Sunday, December 30, 2012

Administrating or Ministering

I am going to merge a little bit of my religious life with homeschooling world in this blog. Many years ago, I was serving in a leadership position in my particular church with a very wise wonderful man. One of the frequent conversations that came up in our one on one meetings was around the topic of being an administrator or a minister.

Homeschooling your children, in my opinion no matter what your religious beliefs, is a spiritual matter. I have shared many posts already exploring both sides of the coin. To have a well run homeschool requires many of the skills of an administrator. A homeschool parent is a teacher, aide, principal, front desk receptionist, CEO, nurse and psychologist all rolled into one. If you don't provide structure, organization and parameters, good luck on that science experiment you will never get around to! Without some of the skills that administrators have or develop quickly to survive in their jobs, you will most likely find yourself in hot water over not obtaining that yearly evaluation. You will accumulate fines at the library that might have financed an important item for your homeschooling program. Your children really might benefit from public or private schooling. I had to assist a few families in this boat to put their children back into school because they were in a perpetual state of chaos in their homes and lost the desire to even try to improve.

However, to balance it all out, you also need the attitude of a minister to be truly effective in your children's lives. "For every little boy or girl in our world, there’s a father or mother who can get so focused on achieving life’s little goals that he or she fails to see the opportunities to make their child prince or princess for an hour, or a day- and do an eternal work in their hearts. Our noble missions, even legitimate ministry involvements, steal time that ought to be given to our children." Monte Swan, 'Romancing Your Child's Heart'."

I had the opportunity one year at a FPEA convention to hear Monte and his wife discuss this concept. There are times to take the administrator's hat off and minister to your children. While some structure is good to prevent the chaos from swallowing up your learning opportunities, rigidity will kill off desire for learning. Again, I have mentioned in several earlier blogs to allow for spontaneous learning, to be willing to take detours and to encourage enthusiasm. There are times with certain bad days to turn the emotional climate around and leave the house to let the kids run in the park.

Of most importance, is a minister's ability to care about the individual above programs. In our particular faith denomination, a frequent saying is "People before programs". We have programs that enhance and enrich our lives. We have wonderful programs. But even with all that is wonderful, every person in leadership needs to learn how to make sure they are capable of leaving the ninety and nine to seek out the one.

As it should be in our own homes. The concept of romancing our children's hearts never left me after sitting in on that particular forum.  It's tough work to progress towards this balance. There will be no one perfect at it. I sincerely believe, in almost all circumstances, that parents love their children and want only the best for them.

So feel encouraged to throw out the curriculum that worked well with two of the children and is absolutely killing the desire to learn in the third child. Go ahead and rework the schedule to allow for that weekly enrichment lesson or extracurricular activity out of the home that one of these kids desperately wants and therefore needs! This next suggestion might earn me a boo or a hiss. Be brave and change your schooling situation completely if chaos prevails and your heart is so not into it that you are now resentful of the whole adventure. I think very few will find themselves in this category. However, continue to want what's best for your child.

Throughout the New Testament, we read of Jesus ministering to the one. He urged his listeners to leave the ninety and nine and find the lost one. Ministering to our children, while also doing a decent job of being an administrator, is one of the best gifts we can give to our children. It will never be wasted time. On certain bad days or weeks, you might be the one who needs rescuing! Recognize it and take care of it quickly so you can go back to romancing your child's heart!

"The most important of the Lord's work  you will ever do will be within the walls of your own homes."  President Harold B. Lee

Monday, December 10, 2012

Virtual Schooling

I am finally working around to writing about virtual schooling. Our youngest child participated in this type of schooling during high school. Our oldest three utilized a correspondence course in which they were sent textbooks, studied, and mailed in their tests. This helped fill the holes as they also went to community college for dual enrollment classes. By the time our 4th child hit middle school age, Florida Virtual School was well underway. They were very successful and actually became a working model that the national Department of Education used as a model for the whole country. But, alas, others wanted in on the act and the profits and now there is a smorgasborg of virtual education programs being utilized in the state of FL. I personally feel our legislators made a huge mistake with their legislation but the situation is what it is now. What was a quality program is now reduced in quality as time has gone on depending upon which program your home educated child winds up in.

