Mountains in Ecuador

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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The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

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