A Week of Answers – Space and Budget Squeeze

Mountains in Ecuador

Mountains in Ecuador

Dear Katharine,

My husband and I are becoming missionaries. Our current home is in Hawaii but he spends a lot of time in places like a mountaintop in Ecuador. We have three children and are fairly certain we want to continue home schooling them, although some of our friends say we will waste my missionary education. My question is how to provide effectively all they need in a way that will store in a maximum of six feet of shelf space. That truly is all we can spare for their materials, so I want to find some way to do without regular curriculum. Also, when we want to take our children into the field, how can we make school as portable as possible? Our life is rather flexible or relaxed and our funds are low. Is there a way that is really good, that you can truly recommend?  –Dina

Dear Dina,

Yes. And you are not alone.

Let me start by emphasizing that missionaries are not the only ones with little space, low funds, and the need to travel. Several home schoolers that I have known had the same question.

Those who work in building construction are one very mobile group that includes many home schoolers. Those who work in the music ministry business are another.

How to fit it in, how to afford it, how to make it portable, are questions I hear frequently.

Wasted?

Missionaries are also not the only ones accused of wasting Mom’s skills on a mere lapful of children. We must be careful to realize that people base these accusations on the popular devaluation of children, the opposite of the ways of Jesus, Who took them up in His arms. Your friends would let you reach out to Ecuadorian children with impunity, right? Why not to your own?

Inexpensive.

There are some incredibly inexpensive ways to make learning happen, though, and they all take very little space. The first resource that comes to my mind is the Bible. Since you lead a flexible life, I suggest you try the idea of studying all the concepts presented in the Bible.I think you would never run out of “curriculum”.

For instance, in Genesis 1:1, you could study the earth for a month. Of course, you probably do not know everything you would like to share about it, so my second recommendation is to obtain a set of encyclopedias (for about $5.00 at garage sales, and the older, the better) or at least a world almanac (a few dollars at a discount store.)

One thing you would never have to do, in Hawaii, is make a fake papier-mâché volcano. You could just visit a real one and learn about it, probably all you want to know, without cost, in a tourist center, right? It would make a good study.

For spelling, you could work on “created”, “heavens”, and “earth”, and add words like them, to teach the different “ea” pronunciations.

For math, older children could calculate things like the circumference, diameter, and volume of the earth.

And then comes Genesis 1:2, in which you study oceans, spell words that compare to “form”, “void”, and “covered” for various sounds of “o”. Do you get the idea? You are probably thinking of many other ideas that I am not, just because you know what God wants you to teach and I do not.

Your mission.

  • If you are surrounded with people of many nationalities, obtain their input, please.
  • Introduce your children to many missionaries and let your children reap the richness that would never fit onto any shelf, but is inherent to your life.
  • If you speak any Ecuadorian languages, your children should too, so get busy creating a bilingual home. Really, social studies should be a breeze for you.

A little-known fact about most reading curriculum is that many of the accessories are optional. In fact, if you can find moral, age-appropriate material at your library, use that. As long as your children are reading, they are learning more about how to read. You could just read the Bible. For phonics, stick to very simple books that you read to them while pointing, and explain a lot. Or , buy a few workbooks for first grade, to get over the phonics hump at first.

Math.

For math, you may feel you need one text per grade, per year, which you sell or lend once you do not need them any longer. Alternatively, you can  teach the basics as you remember learning them when you were little, incorporating the lessons into your daily lives.

Are we still fitting onto your shelf? Good! We are almost finished shopping.

All I would suggest after the above is a book on scope and sequence (which will help you gauge the math lessons, if you do not obtain texts), a good collection of moral classic literature, a good Biblical world  history, and a good English handbook.

Actually, with those four and the Bible, you could probably skip the encyclopedia as long as you have a public library. Since most missionaries have outstanding computers and Internet service, you might even skip the library and obtain information from outer space.

Once you master this way of teaching your children, you’ll be able to visit Ecuador with them, teaching with nothing but the math book and your Bible. It will unfold itself to you in a way that only God could explain, but perhaps with which you already have much familiarity. When you are in the field, in other words, let God be your explanation and your scope and sequence. All of us could use more of that input in our home schools, anyway.

This method, as you requested, is really good, and I can truly recommend it. God did not leave out one particle of important information in His Word, and when you lean upon Him, He will guide you perfectly. You already know that.

