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I have done some form of Morning Time with my boys for something like ten years. It looks a little different now that they are 13 and 11 this year instead of 3 and 1, when I likely started with a song, a scripture, and a calendar at the kitchen table. For one thing, my youngest is no longer restrained in a high chair (though there were a few years where he would be upside down on the couch or literally climbing onto my shoulders as I read aloud that I might have wished for that high chair again!).
This year we are continuing our study of Latin with Visual Latin 1. We did the first 20 lessons last year and the plan is to finish Level 1 by Christmas so that we can start Visual Latin 2 next semester. I made it through the first 20 lessons last year without doing the worksheets myself (thanks to many hours of college-level Spanish), but this year I have printed off lessons 21-30 so that I can get in the same translation practice that my boys are doing. The grammar is a bit more complicated now, so it’s easier for me to keep track of it if I’m doing the work, too. And as an added bonus, I can very easily check the boys’ work without having to pull up the answer key pdf every time.
On lighter days in Visual Latin, we’ll sprinkle in some reading from Lingua Latina and perhaps also from Familia Mala (“Bad Family”…this book doesn’t shy away from the fact that the Roman myths are a hot mess).
Just finished at the start of the year:
Cue drum roll… We have finally finished reading The Story of the World Volume 4: Modern Times by Susan Wise Bauer. It’s crazy to think we’re done with the whole series. I think we’ve actually read Volumes One and Two twice. This series goes down as one of our family all-time favorites. My kids would ask me even on the weekend: “Read Story of the World while we play Legos?” This has been a great adventure through chronological world history.
We also recently finished The Fallacy Detective. This was a big hit with my boys–a fun read with often-entertaining examples and exercises. I’ve tried to make a point to my sons that being able to identify logical fallacies is fun and useful, but 1) it isn’t to be used to tear others down, and 2) fallacies make up a small, small fraction of the study of logic–we have yet to begin to cover all of what logic actually is. We’ll take a break this year before heading into formal logic when my oldest is in 8th grade. The Fallacy Detective has certainly whet their appetite for it.
New reads this year:
I pre-read The Ology a few years ago but it’s finally making it into our rotation this year. I think it would have been great to read sooner, but I think it will still be a good, simple treatment of theology for us to enjoy and discuss this year.
In our home, we love books by H. E. (Henrietta Elizabeth) Marshall, having enjoyed Our Island Story (British history), This Country of Ours (US history), and Scotland’s Story in the boys’ independent elementary studies. This year I decided we could start reading her book English Literature for Boys and Girls together. I’m eager to read it myself, and sometimes the best way to make that fit in my schedule is to read it aloud. 🙂 The boys are excited to hear again from a beloved author, and I’m excited for us to venture into the world of British Lit–more deeply than I ever did in school!
I’m in the process of starting a co-op with some local families, so we’ll be covering hymns, Scripture memory, folk songs, poems, artist study, composer study, and nature study in community this year!
There’s also a book club time and my boys (who are both in the “older kids” group) will be studying Shakespeare, one play each semester. This fall, it’ll be The Tempest.
I’ll try to work our co-op selections into our daily Morning Time. But as the kids are getting older and our Latin studies require a daily commitment, this will be more sporadic than regular (has our Morning Time ever been more than sporadic? Hmmm…). One of the reasons for the co-op, after all, is because it is hard to make space for all of these beautiful things!
Want some inspiration for Morning Time in your home? Over the summer, I enjoyed reading Pam Barnhill and Heather Tully’s new book Gather. It’s a beautiful compilation of thoughts, practices, and examples from their own homeschools, and it’s chock full of lovely photos of other homeschool families (of all sizes!) who enjoy learning together. It’s like one of those “day in the life” blog posts, only there’s a book’s worth of it and you can actually hold it in your hands. Tangible book lovers, rejoice!
What about you? Do you do Morning Time? Or something like it at another time of day? What are your plans for this school year?
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I’ve posted a few articles in the past few months, but I haven’t posted a personal update of any kind in a long while. Life has been full, so it seems like a good time!
Back in August my husband broke his neck and my oldest son broke his arm (both by falling off of a backyard zipline). That began a new (unusually slow in some ways, unusually busy in others) season for us that lasted right up until Christmas, when Nathaniel was finally released from his neck brace. Woo-hoo!
We thought we were jumping into “normal” again when January rolled around. No injuries! No extra doctor’s appointments! The medical bills are almost behind us!
We had a steady first two weeks, and then my Grandma was put on hospice. We traveled to see her before she passed. We made it to town in time, but not to the hospital. Still, I was thankful to be there with my family, my parents and my brother. It was good to say “good bye” to Grandma together.
The morning of the last day we planned to be there with family, Nathaniel woke up with a fever. A quick test confirmed he had that contagion that gets posts flagged on Facebook. We got out of dodge as quickly as we could, and thankfully my parents and brother stayed well. The boys and I, however, followed Nathaniel’s lead a few days later. Fevers and coughing and headaches, oh my.
We didn’t have as easy of a time as some, but we didn’t have a serious case, either–nor did we pass it to family. And for all of this, we are thankful for the Lord’s mercies.
We had a ski trip planned two weeks from the day we first came down with the C bug. Fatigue and cough still present, we played with canceling, but to no avail.
We went ahead with our trip, and had a great time–but with doctor’s orders restraining Nathaniel from literally risking his neck on the slopes (avoiding trees and jumps in particular), and with some of that lingering fatigue holding us (mostly me) back at altitude, we took it easier than we normally would.
We had two solid weeks of school after Christmas break before we took school with us to visit family around Grandma’s passing. Sickness knocked us out for a week. And we got back to it for a week before taking a week of vacation. We’re back at it now. It feels like a very interrupted start to the spring semester, but our daily routine is strong, even if the Monday after a vacation is still the Monday after a vacation. 😉
And the Monday after that is a Monday, as well.
The boys are working independently on their core school work (math, writing, reading living books for various subjects), and the things that I’m teaching/doing with them are things that I’m excited to be learning alongside them (Latin, logic, and history read alouds).
