Tuesday, October 6, 2009

For beginners

I meet families every fall who are just beginning home educating. When the family has chosen to home educate from the start and the child has never been in a public or private school, the first steps are fairly clear. Learning to read is the most important task in those early years of home education, along with the basic math and counting skills. For the content subjects like science and social studies, often field trips followed up with related library books, or simple nature studies and basic geography are all that's needed. There's no old habits to break or remedial learning to think about.

However when there are children who have been in school, there are more challenges. Choosing curriculum depends on the skills already in place. Thankfully, most math programs have on-line placement tests that clarify which program is appropriate. If there are serious academic challenges, there needs to be a focus on identifying the problem and fixing it. Even for a teenager, if the phonics skills haven't been taught there may be reading challenges that necessitate reviewing the most basic skills. If the mental arithmetic skills are not in place, they need to be learned before continuing on with algebra.

Beyond the academics, there is also the change in thinking about what school means. At home, the student is not learning to pass the test or trying to keep up with the rest of the class. The student is learning to actually know the subject, to acquire skills that equip them to understand what they read and to meld those skills into abilities that will enable them to do their life work, both in employment and in fulfilling their God-given role in the world. We are not just about completing the book, we need to be focussed on growing, changing and becoming better at all the things we are already good at. Learning is challenging, interesting, fun, sometimes difficult, but finally satisfying and enriching. Communicating that to our children is one of the greatest goals and challenges of home education.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The other part of my fall

Fall has always been about back to school, whether it's the back to school of home education, or of sending one or more of my children to college, and the start up of all the activities that follow the school year.

For me, it is also about starting the other half of my home education activity. For fourteen years, i have been a home education facilitator, working with families to help them plan their own families' home education programs. I count myself very fortunate to be able to be a support and encouragement to other families. By far the greatest part of my work consist of affirming choices and convictions parents already hold in regard to their children's learning. Sometimes more direction is needed. Very rarely a family just is not achieving what they should be, and they need help with setting up structure and consistency.

I have met such a diverse set of people, each with a unique story that led them to home education, each motivated by the earnest wish to give their children the education they need. I have seen an incredibly varied set of approaches to the task of home education, and I have seen remarkable success across that whole range. I have seen enormous pride in the growth and success of each child, and in the awareness by moms who have been the driving force behind that.

Next week, I begin again to make fall visits to families I have known for years, and to some I am just meeting. I look forward to all that I will learn as I sit down at kitchen tables to talk about the learning that takes place around those tables. It's a great blessing to me. I hope that I can be a blessing to them.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Post-secondary update

I updated the paragraph at the top of the page, and one part of it deserves an explanation. It did say that our third child is studying Engineering which was his plan when summer began. However, his week of engineering introductory classes convinced him that the structure of the program (and the competency of some of the instructors) were not a good fit for him. By the end of the week, which was a pre-semester session required for all first year engineering students, he knew he wanted to pursue other options. He is now enrolled in a Bachelor of Science program, with a math and physics major. He may refine his studies further to do a combined Arts and Science degree in Philosophy and Math.

It was interesting to watch him work through his options and change direction this fall. He has become a discerning consumer of his educational choices, and knows how to seek out new options as he better understands what he would like to learn and how to get those classes.

Unfortunately, registering late for classes meant that he has a very unbalanced work load-three math classes and a physics class mean a lot of homework. 26 pages last weekend of math solutions! He's wearing out pencil leads fast these days!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


One of the books we're enjoying particularly this year is All the Small Poems by Valerie Worth. It's part of the Sonlight Core 5 package, a book I had never heard before. It's a compilation of four books previously printed separately. Each poem is short, descriptive and straightforward in style, mostly about nature.

The Sonlight approach to poetry is simple, just reading each poem, talking a bit about the imagery or the thought expressed and then re-reading it. It's a lovely way to approach a poem as a reader rather than the typical pick it to bits method many of us were subjected to. I have done the same ort of thing before with other poetry, and enjoyed studying poems with all of our children.

Some people ask why we should bother to read poetry. Poetry and good literature of other types is the expression of deep human emotion, the response of the soul to beauty, to love, to pain, to all manner of human experience. It's important that our children ponder these things, that they know that they too will experience times when feelings are too much for them to put into words, and that others have had the same thoughts and feelings, and struggled to express them, and moved on stronger because they could express them.

There are lines of poems that lurk in my mind, ready to pop out when I need them. "Glory be to God for dappled things" is there when I see a scene of beauty (Gerard Manley Hopkins; Pied Beauty). I remember "I have promises to keep/ And miles to go before I sleep" when I see winter trees (Robert Frost, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening). Spring makes me remember "Loveliest of trees, the cherry now/ is hung with bloom along the bough" (A. E. Housman). Memories of my mom are tied to the poetry she read me, especially childhood favorites like Wynken, Blynken and Nod.

I encourage parents to include poetry in their routines of home education. It can be simple, and it will be memorable.

(A great book for older children and teens is the Dover Press book 100 Best-Loved Poems, edited by Philip Smith. It sells for about $2.50 so you can easily buy a coopy for each child, and there are enough great poems for a couple of years of occasional reading.)

Monday, September 28, 2009

One month done

The start of the school year always results in the same challenges: how to do all the things I've been doing all summer long and add to that the educational, extra-curricular and family activities that resume. Apparently, blogging was one of the things I set aside so that we could get going on the other priorities.

I am really enjoying the Sonlight core 5 curriculum Hannah and I are working through. The geography program is great, well-thought out and user friendly. She has been able to do most of it independently. We're off to a good start with Math, although I'm "behind" if one only considers the lesson numbers. Hannah thinks of herself as bad at math so I'm keeping close tabs on each lesson and stepping in with questions to break down the steps of each problem whenever she feels stuck. We're on schedule with reading, both the books she's reading independently and the ones I'm reading to her. And we are now back to the habit of home education, so that both of us are ready to begin every morning after breakfast.

The challenges I'm still working on: We have no specific science program this year, so we need to pursue interesting topics as they arise. That takes a different kind of focus since it can interfere with the schedule I've worked to establish. And household stuff (laundry, vacuuming, general clutter control) always takes a secondary role until the schedule is better in place. This fall that's even more challenging since I really do need to get exercise several times a week, and I often need a nap!

There were moments in the days after my heart attack when I wondered if I could manage to continue home educating. I am really thankful that it is working, that I can keep up with the challenges and carry on with my conviction that each of my children have the individualized education that they need. It's been a good month.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Reason #2

When people ask us why we chose to home educate our children, it's hard to pin it down to just one or two reasons. I think most of the really big choices in our lives are like that; there are so many reasons for the major decisions that it can be difficult to sum them up in just a sentence or two.

