With the 30 years of homeschooling behind me, I remember those spring days and the excitement of thinking about and preparing for a new homeschooling year. As I read the following Mom’s Corner I wrote during a springtime when I was actively homeschooling many children, I thought you would be encouraged by these words.
Do you remember being in school and having your report card handed to you? How did you feel as you looked at it? Were you excited? Anxious? Did you open it then or wait until you were alone? What was it like taking it home and showing it to your parents? Did you want to hide it, or were you proud of it?
When I was growing up, report card day was a momentous event at home. We received a quarter for each “B” and a dollar for each “A.” If the report cards were good, we had a special family dessert – chocolate sauce over pound cake. I only remember my sister and me bringing home good report cards. Yay!
As homeschool families are there any reasons why we would give report cards to our children? They place an added burden on Mom to create extra time and effort to track the information that would be needed to compile report cards. Sometimes as homeschoolers we feel like we want to leave behind what we saw as the institutionalized part of education. Do report cards fall into that category? As a homeschool family for 30 years, we would encourage you that report cards play an important role in home education.
1. Keeps Teacher Mom Accountable
It is necessary for homeschool moms to be diligent about accomplishing homeschooling. The education of their children falls squarely on their shoulders. Planning to give quarterly report cards should motivate Mom to make sure daily and weekly school is happening so that she has data from her students to be entered into the report card. It is very difficult to generate a report card if school time has been lacking.
2. Sets Goals Before the Student
Report cards give homeschool students a goal to work toward. In a normal classroom, there will be positive peer pressure toward academic accomplishment. In the homeschool, it is generally only one student per grade, losing the benefit of that incentive. In its place, homeschoolers can use the goal of achieving good grades to motivate children to work on their school assignments and to put forth their best effort.
3. Gives Reinforcement to Student
Report cards will give homeschooled children reinforcement – positive or negative. Without some kind of grading system and report cards, how do our homeschool students know if they are doing well or doing poorly? The homeschool mom can verbally tell her children how they are doing, but they don’t have anything quantifiable and tangible to validate those words.
4. Tracks Progress or Lack of It
When we give our children report cards, it helps us discern their academic progress or lack of it. Good grades indicate positive progress, but bad grades will be a concern that should lead us to look for remedies. When those bad grades turn to good grades, we have a track record.
5. Documents for Governmental Authorities
Report cards will indicate to governmental authorities, should they ever question a homeschool, that real learning is taking place. In the U. S. each state has slightly varying laws regarding homeschooling, but in all of them, it is clear that education is to be accomplished. Report cards indicate that this is a homeschool where real school goes on and learning results. We can have our textbooks as proof of homeschooling, but the report card indicates to the authorities what is actually being accomplished with those textbooks.
“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation” (Romans 13:1-2).
6. Allows Others to See Academic Progress.
Not only do report cards document progress that governmental authorities can observe should they question our homeschooling, but it also allows others to view academic progress in our children. Report cards can be shown to Dad, grandparents, even interested friends because they document definitive achievement. This gives those other people who love your child opportunities to reinforce and encourage that child.
7. Helps Children Adapt to the Real World
Finally, report cards move our children toward adaptation to the real adult world. If your children go to college, they will be in an environment where tests and grades are the norm. If they are self employed, they may still study and take tests for credentials in their field.
When the child wants a driver’s license, he will take a test and receive a grade on it that will either allow him to have the license or not. Those who work in the corporate world will have written reviews by their supervisors that document their performance over a pre-determined amount of time. Those reviews are shared with the employee and with upper level management. Performance in the job as documented by the reviews will be tied to pay raises.
Just a Little Extra Time
During my homeschooling years, I really didn’t find that giving report cards took very much extra time. Mine were simple with just the basic information on them. I had documentation of the children’s work from their test and quiz grades. For many subjects, I could simply average them for the grade. Since I kept the grades in an Excel spreadsheet, it would do all the calculating for me. I didn’t even have to work the math. Toward the end of our homeschooling, when we were using computers and e-mail so much, I would usually e-mail the report card to the child, to Dad, and then print a hard copy for our records.
