Do Schools Kill Creativity? {TED Talk}

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I recently listened to this TED talk while getting ready one morning. As a homeschooling mom, one of the many benefits of this type of education is being able to tailor lessons according to my children’s interests. My son loves playing the piano, and the hours he has spent doing so would not have been available to him if we did not homeschool. Likewise, we would not have been flexible to take trips to see relatives or visit historical sites together had it not been for homeschooling. There is certainly a place for traditional education – one must be able to read, write, and do math to survive in the world. But education is so much more than the three “r’s”.

Sir Ken Robinson presents these ideas in a concise and humorous way in this video. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

*Note: The book he mentions, Epiphany, was published under the title The Element. I hope to read it in the near future.

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Lessons I’ve Learned as a Homeschooling Mom


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My first child is graduating in a little over a hundred days. It seems like yesterday that we began this journey of learning together. I can still see her in the little school desk that Great-Grandma Saylor gave us. I can see her tiny hands, her blonde bangs, her big smile that revealed baby teeth. I can hear myself say, “Welcome to the first day of Kindergarten!” to my one and only pupil. She was grinning from ear to ear, and I was too.

The experience has been full of highs and lows. I can remember getting so frustrated (and feeling like a failure) because she couldn’t read a blend, or remember what 6 + 2 was. I can remember all the laughs we had trying to think of ways to recall spelling words or rules of math. I remember all the times we snuggled up, enjoying a book together.  I can vividly recall the joy I felt when she learned to read well, and then later, when she loved to read (and feeling stupid for worrying that she couldn’t read that blend in first grade). I remember beaming as I read one of her essays in 6th grade, or feeling warmth in my heart as she expressed her opinion on a part of history, or a piece of literature…she was thinking, and debating. Those are good things for us to do. She has helped me see the other side of many issues, and maybe a few times, she’s even been right. 😉

I have had a front row seat to everything she has learned, and it’s been wonderful. Frankly, I don’t want it to end. I’m grateful that she won’t be leaving soon, because her absence would leave a gaping hole in my life. She is planning on attending a university in our town, so I am excited about having a front row seat to her college experience, too. I’m also happy that I have four more children to love on, read with, listen to, and from whom I can learn even more lessons. Here a few of them:

  1. Walking with the Lord is the secret to everything in life, especially homeschooling. As a Christian, it didn’t take long to see that I can’t do much – homeschooling, or anything else – without spending time with the Lord, mostly on my knees. I can remember so many times over the years that I have lost my cool while trying to explain something, or overreacted to a situation. I can remember saying the wrong things to my children and seeing that pained look in their eyes. In pains me now to think of it! All I can do is cry out to God for help and forgiveness. I do the best I can, but I must depend on the Lord’s mighty power to do as He pleases in their lives. And that is my prayer! I pray they will be saved, and I tell them the gospel. The rest is, and will be, the Lord’s doing.
  2. Asking my children to forgive me is hard, but worth it. As I mentioned above, I often do the wrong things or say the wrong things to my children. I ask the Lord to forgive me, and I ask them to forgive me, too. I used to say things like, “I’m sorry for snapping at you, but I’m just so tired.” Then I realized that by saying “I was just so tired,” that I was giving myself a free pass to have done wrong. It’s hard to say, “I’m sorry I snapped at you. I have no excuse. Please forgive me.” It’s humbling, and it’s not my favorite thing to do at all, but the benefits are beyond description.
  3. Starting the day with spiritual things is paramount. Over the years, I have done everything from starting the day with a short prayer with the children, to reading a chapter of Proverbs. Currently, we are reading one chapter out of a devotional series each morning. When I finish it, I am not sure what I will do next. But what I do isn’t as important as doing something. Prayer, Bible reading or memorization, it’s all crucial and should be first thing each day. If I teach my children to read, but do not read to them the greatest words ever written, the Bible, then I have lost a golden opportunity to plant Gospel seeds in their hearts.
  4. Homeschooling moms must be disciplined. There must be some type of schedule, it can be any kind, starting any time of day, but it must be consistent. Children thrive with a schedule. It offers security and stability and makes motherhood easier. It’s hard to get up and get going at the same time and do the same things for 170+ days of the year, but it’s vital to success.
  5. The most important lessons are not in textbooks. I love to learn, and knowledge is important. But what good is knowledge if your kid is a jerk who can’t share, show respect, or work with others? My favorite quote is by the gold medal winning ice skater, Scott Hamilton. He said, “The only disability is a bad attitude.” Amen to that. My uncle is a paraplegic. He is also a farmer who owns thousands of acres of land. He grows wheat, soybeans, milo, corn, and he owns cattle. He is handicapped…or is he? He never complains, he rises before dawn, works long ours in the heat/rain/wind. He uses his upper-body strength to climb up into tractors and combines. He doesn’t quit. He tells a joke better than anyone I know. I smile just thinking about him. He has a good attitude and that has made all the difference. He has been an outstanding example to my children over the years as I have tried to teach them what makes the difference between average and above average. All I have to say is, “Look at Uncle Gary.”

My children make each day an adventure! I love being with them. I have a lot of excitement in my life because I am a homeschooling mom.