When I think back to the days when I was first thinking about school for our children, I know tha tI really wasn't thinking about the faith issues that are such a common reason for home educating even though our Christian faith is fundamental to every aspect of ourlives. I wasn't really looking at the intellectual reasons either, or the social issues of school. I was watching two small children learning together, and loving the sweetness of their interaction, and knowing that sending the older one to school would cut that short.

The primary reason then for keeping our chidlren home was to allow them to continue to be each other's closest friend, to watch big sister teach little brother and learn from him as well, and to enjoy the shared experience of taking them together on nature walks and museum trips and various other excursions, adding in the next lttle brother as he grew and caught up to them.

We hear so much about sibling rivalry and so little about brotherly love. We tried as parents to foster a sense that each child is a gift to the entire family, that siblings are the most constant people in our lives since we outlive our parents and move away from our classmates, but maintain that sibling connection for a lifetime. Our children now consider each other to be close friends, and watching that is such a blessing to us as their parents. One of the gifts of home education to be sure!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Some Better Reasons to Home School-#1

I just got home from St Albert's Not-Back-to-School picnic, attended by at least 15 families and about forty children(maybe more-it's hard to count a moving herd). It was a lovely hot afternoon, at a park with a huge playgound and a natural area for the kids to wander through.

I've walked past the local school during recess and watched children there. Usually, it's chaotic, loud, jarring. And if I stop to watch, so often there's a child on the the schoolyard who doesn't look happy, who isn't included in the fun, or who is even being hurt by the things that are going on.

Our children today playing in the park were all having fun. They were making new friends, they were exploring the playground together, they were helping the littler children. There were some tears troubles because children do fall, or accidentally hurt each other, or break a rule and face a consequence, but the overall atmosphere was so peaceful and contented. It was a lovely way to begin our fall, to watch children being happy and being nice! I really believe that attitude is one of the hidden benefits of home education, not related at all to any of the academic issues, but so important to the quality of our children's characters, so valuable for our society.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

5 Not-So-Great Reasons to Home School

So I was driving along, listening to talk radio, and the topic was getting your children ready to go back to school. And as I listened, I realized I could compile a list of not-very-great reasons to home school. (Not very great because if these were your only reasons, it wouldn't be enough motivation. Possibly these are the fringe benefits of home educating.)

First: I do not have to shop from one of those amazing, ridiculous supply lists that schools send to Staples and Wal-Mart, causing mothers to wander the aisles looking for 30 Duo Tangs in at least three colours, or the prescribed brand and size of crayons. I buy what I want, what we'll need and use, and I can pick the cheap size!

Second: I do not have to pack a daily lunch that conforms to allergy standards, that my child will enjoy eating and that meets nutritional standards. We often eat leftovers for lunch. It's fast and easy. Or we eat peanut butter sandwiches! Because we can!

Third: Also very little back-to-school clothing shopping. This is actually a more serious issue in some ways since the pressure to conform and the way that even young children learn to judge on appearance is a big problem for our children. We've opted out of that.

Fourth: We do not have the morning rush to leave the house on time. Our mornings are shaped by us. If either mom or child is tired, we start slower and later. If we're perky, we can proceed more quickly into school. If it's lovely out, we can give the dogs an extra long walk first because there is no bell ringing.

Fifth: No homework. Well actually it's all homework, but there's definitely a reason for all the work I have my child complete. I often tell her that if she completes the first half or two-thirds correctly (and quickly) then she can leave the rest. If there's a busier week in some of our activities, we can have less homework to compensate.

I have solid, well-thought out reasons for home educating, developed over twenty years. But these are some of the lesser ones. Maybe funny, maybe true, you decide.

Getting Back in the Swing of Things

I'm thinking more and more about the transition in thenext couple of weeks back to routine. There are a few things we have done over the years to help make the September transition a better one.

I try to have everything I need for school, not just curriculum, but school supplies and a well-stocked pantry too. I have a bookshelf in the kitchen that I keep all the curriculum on so that we can easily grab what we need as we go through the day. I like the idea of a dedicated space for home schooling rather than using the kitchen table but our house doesn't allow for that right now, and one advantage of using the kitchen table is that I do have to clear it all off at least three times a day.

The first day of school, I try to schedule something fun. This year our support group is having a Not-Back-to-School picnic. Other years, we have gone out for breakfast or booked a field trip. One year we went shopping for some of the fun supplies like craft materials and new books just to read for fun.

We don't then get up the next day and start in on the whole stack of books. Day two there will be a math lesson, some reading aloud, a glance through the history curriculum, and some kindof educational game. I'll add in more subjects as the days go by, and by the end of week two, we should be doing most things daily.

I try to schedule the recreational things as well, even if it is not a rigid schedule. Last year, I managed to take Hannah swimming once a week quite consistently. We try to have a regular library day. I would like to plan a non-academic day each month when we could spend most of the day workingon craft projects. I value those parts of "school" too, but if they aren'ta t least somewhat booked, they don't happen.

I don't do a lot of record keeping. I ask Hannah to put the date on her work so that I can flip back through things and see whether we're being consistent. Our Sonlight curriculum includes intructor's guides that also help with consistency. Other than that, I try to write down weekly what page we are on in each book just so that I know how far we're getting and whether there's a subject we're lagging in.

More about all of this soon!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Favorite Places

I have always loved libraries. I can remember family trips to the library starting when I was about seven or eight. We lived outside the area that the library served, so there was an annual fee for us to borrow books, and my parents who had little extra cash ever, and never paid for a frivolous activity, paid the library access charge every year. We only went to the library in the fall and winter, adn I absolutely loved choosing my allowed four books a week.

Now as ana dult I still love the library. Where else can you browse and fill up your arms with fascinating possibilities, and walk out without paying anything (except of course that pesky annual fee and the occasional fine!)

Libraries are especially important to home educating families. No matter how well-chosen a curriculum is, there are gaps to fill in, or interesting side topics to pursue. No parent can buy enough books for a voracious ten year old reader, or enough easy readers for a first grader ( and many of those books are not re-readable enough to warrant owning them.)

Libraries are a wonderful way to find a favorite author, to learn about any topic uncer the sun, to flip through books of photography or art that are prohibitively expensive to buy, or to borrow a book of Peanuts cartoons and lighten up a little.

Other favorite library options: audio books. Is a classic novel just too much to read? Why not listen to it. Or for a struggling reader, reading along with the audio book can help put meaning to what is read. How-to-videos show as well as tell us how to do something. Nature videos illuminate science studies (if you haven't wtche dthe Planet Earth DVD's you should see if your library has them.)

