Have a Plan

      My husband and I were homeschooling our children long before we made any decision to homeschool our children or before we had even heard the word homeschooling. I'm sure if you think about it, the same can be said for many parents. How many of us realized at the time we were raising our toddlers that we were setting the stage for formal homeschooling that would follow?
      I was a firm believer in a child's ability to learn tremendous amounts of material during the ages of 0 and 6. Therefore, even during my children's toddler years, I was including everyday games that were really learning sessions.
      Every day started with breakfast where I used the valuable sit time to expose them to a variety of new information. I used pictures I had collected such as animals, leaves, geometric shapes - anything to spark their interests and expand their knowledge base.
      After breakfast, I always planned some type of educational playtime (building puzzles, taping new words on the wall, lining up alphabet cards on the ground in long rows which we pretended to be trains, building electric towers by stacking duplos and connecting shoestrings from tower to tower simulating electricity and ultimately connecting the end of the string into our donut duplos factory where cheerios were organized into different piles).
      Every day also included a walk around the block. How many times we counted the manhole covers or the blue residential water caps, or noted for the hundredth time an unusual tree or a crack in the cement, I'll never know. Furthermore, it always amazed me how one trip around the block, just discovering everyday things, took a whole hour.
      At least every other day I would glance at my children and say with a twinkle in my eye, "I have planned an adventure!" Boy, did their eyes light up.
      Actually, most adventures were to the library, store, or park; and one reason they were successful was that at least once a week, the adventure ended with a trip to the car wash or a trip thru the McDonalds drive thru. But another reason adventures were so exciting was that I always included my children in everything, whether it was picking out a piece of pipe Daddy needed or collecting groceries. There was always more to learn and experience!
      Lunch was usually at home because nap time would quickly follow. But always before sleep, when everyone had lost the urge to run, run, run, I would read to them; and boy, did we read a lot! You see, my husband and I did not have a television in our home for several years. When our oldest was about ten, we allowed television, but only sparingly.
      What does this have to do with homeschooling? Everything! When the kids became of age for formal schooling, school replaced my educational game right after breakfast (when everyone was most alert!) In about two hours, when attention spans were straining, there were play breaks in place of walks.
      And the adventures continued also. Every afternoon was KONOS time (a curriculum), which included all hands-on activities. But also, every August, I spent about two weeks searching out every opportunity I could find to expose my children to nature programs, historic events, manufacturing tours, local business operations for the upcoming school year. We saw everything from sheep shearing and horse shoeing to manufacturing processes and the Russian Ballet on Ice. I would schedule at least one activity a month, whether it was a private tour or a group-wide field trip with the local homeschool group.
      Replacing daily naptime was lunch followed by a group playtime, where I, if not helping in the construction project, was still included in spirit while working in the kitchen right along side the big event. And almost everyday, after the afternoon hands-on lesson, school would end with reading about people pertinent to our current lessons.
      But don't think life was just as easy as pie! Are you kidding? Homeschooling three, and later, four children so close in age caused me great dilemmas. There were years I drew a big schedule on the wall: 9:00 Mom helps Jacob with math-Aaron and Ruth do writing; 9:30 Mom helps Aaron with math-Jacob finishes math while Ruth copies spelling words; 10:00 mom helps Ruth with math-Aaron finishes math and Jacob does writing, etc....get the picture? Regardless of how carefully or cleverly I planned everything, every day included time when each child needed help individually, and the others cooperated because they were accustomed to all of us working together.
      Recently, I was talking with a local support group. I was explaining about the time I asked my oldest son, Aaron (age 15) to add about half-a-book worth of additional information taken from a freshman political science textbook to his current high school government course (6-8 weeks more work); the goal was to complete the necessary material in order to take the American Government CLEP test and earn 3 college credits. As I explained this occurrence, I was asked, "But, how did you get him to do it?"
      I've also been challenged by parents to give advice for motivating their upper elementary children to complete daily schoolwork, children who in the first few years of grade school excitedly devoured lessons. (We all know school isn't always as easy as it was in first and second grade.)
      On both occasions, when I heard these questions, I was dumbfounded and did not know how to reply. Each time, I made some comment about explaining to the children the importance of what was being learned, the benefits, etc... However, later, I wasn't satisfied with my answers.
      How could I explain that I never had any of my children remark, "Why do I have to do this?" "I don't want to do this!" or "I want to do something different!"
      Maybe this is the response I should have given - I assigned homework like I assigned chores. There were never any questions about my judgment or my authority. Our family was a team. We worked together and we played together. Everyday had purpose. It had a plan!
      My husband and I wanted the best opportunities for our children, and in our opinion, that meant a college education. Eventually each of our children asked me the BIG question: "How many years do I have to go to school?" On that occasion, I would look them straight in the eye and say, "If you would like to live the way you live today, having a house, a car, food you like to eat, and one day homeschool your children, you will have to have a good job. Mom and Dad feel that the best way to do this is to have a college education. Unless Jesus has a different plan for you and directs Mom and Dad otherwise, you will continue school for a long time. College costs lots of money. You will have to pay for it. However, if you study hard and do your best, the college will give you a scholarship, which will pay for some or all of that school."
      Pretty straight forward! We had a plan!

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