I think that if you are a homeschooling mom, you will be happy to make the decision to give your homeschool students report cards and them begin implementing that decision. There are many benefits that come from report cards that you will experience if you do.
Download Report Cards from Titus2
For many years, we have offered a basic report card template on Titus2 as a free download. With the upcoming Mom’s Corner in mind, we designed more report card templates. We offer them in several formats: sunflower or airplane, PDF to be filled in, or subjects blank so you can type them in or print and handwrite them.
Try them out, and let us know what you think. Happy report card making.
I wonder how many of you who are homeschooling are thinking about curriculum decisions for the next school year. You are considering your options, looking at what is available, consulting with your husbands, and praying for direction.
Through our twenty-eight years of homeschooling, we have observed many homeschooling moms wilt under the stress of trying to do all that their curriculum requires of them. They love the idea of what they have chosen for a homeschooling method, but the reality of preparation and fitting the school work into their day leaves them harried, tired, frustrated, and irritated.
This has been such a concern of my heart that several years ago, I began sounding a trumpet for a type of homeschooling that is usually viewed negatively in the homeschooling community—using Christian textbooks—but in practice it is stable, productive, and extremely functional for the homeschooling mom and her children. It allows her to be successful without being stressed. I have written three other Mom’s Corners about this topic, and then a book, Managers of Their Schools, giving specifics. Here are links to the Mom’s Corners.
- Traditional Christian Textbook Curricula
- A Voice for Traditional Christian Textbooks
- Curricula Decisions Impact Homeschooling Success
If you will read those previous articles, you will discover why I am such an advocate of Christian textbooks for the homeschool family. My heart longs to see moms successful and not discouraged. Let me share with you a few testimonies of families who are making the choice for Christian textbook homeschooling.
“Because I have been homeschooling for sixteen years and have graduated two of my boys, I almost did not purchase Managers of Their Schools. I am so thankful, though, that I did. I learned so much from it, and it helped me to be more of an encouragement and to give better guidance to the moms in my homeschool group. I have made some positive changes to my homeschool as a result. We had a fantastic year because of those changes and are looking forward to the coming year. We have been so blessed.”
Here is another testimony from a mom who has three little girls.
“As our school year draws to a close, may I express my deep gratitude for the direction you provided in pointing out the traditional Christian textbooks. We absolutely loved it!!! It has been so much more manageable (especially as I dealt with my depression issues), productive, and structured due to your excellent advice on the choice of materials and scheduling in general in Managers of Their Schools. I am so relieved now as I look into the next school year because the direction is set, and we can now focus our energies on the daily walking out of our faith in the Lord Jesus!”
This mom found so much benefit from textbooks that she is continuing to use it for her large family.
“I have always used Christian textbooks and have found them to be economical as well as thorough. Using textbooks has taught my children self-discipline, a strong work ethic, and many other positive attributes. In the years that I seemed to always be nursing a baby or pregnant, it was extremely helpful to know that I taught the children to be more independent in their work. I have always been there when they needed help and to listen to them tell back to me all the neat things they learned that day.
“When I was asked what curriculum I used by other homeschool moms, I was often frowned at and corrected because we used textbooks. I am so thankful that I stuck to my guns and kept going despite the negative comments. If I had listened to the opposition, I don’t know if I would have continued homeschooling due to the great stress that ‘Being everything to my children’ would have brought. My oldest is in his senior year now, and I plan to continue using textbooks for the seven younger children. Thanks again for your encouraging words and for expressing the truth rather than popular opinion.”
Textbooks can even be used with children who have learning disabilities as this mom testifies.
“When we decided to homeschool our youngest son and then his sister who was two years older than him, we began homeschooling them using Christian textbooks. We have used textbooks with our son from the first grade up and with our daughter from the seventh grade up, and we have been very successful.
“We are homeschooling two special needs children and there are times that we have had to adjust our lesson plans and cut down on the amount of work we do in a day or a week. However, having the consistency of textbooks and a goal to finish each book or class before moving on to the next grade level, we are now starting her senior year and his sophomore year. He has maintained an A/B average and she is maintaining A/B/C’s. Both of these children were diagnosed as mentally retarded, emotionally disturbed, ADHD, and the list goes on, by the public schools. He was repeating the first grade for the second time, and she had just finished the sixth grade but was doing work on a 3rd and 4th grade level when we started homeschooling them.