I love my library! I hope you do too.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

And yet more fall planning.

Who knew this was going to be a series? It's just working out that way: I really don't have a "plan," I just post what I've been thinking about that day.

One of the big challenges for me with home education has been managing the rest of the tasks of my day and week while getting our home education done as well. It is a continual struglle to keep up with laundry and cleaning and grocery shopping and cooking and getting through the math/history/reading/science and everything else.

When things are going well, this is what works for me. I need to get up at a fairly consistent time. I rarely set an alarm and since my husband works from home, he doesn't either. We tend to be up around 7:30 most days, which seems to work out well. I eat breakfast right away, and I insist that Hannah have her breakfast as well. Then before we do any school, I try to get the basic tidying up done. (Years ago I heard Mary Pride speak at a conference and this was one of her words of wisdom : Chores first; then school.)

I function best with meals when I have a menu plan for the week. The Sandy Richard Life's On Fire cookbooks are great for this. Each one gives you ten or so weeks of menu plans and the grocery lists to accompany them. When I use it regularly, we eat better, we waste less food, and I'm much less stressed at supper time.

Anotehr thing that helps me have a good school year is getting the problem areas in our home cleaned up over the summer. This summer, we have completely cleaned out Hannah's bedroom, emptied one closet that was far too full of craft supplies, given away about five boxes of books, and found places for all the things I brought back from my childhood home last month. I know that this kind of preparation makes a big difference to keeping things clean during the fall.

Finally, I had to learn years ago that I will never have a perfectly tidy home. It's not enough of a priority for me to set aside all the hobbies I enjoy so that I can wash the floor more often. And I think we all need to realize that home education means that we, moms and children, spend far mroe time in our homes than most families do. Every meal and snack, every craft project, every bathroom visit our children have druing a day is at home, each leaving its own mess, big or small, to be wiped up by someone!

Monday, August 10, 2009

The rest of our fall plans

August is as much about planning the extras as the academic stuff. Last year, we had almost too much extra curricular activity, but we made it through! Sometimes when I'm very busy, I feel overwhelmed, but if I were much less busy, I might end up unfocussed and not use time well. The question is balance between activities, essentials and free time.

For fall, Hannah will be continuing with gymnastics, dance, and swimming. She wants a break from voice lessons, but we will be giving piano lessons a try since I won a silent auction for a month's worth of lessons. She has taken piano lessons before but our marvellous teacher moved away and the following year we had an inexperienced teacher who just didn't spark her interest and passion. I'm really glad to have swimming lessons start up again. Hannah was a complete non-swimmer until Chrisstmas last year, and then completed three levels in two sessions, proving once again that late-bloomers in any area often catch up really quickly.

Hannah has always been gifted in gymnastics. She could do perfect cartwheels when she was four! Last year, she was the only student in the home school advanced class at Dynamyx, so she learned so much, but I think she's hoping to have company in class this year. Either way, she loves it.

At home, I want her to learn some basic cooking skills, and to take on some more chores. Our Sonlight curriculum has a list of tasks that are part of daily life, and I will be using that to pin point some of the things she could learn at this age. We also want to work on some needle felting projects, and some sewing.

So that's how fall looks for Hannah and me. Perhaps blogging about it will keep me accountable on some of my goals this year. I'll try to remember to do some updates as the year progresses.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

I'm back!!

Apparently, I took July off. It wasn't really intentional, just one thing after another. But somehow August 1st is always the day that I start to really think about fall, and plan for school.

This year's curriculum is all planned out for Hannah, and almost all of it is here.

We will continue with Bible Study Guide for All Ages. We left off in June somewhere in Unit 2, and will pick up again and go on. I have written before about this program, and I'm commited to it for at least another year. (Once our children are in grade 6, they start Bible quizzing and it can be too much to work on that and the BSG.)

We will also continue with JumpMath. I think the popularity of this program is increasing steadily, because it's temporarily unavailable to order! This leaves me three choices: work on the units of Grade4 that we didn't get to, start with the grade 5 fractions unit which I can print from the web site and get the books when they are back in stock, or buy the Jump At Home book that has only the Number Sense, and Patterns and Algebra units (this is the version you can buy at Chapters.) I'm leaning toward option #3.

And for the bulk of our program: Sonlight Core 5, Eastern Hemisphere. We'll be reading so many good books: Just So Stories, The House of Sixty Fathers, The Horse and His Boy, The Incredible journey, Around the World in Eighty Days, and a batch of missionary biographies. We will study India, Japan, China, Africa, and ohter cultures, both contemporary and historically. We are also using the Sonlight Language Arts program that accompanies the history, geography and reading portions. I am glad to be back to a Sonlight year. Their level 3 and 4 programs are based entirely on American history, so we skipped those levels.

One gap remains: I don't have a science program yet. We may pick up something, or we may pursue unit studies on different topics, using the books that we've collected over the years. I would like to visit the museums and science centers in September and maybe there will be a good topics arising from that.

As the days get less summery, I feel more and more ready to pull out the books and get back to work. I haven't asked Hannah if she's feeling that too, but I'm guessing she's still delighted to be free to climb trees and ride her bike as much as she wants. And that's good for her too, so we'll wait until after Labour Day to sharpen our new pencils.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

And now for something completely different.

I have run away from home for a week, and I'm having a marvellous time! I enrolled in a class at Olds College, and I'm spending five days learning how to turn wool into yarn. It's the first time I've taken this much time away from home and family responsbilities in at least the last ten years.

About a year ago, my husband found a spinning wheel at a garage sale and came home to ask me if he should buy it. We went back to check it out and I became the woner of a spinning wheel that I knew absolutely nothing about. A friend gave me some indroductory lessons, and I have been spinning in my spare time since then, but I knew that to get really good at this, I needed more focused instruction. When I found out about these classes, I knew it would be a wonderful chance to learn morte about spinning, and to enjoy a break.

Learning a new skill (or improving an existing one) is a challenge. Often as a home educating mom, I have been exasperated with a child who isn't getting the lesson, because it seems simple to me. Going into a setting where I'm struggling to put together skills and information and achieve the correct result puts me where my child usually sits. It's not easy for the learner. It's not straight-forward to take yesterday's knowledge, and add a couple more bits, and do a new thing with that. And it's good to sit in the other chair and relive those feelings of frustration and realiuze that the way I'm feeling about trying to make fluffier yarn is exactly how my daughter is feeling about fractions. That's one of the extra lessons I'm learning this week.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Some helpful web sites

The government of Alberta has a couple of web sites that are particularly useful to anyone thinking about career options and post-secondary training.

