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Sunday, May 27, 2012

Bringing children home from public school

Ellie working by the garden
It's a very fine and lofty idea, this homeschooling, but where does one start? How can parents bring their children "home" successfully?

A dear mother asked me this question recently and I thought our conversation would benefit many:
I am bringing home my 15 year old daughter after having been in traditional school. I am wondering with three years left of high school can I realistically change her over to this type of learning. I am currently reading homeschool sanity and am very interested in this type of learning but very uncertain as to how to do it. I am a mom to eight. My oldest two children have already graduated. Unfortunately, with a modern education. I am hoping to save the rest of my children from this. I will have five children schooling this fall plus a toddler.
Here is my response:
It was not clear whether or not your remaining five children were being pulled out of government education, so please forgive me if I do not communicate clearly on that point. 
Sarah with math in her room
First of all, you and your children need some time to do what we call "decompressing". To begin to teach your children without allowing them to have a break from all of the pressures and distractions of public schooling is next to impossible for all of you. 
What does this mean? Just taking time to get to know your children, for one thing. It is also time to cleanse your home from distractions you may never have noticed before, such as limiting or eliminating electronic and social media. I know this may seem harsh, but these old methods need for children to have time to develop their own personalities and interests (not in the narcissistic sense, but only as God has created them to serve Him and others). 
We do have Internet access in our home, but only as a rare privilege, under great supervision. We do not own any electronic game equipment whatsoever, and we also own only two cell phones, but these are only as emergency devices, and they are the most basic models.
Patience with colors and stickers
Specifically for your 15yo, you may need to have her take a break from her public-schooled friendships until you establish a new order in your home. At her age, you need to find a way not only to capture her mind, but her heart as well. If she does not have friends to lean on as things are changing so drastically, she may learn that you and your husband, along with her siblings, are indeed her best friends (please forgive me if this is not a problem for you, I am writing this with a few assumptions).
Here are some things I would prescribe for you this summer: 
--go on long walks together
--read aloud a few really interesting novels ("Little Men" is a great one to set the stage)
--give out paper, pencils and crayons and let the children create what they will!
--watch a lot of old films together--the black-and-white ones from the late '30's and '40's that encourage values ("The Big Trail" with John Wayne is a great one, "You Can't Take it With You", "The Angel and the Badman", "Sgt York", "Titanic" [1953 version], etc.).  
Lorilee illustrates her own book
Make it all fun--your enthusiasm will eventually rub off on your children.  
Set a schedule--get up by a certain hour, then do household chores together. Then have a nice brisk walk or something out-of-doors (yard work does wonders for children), and sit down to reading, drawing or other crafting. Have your oldest make lunch for you daily as you catch up on mail, calls, etc.  
Joshua with his McGuffey's work
Create a "culture" in your own home; everyone doing things together, instead of a whole bunch of disjointed activity. Let there be time for individual pursuits, but only after a hefty amount of family interaction.  
And establish respect--if your children do not obey you and your husband, you will not be able to accomplish anything! We even correct for bad attitudes around here, which helps so much! 
This is the best way I know of to set the stage for this new type of education. If you are interested, I could make recommendations for actually starting the formal side of things, but I believe this time of laying a foundation is paramount for you and your family. 
When I asked this reader if I could share with you all, she was more than willing. I know that there are many other families who are struggling with these very issues. I hope this helps!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Rediscovering old authors

I really do live in the 21st century, at least most of the time.

But I also love my jaunts into the past--at least before humanism took hold of our culture. There was always vice and sin, but it was not published and flaunted as it is today. Most folks would have blushed in shame to even speak of some of the things that were done without any remorse in our Oval Office!

But the so-called "classics" that have survived and are being sold in stores are not necessarily the "cream of the crop". With my study of the McGuffey readers, and others like them, I am rediscovering some wonderful treats, which I can then find through avenues such as Internet Archive, which has collected listings of all sorts of scanned and digitized books from the past.

Here are a few of the authors which I have uncovered:

Thomas Hughes

Frank R. Stockton

Grace Greenwood, especially her Records of Five Years

And currently I am reading the novel, The Foresters, by John Wilson. This book is so explicit with Christian sentiment and thought, and it is of a family that reads the Word, sings hymns, and prays together more than once a day! And yet, it is very interesting and full of human pathos. I would highly recommend it!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A study of the yucca plant

From time-to-time I get questions as to the "how's" of nature study. Here is one example of a spontaneous one that was initiated by my twelve-year-old daughter.

 We live in a semi-arid climate in the West, so we are surrounded by yucca plants!

Yucca blossom dissection with labels
This time of year they are in bloom, so my sweet Ellie brought some blossoms home with her. We proceeded to study these flowers, dissecting them and placing our findings on a large sheet of paper. Then we went on the Internet and found help in labeling the different parts.

Then, for her essay this week, I asked her to research and write about the usefulness of this desert plant. This is what she wrote:

Yucca Plant
by Ellie, age 12

The yucca plant is very useful. The Pueblo Indians used it for food, rope, paint brushes, and shampoo. The fruit could be eaten raw, dried, baked or boiled (it tastes kind of like potatoes). Sometimes they made the pulp mixed with berries into cakes that were dried.

The stalks were eaten also. The stalks have a fiber that was used to make rope (sometimes they put human or animal hair or even feathers into it). The stalks would be soaked in cold water and pounded with a stone that would separate the fiber which would be braided together after that. The stalks could also be used as paint brushes (just bite the tip and it will fray).

Shampoo came from the roots! It was first pounded and then mixed into cold water. This would create suds that the Indians used to wash with.

Many Indian Tribes used the yucca for sacred ceremonies. Native Americans also used it as one of the main dyeing substances.  If you burn yucca leaves (stalks) to ashes and put these in bread dough, the bread will turn blue and very thin. The tips were also used for needles.

The pronuba moth is necessary to the plant. The pronuba (or yucca moth) needs the plant as much as the plant needs it.  The pronuba pollinates the plant while it lays its babies (or larvae). The larvae eat the maturing fruit and, when they are at the pupating stage, crawl down the stem and go into the ground. 

Nowadays we have a root beer with yucca in it (yucca creates foam).

Yucca is used for healing cuts, sunburns, scratches and dry cuticles. If you have arthritis or rheumatism take a yucca root and boil it for about half an hour and then drink it as tea. I can guarantee it will relieve you!