This may seem like a strange addition to the list, but the Scholé Sisters are doing a Spring Seminar called Excellent Marxmanship inside Sistership (the online network for Christian classical homeschool moms to discuss all-the-things–free to join, but this course is available at the paid Sophie level). Marxism, which is antithetical to Christianity, has influenced our modern world in many ways, and there’s no better way to see it for what it is than to get it from the source. I listened to The Communist Manifesto (available at librivox.org) back in 2020. That was a great first pass, and this Excellent Marxmanship seminar is giving me a chance to read it again and dig deeper–along with other ladies who are interested in Truth more than knee-jerk reactions. Along with Marx’s Manifesto, they’re reading two other books related to the subject. The background knowledge provided and discussion via comment threads and video chats makes this a high value course! It’s worth the cost of paid membership in Sistership, to be sure. Just make sure you can set aside some time for it.
Even if you can’t join this seminar, it’s valuable to read The Communist Manifesto for yourself. It’s sometimes hard to understand, sometimes (ok, often) infuriating, but well worth being aware of, especially if you are guiding your children through the ideological jungle of our world today.
A good book to pair with Marx would be C. S. Lewis’ The Abolition of Man. I’ve been thinking for a while that these two books, both short and a bit challenging, one diabolical and the other full of truth and insight, are so worth wrestling through in order to understand our world today. Let me know in the comments if you’ve read either of them or plan to!
Prepping food for my family has always been part of my day job, but there have been some seasons, like last fall, where I get into survival mode and I rely way too often on canned refried beans and tortillas to get a quick meal of bean burritos on the table. We still love our bean burritos, but I’m getting creative in the kitchen again. 🙂 It’s funny how when you put just a little extra thought into something, even something as every day as dinner, you can turn the mundane into something creative. And it makes the whole process more enjoyable.
Every year I appreciate the coming of spring. We encounter trials and dry seasons in life, but God graciously gives us signs of life even during the coldest time of year. The trees started budding as soon as the days started getting longer again (back in January!). We’ve seen a few daffodil blooms in the past two weeks. Sure, I live in the south, so your experience may vary, but the imagery of spring, whenever it does come, is a beautiful reminder of a God who can raise the dead. Of a Father who provides for His children. Of a Savior who died to give us life and who rose again for our justification and our hope. I love finding hints of the gospel of grace in the world that God has made. As we look forward to spring, may you find those traces of His grace around you, as well.
I’ve got a pre-release e-copy of The Convivial Homeschool and it is excellent! I highly recommend this, my friends! Mystie has been a huge blessing to me over the past [nearly] six years, in both homeschooling and homemaking. She has a knack for bringing gospel truth to bear on everyday, ordinary [and sometimes crazy!] life–offering both encouragement in Christ and godly motivation to take the next right steps. Her book is slated to release this week, and you can get a sample of the first chapter by getting on the wait list here.
Another amazing book that you can snag for FREE on Kindle: You Who? by Rachel Jankovic.
In You Who? Rachel Jankovic offers a breath of fresh air to those of us struggling to sift through the worldly ideologies that so dominate our culture and our newsfeeds. We desperately need to know who we are and Whose we are. I highly recommend this book as a helpful tool for both personal discernment and discipleship, encouraging us as Christian women to find our identity in our Creator and to live lives of purpose rooted in Christ. How exciting that it’s available for FREE on Kindle now through November 28!
Compass Classroom has so many great courses to enrich your homeschool journey. My family has LOVED WordUp! the Vocab Show and Visual Latin. I’ve taken one of Jonathan Rogers’ Creative Writing courses myself and found it quite valuable. As the kids get older, we plan to explore more offerings from Compass Classroom. Their courses are high quality and a lot of fun!
I’m coaching my oldest son as he writes an entry for his first-ever essay contest. The process is a struggle for him. His knowledge of the subject isn’t deep, he struggles to organize his thoughts, and he doesn’t know how to develop an idea once he has one. And this all makes him a bit reluctant to keep at it.
This is normal. He’s twelve.
I’ve coached him on how to brainstorm with a mind map, and then I’ve told him to simply sit at the computer to start typing his thoughts in sentences and paragraphs. He’ll start, and then pretty quickly he’ll get stuck and discouraged.
“Mama, I don’t know what to write next. I don’t know how to start my next thought.”
“Don’t worry about starting it. Jump in the middle if you need to. Just write down the ideas you do have. You can go back over it and add transitions, expand your ideas, or cut things out later. For now, just write.”
When the words came out of my mouth, I realized that I needed to hear them myself.
How often am I the twelve-year-old who kinda wants to but kinda doesn’t want to sit down and do the work? I think I have some ideas worth sharing, but when I try to organize or articulate them it’s hard. I don’t know where to start or jump in, so I feel stuck. And I’d much rather go do something else than apply myself to my current writing project–whether it’s a small essay-type-post or a long-form writing goal.
Being a writer means, of course, that you actually write. But how often do I run from the process? Just like my son would do if he didn’t have Mom around to structure his day and coach him through the rough spots.
My son would rather write a silly poem about animals. Or play legos.
I might rather read other people’s articles and comment on other people’s posts–anything that is easier and makes me feel productive while ignoring the real work to be done.
The struggle with temptation to do something else haunts my housework, too, but that is a topic for another day.
…Or is it?
Perhaps I shouldn’t view my writing or my housework as two distinct and separate categories. Both are things I feel called to do for the glory of God. So if I see a similar preference for distraction pop up when I ought to be folding laundry to edify my household, just like when I ought to be working on a writing project to edify my readers, maybe I ought to tug on that common thread for a bit. Figure out where it leads.
It seems to me the common thread is faithfulness (or a lack of it). Am I willing to do the right thing at the right time? And to continue to do so through all of the mundane moments and ups and downs of my feelings and performance?
Writing and laundry both reveal our character, don’t they? Whether we’re a seasoned 36 year-old or a budding 12.
>Intermission: Got to go make breakfast and enjoy it with my family. Writing is right when kept in its right place. But wrong if it becomes the distraction from the right thing at the right time.<
Aaaannnd we’re back.
Sometimes I need to tell myself, “Just write. Don’t worry about whether or not it sounds great now. Do the work, even if you have to severely edit it later.”
