It’s been a whirlwind of a year so far! There’s no way I can recap all of it, but in short we believe that God has led our family to a wonderful educational program called Classical Conversations. After much research, prayer, and training, Julian and I will be directing and tutoring a Challenge A seminar in our community this next year. In light of that, I’ll be posting resources and ideas that I find useful along the way to help us learn and teach the various strands.
In preparation for teaching Latin, I’m realizing that I’m lacking more than a little in my own knowledge of English grammatical terms (an embarrassing confession for an author to make!). So I was thrilled to discover the Daily Grammar website! You can view each of the 440 lessons on-line, purchase the ebook or workbook, and/or sign up for daily lesson e-mails delivered right to your inbox. I think I’ll be back here a lot this year!
The following quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer is both insightful and challenging. I was especially struck by his assessment that a propensity to doubt and incessantly re-evaluate why we are traversing a particular course is often spurred on by an aversion to the patience and testing being required of us in a time of difficulty. The very patience and testing that we are told to expect and joyfully embrace as followers of Christ. I am all too guilty of this as a homeschool mom.
“I’m not quite sure how, we have largely got into a way of thinking which is positively dangerous. We think that we are acting particularly responsibly if every other week we take another look at the question whether the way on which we have set out is the right one. It is particularly noticeable that such a ‘responsible reappraisal’ always begins the moment serious difficulties appear. We then speak as though we no longer had ‘a proper joy and certainty’ about this way, or, still worse, as though God and his Word were no longer as clearly present with us as they used to be. In all this we are ultimately trying to get round what the New Testament calls ‘patience’ and ‘testing.’ Paul, at any rate, did not begin to reflect whether his way was the right one when opposition and suffering threatened, nor did Luther. They were both quite certain and glad that they should remain disciples and followers of their Lord.
“Dear brethren, our real trouble is no doubt about the way upon which we have set out, but our failure to be patient, to keep quiet. We still cannot imagine that today God really doesn’t want anything new for us, but simply to prove us in the old way. That is too petty, too monotonous, too undemanding for us. And we simply cannot be constant with the fact that God’s cause is not always the successful one, that we really could be ‘unsuccessful’: and yet be on the right road. But this is where we find out whether we have begun in faith or in a burst of enthusiasm.”
The truth is I don’t like waiting patiently for my children to develop the character I think they should have right now. I don’t like being tested in my resolve by their complaints and resistance to the instruction and assignments I work so hard to plan and impart to them. I don’t like the petty monotony of addressing the same issues day after day after day…
The higher truth, though, is that this is the path of faith that God has called me to walk. Faithfully, patiently training and discipling my children to seek the Lord and love Him with all their hearts. When my patience is tried and difficulties abound, rather than shrinking back and succumbing to doubts and the escapism of reassessing my path, I want to lay aside all of these weights and instead run with endurance the race that is set before me (Hebrews 12:1).
Our family is excited to be attending the Great Homeschool Convention in Fort Worth, so I have been looking into possibilities for other educational things to do in the area. We’re hoping to visit the Economy in Action exhibit at the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank. As I was looking over their website, I discovered some very helpful free resources (downloadable pdf booklets) that explain various aspects of economics and money. I love finding resources like this that I can utilize to increase my own understanding, and so that I, in turn, can more effectively educate our children!
One of my favorite poems is one by Matthew Arnold called Morality. I don’t remember where I first heard or read it, but the first stanza has been etched in my mind for years:
We cannot kindle when we will
The fire which in the heart resides;
The spirit bloweth and is still,
In mystery our soul abides.
But tasks in hours of insight will’d
Can be through hours of gloom fulfill’d.
These words have often compelled me to put all of my energy into the task at hand, especially when I am feeling thoughtful or creative, because undoubtedly just around the corner are awaiting moments of “gloom” in which I will be unable to complete such tasks. So whether it’s lesson planning, writing, composing a song, planning a dinner menu, organizing a family outing, or any of a multitude of activities, I try to make the most of the moments when I have an idea or inspiration. Because if I let my creative juices flow into diligent efforts in those moments, then we will all reap the benefits of those hours of labor in the moments when I feel uninspired and drained. Instead of presuming upon the future, let’s make the most of the “hours of insight,” redeeming the time in every way possible!
In doing some research for Phase 3 of the first unit of our Ancient Civilizations and the Bible curriculum (which we are loving), I came across a couple of helpful sites:
The Thoughts of Bezalel Blog – some interesting thoughts related to Christianity and the arts, particularly with references to Francis Schaeffer (one of my favorite authors) and his writing/speaking on the subject.
