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

Saturday, October 20, 2012


From the Teachable Moment January 1998 :

With the holiday season in full force, I  have been reflecting upon gifts that last forever. Gifts which get passed on and continue to touch lives. One gift that was given to me many years ago which continues to affect my life every day wasn't even a Christmas gift. It was a summer gift and it was given to me by a complete stranger.

I was 8 years old and visiting my grandmother in her little town for a few weeks. As I was exploring the immediate blocks around her home one day, I noticed a place that looked fairly busy. People were coming and out with books. My grandmother told me it was library and encouraged me to go in. She did not come in with me. The only libraries I had been in before this were the ones at school. You went in with the whole class and were on a tight schedule and the librarians were usually grouches, busy shushing everyone and giving the impression the library was a very important place, but not a very welcoming one.

That I even took a few more steps into the library is remarkable. My report card for the year had remarks on it recommending that someone work with me on my reading. That I needed to talk less and put more effort into my reading. Needless to say, I had a negative mindstep towards reading.

I didn't get too far into the situation before I was approached by a librarian. I remember feeling scared, sure that I was in trouble for daring to intrude in this place without an adult. Instead, she talked to me for a few minutes and had me settled in a comfortable chair with a Nancy Drew mystery before I realized what was happening. Since she had treated me so kindly, I actually started reading the book. Guess who got hooked on Nancy Drew mysteries? (2012 note: Guess who is still hooked on mystery books, of all kinds?) I had never even known of the existence of a fictional character named Nancy before.

I reluctantly left after a short time. The best part of the gift was to come. This kindly librarian extracted enough personal information form me to track down my grandmother, encourage her to let me return and arrange for me to check out books while I was in town!

My love of reading blossomed from that point. I hit the ground running and have never stopped. Now I have 3 companions who run along with me. The sweetest sound to my ears is when one of the three older children (hopefully that number will be changing to four before very long) agitate to get to the library. I understand their agitation. I feel the same way when I am out of reading material. They are amazed when they discover friends whose families never go to the library. They have tried to share this also. With some of their friends, it catches on. With others, it doesn't.

While we have never officially been members of a reading club, we have an informal one going on all the time. We're always sharing the plots of our books with each other, always scoping out what everyone else checked out recently, and many times, temporarily stealing each others' books. This can lead to war at times!

I'm sure, being 8 at the time, that I did not properly thank that librarian. I hope she knew somehow that she had done a really nice thing. Something that probably wasn't in her job description. Taking the time to invest in a little 8 year old girl that she could easily have ignored or scooted out of the way. May we give the same types of gifts to others!

2012 Followup: As I've pondered why the love of reading wasn't kicking in due to the exposure of books in the school setting, I've decided it has to do with something I have mentioned in another blog. In school, it was more of an assignment with much control being exerted. Assigned reading or just picking from a certain list, written book reports, etc. At the library, the choice was at my fingertips with no strings attached. This is one of the reasons I have been against the reading programs implemented in many schools today. I believe they take the joy of reading away from the children. As my older children were hitting high school and I started reviewing lists of classical books, etc. all children should read, my children had met that quota through having the books readily available and the fact that they were voracious readers from having reading freedom in their early years. Many of their friends who were going through those reading programs in the local public schools lost their love of reading during those years. It was a sad thing to watch.

On another note, observing my own mother's love of reading over the growing up years surely made an impact too. While my mother did not get involved with her children's schooling, she was always reading in the background. I am sure I learned the art of  tuning out the noise and activity going on around me while reading from her! And I am happy to say, my husband began reading for pleasure as the years went by. Our fourth child also jumped on the boat. I did have to regulate the home environment some for his benefit, which is in another blog.

Monday, October 1, 2012


I apologize for a little bit of repetition in one paragraph, but didn't want to break the flow of the article.

From the Teachable Moment August 1999:

" 'How do you do it all?' is a frequent question I hear when meeting new acquaintances who discover what I do with my time. It sounds overwhelming to them; homeschooling four children, working a part time job that requires my husband and me to be on call 24 hours a day, and being very involved with church responsibilities. My answer for years was usually to the tune of how much I enjoyed all that I did. When asked about the balancing of it all, I half seriously, half jokingly replied I just picked something different to be behind on from week to week. If they really wanted to hear more, I could elaborate on a wonderful husband who took over most of the cooking our third year into homeschooling (we're now heading into year eight) and assigned chores that the children were fairly responsible about fulfilling. Somehow it all worked.