Or, “Just fold the clothes for crying out loud. Don’t fret over the the fact that it will just be undone a day later. Do the work, even if you have to do it again next week. (Because you will.)”
When I read well-established writers commenting on the writing process, they invariably say the same thing. It’s hard. Show up anyway. Do the work. Just write.
When coaching my son, the advice is the same, albeit gentler and with a much heftier helping of sympathy for the hardness of it.
I used to imagine that writing would get easier with age, that somehow I’d find my stride and the words would flow. But it’s still work. It’s still intimidating. And nothing gets easier without a lot of practice.
And feedback, if you can manage to get some.
That’s why I’m writing this post today. It’s admittedly a bit more stream-of-consciousness, but that’s partly the point. It’s good to just write. And I hope to start doing a lot more of it.
Above I alluded to a long-form writing project I’m supposed to be working on. I’ve come a long way on it, but I have a long way to go. I’ve held most of my work on the subject in reserve, not really sharing it anywhere–not even on my blog.
But it turns out this process is big and hard and intimidating, and I need to break it down into smaller chunks.
And I need feedback.
That’s where you come in, dear reader. Behind my writing, even behind what you might read as a confident voice, is a very human, very just-like-my-12-year-old author: me.
I want to put aside my perfectionistic hang ups and just write. And I hope to do so more often.
But I don’t have a mom to organize my days or coach me through the ups and downs. That’s on me.
My husband is a great sounding board and a great encouragement, but I still need feedback from those who actually receive my work.
I need to know when my ideas fall flat. I need to know when they resonate.
I need to know when something excites you, challenges you, or confuses you.
So please, let me know.
And especially as I churn out more articles for women like me who are walking with Jesus, dealing with sins and messes and hang ups, and seeking to live joyful, obedient, God-honoring lives…please, tell me what you’re thinking. Ask me your questions. Add your insights and experiences. It would be a great blessing to me.
I’m not just saying “I’d love to hear from you.” I really would. You can be a part of my process and spur me on to create something that will, I hope, be a blessing to you and many others.
I’ll try to just write. Would you please write back?
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We’ve been reading The Story of the World series of history books for several years, and we’re now starting into the fourth and final volume: The Modern Age. I read the author’s foreword and was reminded why I love reading Susan Wise Bauer’s narrative of history.
Having a degree in history myself, I’m turned off when materials aimed at children push political agendas rather than an understanding of history and human nature itself. Bauer does not disappoint. I’ve appreciated her handling of history from Volume One on. Reading the foreword to Volume Four, my appreciation has only been confirmed and strengthened.
Here are her words concerning the violence of history, and especially the brutality of our modern era–why this particular volume should be saved until at least fourth grade, but also why it should not be kept from children.
…A fourth grader hears the news on the car radio, on the TV, or in the conversation of his elders. He hears the words (“terrorism”) and senses the worry of the adults around him. A fourth or fifth grader who has a vague idea of what is going on in the world deserves to be started on the path to understanding. The shape of the world today is not random; it has been formed by a very definite pattern of happenings. To deny a child an understanding of that pattern is truly to doom a child to fear, because war, unrest, and violence appear totally random.
Even in this book [on the modern age], violence is not random. It is alarming, but not random. As you read, you will see, again and again, the same pattern acted out: A person or group of people rejects injustice by rebelling and seizing the reins of power. As soon as those reins are in the hands of the rebels, the rebels become the establishment, the victims become the tyrants, the freedom-fighters become the dictators. The man who shouts for equality in one decade purges, in the next decade, those who shout against him. Boiling history down to its simplest outline so that beginning scholars can grasp it brings this repetition into stark relief.
Again and again, while researching this book, I was reminded of the words of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who spent eleven years in the labor camps of the Soviet Union, and who, when he became powerless, finally understood that revolution never brings an end to oppression. Solzhenitsyn wrote, “In the intoxication of youthful successes I had felt myself to be infallible, and I was therefore cruel. In the surfeit of power I was a murderer and an oppressor. …Even in the best of hearts there remains…an unuprooted small corner of evil. Since then I have come to understand the truth of all the religions of the world: They struggle with the evil inside a human being. …And since that time I have come to understand the falsehood of all the revolutions in history: They destroy only those carriers of evil contemporary with them.”
Revolution shatters the structures; but the men who build the next set of structures haven’t conquered the evil that lives in their own hearts. The history of the twentieth century is, again and again, the story of men who fight against tyrants, win the battle, and then are overwhelmed by the unconquered tyranny in their own souls.
Bauer’s telling of history–in each of her volumes–gives this kind of instructive look into the patterns of human nature played out in the global theater. There is drama and interest and wisdom–without need for embellishment or politicized rhetoric.
This is why I love her books and I love reading them to my children. Because at my core I believe that history in itself is instructive if we have eyes to see and ears to hear. There is a bigger story than our current political drama. And there is a higher right and wrong than our current iteration of left and right. I want to give my kids wisdom and understanding so they can see straight in the midst of fearful and confusing times. Mere social studies or politically-driven books for children won’t cut it. I want to give them history.
Whether you homeschool or your kids are in public or private school, these books make for great family read alouds. My children have begged for them over the years: “Mama, let’s play Legos while you read The Story of the World!” We simply read, discuss, and sometimes find the place we’re reading about on a globe. Easy. A small investment that has reaped huge dividends in our family’s understanding and ability to have good conversations about all that is going on in our world today. It’s hard to grasp big principles without some kind of context. History gives kids (and their parents!) the story, the context, for understanding the patterns and principles at play in our world.
Bauer’s books are by no means our only source of history reading (reading more than one author is incredibly important), but these volumes have made for a delightful overview and they are a great place to get started if reading history with young children is new to you and your family.
If you have early elementary children (K-3rd graders), I recommend starting with Volume One: Ancient Times. The reading level increases a bit with each volume, and the story unfolds in a chronological sweep, so this is a great series with which to grow. If you have kids that are at least ten years old (or a mature nine year old), you may enjoy jumping in to Volume Four: The Modern Age. Just know that it’s like jumping into a movie series at the end. No worries, the movie may be enjoyed as a stand-alone. But it’s so much more meaningful if you know what led up to it! 😉
All four Volumes are available as audiobooks if you find that more convenient.