“We have used textbooks through all of our homeschooling. It makes preparing lesson plans, setting goals, you name it, easy for me and easy for them. Now they are able to check the lesson planner and get started on the day’s work on their own.They consult me when they need help, and I think they have a really good over all education. Their classes on any given day are theology, literature, spelling, grammar, history, science, math, government, economics, physical education, home economics, music, and art.
“They look forward to the spring when we get our new books, and they get to see what they are going to be doing throughout the year. We are getting the majority of our work done before noon. I completely agree with the use of Christian textbooks.”
These testimonies are from typical homeschooling families—one that has been homeschooling a long time, one with many children, one with children with learning disabilities, and one with young children. Our ultimate goal is to raise children for God’s glory in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). Homeschooling is simply a tool to help achieve this goal.
A mom who is stressed often lives in guilt and defeat. What she needs is a homeschooling method that will allow her to be accomplish her homeschooling so that she has relieved herself of one of her major stressors. As these moms have chosen to use Christian textbooks, they feel successful, confident, and blessed. I want each of you to be moms like these moms and feel that delight in what is accomplished in your homeschool. I recommend traditional Christian textbooks, and I suggest Managers of Their Schools as a resource to help you on that path.
“I am reviewing my cherished, Managers of Their Schools book and have been so blessed by it this past year. I was one of those who was completely against textbook learning, but after reading your book last year, the case was proved, and there is no going back for our family.
“I knew the first month would be awful, and it was but so worth it. The children (10, 9, 7, 5, and 3 at the time) were so used to a fully mom-directed schooling and ‘entertaining’ school. So some new character traits had to be learned – self-discipline and hard work even when it is not enjoyed to name the top two, had to be worked through. Now we all love our textbook learning, I have more time with the younger children, and the children are proud of their work and work well.
“The children asked if they could use textbooks from here on out. Character is the main reason we homeschool, and this style truly helped. Anyway, I have found your curriculum choices to be of great wisdom, and they have been right on for our family as well.”
With August upon us, those who are homeschooling are probably preparing for a new school year. Because we receive so many e-mails from homeschooling moms, we have become aware of the major areas of struggles with which they will wrestle. A large number of their problems could possibly be solved very simply—by changing their method of homeschooling. Their method of homeschooling is putting unnecessary pressure on them, and they are suffering with the burden of it. They continue with the way they have been homeschooling because they believe if they change methods they will do their children a disservice. Plus the way they are homeschooling appeals to them either intellectually or to their mommy hearts even if the practical side isn’t very successful. Because of these issues, I want to take this Mom’s Corner to once again recommend a style of homeschooling that many have dismissed without much, if any, consideration—Christian textbook homeschooling.
There are two past Mom’s Corners when I have addressed this same recommendation. Here are links to them: May 2005 Mom’s Corner and May 2003 Mom’s Corner. In these articles, I encouraged those who were satisfied with their method of homeschooling to skip reading the rest of the Mom’s Corner. Truly, if you are content with how you homeschool and it is successful for you, we don’t want to dissuade you from what you are doing. However, as we continue to hear from moms having difficulties in their homeschooling lifestyle and also hearing very positive comments from those who are switching to textbooks, we are feeling the need to become slightly more overt in our encouragement for homeschool families to consider Christian textbooks. It is not our desire to put down other homeschooling methods, but to see families successful. We are grateful for everything that helps, supports, and allows families to homeschool. More and more, though, we are becoming aware of families who are so frustrated with homeschooling for many reasons that they are sending their children back to a public or private school. It isn’t their heart’s desire for this to happen, but they haven’t been successful with their homeschooling either because of the demands on Mom’s time, because school wasn’t consistently accomplished, or because the children weren’t learning. Would it have been necessary to give up homeschooling if they had tried using textbooks?
Textbooks Help You the Mom
As we become more convinced that textbooks facilitate not only the education of a homeschooled child but also allow a homeschool mom to keep up with the needed demands on her time, we are taking a bigger step in becoming proactive advocates of textbooks. Please, though, don’t misunderstand us. We are not saying you have to use Christian textbooks to successfully homeschool. Nor are we saying it is the only way to homeschool. We are simply suggesting homeschool families consider textbooks as a possibility, especially if they are having any problems with accomplishing school, with their children’s education, or with continuing to homeschool.