Finally, I cannot over-emphasize the importance of forming or joining a support group. Even if only one other missionary mom is home schooling, but will store half the encyclopedias on her shelves, you both will gain. You could share all the above resources, cutting both your expenses in half. This says nothing of moral support, but you would certainly find that, too, not to mention prayer support.

Yes, you can continue home schooling your children, and you must. Nothing else will accomplish the very things you desire.

May God bless your efforts!

Love, Katharine

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A Week of Answers – Counting Blessings

Dear Katharine,

I have such a problem with my goals wandering, and with thinking that others have it easier than I do. When I look around me, I see all sorts of boosters–IN OTHER PEOPLE’S LIVES! Mine, though, looks jumbled and behind schedule and difficult, to me. How can I be sure or even know if I need to make some changes?  –Alissa

Dear Alissa,

It is easy.

First, make a list of everything that is going well, going okay, going not too bad, not as bad as it used to be, or not as bad as it could be, for you, lately.

I mean, look at your house: are the floors easy to clean? List that. Then look at your car: are the brakes decent for a change? List that, too. How about clothing: do all your boys have jeans that are long enough? List it. Try curriculum: is yours making school easier? List it. Go on to list one good thing about your schedule, your meals, your field trips, your P.E., your quiet time, and your day.

Then imagine that these things were actually happening to others, around you.

Imagine that Sue has easy clean floors, Sally has a car in good repair, Sylvia has decent jeans for all her kids, Sarah has a great curriculum, Sandy has begun having quiet time, and so forth. Wouldn’t that make you feel like they had some sort of better home school?

The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.What you will see is plenty of reasons to think that the grass in greener on YOUR side of the fence, too., and that others could easily fall down the same slippery slope that you have, if they were looking at you and doubting themselves.

Whatever is going right, look to the Lord, not others, and count your blessings! Do this exercise every time you feel inadequate and it should help.

Then remember this little true story: A mom used to feel guilty about seeming to get the ironing done just at the last moment for someone to wear it, barely squeaking it in at the nick of time. However, one day her son had to write, in one sentence, a definition of happiness and he answered: “Happiness is a warm shirt in the morning.”

You see, children naturally love their own home, whatever that means, so smile and RELAX!

The important thing is fulfilling the command to teach your children, right? God will bless that. And if something is truly missing from your life, the above exercise will probably bring it to light.

Katharine

A Week of Answers – Why Am I So Tired?

This week we are studying from the questions of others, what to do, how to do it, and why. Hope you enjoy this series and learn lots from it. This second letter is from a mother of three, ages five to ten, and asks a very good question. Enjoy!

Taking a break on Bond

Taking a break on Bond (Photo credit: pamhule)

Dear Katharine,

I’m so tired and cannot even say why. I can remember when I used to do so much more and now I hardly can get out of bed. It’s odd because I’m not so tired in the middle of the night. Anyway, I just wonder if there’s some trick to being all the things a home school mom needs to be, and keeping at it. I mean, am I forgetting something?  –Shelly

Dear Shelly,

Maybe you are overlooking something. It is easy for us to become caught up in the bustle and not realize we are adopting different habits. Let’s honestly look at your life a moment and ask a few questions, okay?

  1. Do you read your Bible, daily, and pray? I always slip away from good attitudes when I slip away from the Author of all goodness. We cannot expect to succeed if we break the rules about keeping in contact with the Lord. Are you forgetting to rejoice in the Lord? It is the joy of the Lord that is our strength.
  2. Do you ever get a break? Nearly everyone else gets breaks, you know. People take vacations from their jobs all the time and return very refreshed.
    Of course, you cannot just abandon your children and husband for a week, but you can abandon the thoughts and cares for a few minutes and take little imaginary mini-vacations while you read or bathe.
    By the way, are you doing too many things? Do we really need to provide dance, music, art, sports, and oratory lessons for each child, for each semester and attend each meeting and field trip? Is that why we do this? Are you ever at home, as in home school? Maybe you are running yourself ragged.
  3. Do you take care of your body? When moms forget to take vitamins, take a walk, take a nap, or take time off from caffeine, they usually are tired, whether they homeschool or not. The body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and we should be good stewards of it.