One reason I feel virtual schooling works so well with homeschooled children is that they are already used to more independence in their schooling. Many are very like minded in wishing to cut through the wasting of time and achieve the learning, thus freeing time up to explore other areas of interest.

I loved that the student and teacher had to interact over the phone quite a bit. It wasn't just sitting at home on the computer taking the tests. There was an introduction call and then pop quizzes and then just great conversation with the teachers. After the competition arose through the lobbyists and legislators, I do feel the staffing ratios must have changed since the amount of  telephone interaction had greatly decreased by the last year our son participated.

As the playing field widened for virtual schools in FL, there was also a big push for elementary school students. FLVS started at middle school which I felt was appropriate. However, I always advised, especially new homeschoolers, to even utilize that very part time. I was and still am totally in disagreement for early elementary school aged children to be involved in this type of schooling. The early years are all about concrete learning and especially for homeschoolers, reading, so to speak, your child and adjusting for those very active children. I became aware of one little child utilizing one of the other programs that had popped up through the public school system, that was tied to a scheduled time of day for his classes which then kept him from being able to attend  homeschool group activities and field trips.

With FLVS, the student has a pacing chart and can access the courses at the times that work best for the student. The only scheduled items would be the telephone visits. It is so important that homeschooled children be flexible for the learning opportunities that arise through the support groups and homeschooling community that I have mentioned in previous blogs. No computer program should be allowed to interfere with that.

I was interested in a blog one of my young friends wrote who shared her viewpoint of virtual schooling. Now she is a public schooled student and the FLVS was originally developed to aid public educated students in obtaining classes that they needed for credits or make up courses.  In recent years, it was mandated for public schoolers in FL to take a certain number of virtual classes since they are graduating from high school into a technology future.  You can read Stephanie Stone's blog at this link:

You will notice Stephanie touches on some of my concerns that I have mentioned here and in previous blogs. Every student needs interaction with others and access to the teachers.However homeschooled students that have been homeschooled for years are more apt to be self paced and independent than many public schooled students. The teachers at FLVS were very responsive. Students could instant message them or place a telephone call to them. I know many of them kept their beepers on them also so that the students could get in touch with them during the working day at any time. I actually believe with the staffing ratios at the level they were at the time our son was utilizing it, the students had more actual one on one time than they would ever have had in public school.

You can read my blog "The S Word" to understand why I feel homeschoolers do not need to be lone rangers. Stephanie is very right in her concerns regarding public presentations, etc. Again, homeschooling parents have been very busy addressing these concerns for years and that is why a homeschool group, co- op, group projects, field trips, etc. are vital to the homeschooling child. What goes on in public school that is beneficial to students has been replicated in the homeschooling community. It does take energy and commitment on the part of the homeschooling parent to bring these benefits to their children.

I believe a mix of all of the above does every student good!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Resistant Sons

As a follow up to my previous blog, I wanted to share some thoughts I wrote in the Teachable Moment in July 1999.

"Chris Davis made a great point in his lecture on "Resistant Sons". The statement he made sounded terrible at first, until he explained it. Women who are being supported by their husbands in homeschooling will burn out. The whole audience was looking at him with funny expressions on their faces! His point was that dads need to do more than just support. They need to take some responsibility for the homeschooling. This doesn't mean they have to quit their jobs and stay home to do the homeschooling with the kids but they need to know what is going on with their children, what are the interests of the moment?,how can the parents help support this interest?, etc. In other words, their hearts and minds need to be focused on the homeschooling process going on in the home too, without the wives having to focus them in."