The first one www.alis.gov.ab.ca is devoted to career information, including information about duties, working conditions, qualities leading to success in different fiels, training options and employment information. It is useful at every stage of career planning form jus tinvestigating what careers there are to specifics once the field has been anrrowed. So often, children have an idea they would like to work in some area but they don't know what jobs are actually available, and often we as parents don't know either. the Alis website is a marvellous starting place.

Anther very useful web site is www.acat.gov.ab.ca, the web site of the Alberta Council on Admissions and Transfer. This site lets you determine which courses tranfer with credit from one institution to another, all across the province. It's possible to begin a program at a college close to home (or one more accepting of home educated students) and plan a transfer to anotehr school knowing which courses will be most useful. This simplifies post-secondary planning and allows us as parents to give good advice.

The slogan on the Acat home page says "great planning leads to great futures." Both these site will help you and your children to make great plans.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Into the right path.

We all do get lost at times. We think we know how to accomplish a goal or objective, and we discover that we don't. We were very much off the right path to help Tim get into college, and it took far too long to find the right path again. We have learned more from his college entrance than we expected and that has had some unexpected outcomes. More on that next week; for now, here's Tim's admission story, part 2.

Because Tim's real desire was to study science, math or engineering, we knew he would need to establish some measurable level of success in those areas to be considered as a student. Writing diploma exams would have worked, but it is difficult to write a formal exam on material that was completed two or three years before the need for the test arose. (If we could back up, we would have had him write diplomas as he completed the course work that would have prepared him for them. In Tim's case, he probably should have been writing diploma exams when he was fifteen or sixteen.)

We considered enrolling him in distance courses through Athabasca University, but many of their course offerings are not similar enough to other first year college courses, or even to high school courses, to be considered as suitable substitutes for the prerequisites for acceptance. MacEwan college suggested their upgrading courses which require that the student complete the 10 and 20 levels in each course before enrolling in the 30 level programs that he needed.

Then we discovered that there are also college preparation courses available through NAIT that allow you to enroll in courses that are the equivalent to the 30 levels, and have absolutely no prerequisistes. Tim signed up for Algebra and Chemistry last summer. he achieved grades of over 95%, and earned back part of his tuition by tutoring a classmate in chemistry. In the fall, he took Physics and Calculus, again earning A+ grades. Those four courses, plus his college English credit, and he had everything he needed to be accepted into Engineering. He will take year one at MacEwan and then transfer to the University of Alberta to complete his degree.

So even though the path was longer than it ought to have been, we now have a third child enrolled in college. We're excited to see what the future holds for him.

Monday, June 22, 2009

And then the third child.

As our third child completed his home education, we began to look at his options for post-secondary, and rather than really considering who he is and what his inclinations are, we pushed him into what seemed an easy an proven path. He had similar musical ability to his brother, and it just seemed so simple for him to enter the same program at MacEwan that Ben had studied.

It was a mistake. Tim has a comparable talent to his older brother, but he had very different reasons for enjoying music, and very different ways of using his talent. The very structured format of the program was not adaptable to his needs, and after one semester, he left the program.

He did complete all his classes successfully, giving him credits that may be useful down the road. More importantly, the learning that took place in those classes is part of him now. He continued with the second semester of university English, so he will never have to take English again. Those are positive outcomes, even though he did not continue in the program.

Tim began working and studying independently while we took a second look at what college admission might work out better for him. I'll write about the rest of his story tomorrow.

Friday, June 19, 2009

More of Ben's story

Ben's route into post-secondary was a music diploma, but working as a musician was not his ultimate goal.  Ben has known enough musicians to understand that very few support themselves solely by performing and teaching.  We have two friends who are outstanding gifted musically, very hard working and have achieved reasonable success.  Both men also have construction jobs.  So Ben was always planning to continue his studies after finishing his diploma from MacEwan.

Somewhat ironically, Ben moved on from a college that is relatively unfriendly to home educated students to a university college that welcomes them.  Despite his mother's warnings, he completely missed the application deadlines for the University of Calgary, so instead he applied to Ambrose University College (Alliance University College/Nazarene University College at the time he started there.)  There were two factors leading to this choice:  He had earned significant scholarships through Bible quizzing, and he wanted to be closer to his girlfriend who lived in Calgary (and who he had met through Bible quizzing).  

Ben was able to use his MacEwan diploma for two full years credit towards an Arts degree, probably because he had graduated with distinction.  He completed his Ambrose degree summa cum laude, with highest honours.  His ultimate goal is to attend law school, probably in 2010.  He will have used his musical gifting well as the starting point to a professional career.  

Of course, he continues to play every chance he gets.  He is part of the music ministry at Centre Street church in Calgary, he plays in a country band and a jazz trio, and he fills in in other groups as opportunity arises.  The advanced musical skills he learned at MacEwan will always be a very fulfilling part of his life.  Sometimes our children's passions will not be their careers but they will be vital to their joy.  

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

And for our encore

As our second child neared the end of his home education, his passion was clear.  He wanted to study music in the jazz focussed performance program at MacEwan College in Edmonton.  We checked the MacEwan web-site and their printed calendar and found little help with the admission requirements for a non-diploma student.  Then one day, I was chatting with a neighbour who works in recruitment for MacEwan and he told me that there is an admissions test for the English requirement, which is the only specific academic requirement for this program (sadly, MacEWan very much limits the programs in which you can use this exam.)  Ben studied some grammar terms as a refresher and signed up for the test.  

He not only passed the test, he received a high enough grade that he qualified to take "real" English and not the music-program specific adapted English course.  So that solved the academic challenge.

The real deciding factor for the music program is the audition process.  This required writing a music theory exam and an ear training test, playing a prepared piece of music and a sight reading piece.  All of this was well outside of my ability to help and Ben was very blessed in having an excellent bass guitar teacher who worked with him to prep for all of the requirements.

My role was limited to hearing him practice his performance piece so much that I can still hum his line along with it every time I hear it on the radio ( if I don't instantly change stations!)  Hearing that song will always remind me of his diligence in pursuing his dream.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Lessons not on the curriculum

There's the course description given in the syllabus, the outline of what the professor hopes to cover during the course.  And then there are the extra things the students learn that aren't part of the official class, that aren't mentioned in the text book.

As a never-before-in-the-classroom student, our daughter had a few extra lessons like that to learn.  One of the first was that many students were much less prepared than she was, and that the simple matter of reading ability made up so much of the difference.  Even through her last year in university, she could see that her classmates struggled just because they couldn't get through the required reading in a timely way, and they didn't retain as much from their reading.  Because she had never had fellow students to compare herself to, she hadn't known just how smart and capable she was.