There you have it–questions that cover all three aspects of the whole of a person: spirit, soul, and body. You should now realize a few changes you need to make.:)

If all the above does not apply, I would like to ask you if you might be either ill or depressed.

Sometimes illness can masquerade as tiredness and sometimes depression can hit us from the side very unexplainably. If your tiredness does not fall into any of the three categories above, you may need help from a professional.

I am a professional mom, but I may not be the professional that you need. You may need a doctor or a good, Christian, pastoral counselor. If you think that may be the case, I pray you not delay–you owe it to your children.

Love, Katharine

A Week of Answers – Am I Called to Home School?

This week we are studying from the questions of others, what to do, how to do it, and why. Hope you enjoy this series and learn lots from it. This second letter is from a fairly new homeschooling mom with deep-core issues. Enjoy!

Homeschooled children in the kitchen

Homeschooled children in the kitchen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dear Katharine,

I guess I’m the only one out here who doesn’t get it. When I go to support group meetings, I always hear moms talking about how God told them to home school, or something, and we didn’t do it that way. In my case, I just decided to try it last year, to see what all the excitement was about. So far, I’ve liked it, and here we are. Outside of relaxing a little, (who wouldn’t?) my two kids (ages seven and nine) don’t seem much different. Am I maybe not “called” to home school like these other mothers? Couldn’t God really want my kids to toughen up some, by being in the schools? Does home school really prepare all kids for every type of career?  –Mackenzie

Dear Mackenzie,

No. God does not want your children to toughen up in public.

Let’s talk about that first, because He may have been leading you more than you realize.

English: Oak Tree

Oak Tree (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Adults are like oak trees. A beautiful, tall, old oak tree is tough. If you run into one with your lawn mower, the tree wins. Right?

How does it get that way?

Simple: Oak trees get huge and tough by not being mowed over when they are young and tender.

Children are young and tender.

Children, in general, however, can be very cruel.

So can life.

It can feel a lot like a lawnmower.

For this reason, God put children into families, with parents to protect them, comfort them, and strengthen them. They actually obtain their toughness this way, in the home. They have to be taught how to be tough, and it is therefore the parents’ job to teach this toughening. How can you protect, comfort, and teach your children toughness when you are not with them!

Do you think their teachers will wrap them in their arms, cry with them and remind them that God sees and cares and can help them be tough? I think not; it is against the law, in the teachers’ imaginations.

That is why children relax, as yours did—and mine did—when they finally come home.

The curriculum:

Unless your children are very above normal in obedience and kindness, they will create opportunities for you to help them learn how to be oak trees.

Surely they swipe toys, neglect chores, sass, or maybe even resort to violence with each other, just as all kids are prone to do. Even the most well-behaved children got that way by being TAUGHT—NOT to steal, NOT to be lazy, NOT to rebel, and NOT to bonk brother on the head.

And those who miss this teaching grow up to steal, be lazy, rebel, and use violence. Hmm.

What else?

There is another type of toughness that has little to do with sin, though. This type will go out on a cold, rainy, November morning, and vote. It will volunteer for storm clean-up. It will take up the Bible-study leader’s slack if he has the flu.

This type does not occur on the playground, much.

In fact, this self-denying toughness is missing throughout this world. You can give your children the advantage of this type of toughness, though, which is the real preparation that everyone needs for every type of career out there.

It is great preparation even just for college.

Home schooled children succeed in college, more than children from any type of collective educational situations. Did you know?

And more…

Your other question, about your calling, is harder. I cannot answer for your friends’ feelings or their communications from God.

Let’s just say that God has commanded us to teach our children all the time–when we sit, walk, lie down, and get up. (Deuteronomy 11:10) Sounds as if we need them at home, doesn’t it? In fact, it sounds to me as if God assumed we would have them at home and does not always issue a special call for it.

Also, His command or assumption that we write and read (Habakkuk 2:2) makes it very important that we give our children the tools for those activities, and it just does not always happen in the collective schools.

The risk of our children falling away from all the good things is too enormous. We should keep them where they will not be mowed down, and where they will be watered, nourished, and trained to grow straight and tall.

Given time, they will toughen just fine.

And they will not grow up to be lawnmowers.

Love,

Katharine

A Week of Answers – My Son Is not Reading

Brothers sharing bookThis week we will study from the questions of others, what to do, how to do it, and why. Hope you enjoy this and learn lots from it. The first letter is from a woman who was so scared, she set up a new email account so she could be anonymous. I’ll call her “Jane”.