In a nutshell, the testimony that introduces this article says well what I would like to convey. Most of us didn’t consider homeschooling with Christian textbooks when we began homeschooling. After all, we were told in the materials we read about homeschooling, that if we used textbooks to school our children we would be bringing school into our homes—something we were encouraged not to do. We were also told that our children would be bored with textbooks, and that they would dislike learning if we used texts. We were encouraged to try out other methods of homeschooling—ones that would entice our children to learn, be more fun, and be more exciting.
As we work with homeschool moms and listen to their pleas for help, we wonder why textbooks have a negative reputation in homeschooling circles. Their benefits are numerous, and they solve so many of the problems with which homeschooling families are struggling. Our personal experience with Christian textbooks is very positive, and we are hearing that same result from other families who have switched to textbooks. We moved away from twelve years of other homeschooling methods to textbooks, which we have used for twelve years, and we plan to remain with textbooks for our last six years of homeschooling. As other moms are switching to textbooks, they are also finding positive changes in their homeschool environment quite similar to the mom in the note who introduced this article. These benefits are causing them to be excited about homeschooling with textbooks, and they don’t have a desire to go back to other methods they have left behind.
Because of the homeschooling style the mom whose testimony we have shared with you had been using, she knew that it would take some effort on her part to reestablish learning patterns in her children. Her children had become accustomed to learning only if Mom made it entertaining, exciting, appealing, and enticing. The reality of that type of homeschooling is that it is quite exhausting for Mom. You would think children would be sad about leaving that fun style of homeschooling. However, after one year of using textbooks, these children themselves didn’t want to return to their old method. They were happy with the change and have requested to continue homeschooling as they have been the past year.
Homeschool Textbooks Facilitate Independent Learners
Textbooks are just plain practical. Many of the other homeschool methods are totally dependent on Mom continually having the proper books, supplies, motivation, and time to direct the learning and educational activities. If Mom isn’t available or just happens to be working with another child, school is put on hold. With textbooks, children can be independent learners. They can work at their own pace. If they happen to need help but help isn’t immediately available, they can move to another section of their book or another subject that they can do by themselves. With the older children being able to do much of their work on their own, Mom’s time can be invested with the younger children, who are still learning to read, and with the older children in the particular areas where they struggle.
We have found textbooks to give our children a very thorough education. They don’t leave gaps in a child’s learning like other methods may be prone to do. I had often read that textbooks were boring, and if I used them to homeschool, my children would dislike learning. However, our experience over the years of using textbooks for our homeschooling is that they aren’t boring nor do they stifle my children’s joy in learning. Instead the education those textbooks provide our children will equip them to research their own projects and move into autonomy in their learning.
Textbooks Provide Opportunities for Real Learning
For many homeschool families, we wonder if their homeschool method is causing their children to grow up with an appetite to learn only if the material is exciting, interesting, and fun. Moms usually have to work very, very hard to keep their homeschool in these enticing realms where their children are willing to put forth the needed effort to learn. This in itself can become wearying for Mom. What will children, who grow up with this type of homeschooling, think about reading the Bible? It is simply a normal kind of book to be read and applied to our lives. Will their hearts be drawn to wanting to spend time in the Word or will it not measure up to the kind of learning to which they have become accustomed?
In addition, in real adult life, we sometimes get to learn what we find to be interesting. More often, however, we learn because we need to learn – whether we like what we are to learn and how it is presented or not. In our family, our children mostly enjoy their textbook learning, but there are times when they don’t prefer the subject matter such as when they come to the elements of the periodic table in science. What they gain by this kind of textbook experience, is that they can apply themselves to learn an area in which they aren’t interested, and it is okay.
Through the use of textbooks, our testimonial family learned self-discipline and how to work hard. Rather than the children being unhappy about that and wanting to return to their old method of homeschooling, they are proud of their work and their ability to work well. They want to stay with their textbooks.