Another college first for her was the practice of group assignments.  I was surprised by just how many classes used group assignments at a university level and by the fact that they work as well there as they do in junior high:  the motivated students do the lion's share of the work, while hoping that their fellow group members won't mess things up too badly and everyone gets the grade that the motivated people earned.  Perhaps this is good training for some office jobs, but it certainly is an unnecessary and misplaced tool in a college class.

Of course the biggest difference from home education to university was the fact that the teacher is no longer named Mom.  Kaylin had been blessed throughout her university education with professors and instructors who are motivated and well-informed, interested in the needs and progress of the students in their classes, and especially so when they can see that there are students who are highly motivated and desiring to learn.  She benefitted greatly from the teaching and mentorship of these teachers, and often learned much more than the curriculum had promised because of their interest and help.  Of course, she had her share of average teachers too, but the shining light of the excellent ones was one of the greatest gifts of the university experience.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The first week of school.

September always brings those back-to-school articles in magazines and newspapers, and there are always first day of school suggestions.  Those are typically aimed at the moms of five year olds, and my daughter's first day of school came when she was nineteen.  I wasn't worried about whether she would want to take along her teddy bear or if she would get lost in the hallways.  And there was no chance she would want me to take her picture as she stepped into the classroom.  But there were definitely nagging worries troubling me.

I worried about how she would deal with note taking in a classroom.  I'm not sure how any home educated student develops the skill of writing down what matters from a lecture, but I think that our years of discussions at home helped our children to see what the most important points of conversation or discussion are.  This is an area that has changed a great deal even while our children have been in college due to the increased use of PowerPoint by professors who often make their outlines available to students as a help to note taking.

I wondered how hard it would be for Kaylin to manage due dates for assignments.  Home educating parents naturally stagger our focus so that if there's something major expected in science this week, there isn't an essay due in English, but college does not work that way.  We were glad to see that adapting to having to think about the demands of multiple subjects came fairly easily for her.  Of course the end of semester pressures are always challenging but because of her reading skills and study skills which had equipped her to keep up through out the term, she was ready for finals.

There may be a bit of self flattery in my worry that she would find it difficult to learn from a boring teacher (since she had always had a non-boring one!)  She might tell you that she had had more practice there than I knew, but she seemed to do well whatever her teacher's abilities were.

And the minor stuff like remembering her locker combination, and getting to classes on time were never issues.  I remember seeing her off on her first day and being so afraid she would come home saying university was impossible, but she returned happy, ready for the challenge and excited about the classes she was enrolled in.  It was a delight to know that she was ready to learn, ready for the challenge.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Getting through the door.

While I had very confidently told critics that the path into college would be there when we got there, I knew that the details might be challenging.  I also knew that we had pursued a solid academic program and that once our children were in university classrooms, they would be able to show that they belonged there.

When Kaylin completed her twelfth year of home education, she was not sure what vocation she should seek, so she spent a year working.  Partway through that year, she visited the campus of a small university college where a friend was a student, and the size and feel of the school appealed to her, so we began to look into admissions.

At that time, some home education experts were extolling the virtues of the portfolio for college applicants.  This version of the portfolio filled a two inch binder and covered every aspect of the life of the student, from academics in tedious detail, through hobbies, volunteer and paid work, family background, travel, and anything else you could take a photo of or get a certificate for.  It seemed so over-the-top to us that we had never even begun the accumulation of the contents of such a portfolio.  (a couple of years later when our son and I were visiting a college registrar, she specifically asked me to tell home educators not to produce these books of data.  Her exact words:  "What I am supposed to do with a picture of a horse?")

Instead, we visited the college and talked with admissions people there.  Since Kaylin wanted to be admitted into their ARts program, they required proof that her reading and writing skills were sufficient for university level work.  We wrote up a basic transcript of the high school level work she had completed, including a list of the books she had read.  Even though I had not given percentage grades at the time, I reviewed her work and gave a grade for each subject.  We also submitted an essay she had written as proof of her writing skills.  She had a brief interview with a professor and she was accepted.

She attended Taylor University College for one year.  Unfortunately, it was too small a school to offer a sufficient range of classes for her to complete the degree she wanted, and she transfered to MacEwan College to have a more options.  From MacEwan, she transferred again to the University of Calgary for two specialized years in the faculty of Social Work.   Even before she had completed her B. S. W., she was researching her options for graduate studies at other universities either in Social Work or Law.  

Unfortunately, Taylor has since closed its doors, so her path to a degree is no longer available.  But the route she took can still be replicated through other schools.  We in Alberta are blessed to have the university college option, especially for our children who do not have diplomas or credits. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

What about college?

Twenty years ago this summer, I took our daughter to the doctor for her five year old check up.  He asked her about kindergarten and she proudly answered, "I'm homeschooled."  And then he asked me "How's she going to get into university?'

Well, twenty years later, I'm proud to say that she not only made it in, she completed a professional degree and is working in her chosen field.  She has a passion for helping people and making a difference in her community.  And until her first day of college, she had only her parents as her teachers.

Yesterday was Kaylin's convocation from the University of Calgary, with the degree of Bachelor of Social Work.  It's a powerful moment for any parent, watching your child receive that recognition of the scholarship and effort that has equipped them to be awarded a degree.  For a home educating family such as ours, it's an additional affirmation that the years of working with that child did prepare her for the rigors and challenges of advanced education.  I felt like cheering as we watched her make her way across the platform.  I wiped a tear away as her name was read aloud.

Twenty years ago, I told our doctor that when Kaylin was ready for university, there would be a way for her to be admitted.  It was a statement of both faith and audacity, an answer that surprised me even as I said it.  Today I can look back and see it as truth.  I am so proud of the woman that that little girl has become.  And I am both proud and grateful to have had such a central role in so much of the learning that has taken her there.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

On a completely different topic

Almost a year ago, a holiday in the mountains revealed to me exactly how out of shape I was, and I resolved to do something about it.  I hate running, I hate gyms, I knew I would not commit to any at home exercise program, so I signed up for adult swimming lessons.

I had been a non-swimmer until after our third child was born, when I signed up for the absolute beginner lessons taught at the pool near our home.  I learned to swim then, and would sneak in some exercise when I took the children swimming.  But we moved, the pool was not as convenient and I had not swum intentionally for exercise for perhaps fourteen years.

So I signed up for lessons.  I was a little surprised to find out that summer lessons are five days a week, 45 minutes a day.  That's a lot of swimming when you're not in great shape.  The first night, I could only swim half the length of the pool at a time and then had to rest.  But by the end of week two, I had improved my strokes, learned some new ones, and I could swim eight lengths.