I was so grateful to my husband as he involved our children in putting a metal roof on the house and building a side porch on. Also when he pulled our younger son into building the chicken coop as they took up the interest of chickens. He was the supervising parent in many of the science experiments.

Follow up note on that seminar on resistant sons. The ballroom was packed with parents....probably at least a thousand people!

"Snips and Snails and Puppy Dog Tails"

I am 10 or 11 years old. I am walking down the hallway at school. The previous few years had been tumultous ones for my family, in part due to the Vietnam War and my father being over there for a good part of those years. I see a small dark curly haired boy in a desk in the hallway all by himself. He is crying. It is my younger brother.

His teacher was frustrated with him. He was too active for her classroom. In the 1960's and early 1970's, the education establishment did not understand how to deal with active little boys. The diagnosis of ADD or ADHD wasn't on the horizon yet. So it was easier to isolate them and put them out in the hallways, where they didn't bother anyone else, including the teacher.

At my young age, I realized something was terribly wrong with this picture. I still remember my first impulse after speaking to him. I wanted to march into that classroom and tell that teacher off. I hurt for my brother. Realizing that would not be the best idea, I did not do that, but did let my mother know what I had seen in the hallways that day.

Besides the socialization question, the number two frequently asked question during all those years of homeschool calls was about those energetic little boys. Note, I am not saying those hyperactive little boys. Many studies have been done regarding the differences between the genders in learning situations.

From my own experiences with my own two active little boys, sitting and being still is hard for them. And not to be too biased here, I did have one very active little girl too and one more sedate little girl. With that said, adapting the homeschool environment for lots of getting up and moving is an easy thing to do. Even just getting up and tossing a ball back and forth while quizzing for multiplication tables can turn the atmosphere into one of fun while learning.

Another area we implemented has already been mentioned in another blog. Give the active child some control over the learning agenda. Allow him/her to pick out areas of interest to learn about. Build as much of the curriculum around the areas of interest as possible. All of this is fairly easy to accomplish in the younger years when the activity levels are at their highest. Even people diagnosed with ADHD when young often end up with just the ADD diagnosis as they mature. My sons definitely slowed down as they hit their teenage years.

Years ago, I sat in a seminar with Dr. Raymond Moore (considered to be one of the grandfathers of the homeschool movement in the United States). He gave an example of a mother whose son had dropped out of school. She was desperate to keep him going in his education. He asked her what he was passionate about. The answer was he was passionate about motorcycles. He then advised her to build a curriculum around motorcycles. Not just the simple things you first think about, but to take it to complicated levels. She did that and returned to thank him within a year or two. She kept her son's brain turned on and there ended up actually being much math built into the curriculum. He told the audience to remember, KISS....Keep it simple, sweetheart! He was a kind man. Please google to obtain a list of the books he and his wife, who was a reading specialist, wrote. You will benefit from their books, I promise!

While I am not going to get into the disciplining area of active children, I will say this. If you don't teach your children to behave within societal boundaries, other people will. The people who fall into disfavor quickly in homeschool groups are those whose children are so out of control, that everyone has to worry about them on the fieldtrips. When on a fieldtrip, it's best to teach your children that you are there as guests and to behave accordingly. I remember one place that uninvited our homeschool group from future field trips due two misbehaving children whose parents were oblivious.

Teaching active children to behave appropriately in various settings obviously takes time, so it's best to begin when they are small. Talking to them beforehand about what behavior is expected before the situation and praising them after is important. If they are inappropriately touching something in a setting, it is best for you to correct your own child before another adult feels obligated to step in.

I will also tell you what I told so many homeschool moms and a few fathers along the way. A parent of a very active child needs breaks too. Getting replenished and coming back with a different perspective can make a world of difference. If you sense you are building up negativity for a child, recognize it, take a break and make a list of all of your child's wonderful qualities. Parents need to be a team to parent these children. If mom or dad is always the one disciplining, it is going to lead to trouble down the road. If mom or dad is in the background undoing the consequences that the other one is handing out, a manipulator is being created. A child is being done no favors with parenting like this. Mom and Dad need to get on the same page of the notebook, even if they need to obtain some counseling in the process.