I suppose this post may have turned out to be something like an ad. That’s not really the point. If needed, go back and read the quote again and let it sink in. Bauer’s words are more the point of this post. Her books are just a great way to apply it, and I couldn’t help but recommend them because my family has found them so valuable.
Any other history read alouds that your family has enjoyed? Have you noticed the difference between giving kids social studies and giving them history?
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Scroll to the bottom for quick-reference information on the book!
A friend of mine lent me It’s a Numberful World by Eddie Woo a couple of years ago in case I might want to share some of it with my boys in our homeschool.
It’s a modern book with modern appeal, and that makes it a fun and very approachable read. Famed Australian math teacher Eddie Woo pulls from all over math history and modern technology while approaching subjects topically–finding math all around us and applying it to all kinds of situations and phenomena. Woo does a great job of communicating his wonder both at the beauty of mathematical patterns and at the way math works, striking an engaging balance between awe and practicality. Here are a few samples page spreads:
For Eddie Woo, the wonder is inextricably linked to his Christian faith. The book is “Dedicated to the Author of Life” and quotes Galileo on the dedication page: “Mathematics is the language with which God has written the universe.” While Woo’s faith comes out in his dedication, the book itself stays very safely within the realm of secular discussions of mathematics.
I really enjoyed the book, but I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more if the wonder at God’s handiwork hadn’t been limited to one page. I’d love to hear more of Woo’s awe of God directly connected with mathematics, as he is quoted in this article:
We talk about the fact that the universe is designed in this way and you can find all of these patterns; do you think that that’s a coincidence? One of the things I love to point out is we call the universe the cosmos which means ordered and structured and designed, as opposed to chaos, and the reason why we can find these mathematical principles is because there was a designer. We didn’t just spring into being. It has immense beauty.
I mean, how can it be that mathematicians and physicians – secular ones – all agree that one of the primary criteria for judging whether something is mathematically true or not is whether the equations are beautiful. Why on earth should the equations of the earth be beautiful? And the answer is we have a beautiful designer who designs things beautifully. So for me it’s a source of marvelling [sic] at the way that God crafted the Universe.
While I would have liked to see more of that godly awe, It’s a Numberful World was a really fun read. I appreciated the invitation to take a multi-disciplinary exploration of mathematics–and to play with it along the way. I haven’t really used it in our homeschool, but that’s partly because we already have so many interesting things (Fibonacci sequence, tessellations, using drawing tools, etc) that we’re exploring in our Right Start Math lessons. Wonder and play with math are already part of what we do. I might keep Woo’s book in mind for when we hit high school math, however. And I’m very interested in exploring his teaching videos on YouTube or …wait for it… WooTube.
Recommended for: High School to Adult Uses: Supplement to math curriculum, enjoyable math reading. Consideration: Chapter 25 “Why Aren’t Left-Handers Extinct?” refers to Darwinian evolution, specifically the theory of natural selection, as the author mathematically explores why certain traits persist.
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“What Bible curriculum do you use for grade x?”
It’s a question I get from time to time, and it never ceases to make me squirm a little.
Why, you may ask? Well, because the idea of “Bible curriculum,” and especially for a particular “grade level,” is foreign to me.
Now of course I’m aware of the fact that “Bible curriculum” and “Bible classes” exist in Christian school settings, but I’ve always wrinkled up my nose a bit thinking about the Bible being made to fit the mold of an academic subject, added on to a school day like just another textbook or workbook to get through. What affect does that have on the way kids approach the Scriptures? And do they give grades for those classes? What does that teach?
Our approach to the Bible looks a lot less like school and a lot more like discipleship. Reading the Bible together has been a part of our family culture since before our children were born. We haven’t ever felt a need to make sure we added Bible to the kids’ schooling because they’ve been getting Bible with their breakfast since they were tiny.
In fact, while every part of school is informed by the Scriptures, we like to keep the Bible itself separate from “school” in a sense so that they don’t get the impression that a day off of school is a day off from devotion to the Lord.
But what does that look like? And how can you get started with this holistic family discipleship model of Bible learning if it’s foreign to you?
Well, let’s start with why.
Our Why: Created Reality and Biblical Goals
Our children are precious creations of our Heavenly Father–and they are precious gifts entrusted to us as parents. We desire to give them access to the Truth that God has revealed in His Word so that they can grow in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man, that they would begin to know and love their Creator.
Ultimately, we desire that our children would trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation from their sins and that they would love and serve Him all their days–for their good and God’s glory, both in this life and in the life to come. We don’t ultimately control this outcome. But we can be faithful to train our children in the way they should go.
Our Why Dictates Our How: Holistic Family Discipleship
Given the nature of our children, the nature of our relationship to them as their parents, and the nature of our goal (that they would have a relationship with God), it follows then that we ought to teach them in a way that is first and foremost relational. And decidedly not academic.
This means that interaction with the Scriptures comes woven into the fabric of our every day lives. There are no worksheets nor tests, no grades nor grade levels.
This doesn’t mean we don’t use printed materials to aid our children’s learning (I will link to some below), but we need to remember that the greatest resources we have to instruct our children in the ways of the Lord are His Word, His Holy Spirit, and our own lives lived alongside and before our children.
God’s Word: We must be in the bible ourselves and we must offer the Scriptures to our children.
The Holy Spirit: We must be seeking God to be at work both in us and in our children–apart from Christ we can do nothing. We may have had a direct role in bringing about our children’s physical life, but the spiritual life is of the Spirit–we cannot manufacture it in our kids. Prayer is indispensable.
Our Own Lives: We must model for our children what it means to believe the Word of God, to study it, to meditate on it, to practically submit our lives to it, and to receive both correction from it when we fail and comfort from it when we repent.
What does this actually look like?
Family Bible Time (what some call Family Worship)
Our current family Bible reading pattern, which we’ve had going for several years, is Proverbs at breakfast and Gospels at supper.