Well now I'm trying to get back to the shape I had gotten back to in the winter.  I was not able to get into the pool for almost six weeks after my heart attack, and I am now back up to being able to swim about ten lengths before I tucker out.  It's incredibly frustrating to be doing this from scratch again, but I feel a little stronger and it's worth it to me to get truly fit again.

I think a lot of us let our health and fitness slide, just because we're busy with children and home education, and the general responsibilities of our lives, but it doesn't have to take that long, and it has made such a difference in my energy level, in how well I sleep and in how strong I feel.  Days that I can't swim, I try to take a brisk walk.  Some days, my most strenuous activity is knitting and folding laundry.  But I'm keeping going towards my goal, and it feels good.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Home school math OR Have I really been doing this almost forever?

I have been thinking about milestones frequently over the last several months.  We're now days away from our daughter's convocation, and she turns 25 this year, both of which seem momentous.  Our older son had his convocation in April; our younger son turned 20 in the winter, and our youngest entered the double digits with her 10th birthday in April.  I could start feeling old if I think about all of this long enough.

A random comment overheard at the cardiology clinic made me add up my years of home education.  The doctor taking a case history behind the privacy curtain (honestly, the things you get to listen to in a hospital setting are quite amazing) told a patient that his pack and a half a day for 20 years smoking history was "thirty pack-years of tobacco consumption."  Doesn't that sound like so much more than the way the patient had said it?

Well, I added up my child/grade/years of home education:  3 children finished at 12 grades each, and four grades done for the youngest.  That's 40 child-years of home education.  I'd be all the way across the wilderness if I were a Hebrew following Moses!

40 years of experience, plus two finished degrees, and the third accepted into Engineering feels like success.  We began this journey thinking we'd try home education for a while and see how it went.  It wasn't until about the fifth year that I felt confident enough to say that this was the path for our family.  And the past five years, as we've launched our adult children have been sweetly rewarding.  I'm still trying not to think much about the fact that I'm committed to eight more years of this, for a total of 48 child /years, and twenty eight calendar years.   I got here by doing this daily and I'll get to the end of it one day at a time as well.  And they are good days.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A bit of a change from the curriculum reviews-  I was chatting with a home educating mom, who told me about a conversation with another mom who is worried that most home educated children grow up to become unmotivated adults who expect that everything will come easily to them.  That mom had become so convinced of this that she's sending her children to school in the fall.

I've been thinking about this, and of course I began by considering our own children, three of whom are now adults (24, 22, and 20 years old right now.)  All three of them have worked at coffee shops and often had to be at work at 5:30 to have the shop ready for 6:00 opening.  One son was a courtesy clerk at a grocery store and used to jog back into the store after putting groceries in someone's trunk.  All have been commended by their employers for being reliable, diligent staff.  So I really don't believe the generalization that home educated children and youth will be "losers" as adults.

There are a few things that I can link to our children's good attitudes.  They had reasonably good examples.  My husband and I do our own work.  We've never paid to have anything done that we could reasonably do ourselves, from housecleaning and yard work to home repairs and painting.  We expected help from the children as they were able, and they had regular chores.

Beyond that, they have had jobs to provide themselves with the things that they have wanted beyond their basic needs.  Our son wanted a quality bass guitar, so he took that courtesy clerk job, and earned it.  Our other son wanted woodworking tools so he has served up a lot of coffee.  Our daughter wanted more financial independence so she had a cleaning job at a church camp.  They know that there is a link between effort and financial reward. 

I think that their successes in post-secondary education have been due to their understanding that only their own efforts can take them to their goals.  They knew when they were applying to colleges and universities without any high school credits, with no diploma and no government issued transcript that they had to be exemplary students.  They had to work with us to prove that they deserved to be there, and they have done that.  They hand essays in on time.  They study for their exams.  They do more than their share on group projects because they do not want to receive a grade based on the slacker attitudes of others in their groups.  

I think we led them to that attitude of diligence by requiring that they have a daily schedule at home.  We typically began the educational part of our day soon after breakfast and we worked through the morning.  They used their afternoons for music practice, or independent study, and were allowed to watch television or play with friends only after the work of the day was complete.  Beyond that, the experience of home education kept them from adopting a standard that was "just good enough."  I knew what they were able to achieve and I expected that they would live up to that.  The job of a parent is to see and unlock the potential of their child, and that includes the expectation that they live up to that potential.

None of this happens every day or in a day.  There isn't a magic formula.  But it grows from daily attention to the daily work of life.  And it ends up in a generation equipped for their own lives.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Curriculum Review- Northwoods Press

We're dedicated Sonlight Curriculum users, and I will make that the subject of a post soon, but this yea ris an off year for us.  Because Sonlight is American, there are a couple of years that are so focused on American history that we have skipped them.  I really miss the curriculum guides that accompany the Sonlight program and I'm excited for next year when we'll study Core 5, Eastern Hemisphere.

This year, Hannah is studying Canada for history and geography, and we're using anotehr favorite program:  Donna  Ward's Northwoods Press.  Ages ago when our older children were this age, there were few choices for Canadian books, and when I first saw Donna's materials, I was delighted with them.  We used the first edition of some of these programs more than ten years ago!  They are still my number one choice for Canadian history and geography.

The programs Hannah has completed this year are all suitable for several grades, and all were designed for use by home educators.  Hannah has completed Canada, My Country, a geography book suitable for elementary grades, , Canada's Natives Long Ago, a study of the history and culture of the aboriginal people of Canada, and Courage & Conquest, an introduction to Canadian history.

I was especially glad to see that Pierre Berton's history books for children have been reprinted.  We used Canada Moves West, and The Battles of the War of 1812 as extra resources.  Each book includes 5 to 7 short non-fiction books (fomerly printed as separate books) which can be read separately, and which focus on the characters of history.  He has a very readable style, and these books are well-worth seeking out.  

All of these books are mom-friendly, well-written, and include suggestions for supplementary books and extra projects.  Hannah has gained a good knowledge about our history and geography, and has enjoyed the books.  I only wish that someone would put together a novel and read-aloud package to go with these books that would link in language arts.  

Highly recommended!  for more information, check out Donna Ward's web site.  Books are also available at CHER, and EAP.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Curriculum Review- JumpMath

JumpMath is a fairly new program, developed in Canada, with the goal of helping all children work through the underlaying concepts of mathematics so that real comprehension is encouraged, not jus the ability to get the questions right.  The name stands for Junior Undiscovered Math Prodigies.  The course is published in a workbook format, available in two editions:  one is the complete program including geometry, measurement, patterns and algebra, numbers sense; the other is a shorter version that focuses just on the arithmetic components of the program.  The short version is available at Chapters or Costco, the full program can be ordered from the University of Toronto  bookstore.