In addition, I would always share that every year was different as the children went through new stages of development. Now I would have to pause before blurting all of this out. I would have to add that this past year (number seven) was extremely different. This was the year when I would ask myself, 'How was I doing it all? What is it going to take to get back to that point again?' We had different dynamics this year and I was profoundly affected.

Two children in adolescence learning to drive and a preteen with her own set of challenges proved to be part of the dynamics. Bringing my grandmother into our home to nurse her through a gangrenous infection and amputation of her leg definitely added into the equation. Business and financial concerns reared their demanding heads. Continuing to work through extended family relationships and issues took their toll. Being a moderate perfectionist and desiring to do a good job in all areas of my life also factored in. Feeling the responsibility of four children's educations lay heavy on my emotional state.

As one challenge after another was met head on and successfully dealt with, it seems I would have felt on top of the world. Instead, the opposite occurred. I was feeling slower, heavier and more weighted down as the year went on. I was so relieved as summer vacation arrived and one area could be dispensed with for awhile. Just getting that relief from homeschooling has helped me to gain a clearer picture of the past year and the strain I had been under.

I have also realized that it is very likely our family would not have been able to make it through the challenges of the past year if we had not already been working as a team. The reality that everyone knew what jobs were expected of them and carried their own weight most of the time was important to our family carrying on through all of the many challenges, especially the challenge of Mom not functioning at the high level of productivity that she usually did. When we starting homeschooling eight years ago, did I even for one second consider that I might go through a time of struggle and would need my family to be functioning strongly? I can honestly say I never gave it a thought.

What I can share from this experience is that I wish I had given this some serious thought and would encourage all new homeschoolers to do just that. Maybe we would all try to work harder as a team with our families after that time of reflection. I am grateful for how well our family did function and for the insights we've gained. Even with hindsight, we would still take my grandmother in and help her. There was much we learned from that experience. Maybe with pondering in advance I would have been quicker to identify what was starting to happen to me emotionally and would have understood the need to take better care of myself. Taking time to exercise would have been a higher priority. Encouraging even more sharing of responsibilities would also have been on the list.

Challenge times will come to every family. We mothers tend to think that we will be able to pull out our strongest and best selves when the challenges come. Our family has learned we need to build and strengthen each individual member of the family since we don't know who will be feeling strong at any particular crisis. One friend quoted to me, 'The only certain thing in life is change.' I don't know who to credit that quote to, but it certainly applies to the homeschooling lifestyle.

Sometimes I fear we're all so busy trying to prove to ourselves and the world that homeschooling does work that we minimize the challenges and the struggles. I'm sharing here that I think it's okay to acknowledge that we are going to struggle at moments and that we may not be our best and strongest selves at all times. What a great concept for a family to function as a team! How much better if there's been some practice and training so that everyone doesn't struggle at once. Just as we homeschooling parents teach our children to utilize the resources around them for our learning experiences, our family had to identify what resources could help us with each of our situations. Taking time to identify resources before challenges hit can be a benefit.

Thank you for bearing with me and allowing me to use this forum to share these thoughts. I'm sure writing this article has also helped me to process through some areas. It is my hope that sharing these thoughts will help someone else too. Positive thinking includes not only the positive thoughts, but being able to look at situations and come up with solutions. May you also be able to arrive at solutions to your changes that occur in your homeschooling and family life journeys!"

2012 Followup: I would like to add a little more all these years later. Within the next year, we actually did something that many homeschoolers were horrified at. We put the younger two children into 3rd and 7th grade of public school respectively, as we finished up the older two children with their high school. I was very proud of how they both utilized skills learned at home and applied them to their new situations. By the next year, after reviewing everything and hearing their input, they resumed homeschooling. Sometimes you have to weigh everything out and in our family's situation, with much prayer, arrive at solutions that weren't even on the horizon a short time before.

Also, again in our situation, our church service was a big plus during this time. Getting out of your own home and serving others can help to keep the gloomies away. Much of what I was doing in the church setting was enhanced by our family's helping, such as them handling a nursery numerous times to allow the women to engage in enrichment and community service activities.  I am grateful when I look back on those years. The children and my husband weren't grumbly about their assistance. They were glad to be helping the women who do so much to help our church to be effective. I respect my husband so much because he recognizes the value of women and their contributions to all aspects of life.  I've often thought the husband of the Proverbs 31 woman had to have been the same type of man my husband is.