And I wouldn’t want it any other way.

With love,

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Remember Me?

Hi! My name is Valerie. Thanks for stopping by!

Life has been so busy lately that I almost feel like I need to introduce myself again and start over from scratch with this blog. I mentioned in a previous post that our family decided to throw caution to the wind and participate in our homeschool group’s co-op classes, which are held once a week. Co-op only lasts about three hours, but the toll it has taken on my schedule has been seismic. (I guess I didn’t realize how rigid I was in scheduling department. Oops.) The kids are loving their classes which include art, P.E., volleyball, and choir for the younger ones; computer science, knitting, and young entrepreneurs for the older ones. I help out in two classes. We just completed our fourth week and are finally adjusting to the change.

I have also been working part-time at our church as my husband’s secretary. I am responsible for packing and mailing the Watchman Press materials and helping to get them printed. I am currently typing four Sunday school lesson books written by Bro. Forrest Keener, a former pastor of Bethel who labored here for over 40 years. The books need updating, and that’s taking a lot of work. I am not a fast typist and I homeschool the kids every day, so my hours have been confined to a few days a week in the afternoons. I have completed one book. Yep! Only three to go. Between homeschooling, house work, and church work, I have been too tired to do my favorite hobby: blog!

In the few minutes I have right now between loads of laundry and supper time, I wanted to stop in and say hello and share a few photos of our school year so far. (Some of these pics are from as far back as August…I’m behind in everything these days.)

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Matt with an art project.

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Working hard. Definitely had to bronze this moment.

laci-everything-is-matterLaci did a little science project, demonstrating that “Everything Is Matter”.

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Matt with two of his books for first grade. The book on the left was used by each of the kids. Lots of memories sitting beside them, helping them sound out words, fighting sleep. *sigh* Good times.

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Here’s Mitch working on a science project.

Matthew has been learning some poems for first grade. He doesn’t always want me to video him, but he said I could for this most recent poem, “The Secret”.

Moments like these make homeschooling worth every minute.

I have also had less and less time for my second favorite hobby – reading. I have a few books to write about, and I do hope I can do that soon.

The dryer buzzed…gotta run. 🙂

THANK YOU for reading!

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“Seven Days Are in a Week” (Abeka Song)

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In teaching my first grader with the Abeka homeschooling curriculum, we came upon this song in the most recent edition of their arithmetic material. I am not sure if there is a CD with this song available from Abeka, but even if there is, I don’t have it. I do, however, have a fourteen year old, piano-loving son. He was kind enough to play this song for me a few times so I could learn it and sing it with Matthew. I asked him if he would allow me to record it for any other moms out there who might like to learn it, but (like me) can’t play the piano. You can find the music in the back of the homeschool curriculum guide.

Here are the lyrics:

Seven days are in a week, Sunday church with our families.

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday we’re off to school.

Saturday we play with friends, ride our bikes and clean our rooms.

Count the days of which we speak, seven days are in a week.


Thanks, Mitch, for doing me such a great favor!

I don’t usually request that anyone share my blog posts (but I always appreciate it), however, if you could share this one, or the video on YouTube, I would be most grateful. I hope it might be a help to other moms out there.

Thanks for being here!

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I’m Sorry I’m a Stressed-Out Mom: An Open Letter to My Kids

Dear Children,

When your dad knocked on the door of the brown brick house on Karen Street nineteen years ago to ask your papa for my hand in marriage, your papa wisely told him, “Terry, she’ll need a strong leader.” He said this because he knew my stubborn, determined will better than anyone. One thing he forgot to tell him is that I also needed someone who could tell me to take a deep breath and calm down. Your dad learned the hard way that I get stressed-out easily.

Today, we completed our first day of the homeschooling co-op. It took me three years to build up the courage to commit to this. You have joked with me about how I have counted the number of water bottles too many times and agonized over the lunches you would take. You may not know that I printed out roughly seventeen pages of emails related to co-op. I filled out forms, wrote checks, planned our schedule, and asked more than a few questions of the co-op leaders. (Bless their hearts!)

Today, I worked in the class with the 3-5 year olds. One little girl became a fast friend. We talked about her doll and I encouraged her to keep her backpack unzipped because her doll needed some air. I was just trying to make conversation with her, but she took me quite literally. When her mom came in later, her daughter informed her that the her doll “needed air” so the backpack had to stay unzipped. Her mom smiled and said how cute her daughter was. I was worried, of course, that I might have caused trouble. But this little girl’s mom was relaxed…not like your mom. I went on to help the little girl glue beads onto a sick that had a number on it. I helped her count out the exact number and we got glue all over our hands. I, of course, brought out my hand wipes to clean both of us up and anyone else, too. One little girl had four items glued to a stick that had a “2” on it. I came very close to pulling off the superfluous items and helping her attach some of them to the “5” stick. Luckily, I realized it wasn’t that important. I actually let it go. It was such a paramount moment that I decided to write it down in this blog post. (I know you’re proud of me.)

