game nights (with dinner together) and include extra math tutoring into the schedule (and budget.)  Figure out which subjects you can teach to the entire family.  When my kids were younger, we always did read alouds, history, and science together.  As the children matured, we still did read alouds and history together but individualized their sciences.  Get more bang for your buck!  Read aloud biographies, historical fictions, and science picture books.  Not only are you getting in more quality time and excellent language arts lessons but at the same time, you are also learning about history, science, art, and music AND building relationships through meaningful conversations.

o-MOTHER-READING-TO-CHILD-facebookSecondly, don’t skimp on reading aloud as a family even when your children are teens.  Not only does the vocabulary become richer but the topics and themes become more meaningful as well.  You will be amazed at how much you connect with your teen by reading a book you loved (or hated) as a teen and by sharing your thoughts (and memories) related to a particular book or character.  Read silly books too!  Pippi Longstocking is a hoot, Milo’s adventures through The Phantom Tollbooth are hilarious, and the BFG by Ronald Dahl really is a big, friendly giant!  The Penderwicks  and Anne of Green Gables are full of real-life issues (and fun). Every boy needs to read Where the Red Fern Grows and every girl needs to read Because of Winn Dixie.  On those really bad days, if all you did was pray, do family devotions, and read aloud together, thenstack books your day was actually a successful one.  There will be other days and other times for more academics.  Never beat yourself up for taking a ditch day to “just” play together, read together and worship together!

 

Thirdly, incorporate writing activities every day!  Keeping it simple truly means concentrating on the 3 R’s:  Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic.  We covered the importance of reading every day.   Don’t skimp on writing!  It is important students write every day too! In the early years, it is not necessary to incorporate a formal writing and grammar program into your K-4 grade lesson plans.  Give younger students a meaningful and/or fun reason to write every day but make sure you keep it simple.   Once students reach high school, the level of writing can and should become more challenging.  Expect your teen to write argumentative, expository and narrative essays.  At this point, the program or curriculum doesn’t really matter.  What matters is that they have plenty of opportunities to write and rewrite.

 

**For more ideas on how to make writing fun and meaningful, come back next month.  Our April post will be “Budding Authors and Struggling Writers.”**

5 +2Next, it goes without saying doing math daily is important, even if math lessons only last for 10-20 minutes.  Math is just like learning an instrument:  practice does make perfect (or at least helps you get close to it!)  Whatever curriculum you use, make sure it meets the needs of your child’s learning style.  If he is tactile, try something like Math U See or Math It.  If he is visual, try using a colorful text like Singapore Math or Spectrum. If he is auditory, try a computer based program like Teaching Textbooks or math facts put to song.  If he needs to move, let him move around while verbally giving you the answers.  If he excels in literature, try the Fred Series.  If he is an extrovert, incorporate a lot of math games into your day. If he is an introvert, make sure he has lots of quiet alone time to work in his workbook.  Don’t feel like he has to do every problem on every page.  Repetition, practice, and mastery are the goals.  We do not want tears, bitterness or a life long case of mathphobia!  Remember, less is more and simple is better.  If your child masters the following skills at each grade level listed, then they will be well prepared for higher mathematics in high school:

Prek -K: Recognize numbers and basic shapes & counting 

1st-2nd:  Addition & subtraction of whole numbers and money

3rd-4th: Multiplication, division, and computation with simple area, perimeter, & volume

5th-6th:  Fractions, decimals, and percents (Make sure they master rational numbers!)

7th-8th:  Integers (positive and negative numbers), solve simple equations and computation with geometry formulas

**For more helpful ideas on how to teach math with games, check out our December post.**

timeline wallFinally, include the humanities in your curriculum.  There are many different approaches to teaching history, science, art, and music.  The key is to actually teach them and if possible connect them together.  History comes alive when students realize how music, art, and philosophy affected the events of the day, the inventions being created and the laws being passed.  When history is studied in chronological order, students begin to understand the cause and effect of events, political movements and elected leaders throughout history.  Music theory is greatly appreciated when the life and times of the composers are studied.  Masterpieces in art come alive when students learn the life and motivations behind the masters.  I hated history growing up.  However, now it is my favorite subject.  Relearning history by teaching it to my kids has helped me build a love and appreciation for history.  Reading, writing, and math are the backbones to academic learning.  They help us decipher information.  However, learning the humanities teaches us about God, human nature, relationships, and society.