Now, this doesn’t mean each one happens every day. The reason we read the Bible over breakfast and dinner is because we often don’t read the Bible over breakfast and dinner. This is a scattering of seeds, not mechanical planting.We aim for faithfulness and perseverance rather than anything that resembles perfect consistency. But in keeping up the habit, we pretty reliably hit at least one of these each day, sometimes both. And before it was Proverbs and Gospels, we read slowly through the entire Bible at meal times–it may have taken a decade, but we kept going. The reason we’re in Proverbs and the Gospels right now is because the primary needs of our children are to receive instruction and correction according to God’s wisdom and to receive Jesus the Messiah as their Savior.
While we eat breakfast, my husband will read a few verses from the chapter of Proverbs that matches the calendar date (since there are conveniently 31 chapters in Proverbs), either selecting these verses ahead of time or asking for the kids to randomly select a number. He reads a verse and asks what it means. The kids give it their best shot and then we all discuss the meaning. He asks if they can think of any examples (a child may not use his brother as a negative example–this is a necessary rule, folks!). It has been fun over the years to hear the examples the kids come up with–sometimes from a fable, from literature, from a Bible story, from a movie. They are learning about wisdom and foolishness and learning how to identify each.
After Proverbs, we recite the Shema and the Lord’s Prayer. We switched up this recitation time over the holidays last year in order to recite and memorize Mary’s Magnificat. Now that we have the placeholder for recitation, we may use the time for other passages when they seem fitting.
Our evening Family Bible Time involves my husband reading from a passage of Scripture (currently Luke) at mealtime and then asking a few questions:
What did we learn? This is a good time for kids to either pick one thing that stuck out to them or simply narrate what they heard.
What can we worship God for? Sometimes, when we’ve been in the prophets, the answer is usually “That God was so patient and gave so many warnings.” Now that we’re in the first few chapters of Luke, the answer is usually “For sending Jesus to save us.” Sometimes the answer is different, but it’s no problem to worship God for the same things over and over again–in fact, it’s right to do so. Once answered, we pray and praise God based on what we saw in the passage–even if it’s simply for preserving the genealogy of Christ (which is pretty amazing when you think about it). Sometimes there may not be an obvious answer. When we were in the middle of Job as a family, it was admittedly hard to find any answer from the text–so we felt Job’s desolation a bit but worshipped God anyway.
What can we do with what we have learned? This is where we pay attention to the right response(s) to what we have read. Sometimes it is simply to worship as we did in the second question. Sometimes there is a command that we ought to obey. Sometimes there is something for which we ought to be thankful, something that ought to amaze us, something that ought to cause us to care for others, an example to follow or an example not to follow.
Now, these questions aren’t magical. They’re just the tools we have used for discussing the Bible as a family and for attempting to respond to it properly. Sometimes the kids are fully engaged and wow us with their insight. But sometimes the kids aren’t super excited to answer. Sometimes we get blank stares. But we don’t read the Bible and ask the questions in order to get perfect responses from our kids. We do it so that they are regularly interacting with the Scriptures and learning by modeling how to respond to them. It’s not perfect, but it is worthwhile. We are planting seeds.
Other Applications and Resources
The seeds we plant in Family Bible Time are watered by a lot of other practices and experiences.
We pray together as a family before meals and before bed. We try to remember to include intercession: to pray for neighbors, friends, family members, etc–sometimes on a weekly rotation so we don’t forget (but let’s be honest, we sometimes forget and go for long stretches with just basic bedtime prayers).
We have also made sure to include Bible time for our children to enjoy independently, even from a very early age by listening: Dove Tales (with cassettes–yes, we inherited these from my in-laws), Jesus Story Book Bible (with CDs), and a dramatized audio Bible from Faith Comes by Hearing. Now that our boys are 11 and 9, they are expected to read a chapter of the Bible first thing in the morning before coming downstairs for breakfast. This doesn’t mean it always happens, but that’s the goal and the general habit.
We’ve also enjoyed watching videos by The Bible Project–edifying for parent and child alike.
This emphasis on the Word of God being integrated into all of life means that it also influences our school day–just not in the graded-Bible-curriculum sort of way.
We have enjoyed singing many hymns in our Morning Time (currently singing along with this channel), and we have also enjoyed music by Sovereign Grace Kids (from a Christian seller). Even as adults, when we listen to music with lyrics, we generally choose music that is spiritually edifying. Our kids take this in as well.
The Scriptures inform the other books we choose–and how we read them–whether literature, tales, history, poetry, nature, etc.
The Scriptures make it into our kids’ copy work and dictation, too (that’s language arts).
Keeping It Real
We don’t do all of these things all the time. The most regular parts of our every day life are family Bible time, listening to hymns and other spiritual songs, family prayer, and good discussions on all kinds of things as we go about our days together. And these discussions aren’t just aimed at our kids. My husband and I discuss books, current events, and so many things with each other, seeking to apply God’s Word and His wisdom to everything we encounter. Our kids are audience to these adult conversations, too.
The aim is holistic, not check-list driven. And it is gloriously free from pressure to “get through it” on any kind of annual school schedule (thank God!).
The point of this post isn’t to say we’ve got it down, nor to set any kind of expectation for anyone else. The point is to demonstrate the many ways in which we can spiritually nurture and disciple our children–without boxed curriculum. And to remind all of us (myself included) that we may sow seeds, but the Lord causes the growth. Our dependence upon Him is central to our efforts at training up our children in the ways of the Lord.
All of the things we do have begun as small habits. A little here, a little there. If you are just starting to bring Scripture into your home and homeschool, don’t be discouraged or overwhelmed. Pick one thing. One habit that you and your children can enjoy. Plant a seed. And then another. Water where you can. The Lord causes the growth.
I hope this post has helped to somewhat answer the “What do you use for Bible curriculum?” question. It’s not a short answer, but I hope it may encourage some to think outside that proverbial box … of curriculum. 😉
How do you nurture your children in God’s Word? What resources have you found helpful?
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In my last post, I shared Why We Homeschool, and part of our WHY included the freedom to choose HOW.
I explained a bit of our story–how my husband was homeschooled and how I went to public school. And I shared our mission statement:
Since before they were born, my husband Nathaniel and I have purposed to bring our children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord and to educate them at home by means of whole/living books, meaningful work and life experiences, and disciplined habits of wisdom and personal responsibility—for school and for life and ultimately for eternity.