I want to encourage homeschool moms to evaluate what is happening in their homeschools. Have the methods and materials burdened Mom down? Is your method giving your children an excellent education? Are you consistently keeping up with your homeschooling? Are your children independent learners, or do they have to rely upon Mom to keep school going? As a solution to many of the problems homeschool families are experiencing with their homeschooling, I would like to suggest the possibility that textbooks would provide the solutions.
(If you are interested in more detail concerning the benefits of textbook homeschool, you can find it in our newest book, Managers of Their Schools: A Practical Guide to Homeschooling. Plus Managers of Their Schools gives much practical homeschooling information in general and specifically about how to use textbooks plus our curricula choices.)
When I received several e-mails asking questions about Scripture memory and Bible copying, I thought they would be good topics for a Mom’s Corner. As I got started, I discovered that there was much more to say about memorizing Scripture than I could fit into a normal-length Mom’s Corner. This month’s article will conclude the series, finally reaching the subject of Bible copying. Next month I plan a related follow-on subject.
From the beginning of our homeschooling, we have used Scripture verses for our children’s handwriting work, as they learn first how to print, then practice it, and finally move to cursive penmanship. However, it is only in the past three years that we have begun having our children do actual Bible copying.
In Deuteronomy we find some beautiful verses that describe how the king of Israel was to copy Scripture and the benefits that copying and daily reading the Word would have for him. “And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites: And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them: That his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel” (Deuteronomy 17:18-20).
So far we have used spiral notebooks for the children to copy into. However, we have seen how using a 3-ring binder with loose-leaf paper would be an option as well. In the spiral notebooks, the children are limited if they accidentally skip a few verses. There is no way to insert an extra page, and that option would be available if they were writing on loose-leaf paper. This would also allow them to redo a page and insert it in if we wanted them to do that. We like the spiral notebooks because the pages stay together, and when a child completes a notebook it is already bound together.
Our children have done their Bible copying with pencil rather than pen. That is because when they make a mistake, the pencil allows them to erase and redo it without making the page look bad. They will make errors as they copy that they will catch, and I find things that they have missed that need to be fixed.
Steve started the children in Genesis with their Bible copying, but after a few weeks they jointly decided to move to Matthew. Often if a child is working on memorizing a chapter of Scripture, he will use that chapter for his Bible copying until he completes it and then move back to his other copying. That is another advantage for copying into a 3-ring binder on loose-leaf paper versus a spiral notebook, because the chapters can then be placed into the 3-ring binder in the correct order.
The Bible copying is part of the children’s school time. When they are Bible copying, they are easily able to set their minds on things above as Colossians 3 tells us to do. They also are receiving spelling, handwriting, and grammar practice. One of our children was completing her spelling curriculum well each week, but it wasn’t transferring to her daily writing. We decided to have her stop her spelling curriculum and increase her Bible copying time to see if that would help her with her spelling skills. For a younger child, I will read over his Bible copying every day during my one-on-one meeting with him. Then if there are any errors, he will correct them right then. For the older children, either Steve or I will occasionally look over their Bible copying for neatness and accuracy.
After the first Corner on Scripture memory, a mom wrote to me telling about how they had begun working on memory verses at mealtime after asking the blessing on the food. Here is her experience:
“Thanks for sharing the tip about reciting a Bible memory verse after saying grace. My three-year-old daughter is now learning her memory verse in couple of days rather than a couple of weeks.” Mom A
When I wrote to ask this mom for permission to use her testimony, not only did she give me her permission but she also gave some more details about how the memorizing was being facilitated by this method.
“We have been learning a verse for each alphabet letter. We’ve been struggling with the verses for letters A-L because they were only recited once a day, and often I would forget to do even that. When I read the Mom’s Corner, I was quite excited because I knew this would be an easy system to implement and would give practice several times a day.
“I started last week with ‘Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever’ (Hebrews 13:8). We said our prayers before eating, and then I taught the verse verbally. The first day it was mainly my husband or I reciting the verse for my child, but by the end of the second day my three-year-old child could recite the verse.
“The reference seems to be more challenging for my child. We continue to recite it, but at this point I am happy with getting God’s Word into my child’s heart and references being learned later.