Dear Katharine,

My oldest son is smart but is still not reading and we have home schooled him for three years, now, making him eight. I am so scared. I have used phonics, daily, and he seems to like it, but he often just doesn’t get it. What am I doing wrong? Have I ruined him? I cannot even bear to think what the schools will say if I send him back there, but I truly do not know what to do, and cannot let him grow up not reading. He reads so slowly and so incorrectly, that it just kills me to listen to it. I hardly dare confess this to anyone, even anonymously like this. HELP! –Jane

Dear Jane,

No you have not ruined him. You probably are teaching correctly, especially since you are using an accepted curriculum, are consistent, and you say he does enjoy it and does actually read, however poorly.

Some children just are slower, for one reason or another, independent of their setting.

Before I answer your questions, I would like to tell you what the schools would have done with your child, okay?

How it would have gone:

First, they would have put him in a reading group with all slow, low-skilled readers, so the “bright” children would not have had to bear the frustration that you are expressing. The results would have been that he would not have been around good reading, ever.

Also they would have instituted some sort of classroom reading competition, in which your son either would not have been expected to compete, or else just would never have had a chance. He and his reading-group friends would have been grouped together for other activities, too, just for convenience’s sake. (You know, the redbirds, the bluebirds, the robins, and the wrens, with the bird species becoming less flashy as the reading skills become less flashy.)Many in his group would have expressed feelings of inferiority about themselves and their group.

Eventually he might have been placed outside the classroom for a few hours a week, to receive special education. This may or may not have been conducted by a learning specialist of any kind–possibly by a substitute teacher or a volunteer–and may not necessarily have been very educational. After all this isolation, he and all his classmates would have begun to get the picture.

Are you beginning to get the picture?

What to do?!

Children who are slow to learn to read, possibly above all others, need to have the chance to exit the collective educational systems. Your son needs individual attention, and believe me, that is impossible in a public setting. If the teacher were able to give him what he needed, she might be of the sweet type who would want to do so, but she simply cannot, because she is in charge of twenty or so individuals who all have needs.

One thing I would suggest, that you are not doing wrong, but maybe have not known to do (and that your son never would receive in a public setting) is that you work on his vision.

  1. Have his eyes professionally examined.
  2. Eliminate fluorescent lighting, at least in his work room. This goes for all “screen lighting”, too, as comes from a computer or TV.
  3. Let him use a white bookmark to underline his reading.
  4. Obtain for your son colored cellophane page covers from a teacher supply store, to see if a different color helps.
  5. Make sure he is receiving excellent nutrition and low amounts of all sugars; no junk food whatsoever, and plenty of outdoor exercise
  6. Nix television and electronic games.

All these little changes possibly can add up to big improvements.

Also, you need to be aware that many children are not ready to learn reading until they are ten, and some after they are nearly grown. (President Andrew Johnson‘s wife taught him to read.) If this is the case with your son, he certainly does not need to be in a collective educational system. He may be the next Edison or Einstein, who both had trouble with traditional schoolwork, and both skipped “school”, learning at home.

You have done your son an immense favor by helping him to escape the isolation and embarrassment that are inherent to those in his situation. Do not stop. Just be patient until he begins to catch on more. Read to him a lot, and let him watch you point at the copy while you read. Especially read his other subjects to him, so he can learn them. Play word games with him, such as hangman or Jr. Scrabble, and get him a simple word-search book. Find an easy story that he likes a lot and read it together, daily. Help him memorize many passages from the Bible, plus some from historical documents, such as the Constitution. Please, also continue with the phonics; there are phonics courses for every age, to adult.

Help him discover and push him into his area of high skill, which may not be a “school” subject, but something more like Edison or Einstein did.

Perhaps it would help you to hear this: One of my older son’s best homeschool friends does not read or spell very well, is beginning a college major in computers, and loves to play word games, of all things. He does well, holding down a job, refereeing soccer, driving, and everything else a young man hopes to do. The important thing, though to his mother, and to you, is that he is a well-rounded gentleman with many moral friends, is of great accountability, is trusted with important adult-level responsibilities, and is not on drugs. He will be fine.

Home schooling did this.

Do not give up. Do not fear. Do not despair. Do not faint.

In due season, you will reap!

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