In this post, I’ll give a little more of our story and begin to flesh out just how we have come to do what we do–and how we think about it, summarizing Charlotte Mason and classical philosophies as best I can.
A Little More of Our Story…
That mission statement above was written recently, but it pretty well describes what our aims have been from the beginning, owing much to what Nathaniel’s family passed down and to his experience with the literature-based Robinson Curriculum.
Our initial trajectory found further inspiration nearly six years ago when an older mom-friend at the local homeschool co-op first introduced me to the ideas of Charlotte Mason and Christian classical education (yes, both at the same time–it’s taken me years to sort them out! Ha!).
We were already legally homeschooling our five-year-old at this point–attempting to use my mother-in-law’s KONOS unit studies curriculum. Think: a text-only Pinterest board in a three-inch binder (though I’m sure it’s more up-to-date these days). I had already found that, rogue that I am, I took the subject matter we were supposed to cover in KONOS, ignored the binder and its overwhelming amount of options completely, and simply went to the library to check out as many quality books as I could find for us to read aloud on a given subject.
I’m not a crafty mom, nor do I like Pinterest.
While carting books home from the library for our immediate needs, I began to explore Charlotte Mason via Ambleside Online and some of my friend’s Well Trained Mind materials (which are Classical, too).
Somewhere in that first year I also acquired Educating the WholeHearted Child, an excellent resource on Christian homeschooling, by Clay and Sally Clarkson–and I found Charlotte Mason quotes littered throughout.
Hmmm…Interesting. The wheels were spinning.
Half way into our second year, now invested in a couple of those Well Trained Mind materials and a practice called Morning Time (recommended by my friend and expanded upon by Pam Barnhill), I found myself tuning in to a new podcast called Scholé Sisters, “a casual conversation…” for “the classical homeschooling mama who seeks to learn and grow while she’s helping her children learn and grow.”
Inspired by the podcast to “find your sisters,” I invited the friend who had started this mess 😉 as well as a few others to form our own book club and read Susan Schaeffer Macaulay’s For the Children’s Sake–arguably the Charlotte Mason gateway drug.
At this point my research perhaps turned into somewhat of an addiction.
I began to see that Charlotte Mason’s ideas about books, habit training, and real-life learning lined up with so much of what we were already doing–and they challenged me to grow further out of my push-through-to-the-next-thing mindset that I’d acquired in my own school years.
I also began to explore classical education a bit, but never really hopped on the Trivium-as-stages Train. I was delighted to find in further listening and research that the “stages” application of Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric was a gross oversimplification–classical education, as I had hoped, has far more to offer.
Since that first year where I didn’t-really-follow-KONOS, we haven’t used any sort of all-in-one curriculum (though I have borrowed a lot from Ambleside Online and we do use curriculum for math). We appreciate the educational philosophy of Charlotte Mason and Christian classical education, and we choose materials eclectically guided by a lot of the principles from these philosophies.
So, what exactly are they?
Charlotte Mason, a British educator who lived at the turn of the 20th century, describes education as “an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life.” Atmosphere refers to the naturally occurring environment of the child—the home in which they live, the people they live with, the world outside their front door. This also includes the attitudes that they pick up from, say, their parents.
Discipline refers to the formation of habits, whether personal cleanliness, academic, or other habits of character. Again, who we are as parents teaches a lot!
Life might be a bit confusing. By life Mason means “living ideas,” or knowledge that is vital. This kind of knowledge is found by being in living touch with the world around us and especially by being presented with a rich curriculum that puts us in touch with the knowledge made available in books—and particularly books of literary quality rather than dry textbooks which can often strip knowledge of its delight. When Charlotte Mason mamas speak of living books, they’re in this realm of “education is a life.”
Our mission statement corresponds with this framework for education: “…meaningful work and life experiences…” — a big part of atmosphere. “…disciplined habits of wisdom and personal responsibility…” — discipline. “…whole/living books…” — and there’s the life.
Now, that’s Charlotte Mason on a very general level. She also has a list of 20 principles and six volumes in which she develops her philosophy and method. Some of the key elements include training the habit of attention, growing in self-education, narrating back what one has heard or read after just one reading, spending time outside in nature, studying a wide range of beautiful things, and resisting the urge to over-teach so that the child does the work of thinking for him/herself. But that’s just scratching the surface.
When I list Charlotte Mason as part of how we homeschool, I mean that we are happily influenced by her ideas, but I do not mean that I follow her method anything near completely. Her principles resonate with me and challenge me to be a better mom, but I implement them very much in our own way. And that’s perhaps why I sometimes feel that we fit more easily within Classical education (a philosophical umbrella with arguably various methods up for grabs) than we do in a strictly Charlotte Mason approach (a philosophy with a prescribed method to go with it). But they really do meld together well in our home!
Christian classical education aims at wisdom and virtue and at cultivating an appreciation for what is true, good, and beautiful. It emphasizes an ancient and long-standing educational tradition that has been abandoned in the past 150 years or more, but it’s making a strong comeback today. Training in The Seven Liberal Arts of Grammar, Logic, Rhetoric (the arts of language); Arithmetic, Geometry, Astronomy, and Music (the mathematical arts) is a key part of the curriculum. But this isn’t the sum total of learning, either. Other elements in this tradition include training in piety, gymnastic, music (in more than a mathematical sense), common and fine arts, sciences and history and philosophy–with Christian theology as both the guide and the goal.
There is a learning curve here, especially since the words I just used to tell you what’s included in a classical education all have older definitions and understandings that are either completely abandoned or else eclipsed by the way we understand them today. There are helpful resources out there, though. Podcasts like the Scholé Sisters, Ask Andrew, and Cafe Schole have been helpful. As for reading, these articles at the Circe Institute can get you started, and the booklet Introduction to Classical Education is a helpful overview. But once you’re ready to dive into a thorough treatment of Christian classical education, be sure to grab The Liberal Arts Tradition (revised edition) by Kevin Clark and Ravi Scott Jain. This book ties all the pieces together with lots of historical references so that you come away with a better and deeper understanding of the whole paradigm and where it all comes from. There’s also a short glossary of key words and concepts at the back of the book that’s a very handy reference!