fiarWe have used many different curriculums throughout our twenty plus years of homeschooling.  There is not one BEST curriculum for humanities, however, we have several favorites that have helped our family learn about HIStory and its connection to the sciences, literature, art, music and even mathematics.  For a literature approach, we used Five in A Row (FIAR) when the kids were younger and My Father’s World (MFW) when they were older.  Many of my seasoned homeschooling friends used Sonlight.  The Charlotte Mason approach to gentle learning as well as Carol Joy Seid is very helpful with ideas on how to integrate together all of the subjects through literature or living books.  For a classical approach, we have participated in Classical Conversations co-ops throughout the years and the use of timelines, timeline cards, and timeline notebooks.  Many of my homeschooling friends have used and loved The Mystery of History.  To use art history as the backbone, check out Meet the Masters program.  They now have a homeschool version!  Our family loved learning about masterpieces and the time periods in which they were created by learning about the master artists.  The program even gives simple drawing instruction so each month your students end up with a masterpiece of their own.  To include music, we would listen to music of the time period while we worked on our artwork.  Simply Charlotte Mason website and store has some great resources and CDs for composers of all eras.  If you would like to use science as the backbone of your humanity studies, we used the Apologia Young Explorers series for many years.  It does a great job of teaching science to the whole family at one time.

**For more ideas on how to teach science with games, nature journals and literature, check out our September posts.***

IMG_6580In this post, we only discussed how to build hearts, homes, and homeschools while in “The Home Office” or “Schoolroom.”  At the end of THIS month at our upcoming homeschooling mom event, we will “remodel” the rest of the home in our last Saturday session, Building Hearts and Home (Schools) for Christ.  We will give more helpful hints on how to remodel your “Home Office” (or School Room) and how to use games as a way to teach. Martin and Carolyn Forte, co-founders of Excellence in Education and creators of The Games Curriculum will share ideas on how to use games to teach everything from Chemistry to World History.  In our last session on Saturday, we will focus most of our time on the other “rooms” of our homeschool.  We will make sure the “foundation” is built on solid rock, the “Living Room” points  you and your children to a personal and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, the “Dining Room” (or Family Room) is  filled with Godly entertainment that whets their appetite for things that are lovely and praiseworthy, the “Kitchen” is serving “healthy food” worthy of consumption, the “Bedroom” is a place of refreshment and rest, and the “Bathroom” is set up as an area of daily confession.

For more information about our special homeschooling mom weekend event, click here for more information. It isn’t too late to register!  Click here to register

Our prayer team is praying for you and for our special homeschooling mom event.  We hope to see you March 29th and 30th.

May God richly bless you, keep you and shine His face upon you,

Carrie

 

Manna & Miracles

before formed you “Mom, please!” my son whispered as tears flowed down his face, “There’s something wrong with my brain.  I’m trying and trying but I just don’t understand.”  This particular morning was hard.  We could always tell what kind of school day it would be when my son woke up.  On the “bad days,” his eyes were “glassed over” and there was a hint of agitation is his usual “happy-go-lucky” disposition.  On these mornings, the simplest of tasks would take great concentration.  This particular morning he was reading one of the first Bob Books. When he came across the word “the,” he tried sounding it out, but on this particular day, it made no sense.  I gently reminded him it was the word “the.”  I should have stopped there and just casually moved on.  Sadly, I was bit frustrated, and I kept talking.  Some days, when he came across the word “the,” he would look at it as if it were the very first time he had seen the word.  Today was one of those days.  He honestly had no idea what the word was and didn’t know how to pronounce or read it.  I looked at my son and said, “Don’t you remember this word?  It is the. You read it yesterday and the day before.  You actually just read it a few minutes ago in the other Bob Book.  It is in almost every little book you read to me.  It is ‘the. ‘ ”  I really emphasized the word “the.”