We chose JumpMath because of it’s excellent step-by-step approach to math concepts.  The lessons work slowly through each step to ensure solid understanding.  Teacher’s guides are available on-line at no cost, and have extra activities and explanations. 

Antoehr very positive thing for us is the Canadian content of the course.  Money is shown as loonies and toonies, word problems are about driving across Canada, and measurement is based on the metric system.  This alone would not be the deciding factor for me, but it is a definite bonus.


We have found that Hannah is truly getting math  now.  It can be hard to tell whether the concept is clear to a child or if they have just learned the tricks that get a right answer, and we discovered that the previous program she used was not giving her a real understanding.  Switching to JumpMath has stepped up her true comprehension.

For more about the program, I recommend the book The Myth of Ability that explains the development of the program.  I found John Mighton’s approach to math, and his conviction that every child can learn math to be very inspiring.


If the program sounds intriguing to you, the fractions unit is available to down load.  It is a useful test-drive of the method and style of the lessons.  It’s also a great way to start up with a sense of achievement since everyone knows that fractions are really hard.


More about JumpMath is on-line at www.jumpmath.org.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Curriculum Review- Bible Study Guide For All Ages

The curriculum we have used the longest is Bible Study Guide for All ages, a program we started in the very early years of our home education program and which we have continued with through most of the intervening years (with a break during the time that our three oldest children were all doing Bible quizzing.)


Bible Study Guide For All Ages is a family-developed program, created by home educating parents for their own children and then published and shared with others.  It looks at scripture as a series of biographies, working through  the life stories of major biblical figures one after the other, not in order but in a sequence that helps develop an understanding of the importance of each person to the whole biblical story.


Each lesson has a scripture passage to read, background information, and questions of varying levels of difficulty.  There are also review questions as part of every lessons set up to continually review the most important parts of previous lessons.  Each lesson is completed by having the child copy a stick figure visual of the major events of that day’s lesson, reinforcing the lesson in a child-friendly way.


We have liked this program because it’s simple to use, thorough in the way it goes through each person’s story, and successful in the way it has equipped our children with a good grasp of biblical history.  They knew why Joseph’s brothers hated him, and what the Abrahamic covenant was, and where Paul traveled because they had worked through this program.


Now that I’m part way through book 2 with Hannah, I see again that the simple system of this program really is effective in building a solid foundation.  It’s easy to do daily because it’s one of those lovely programs that I can just open up and teach from without any advance planning.  It has become a valuable part of our daily routine.  It really is one of the best things we have done with our children. 


Bible Study Guide For All Ages is available from many curriculum providers, including CHER and Educational Adventures.  Information is available online at www.biblestudyguide.com.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Curriculum Choices

We began home educating at a time when curriculum choices were very limited, both by availability and cost.  It's amazing how much curriculum is now available to home educating families.  There are dozens of ways to teach every subject to every age level.  And of course that is both good and challenging.

There is a natural desire on the part of every parent to want what is best for their child.  However that can lead us into over-analyzing every choice and continuing to look and look for the perfect curriculum.  I heard a home school speaker long ago say that we shouldn't do that, instead we should look for one that works and stick with it.  (I think I'm quoting Mary Pride here, from her appearance at a conference about 12 years ago, but I'm not certain.)  We have definitely found that to be true.

There are many benefits to choosing one curriculum, working through it carefully and using the same program year after year.  It simplifies planning since the major choices are already made once and for all.  It eliminates gaps since curriculum is designed to cover major skills and themes over a longer term.  The approach and expectations become familiar to you and your children and you do not have to continually work out what to do next.

Having said all of that, we have never used one type of curriculum or one publisher for every subject.  I know families who do, who purchase all of A Beka at grade level for each child and work through it beginning to end, and that works very well for them.  Kudos to you if that is your method and it's working.  This is a very individual journey, and we all pick our own way to get to our own goals.

In our home, we have always used a variety of curriculum types and methods.  I like to have a structured program for math, one that I can be sure works incrementally and builds the essential skills.  We have mostly used a good books centered curriculum for language arts and history.  We have created topical studies for science in early grades and moved into a more structured program in high school years.  Language study has been very hit and miss.  We've used the same Bible curriculum since 1989, replacing it with Bible quizzing in the junior high and high school years.

The most important thing is to pick a curriculum that works for you and your family.  I plan to post about the books we are suing this year over the rest of this week, but I encourage you to create your own plan.  Our favorite supper might not please your family at all, so why would our favorite book necessarily satisfy your needs?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

We have experienced two very different ways of home educating.  Our older children are quite close in age.  We had three babies in four and a half years, so it was natural to teach them together as they grew.  I could choose books to read aloud that all three would enjoy.  We selected Bible, science and history curriculum that spanned a wide age range to simplify planning and teaching.  It's easy to have discussions about almost any subject when several children are working on the same topic.  There were some wonderful benefits to teaching them as a group, and I believe it strengthened the relationships between them.  

Now of course, with just the ten year old at home, I am teaching one-on-one.  I had to adapt some of my expectations as we have progressed with Hannah's schooling.  Some curriculum that I really enjoyed using with the older children is not as useful with just one child.  On the other hand, I can now pick a book that is specific to her interests in a way that I couldn't before.  I also have time to sit with her through the entirety of her math lesson, question by question to be sure that she understands the concepts, rather than waiting for her to find me when she isn't getting it.

I truly am enjoying this unique opportunity to go through so many things again, sometimes in the same way, sometimes in a new way.  Maybe someday, I'll get to do some of this a third time with grandchildren.  I think that would be wonderful too.

(As an aside, our ten year gap and Hannah's birth are an interesting story.  I just want to say that if part of your heart is saying that you should have had more children, I say DO!  Hannah has been an amazing blessing to each member of our family and a huge testimony to God's goodness in our lives.)

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Things We Did Right-Part 3

As our children neared the end of their at-home education, I worried about how well equipped they were for the kind and level of writing that would be required at college.  Even though I had been a high school English teacher, I felt very challenged in this part of home educating.  

Now I realize that the most important aspect of writing ability really is thinking skills.  The distinguishing characteristic of a good essay is the quality of thought expressed in it, so research and reading skills, and logical reasoning ability are the foundations of good writing.  Those skills are being developed as we talk with our children, and usually in a stronger and more interesting way.  Teenagers are naturally opinionated, even argumentative, and engaging in discussion develops their intellectual abilities.  The ability to disagree with others in a respectful and polite way is an essential skill for our youth, both in educational and social settings, and the ability to explain clearly what they think is a large part of that.