Charlotte Mason and classical both aim at a holistic education that respects the nature of the child as made in God’s image. As such, children ought to be nurtured and educated in body, mind, and soul–and primarily by those that love them most. Today’s secular school system doesn’t acknowledge the soul of the child, so it falls short even when it aims at a holistic education.
Some of what we do will sound flowery, but that’s because our focus isn’t just on academic skills—it’s on all of life enjoyed and lived to the glory of God—and this includes a lot of things that are both enriching in an enjoyable way and pay dividends academically, too. What we do is academically rigorous, but in a very different way.
We’ve found that both Charlotte Mason and Christian classical education each resonate with our priorities and direction, while also giving a greater depth and breadth to our efforts than we knew was possible.
Do you have to follow either of these philosophies or methods to homeschool you kids well and raise them in the ways of the Lord? No. The best way to do that is to be humbly and constantly immersing yourself and your children in God’s word, believing it and living by it together in your everyday, everywhere life. But both classical and Charlotte Mason philosophies can be extremely helpful to that end–not only for the way they give you many positive things to implement in your teaching, but also for the way they challenge you to peel back the layers of negative influence from our modern, materialistic education system.
Stay tuned for more in this series as I begin to post specifically about how we handle various subjects in our homeschool (without actually concerning ourselves much with “teaching all the subjects”).
Since before they were born, my husband Nathaniel and I have purposed to bring our children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord and to educate them at home by means of whole/living books, meaningful work and life experiences, and disciplined habits of wisdom and personal responsibility—for school and for life and ultimately for eternity.
It’s a lovely mission statement, but how did we come to it? And how do our ideals work themselves out in daily life and lessons? In this first post in a series on Why and How We Homeschool, I’ll explain a bit of our personal story and then list some of the most important factors that have both informed our decision on the front end and benefited our family all along the way.
When Nathaniel and I met in college, I was already pretty interested in homeschooling and he was dead set on it. He was homeschooled by godly parents from birth all the way through high school. His parents passed on their biblical convictions, and Nathaniel experienced first hand the freedom and advantages afforded by home education. He valued what he was given so much that it was an important part of the equation when we decided to get married.
I was public schooled in Texas and had a good experience, including good friends, honors classes, and competitive athletics. While school provided many opportunities, I recognize that what allowed me to take advantage of those opportunities was my parents’ dedication to teach and train me outside of school hours–they made the difference in my case, not the system itself.
When I was in high school I attended a church where half of the youth group was homeschooled. I appreciated how the homeschoolers I met were really down to earth and comfortable being themselves, and I admired how they could get their school work done in half the day and have time for family-life and even their own pursuits (like starting a business!)–all while I was sometimes at school for ten or more hours, plus homework. Homeschooling seemed so incredibly efficient! By the time I met Nathaniel at college I was pretty sold on homeschooling my own kids one day. A lot of our approach and conviction has been informed by how Nathaniel’s parents sought to train and educate him and his siblings, but that’s also melded with my experience growing up and a lot of reading and thinking and discussion on education along the way. We both bring things to the table.
Our approach to education is fairly different from the traditional school model, but it’s also fairly simple. We, the parents, love to learn, and we love to live an enriched holistic life to the glory of God. We wish to pass this love of life and learning on to our children. Our educational approach has a heavy emphasis on Christian discipleship and on reading, writing, and arithmetic, as well as engagement with the outdoors. We minimize the use of textbooks, except where necessary to learn a specific discipline, and we lean heavily on literature. We also have rich discussions as a family on all-the-subjects-in-the-world.
I mention this little preview on how we homeschool simply because having the freedom to do things in this way is in itself a reason for homeschooling. Stay tuned for when I go into greater detail onhowwe homeschool in future articles.
And now the WHY. Here are our top reasons for homeschooling:
Of primary importance: We believe that we have a responsibility before God to raise our children in His ways (Deuteronomy 6:4-7, Ephesians 6:1-4). We believe that we can best achieve this by being directly involved in their education, and we believe that our home has the potential to be the most natural and loving environment in which true learning can take place. Furthermore, we’re able to explore the interplay of our faith in Jesus with everything we study, rather than simply adding “Bible” on the side of academic studies as though it is separate from all other knowledge and experience.
Homeschooling is efficient. I admired this as a teenager. Academic work for elementary students can be done by noon pretty easily. Older students can work more independently and complete their studies with time to spare for other pursuits if they are diligent. While homeschool studies might be punctuated by playing outside, moving the laundry, or making lunch, they don’t lose time to things like forming lines, pep rallies, bus rides, etc.
Homeschooling allows life skills to be a natural part of the school day. As I noted in the point above, a homeschool day unavoidably involves life skills. Even if kids don’t do all the chores, they’re at least home to see them being done by someone in the family, so they’re aware of what it takes to run a household. And when Mom is Teacher on top of Home Manager, she tends to make sure the kids get in on the chores! There’s some consternation lately about kids being required to learn higher math in school but not being taught how to file their taxes, buy insurance, or balance a checkbook. Home is a natural environment for learning all of these things and more–not by replacing part of the math program, but by having your child sit down with you as you do them.
Homeschooling allows primary relationships to stay primary. Parents and siblings and even grandparents can be more involved in the child’s life simply because they are not sequestered away into an age-segregated environment for eight hours a day. Assuming the child has a loving family environment, this extra family time is a huge boon to their security, mental and emotional health, and ability to form stable and positive relationships later in life. Of course, on the flip side, if the home environment is caustic, this would be a reason NOT to homeschool. God bless the teachers that comfort children who receive no real comfort at home.
Homeschooling provides socialization beyond the child’s peer group. “The companion of fools will suffer harm.” Putting a bunch of kids together who are at relatively the same level of foolishness because of their age and inexperience tends to work against the goal of raising children to be wise. In contrast, by homeschooling, our kids are far less dependent upon their peers, and they have to learn to interact with their siblings, with their parents, with their neighbors, and with other families whose children range in age from babies to adults. While parents who send their kids to traditional schools may also seek out relationships for their kids beyond their peers, the proportion of time spent with a peer group verses time spent with a variety of ages is quite different. Homeschoolers may be less comfortable in the peer group, but they tend to be more comfortable interacting with individuals of all ages in broader society. This different direction in socialization can lessen the negative effects of peer pressure while also putting the child in touch with people and situations from which they can learn wisdom.
