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Archive for May, 2009

In our early years of homeschooling, we tried a few different things in terms of a weekly rhythm. Several years ago, we settled on something which works very well for us and for many other families. We homeschool 4 days a week and take Fridays off.

Normally, during the week, I aim to stop reading/knitting/using the computer by 8am. I wake any remaining sleepers up at this point and everyone starts their morning routine. I try to have breakfast on the table by 8:30am, so that we will be in good shape to start our school work at around 9am. Without having these target times in place, I find that we will just mill around too long and the school work will overflow far into the afternoon.

On Fridays, our routine varies in these ways:

  1. Children are allowed to sleep in as late as they want (unless we have to be somewhere — see #2).
  2. Appointments (such as chiropractor, dentist, doctor, naturopath, etc.) and errands are scheduled as much as possible for Fridays.
  3. Breakfast is a free-for-all-make-your-own.*
  4. No formal schoolwork is done with the exception of math sometimes for children who need the extra practice.
  5. We are very leisurely about beginning our morning routine and hang out in our pyjamas knitting/reading/computing/etc for an embarassingly long time.
  6. We often head over to my parents’ farm in the early afternoon, especially if it is a nice day.  (We have pizza night together as families every Friday night.)

What are some of the advantages to taking Fridays off from the normal routine?

  • Having this day set aside helps me guard the other four days from becoming overscheduled.
  • Knowing there is a ‘break day’ coming where we are free to just hang around doing whatever we like helps us stay on target the other days.  It is a simple, but effective principle to work hard during work times and relax during break times.
  • Being a normal business day, Friday is an efficient day to do errands and schedule appointments, whereas trying to do these things on the weekends/evenings can be frustrating.
  • Taking a break on Fridays makes it easier to do activities and work around the house on Saturdays.

* I don’t want you to be lured into an uninformed decision about the free-for-all breakfast, so please note the following pictures of my kitchen taken this morning.  Every week, my admonishment about the state of the kitchen is met with a chorus of, “But I didn’t make the mess!”   I don’t allow anyone to do anything else until it is cleaned up, however.

If you are a homeschooler, what is your weekly rhythm? Do you take Fridays or another day off?

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If you are just joining us on my blog, I will refer you to this post. (My blog has recently moved to its current location, but I am still in process of moving all the posts.)  Briefly, in an effort to sharpen and expand my own mind and the minds other women, we are reading together some of the articles found in the archives of the Parents’ Review.

I thought about titling this post: “Huh?”, but that didn’t seem…well, very intelligent. You may think that I spend hours in careful selection of the Parents’ Review article to present to you as a read-along, but I don’t. I am a regular mom at home, just like many of you. In choosing an article, I look at the titles, pick one that sounds interesting, briefly skim a short bit and post the link on my blog. When I skimmed the first bit of this article, I thought the author was presenting a couple of different views of the ‘flat iron’ and was then going to use these perspectives to illustrate to us a piece of parenting or teaching wisdom.

After printing out the entire article, sitting down with my coffee and reading it through, I found that I didn’t exactly understand the point she was making, except that science can’t explain everything and we then need to turn to philosophy. I did really like this quote:

for, great and grand as are the achievements of science, there is to its operation a limit where all scientific men stop short and cease to criticise, to observe, and to compare according to the scientific method, because at this limit the scientific method becomes both inappropriate and impossible.

Did anyone understand something more from the article? Maybe one of you with a sharper brain than I have can shed some light on it for us.

(I promise to pick something more parent-y next week!)

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This week, we will look at the article, An Object-Lesson for Teachers by Mrs. Dowson. Please join me on Thursday for a discussion. I hope some of you will be able to read the article and share your thoughts with us.

See you on Thursday!
Christine

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A real-life miracle

Photo courtesy of Aaron Landry

Photo courtesy of Aaron Landry

I could just cry.  This morning, after I woke up, I found that a miracle had happened in our home. Last night, when I went to bed, the toilet paper roll was empty in the bathroom.  Sometimes, when I notice this, I don’t replace it myself in order to leave a service opportunity for one of our six children.  Until this moment, no one has ever taken that opportunity.  Occasionally, one of them will search out another roll of toilet paper, use what they need and leave the roll on the counter, but the roll has never been replaced entirely.

I should have known by the way I was able to sleep until after 7:30am, the way the birds were singing and the sun was shining that this was no ordinary day. I walked into the bathroom and there it was…a full toilet paper roll AND the empty one was nowhere to be seen.  I was almost breathless.  I knew it wasn’t Steve, as I had gone to bed after him and awoken before him.  It had to be one of the children.  I knew the only possibility was that it was my oldest daughter, who will turn 15 years old tomorrow.

15 years short one day into my mothering career and one of my children replaced the toilet paper without being asked.

My life will never be the same.

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This week we are reading together the Parents’ Review article, Hero-Worship by G.E. Troutbeck written in 1903.

When I first chose this article, I pictured myself beginning my comments with a disclaimer that worship is to be reserved only for God and that, of course, the author knew this, that the word ‘worship’ indicated something different, that the author really just meant ‘admiration’, etc. After reading the article, on one level I think I was wrong. The author says that we look to children for their “generous enthusiasms and warm-hearted, if perhaps undiscriminating, admiration of great men and great causes.” Referred to as ‘worship’ in the rest of the article, the type of admiration that children have for heroes is much more passionate than the type of admiration adults have. Like the early days of a young romance, it is almost obsessive in nature and it sweetly lacks the ability to see anything but the positive.