We often focus primarily on mechanics of writing:  things like sentence structure and punctuation.  Those are important as well, since good skills in those areas allow us to express our thoughts understandably.  But I'm glad we took time to talk with our children and work with them to help them see whether or not they had really considered what they were saying.  

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Things We Did Right-Part 2

One of the best compliments i've ever had about our home education came indirectly.  While our daughter was completing the practicum for her degree, she was asked by a hospital chaplain what her educational experience had been because he was so impressed by her interest in learning, not just getting through the program but actually discovering new things and really understanding them.  When she told him she had been home educated right through until she began college, he was quite surprised.

We tried always to follow up on questions, and to admit when we had no idea what the answers were.  When the children were younger, and the internet was a much less efficient resource, they would spend hours with volumes of our World Book encyclopedia, just flipping through, looking at illustrations and reading articles that grabbed their interest.  It was common at supper to be told peculiar details about the diet of strange birds, or the history of a war or the life of a king we knew nothing about.  As they moved into their teen years, much of that learning came through internet sources.  (I'm not going to address the issue of internet safety here: our experience is that when computers are in open areas of the home, major issues don't arise.  Our children never had computers in their bedrooms.)

The wide knowledge base that these experiences gave our children, the strong sense that they could find answers to questions that intrigued them, and the interest in truly knowing things rather than in just passing a course were powerful tools for their post-secondary experiences.  They have also formed them into very interesting adults!  Truly, our children are our favorite people to spend time with, and we count ourselves blessed that they enjoy our company as well.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Things We Did Right

Now that our oldest children are adults, I can see how some parts of our home education equipped them for success in university.   

A year or so ago, our older daughter commented that she really had not known how much some of her classmates were struggling with the reading load of their university course.  It made me consider how little focus we give to reading skill after the first few years of our children's education, and it made me analyze what we had done, more or less incidentally, that gave our children the advanced reading skills that have helped them so much.

We have always been a book-centered family.  We read to our children from babyhood onward, continuing right through their high school years.  Reading aloud brings books alive in a unique way.  It slows down the tendency to skip over parts of a story.  It improves vocabulary and stimulates discussion.  I truly believe reading aloud daily is the most important part of any language arts or English program at any age.  And it is the simplest thing to do!

We have chosen book-based curriculum for most of our school subjects.  We have used Sonlight curriculum for most of the last six years, and before that we used a similar style of self-selected curriculum.  It was not unusual for our children to spend two hours  a day reading in their teen years.  

We are also daily newspaper readers, and our children picked up the habit.  We never made current events part of the curriculum.  Talking about the news has just always been part of life, developed as we shared the daily paper around the breakfast table.  A typical discussion would begin with a remark like "Can you believe how stupid this is?"  Sometimes when we are very sure of our convictions, we fail to see that there even is an opposing point of view, but daily exposure to the letters page of the newspaper displays both the strong and weak arguments on any issue, and creates a natural situation for the critical reading that will necessarily be part of post-secondary education.

Years ago, when I was completing my education degree, we were taught that reading skills span all subject areas, and then we were sent out into the fragmented school system where reading skills are only valued in language arts class.  When we began home education, I saw it as a chance to value reading in all areas of learning, in science and history and Bible study as much as it is when studying Dickens and Shakespeare.  And for our children, when they studied social work and psychology and the history of music and theology, the reading skills developed in their home education were the tools for those challenges as well.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Best Parts of Our Day

For years while we were home educating three children fairly close in age, our home educating days all began the same way.  The children would do a few chores after breakfast while I tidied up the kitchen and enjoyed a second cup of tea.  Then I would brew a pot of herbal tea and gather them together in our family room.  I would read a chapter or two of a book aloud to them while they sipped their tea and stirred in as much sugar as they could.

We followed that every day with our Bible study and then with the other subjects that they worked on together.  By the time they were moving into high school level subjects, they might just be sharing the novel and Bible study.  Those mornings are some of my best memories of home educating as we read together and talked about books, and enjoyed a peaceful way to learn together.

With only one child involved now in our home education, our routine has shifted, but still I read to her every day, and we begin our actual school work with Bible study every day.  I heard a speaker at a conference long ago say that we need to start with the thing we want our children to value most, so Bible study is pre-eminent in our home.  Next, we always do math.  Even if that's all we achieve some days, I know that the other subjects will get worked in over the course of the week even if they are not done daily.

Our daughter is a strong reader so I often have her read to catch up if we've fallen behind in a subject like science or history.   I've learned that every topic we cover in those areas can be returned to later if our first study of it was not deep enough, and that most curriculum retraces its steps quite consistently.

Today we begin a new book: Pilgrim's Progress in an abridged edition (the original is readable for older teenagers, but the message of the book is inspiring for much younger children as well.)  We've chosen the book partly because it's referred to over and over in Little Women, which we listened to as an audio book on our trip to Calgary.  

I'm off to make some Tea!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Convocation & Celebration

We're away for the weekend for a special celebration. This morning, we attended the Convocation Ceremony of Ambrose University College and watched our 22 year old son receive his Bachelor of Arts degree, summa cum laude. He has worked hard and been richly rewarded for his efforts.

It's hard to decribe the pride and joy that come with this day. I looked at him sitting with the other graduates and remembered him as the little boy sitting around the kitchen table with his siblings and learning his early school skills. I remember hearing hours of music practice as he honed the skills that took him to college. I remember hours and hours and hours of hearing him quote scripture as he studied for Bible quizzing, and earned the entrance scholarships that took him to Ambrose.

I find myself looking at all of those hours of teaching children that constitute the greatest part of my life-work, and I see how those hours prepared my children for their journey into their adult lives. I had no idea how wonderful the payback would be. Today I am very grateful.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Why a blog?

Hello!  Six days in hospital gives a person almost too much time to think about things.  It gave me enough time to think my way into beginning a blog as a way to share some of the experience we have garnered as a family which has home educated our children for twenty years, from the beginning until they were ready to begin college.
(About the hospital stay:  I had a minor heart attack and spent most of time in hospital waiting for the next test to be scheduled.  One angiogram/angioplasty/stent later and I'm fine.  I am very grateful for the excellent care I received.)
We had no idea that we were going to be the kind of family who home educated forever.  We began with the conviction that we wanted a different sort of learning experience for the early stages of our children's education.  That conviction grew into the governing philosophy of our family:   That family is the primary place for children to grow and learn.