“The verse for this week started with the letter K, and it is, ‘Keep my commandments, and live. . .’ (Proverbs 7:2). This verse was also learned in two days, so I should try some longer verses. I also want to do a review week to review past verses.” Mom A
This family decided to use meals to give them a consistent time to work for a couple of minutes on memory verses. They had good success because of the consistency of the study. If it is important to learn the references, then slowing the pace down will allow for that. In not much more time, the reference will be learned as well. For a three-year-old child, that might mean he isn’t learning a verse every single week, but when the verse is down pat with the reference, the family can start on the next verse. We set whatever pace we choose.
Another family e-mailed and told how they had implemented using a whiteboard for memorizing Scripture. Here is what she said.
“Teri recently shared about using a whiteboard for Scripture memory. I loved the idea, and yesterday my husband bought me a whiteboard for this purpose. We have a built-in microwave in our kitchen but do not ever use it, and so it always bothered me being there. I hung the whiteboard right over it.
“We are working on the first section of Psalms 119 right now, and having it so central to where we spend much of our day has already been a blessing!!! My husband and I sat and read it several times last night when we were visiting after the kids were in bed, the children were reading it first thing this morning, and the non-readers were asking the older children to read it to them. I love this and look forward to it always being a central part of our kitchen. Thank you for sharing the idea!!!!” Mom B
I had a mom e-mail me and share with me her personal struggle with pride because of how young her child was and what she had helped him to memorize. The Lord convicted her of her pride, and drew her heart to focus on the truth of why one would memorize Scripture. Scripture memory is an empty discipline unless what is memorized is utilized in a life. It could lead to pride and hypocrisy—a knowledge of the Word without the life of the Spirit. However, if we are using what we memorize to help us walk in grace and obedience, Scripture memory is a powerful ally for us and for our children as we walk in the Spirit.
One other thought I want to share with you comes from a mom who wrote to me and told me what her husband says about Scripture memory. I loved the analogy, and I wanted to pass it on to you as well.
“My husband always says, remember that God’s Word is our sword, when we physically have it in our hands it is like having the sword in its sheath, but when we have it memorized it is like it is out of the sheath ready to do battle.” Mom C
Psalms 19 and Psalms 119 are beautiful passages of Scripture detailing the benefits and value of the Word in our lives and our children’s lives. Here is part of Psalms 19: “The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward. Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression. Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer” (Psalms 19:7-14).
Because I have that desire for the Word of God in my life, I want to have the Word not only available when I can get a Bible out to read but also embedded in my mind, available anytime, anyplace. That is important for my children as well. May we be women who memorize the Word ourselves and also help our children memorize.
Praying about, planning, and putting together a new schedule for the school year is one of my summer priorities. Our 2006-2007 schedule had been committed to paper for a couple weeks when Steve and I began discussing the children’s request to have school time scheduled to practice their music together. The schedule already allowed for individual instrument practice, music theory, and harmony work – a fairly time-intensive amount of music in the school day. However, as we talked, it was apparent that at this point in our lives, music is a high priority because we are regularly doing a family-music session when we travel and speak. Having the children practicing together would be beneficial not only for them but also for the direction of our ministry.
Scheduling for Important Subjects
We decided to put their already-scheduled fifteen minutes a day of Spanish on hold for this year and cut their writing time from thirty to fifteen minutes. This would then free up thirty minutes in the school schedule for a sibling music practice. I returned to my colored squares and sticky tac for a second time to revise the schedule to reflect the changes Steve and I felt would be good for our children’s school year.
Not long after making the schedule change, Steve and I were talking on our daily, early morning walk. We discussed how great it was to take our once-a-week longer walk on the coolest morning of that hot, August week. We also realized that with school soon starting, our ability to go for a walk based on good weather would soon end. We would return to using Saturday to fit the two-hour walk into a non-school day. As I pondered that, the Lord prompted me to again be flexible with my schedule, using it to meet the particular needs of our family.
Willingness to Be Flexible in Scheduling
I found myself once again pulling my master schedule out of the cupboard for another round of revision. I could postpone my first one-on-one school meeting by forty-five minutes and move my “odds and ends” time from the afternoon into that slot. Then if it was a glorious morning and Steve was available for our long walk, I would available as well. “Odds and ends” time could be skipped for a walk, but my school meetings with each individual child are higher priorities – not bumped unless absolutely necessary.