fearfully wonderfully madeWith his sweet little eyes, he whispered, “No, mom, I don’t know what that word is.”  My poor son struggled with spelling, sounding out simple words, memorizing math facts, remembering what day of the week it was, and writing legibly.  He also struggled with what we learned later was called working memory.  He had told us before that sometimes the words floated off the page, and we did notice he usually skipped words or substituted words when he was trying to read.  We used Bob Books because he hated Dr. Seuss.  Oddly, he hated rhymes.  Actually, he had the hardest time making rhymes or even recognizing rhyming words.  In my mama gut, I knew something was different.  In my teacher brain, I knew this wasn’t the “norm” (and I use this term VERY loosely!)  But we read and followed Dr. Raymond and Dorothy Moore’s educational philosophies.  I had read and highlighted almost every page of their groundbreaking book, Better Late than Early (1989).  My husband and I knew boys tended to be late bloomers with learning in general and reading in particular.  So when he was struggling with reading and sounding out words, we didn’t panic.  When his spelling was below “grade level,” we didn’t worry.  My master’s degree is in Math Education, so when he had trouble memorizing those pesky math facts, I knew there was no need to sound the math alarms just yet.  But his “issues” continued and seemed to get worse instead of better.  In our homeschool, our marching pattern always seemed to be one step forward and TEN steps back!

no eyes have seenBecause I believe children learn at their own pace and in their own way, when tensions rose, we took a break.  When frustrations hit, we put the reading aside for a few weeks and would come back to it later.  We didn’t push.  We figured he just needed time to chew on what he was learning and to process it before moving on to something new.   But with our son, we quickly learned he couldn’t take long breaks or a typical “summer vacation” because when we did come back to old concepts, he usually had to start literally right back at the beginning.  We learned short daily and weekly repetition was needed for just about anything that needed to “stick”!   As our son got older and reading still seemed to be a foreign language to him and the words kept “floating around” the page, we had his vision checked and even had him tested for vision therapy.  His vision was 20/20 and his tracking was normal.  There was no need for glasses and no need for vision therapy.   So when my sweet boy cried out that morning for “his brain to be tested,” we listened.  “Please, mom, just see if there is something wrong with me.”  My heart broke every day as I watched my super talented, super charismatic, and super funny kid struggle with his school work.  But on this day, my mama heart couldn’t take it any longer.

Several months later when I picked him up from rehearsal, he jumped into the car and apprehensively asked, “Well, is there something wrong with me?”  Since his heart-felt request several months earlier, we had him tested for learning “disabilities.”  He knew the evaluation meeting was that morning and that his dad and I had spent the morning getting his results.

tiny miracles“Well, they say you have something called visual processing disorder, dyslexia and maybe even a mild form of dysgraphia.”  I held my breath and waited to see how he would respond.  A huge smile broke out across his face, he slapped his hands and yelled, “Yes!  I knew it!  I’m not stupid! There is something wrong with my brain!”  I wasn’t quite expecting that reaction, but I was glad he was taking the “expert’s ” opinion so well.  Slowly, his smile turned to a pained expression and a tear welled up in his eye when he then asked, “Wait.  Can it be fixed?”

 

dyslexicAs part of this meeting, my husband and I were also given advice on different ways we could help our son learn and different ways to teach him to read.  I grabbed his hand and said, “You betcha!  But it will take a lot of hard work, patience and persistence on your part.  Dyslexia doesn’t mean you are dumb; it just means you learn in a different way.  If you are up for the challenge, Dad and I found a tutor who specializes in this and can work with you to help you overcome some of the obstacles you hit when reading and when you are trying to memorize things.”  As it turns out, the reading therapy would be long, exhaustive and expensive.  Our son had a lot of catching up to do and a lot of “re-wiring” to do!  My husband and I knew we didn’t have the money to pay for the services he needed, but we took a leap of faith, signed on the dotted line, and anxiously waited for the first day of reading therapy to arrive.