Instructables.com – my search specifically led me to this step-by-step guide on how to make a hardware store copper bracelet, but it looks like a treasure trove of ideas for just about any project you or your kids might want to try!
We’ve been using Calculadders with all of our kids this year to make sure that they have a solid foundation in fundamental math skills. I really like the philosophy behind the development of Calculadders, that encourages mastery – both speed-wise and accuracy-wise – in order to prepare students for success with more advanced math. It’s a great approach that we can use with all levels simultaneously and get done in a relatively short amount of time each day (or whatever days we are focusing on math). It’s also easy to time everyone, track their errors, and generate reports with their overall performance.
When any of the kids run into difficulty with a level and end up stuck there, it’s an indication that they need additional practice on that skill. I was really excited to find a resource today where you can enter your own parameters and generate endless worksheets as pdfs that can be quickly printed and distributed to students to give them ample reinforcement in the area where they are struggling. For example, just click Multiplication Worksheets and it takes you to a page where you can specify what to include on the worksheet. I know I’ll be visiting this site often!
Living for Jesus-
what does that mean?
Can’t I still play
on my basketball team?
Living for Jesus-
how do I know?
Can’t I still watch
my favorite show?
Living for Jesus-
how will it end?
Can’t I still keep
my very best friend?
Living for Jesus-
will it be fair?
Can’t I still dress
with cute clothes and hair?
Living for Jesus-
what will I find?
Can’t I still own
what’s rightfully mine?
Living for Jesus-
how is it done?
Can’t I still have
a life that is fun?
Living for Jesus-
what is the key?
Can’t I be blessed
while living for me?
The Cost of Discipleship According to Jesus
“So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:33)
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:45-46)
How do we convey to our children the surpassing worth of Jesus Christ compared to anything and everything in this world? How do we lead them to the truth that if they will lose their life for the sake of the gospel, then – and only then – they will truly find it?
Years ago I purchased the Ancient Civilizations and the Bible curriculum by Diana Waring. I must have started going through it at one point because once I dug through the layer of dust it had accumulated I discovered a few of my pencil underlinings and notes in the margins. The memory escapes me, though, so I’m reading it afresh in preparation for a course we’re hoping to do this year. Julian and I recently had the opportunity to visit a number of ancient Mayan ruins in the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico, so our curiosity was piqued and we came home desirous of learning more about such ancient civilizations. We found the Moody Institute Empty Cities production from 1961 at our library and watched it with the kids a few days after giving them the virtual tour of our own Mayan adventure. Here’s the full film on YouTube:
Even though Diana Waring’s curriculum deals with different civilizations, I am excited to use it as a springboard for studying a variety of areas this year. I was especially encouraged by this portion of the Introduction:
“As dearly beloved followers of Jesus Christ, we who are teachers need to understand this: the essential truth at the very foundation of education is that God is the True Teacher, the Master Teacher, the Actively-Changing-Lives Teacher. To teach as a “student teacher” under His authority and His leading will transform our hearts and attitudes, it will dramatically affect our students’ experience, and, in the final analysis, it will reflect the heart of God.
Instead of a mere dispenser of facts, requiring our students to regurgitate the same facts back to us, we can teach with anticipation and a sense of wonder, expecting God to show us new insights, new connections, and new understandings we never had before. We can enthusiastically and humbly share with our students what and how God has taught us, eagerly encouraging them to watch for His involvement in their own lives.”
I realize that I’ve tended to “play it safe” – studying and learning things about which I was already relatively familiar. Perhaps subconsciously I’ve felt like in order to teach my children I had to be the expert on the material in their eyes. But I appreciate this reminder and challenge to keep being a learner myself, even in front of my children. If I am excited to learn and grow as we study new areas, perhaps that excitement will prove contagious and they will learn to love learning as well!
One thing I’m really excited about this year is a little journal I picked up the other day called, Living Well One Line a Day. I was inspired last Sunday when we sang one of my favorite songs, 10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman. I’ve dwelt on the first verse quite a bit, but was especially struck by the second verse this time:
You’re rich in love,
and You’re slow to anger.
Your name is great,
and Your heart is kind.
For all your goodness
I will keep on singing –
Ten thousand reasons
for my heart to find.”
One of the greatest challenges every day is to take my thoughts captive to the obedience of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). It’s easy to wallow in discouragement, self-pity, frustration, and more. But those fruits are a result of walking in the flesh and being driven by my circumstances rather than by what I know is right and true. So one way that I’m hoping to more actively combat that this year is by looking for the goodness of God expressed in every moment and then documenting it in a brief sentence at the end of each day. I hope that this will prove to be a useful tool to help me keep my thoughts more centered on God throughout the day and less centered on how I’m feeling (or how the day seems to be falling apart!).