Being in that class reminded me of when you all were that little. I wasn’t the relaxed mom at all. I helped you re-arrange objects to get them on right; I encouraged you to keep things in order, to stay in the lines when coloring. I had you erase whole rows of handwriting to put in that word you left out. I tried to be cheerful about it, but did my smile make the work any easier? No, it didn’t. I am afraid that sometimes I was more like a dictator than a loving mother and teacher.

I feel terrible about those days because I do love you, and I want my actions to say as much. As a young girl,  when I sat in my room, reading and daydreaming, I dreamed about you. Well, I didn’t know what you would look like, but I hoped that the Lord would let me have children. As I grew, I realized that not everyone is able to see this dream fulfilled. I was prepared for the worst. To my delight, the Lord gave me not one, but five of you! From the moment I held each one of you, I was filled with joy and a tinge of concern. I considered this a very special job, and I wanted to do it right. I wanted to teach you to take care of yourself, and others. I wanted you to learn to dream big, and work hard; to be kind, and to be tough. Most of all, I wanted to point you to the Lord. I now see that my actions probably did the opposite many times.

I’m sorry that I’m a stressed-out mom. I’m sorry I fret over silly things like if you’ll have enough water bottles to see you through the hot day, or that you have insect repellent and sunscreen on at soccer practice. I’m sorry I make you sit up straight at church and wear a jacket in 60 degree weather. I’m sorry I complain about how dirty you got your pants, or how much milk you drink – all the while making sure you wear clean pants and drink plenty of milk. I wish I could be the mom that I dreamed I would be, because you certainly have fulfilled all of my dreams about you.

It’s okay if one day you tell your children (or your friends) that your mom was kind of crazy –  you can even make the “loco” sign by your head. You can tell them all about my OCD tendencies and about all of my worrying and have a good laugh. I know it’s funny, and I hope you will always smile about it. I hope you’ll smile because you know that you had a stressed-out mom who loved you with every ounce of her being.

Forever yours,

Mother

Review of Notgrass History: America the Beautiful

Notgrass American the Beautiful

Notgrass History, in particular the course called America the Beautiful, has been one of my favorite curriculum choices. The two hardback textbooks along with the hardback book of speeches and original documents called We the People, are beautifully done and written in a conversational way. The two review books, timeline book, and map book are appropriate for grades 3-5. The books themselves are enjoyable for ages 7 and up.

I read the two volumes of America the Beautiful aloud to my 5th and 8th graders last year. As a lover of history, I truly loved this book. The photographs were amazing and I especially enjoyed reading about the National Parks and biographies in the book. Most history books overlook National Parks or only mention them in passing. With this course, you will learn about an American landmark, usually a National Park, each week! I have added Crater Lake to my list “to visit” places in the USA thanks to Notgrass. I doubt you will read about Fred Rogers in another history book, yet his biography was one of my favorites and quite moving. You will also read about the Presidents, main events of history, and the actual words of those who lived during the times in the book We the People. The books are written from a Christian worldview, which is very important to our family.

I also enjoyed using the literature program with Notgrass. I read the following books aloud, and have reviewed them below:

Note: Two of the selections, Little Town of the Prairie and All of a Kind Family, we had already read aloud together as a family, so we did not re-read them. They are both wonderful stories which we highly recommend.

Sign of the Beaver (near the bottom of the post, please scroll down)

Amos Fortune: Free Man; Brady; Bound for Oregon (all in one post, scroll down)

Across Five Aprils

Blue Willow

Homer Price

It took me between 30 minutes to 1.5 hours to complete the read aloud portions each day. By the time I was finished teaching my youngest, helping the others with math, and grading everyone’s work for the day, I was exhausted. For this reason alone, I have chosen not to do Notgrass this year. However, I have saved my books and plan to use it with my youngest two children in the future. It is a wonderful history program that brings the family together to share in learning, and in making memories. To me, that is the very heart of homeschooling.

With love,

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Back To School {2016-2017}

Today was our first day back to school after taking a wonderful summer break. We hiked, visited the Great Plains Museum, enjoyed ice cream and trips to the park, and we textured and painted all the bedrooms! It’s been a great summer, but now it’s time to get back to the school routine.

This year is Lauren’s last year of high school. It seems like only a few days ago that we were beginning the homeschool journey together, both of us unsure of what it would be like. We certainly have had our ups and downs! She is now preparing for college. On one hand, I feel relieved that, by the grace of God, we did it. On the other hand, I’m not quite ready to close this chapter. Fortunately, I have another nine months before I do. Maybe I’ll be ready. *sigh* Maybe.

We snapped some photos, measured everyone, prayed, handed out assignments, and began. Most of the children are excited today, but we all know it will wear off shortly.

Last year was a busy one for me due to the children using a variety of curricula. I have simplified things this year by using only three main curricula – ACE, Abeka, and Saxon. While I loved using Notgrass History, it was time consuming. I hope this year will give me a bit of breathing room between subjects.

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Lauren, a SENIOR!

Mitch-schoolMitchell, 9th grade.

Leslie-schoolLeslie, 6th grade.

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Laci, 4th grade.

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Matthew, 1st grade.

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Our annual group photo (Matthew asked to hold his gun).

We got through at a decent time today and everyone did well. It’s always nice when the first day goes off without a hitch.

Thanks for reading,

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