Active children can be just as much fun as calmer children. Recognize the challenge, come up with your plan and enjoy that excitement with them!

Thursday, November 8, 2012


From Teachable Moment, June 1998:

" 'Making a list, checking it twice, going to find out who's naughty or nice', ooh, it's time for end of the year evaluations! This is the time of year when we start wondering if any progress was made at all. Did we just stand still, go forward or (surely not!) go backward?

We always start our homeschooling year by making a list of areas each person wants to learn about. We post it on our bulletin board and refer to it for the first few months.

This process of writing things down never ceases to amaze me. I can write a shopping list, arrive at the shopping mall, realize I left it on the table at home and still proceed to remember most of the items on the list. However, if I just list items in my mind and try to remember later, my success rate is much lower.

This same phenomenon applies to our homeschooling list. We forget about it during the rest of the year (yes, I know it would be better if we didn't forget about it, but this is what really happens in our home) and look at it again at the end.

Here's the amazing part- we have always covered almost everything on our list. Somehow, we naturally wander into the areas. In addition, we have always added a few more. The list serves as a reference to check our progress during the year.

We also list a few goals for each child that we feel they're capable of accomplishing that year. By plugging in a few minutes each day on these goals, we also see them realized by the end of the year.

Matthew did learn his consonant sounds and is writing small words. Lindley was able to master her multiplication tables and her desire to write is blooming. Shelley and Jared have progressed in Spanish and Algebra and have performed a number of community service hours.

As we check our lists this year everyone has definitely "been nice". It helps us to see that progress has been made and gives us hope and courage for the next year. As we go through the summer, the kids will be thinking of what they want on their lists for the coming homeschool session. "

2012 update: Okay, the Spanish didn't stick with them, as it didn't with so many of us. I took it in high school and college and can recognize many written words, but forget the speaking and hearing part of it.

When I look back, it all went by so quickly! So please allow your children to pick out some areas of interest and put that into the curriculum too. Keep the joy of learning going!

Friday, November 2, 2012


A long while back, I mentioned I would get around to the "s" word....socialization. The number one question for homeschoolers everywhere from the very beginning! I hope the newest group of homeschoolers are not still fending off this topic. But just in case, I am going to share a tidbit from a column from 1997.

"The very first lecture I attended was by a Dr. Larry Shyers from the University of Florida. Guess what it was on? The Social Adjustment of Homeschooled Children Compared to Public Schooled Children! Dr. Shyers did this study as part of his work for his doctorate degree. When he first started, he really believed he would find out that the public schooled children would be better socialized. It was a blind study, meaning that those doing the evaluating didn't know if they were observing homeschooled or public schooled kids. Of course, most of us already know what Dr. Shyers found out! The homeschooled children ended up being the better socialized according to the definition that was being used. I loved this lecture!" Note: I believe his study was published in 1996. He came back to the FPEA convention the next year (1998) and I attended his lecture again.

Stepping away from quoting the long ago column now, I will add in from my memories and experiences. Dr. Shyers used criteria such as introducing yourself when presented to a stranger, using manners, not interrupting, etc. The homeschoolers scored very well. It was humorous as Dr. Shyers added that the homeschoolers were busy getting contact information from public schoolers that they had built a quick rapport with. While public schooled children have their strengths too, of course, their setting throws them with so many strangers on a daily basis, maybe it's to be expected that they wouldn't be as enthusiastic at meeting yet more strangers. Dr. Shyers also noted to his audience that it struck him as odd that public schooled parents were signing the permission slips for their children to take part in the study without asking questions about the study and exactly what their children were being subjected to. It was only the home educators that asked the hard questions. All of this came out of a man's mouth who openly admitted he was biased against  homeschoolers before the study. I love an honest person!