field-white-flowers-mountains-background-iceland-landmannalaugar-40271537Our son needed extensive reading therapy which consisted of four hours a day, five days a week for four months.  Like I said, the learning issues seemed quite insurmountable but our boy was ready for the task at hand.  Actually, we had never seen him so excited about learning, reading, and schoolwork before.  He knew there was a way to “fix” his reading and memory issues, so he was 100% on board and ready to work!  However, our bank account was not ready for the huge bill we were about to pay.  Quite honestly, we only had enough money for the first two weeks of tutoring.  We had no idea how we were going to pay for four months!  However, we also knew through prayer this was the path God was taking our son on, so we began the journey and knew God would somehow provide.  In the back of mind, I was thinking it wasn’t as bad as they thought and our son would really only need two weeks of reading therapy.  After all, that is all of the money (and time) we had enough for!  I figured God had already provided all we needed, and we really wouldn’t need any more money.  I knew God would work miracles in our son but in hindsight, I limited the greatness of our God to provide financial miracles too!  Not surprisingly, God had other plans and other ways to provide, which of course were way better than what we had expected!

A few months before our son was evaluated, my husband’s grandfather passed away.   His grandfather had willed my husband some precious artwork that he knew my husband loved and some signed baseballs to add to his collection.  However, my husband did not realize his grandfather had left some money to him and to our kids.  The week before our son started his intensive reading therapy (and a week before the bill was due), a notice arrived in the mail.  My son’s great grandfather willed him and my daughter an “education” fund to be used for school and college.  When God calls, he miracle-god-e1548712098495.pngguides.  When God promises, he provides.  God had provided manna over the years when bills were tight and money was short.  This time was no different except the bills were huge and the manna was hailing down on us!  In God’s perfect timing and in his perfect way, the amount left to our son was enough to pay for his extensive reading therapy and with some left over for college!  God provided exactly what we needed, exactly when we needed it, and even left us with a basket or two of “leftovers!”  His tutor also trained me for free, so after his reading therapy was officially over, we could continue the methods at home, which we diligently did for two more years.  Thanks to God through Great Grandpa G, Joseph successfully finished his reading therapy. By the time he finished, he jumped from being a non-reader to reading “at grade level.”  His confidence multiplied ten-fold, and he now advocates for himself in different learning environments.  While at therapy, he met tutors and friends that he still keeps in touch with today.  He has learned “tricks” to help him memorize scripts for musical theatre productions and song lyrics for concerts and auditions.  Spell check, calculators and Siri are his best “friends.”  Read alouds, audible books and voice dictations are his favorite “teachers.”

 

miracles-come-in-moments-be-ready-and-willing-quote-1Our son still struggles with the issues that come with being dyslexic, however, we witness miracle after miracle (big and small) each and every day and each and every year.  God provides daily the manna I need to teach him in ways that make sense to him.  God provides daily the manna he needs each day to plow through his high school workload.  Some days are smooth sailing and some days are filled with huge headwinds.  We have lots of laughs and howls of triumphs and tons of tears and screams of frustration.  We have setbacks and breakthroughs.  But as we continue on this homeschooling adventure, we witness an awesome God providing for our needs and preparing our son to fulfill his God-given purpose.   We thank God each and every day for the miracles and the manna!

May God shine His face upon you,

Carrie De Francisco

alex-bella.jpg**This is just one of our family’s many stories of how God has provided miracles and manna along our homeschooling journey.  Come to our special homeschooling mom weekend March 29th and 30th to hear other stories of God providing miracles and manna to those He calls to home educate their own.  In one of our Saturday sessions, Alexandra Strauss will share her testimony of how God miraculously provided (and still provides) the spiritual and physical healing both she and her beautiful daughter, Bella, needed.  It is a powerful story and one that will inspire you to ask for and expect miracles!  Click on “Registration” tab to reserve your spot this coming March!

 

For more information on Dyslexia, I highly recommend the following books and resources:

The Gift of Dyslexia by Ronald Davis

The Dyslexic Advantage by Brock L. Eide M.D. ,M.A

Different:  The Story of an Out-of-the-Box Kid and the Mom Who Loved Him by Sally and Nathan Clarkson

Barton Reading and Spelling System by Susan Barton

Lindamood Bell Learning Processes and Learning Centers