Homeschooling gives us freedom to travel off season. This may not be a high point for everyone, but my husband sure likes adventures. We make our own schedule and take vacation time when my husband’s work schedule allows, or based on the best time of year. School can come along with us (usually in the form of audiobooks listened to on the road), the trip itself might be a broader part of their education (like supersized field trips), and/or we can leave it all behind to be picked back up when we get home (this works just fine, too).
Homeschooling allows us to pass on a love for learning and love for GOOD books. We love good books and have read aloud to our kids since they were wee babes. Many parents do this, whatever their school decisions. But because we homeschool, and because we homeschool with a literary focus, our kids’ time isn’t taken up with reading textbooks about history or science or literature–they get direct access to great literary books (on all subjects) as part of school time–everyday. And they choose to read outside of school time, too. Reading is enjoyable for life, and it’s also a marker for “student success.” We emphasize the learning and enjoyment–the “success” is a nice byproduct.
In case you didn’t notice, our reasons for homeschooling aren’t really fear-motivated. We aren’t so much opting-out of public school. We’re opting-in to something we think is beautiful. Homeschooling isn’t just how we do school. It’s a lifestyle. Because education is way bigger than our modern concept of “school.”
That said, there are many things we’re happy to avoid (see this article on concerning trends in children’s literature, for one thing). But those things aren’t the focus. We’re not running from Bad Things so much as we’re running toward The Good. Because The Good is well worth it.
Homeschool families come at it from many different angles and experiences. How about you? Why do you choose to homeschool? Or why might you be considering it?
Getting started homeschooling in Arkansas is pretty easy. My family is about to start our seventh year officially homeschooling in the sate of Arkansas. Here are the Legal Requirements and some Considerations to get your started.
Arkansas law requires homeschoolers to fill out a Notice of Intent to Homeschool form. This form asks for basic information and requires you to sign a waiver stating that you take responsibility for the education of your child(ren). You don’t have to list your curriculum, hours, or days of instruction. It’s very simply and to the point.
You can fill out the Notice of Intent on paper and turn it in to your local school district’s office, or, more conveniently, you can fill the form out online and submit it electronically. Once your Notice of Intent has been reviewed, you’ll receive a notification by email and you can then save and print a copy of the state-approved form for your records. If you do opt to take it in to your local school district’s office, they’ll stamp the form, and you ought to ask for a photocopy so that you can keep it for your records.
When to Submit the Notice of Intent
If you know you will be homeschooling the next school year, you can submit the Notice of Intent for the coming school year between June 15 and August 15.
Here’s what the Arkansas Department of Education says about submitting the Notice of Intent after August 15: “NOI forms submitted after this date for a student currently enrolled in public school will be subject to a 14-calendar day waiting period before releasing the student to be home-schooled. The superintendent or local school district board has the authority to waive this waiting period upon request.”
For more information on the Notice of Intent and to access a copy of the form online, go to this page on the Arkansas Department of Education’s webiste.
For more information on getting started homeschooling, including the Notice of Intent and guidance on high school requirements, I highly recommend you check out Education Alliance–they are a homeschooler’s best friend in the state of Arkansas!
That’s really it for the basic requirements! Fill out a form! Easy!
But there are a few more things that would be helpful to consider to make sure that the Notice of Intent is actually the right form for you:
Public School Online
If you are enrolled in Arkansas Virtual Academy (ARVA), or one of the other K-12 online public schools, you are NOT considered a homeschooler, and the state does not require you to fill out a Notice of Intent because you are technically still enrolled in public school.
UPDATED TO ADD: If you are leaving a local public school to enroll in a virtual K-12 program, you will have to submit an application to the virtual school and may also be required to give written notice to your child’s previous school. Check with your current school and the virtual school for requirements.
If you wish to switch to homeschooling from online public school, you will need to submit a Notice of Intent.
If your child is five years old on or before August 1, and you desire to keep them home for another year rather than send them to public school, you may fill out a Kindergarten Waiver rather than a Notice of Intent.
Our family did this with one of our children because his birthday fell at the end of the summer, and if we were to put him in school, we would have wanted him to start as an older child rather than as the youngest in his class. This can be a way to take a deep breath and try out homeschooling without pressure if you are still on the fence about what to do with your rising kindergartener.
Things that are NOT Required in Arkansas
Some states require homeschoolers to give quarterly reports, take standardized tests, keep track of the days and hours of instruction, or present a portfolio of their child’s work at the end of the year. Arkansas requires NONE of these things. And this makes homeschooling in Arkansas very easy from a legal standpoint.
However, many homeschool families find it helpful to review their own homeschools on a periodic basis in a way that suits their needs. They may elect to take standardized tests when appropriate and even administer them at home or with a local homeschool group. And many parents keep detailed or representative records of their children’s work and progress. The freedom afforded home educators in the state of Arkansas allows these practices to be tailored to the needs of the parent-teacher and their child.
If you have concerns about what records to keep, know that unless you are building a child’s high school transcript, the most important thing to demonstrate with the work samples and records you keep is how the child is progressing. For a young child, this doesn’t need to include grades. Work samples from the beginning, middle, and end of the year in the most pertinent skill areas are a great way to show progress if you are ever called upon to do so. And it’s valuable for you and your child to see how far you’ve come!
Recommended Resources for Homeschooling in Arkansas
Education Alliance Not only will you find guidance for getting started, you’ll also find information on local co-ops and support groups, an opportunity to purchase Teacher and Student ID cards, a service for high school transcripts and diplomas, updates on state laws and how they impact homeschoolers, and more! If you have questions about sports or special needs or other specific considerations, Education Alliance can help get you the answers you need.
Home School Legal Defense Association This is another great and long-standing organization at the national level, offering support, educational resources, and legal representation if needed. They also have a charitable arm that seeks to help families through times of need by offering grants for homeschooling.
Also, never underestimate the power of having a library card! 🙂
Got more questions or concerns? Let me know in the comments! I wish you the best!