Troutbeck urges us not to encourage our children to develop “the critical habit of mind” too early. This habit develops easily enough on its own far too soon. She said children should not grow up in an atmosphere where someone is continually saying something negative or critical. Interestingly, she points out that the cultivation of the critical faculty is “often a cheap way of getting a reputation for smartness” — so true! In all walks of life, a criticism tends to be looked up on as true insight and knowledge.

The author says not to worry too soon about waking our children up to the pessimistic truth — today we would say helping them ‘think critically’. Not to be misunderstood, critical thinking skills are absolutely essential and sorely lacking in many young people and adults nowdays. However, the time and place for their development is probably in the pre-teen/teen years. This idea spoke to me as it is my natural tendency to constantly point out cynical ‘insights’ and anything I consider conspiracies in order to help my children be wise to the world around them. (Generally, the eye-rolling I get tells me when I am over-doing it.)

Why encourage our children to linger on in the phase of their life when they ‘live in a fantasy world’ with their heroes? The author suggests many reasons. Here are a few of my favourite:

Hero-worship teaches children to recognize merit. Heroes always have outstanding qualities the separate them from everyone else around them. In the ‘real world’, admirable qualities are very present but sometimes harder to recognize than in stories. In the hero world of a child’s mind, they are very obvious. A child learns to notice these admirable qualities through exposure to worthy heroes.

On a practical level, hero worship inspires children to learn history. It would be a very dry and dull subject without the inspiring stories of the people who stood out as remarkable leaders throughout time. As with Charlotte Mason’s schools, our homeschool makes liberal use of living books, ones that allow us to ‘live’ out the stories contained within. Many textbooks, such as the ones I used in school when learning history, take all the life out of a subject by leaving out the inspiring stories in order to efficiently present factual material. Unfortunately, it is precisely because of leaving out these inspiring stories that the material ends up not being truly learned. When we love someone, we want to know everything about them and learn it effortlessly.

Hero-worship teaches children to be great — and to be humble. The author says that “Nothing calls out our powers and faculties so fully and so adequately as personal influence, the influence, direct or indirect, of someone whom we at the same time love and admire.” When a child is in that stage of ‘hero worship’ and are connected to a worthy hero through a wonderful book, they end up coming to love and admire that hero. Like the young romantic, the obsessive, undiscriminating nature of this love teaches the child to strive to be great, just like his hero. At the same time, the recognition of real greatness casts a bright light on our own limitations. In a very healthy way, our children learn humility by looking at the greatness of someone else (even though — maybe because — it is an unrealistic picture — leaving out the negative traits.)

Hero worship causes children to recognize the heroic in ordinary people and ordinary situations. Because they have learned to recognize merit in heroes, they are able to then pick out everyday heroism when it is harder to see. This builds admiration and respect for the real people in their lives and relational world.

Children are naturally drawn to heroes. As parents in today’s age, our challenge is to present our children with worthy and noble heroes during the time when they are defining, for themselves, what qualities they believe make a hero. If we do not go out of our way to present these worthy heroes to our children, they will default to worldly ‘heroes’. For boys, this is likely to mean worship of professional athletes. While there are lots of characteristics to admire about professional athletes, few of them live a life of integrity and would make worthy heroes for our sons. For our daughters, their default heroes will likely be actresses or singers from popular culture. Sadly, the hero-worthiness situation is grim here, too.

I admit it. I love the sheltering aspect of homeschooling. I love that our young children sometimes talk like they are from 1950. (Without a word of a lie, two years ago, my son said he could not wear a certain very-nice outfit to church because, “if I do the other kids will be giving me the business.”) They cannot and should not stay sheltered forever, though. Our job is not to keep them from the world forever. I think our job is to do our best to help our children feel ‘at home’ with goodness, to develop a taste for truth and love and integrity when they are young so that when they are gradually released from our safe nest, they are uncomfortable with the opposite.

We introduce our children to worthy heroes this way:
Our children have a biography of a Christian hero on the go at all times as part of their homeschooling. We start new readers (gr. 1-2) with the Hero Tales volumes written by Dave and Neta Jackson. Each of the four volumes contains several easily narrated biographies in short segments that highlight a few fascinating stories from the hero’s life. From there, our children move onto longer biographies, beginning with the fairly easy to read Christian Heroes: Then and Now series of books by Janet and Geoffrey Benge. As they complete one book (reading about 2 chapters a week), we just insert another one.

I will end with this quote from the article, which I loved. I am looking very forward to hearing your thoughts about the article, too.

‘Learning,’ as Hegel points out, ‘when regarded as a mere process of reception and matter of memory, is a most imperfect kind of education…It is through thinking that the thoughts of others are seized, and this after-thinking is the real learning.’ When all is said and done, is not the end and aim of all true education the formation of character?

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Sorry I am a little slow getting my comments on this week’s article posted. They will be up later today. I’m looking forward to your thoughts on the article, too.

Christine

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A great frugal food site

I was just linked to an excellent site called, $5 dinners. I am usually very leery of this type of thing, as I find the recipes are generally combinations of ritz crackers and cream of mushroom soup.  However, I just had a quick look at a few of the recipes here and was pleasantly surprised to find lots of whole foods.  I’m not a big fan of buying my meats based on which ones are the cheapest, but certainly if the places I trust (my favourite farm and the farmer’s market) have something on sale, I’d be happy to buy it.  :)

I linked you to her recipe index, but the site owner, Erin, seems to have a blog that looks interesting, too.

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