Speaking to the strengths of homeschooled children, many of us readily recognized that it's the one room schoolhouse setting. They are not segregated to age, they interact with people of all ages. Add into the equation that many homeschoolers are highly involved in service projects outside of the home and many times with elderly people and the reasons for the strength in socialization are easily explained.

The desire for popularity is diminished within the homeschool community. Since each child's individuality is stressed as part of the homeschooling lifestyle, all children are more easily accepted for who they are.An added factor is that more and more parents are home educating their special needs children in order to maximize their strengths.

Participating in co-ops, speech contests such as the Tropicana Speech Contest, debate clubs, 4H and many others can all help children to work on following rules, taking turns and not interrupting. These are skills homeschoolers need to learn too. That is one of the reasons I stressed to new homeschoolers time and again not to be the lone rangers, but to get involved with other homeschoolers on some level.

Many of the new families I assisted would decide to go the lone ranger route and too often, I would receive a phone call from a discouraged family. Many times, the request was for help on getting their child back into the public school system. Sometimes it was for assistance in connecting with those support groups that were recommended a year before at the beginning of their journey.We all need each other and we all need socialization! We are social beings! Interdependency is a good thing!

I do think, for the most part, cashiers in grocery stores are very used to seeing homeschoolers out and about. Librarians love the homeschoolers being with them during the day. Every once in a while a homeschooled child has a negative interaction with a truancy officer but I think that has really diminished over the years. The days of sitting home with the blinds closed are long over and home educated kids are a vital part of every community. May it always be so!

The Lonely Swingset
By Lindley Evelo
Age 8

The swingset is a lonely one,
the only one. It sits in the yard
without a playmate. It was sad.
I saw it be sad, sad, sad...I hate
to see a lonely swingset, a swingset
that is sad, sad,sad....Why was it sad?
It had no playmate. The playmate was
on a trip. The playmate was sad because
she had no swings to play on. The swingset
is blue,white and yellow and has a slide. The
playmate loves her swingset, lonely or not.

Thursday, October 25, 2012


From the Teachable Moment December 1996:

"It's that time of year again in which I have to make major decisions. As the Christmas season gets underway, a struggle begins taking place in my mind. I owe the inspiration for this topic to my son, Jared. I could not think of anything to write about this month. In desperation, I asked him if he had any ideas and he hit the nail on the head. In fact, because this struggle has been taking up so much of my brainpower, it really is no surprise I could not think of anything else to write about.

The indecision is over what type of presents to buy the children for Christmas. We like to celebrate by giving each other presents on a small scale. I struggle every year because I don't like to buy the commercialized gifts that pop out at us everywhere. I like to buy (could you already guess?) educational gifts. Gifts that will help the children to learn, grow and develop talents. It's a challenge to stay balanced with this. I think the kids worry every year that I'm going to go overboard and go educational all the way. They've developed their defense strategies of asking grandparents for the really junky gifts they know I will draw the line at.

Some of the educational gifts in the past have sat around for a couple of months while the glamorous gifts were played with for a short time. I have noticed, however, that sooner or later, they are pulled out of the boxes and utilized. I usually get a "That was pretty neat, Mom!". I have been encouraged this year by a couple of the kids actually asking for something out of a science catalog. So, I will continue to strive for balance and not go overboard. Hey, have you seen some of the neat stuff in the Edmund Scientifics catalog? Another homeschooling mother introduced that to me!"

2012 Followup: Now that those years have flown past, I look back and don't regret doing everything I could to help my children learn. I am happy with their ability to continue learning, to reason through subjects. I wished for my children to grow up and become thinkers and they have. They are all good people and that is a great contribution to the human race! Now, I am thinking through educational presents for grandchildren!

"Some luck lies in not getting what you thought you wanted but getting what you have, which once you have got it you may be smart enough to see is what you would have wanted had you known."   Garrison Keillor