My schedule is my tool. It is designed to help me accomplish what the Lord Jesus has called me to do. As I work with my schedule, I am setting it up, under Steve’s leadership, for the priorities that have been put in place in our family – for my time and for the children’s time as well. We take into consideration our children’s interests and their possible future needs. Thirteen-year-old Anna came to us and requested that we consider scheduling her science time to study gardening rather than the normal eighth-grade science book. As we prayed and evaluated that part of her school schedule, we decided if she had a gardening focus for science it would be helpful to her both now and in the future.
I can also use my schedule for built-in flexibility. In the case of the morning walks, I know that once a week I would like to start school later than I do on the other days. In order to accomplish that desire, I needed to place a low-priority activity in the morning that could be skipped for the walk when I choose to do so. Generally, I put the things that are least important for me to accomplish in the afternoon because I know that time is more easily interrupted than our morning school time is. However, for the sake of that walk and talking time with my husband, I made a change in our schedule to make it flexible, practical, and useable.
Another great facet of a schedule is that if the change I instituted does not work out well, I can go back to the way the schedule normally had been, or I can try something entirely different. Having the schedule committed to paper helps me make those changes. I am not trying to remember strictly from my mind the new pieces of the schedule.
This year, fourth-grade Mary will be reading her history, science, and health on her own. She has scheduled time that allows her to read, answer questions, plus take quizzes and tests. Steve and I wonder about her ability to accomplish this without my help. Her older siblings have done well in making the transition to more independent study in these subjects, but we aren’t so sure about Mary. As we discussed this situation, we decided to give her the opportunity to see if she could do it on her own. I made the schedule up this way. However, my schedule is flexible. If, as we begin the school year, it becomes apparent that Mary needs to read her history and science with me, I will rearrange her schedule and my schedule to accommodate that.
A schedule brings a great amount of order, productivity, direction, and peace to a homeschool home. It is my desire to share personal scheduling information with you that will help you envision the practical aspects of how a schedule can work in your family. Perhaps as you get a glimpse into my schedule discussions with Steve and how they affect my schedule making, you will be encouraged to tackle a schedule for your homeschool.
Our book, Managers of Their Homes has much more information on scheduling and includes the Scheduling Kit (colored squares and sticky tac) I mentioned. Daily, we receive testimonies about how this book is being used as a tool to transform families.
I read your article in the Mom’s Corner on using Christian textbooks in the homeschool.
I deeply appreciate you writing that. I’m always reading articles that balk at using textbooks in the homeschool with the idea that children don’t really learn.
Well, I fell prey to that and have tried many different curriculums, unit studies, you name it. But, I typically wasn’t able to get it all together like I should have. When I did, my children didn’t respond well to it. So, all my hard work in searching for something “fun” and putting it all together myself was in vain. I have tried so many different things and wish I had stayed with the traditional Christian textbooks since I just keep coming back to them anyway.
After thousands of dollars spent on trying different methods and curriculums, I’m back to Christian texts, where I plan on staying! 🙂 I wish I knew then when I started homeschooling what I know now . . . I’d have saved a lot of money and wasted time. A homeschool mom
We hear few voices in the homeschooling community supporting, encouraging, or defending the use of traditional, Christian textbooks. I wrote a Mom’s Corner two years ago about our experiences through years of homeschooling with various curricula. I was overwhelmed with the gratitude that was expressed by moms who had felt guilty for using textbooks in their homeschooling because there is little, if any, endorsement for their choice. As in the earlier Corner on this topic, this article is for those using traditional Christian textbooks or for those who are dissatisfied with the homeschool method they are using. For others, this Corner doesn’t apply to you, and we would suggest you not read it. We don’t want this article to discourage anyone in the way that anti-textbook articles often discourage a textbook-using homeschool mom.
It is common to pick up a homeschooling book or magazine to discover it is speaking negatively about the use of textbooks. We are told we are creating a “school-at-home” atmosphere by using books, something they say no homeschooler should do. In the chapter or article, homeschoolers will be encouraged to make their schools fun and enticing so their children will enjoy learning. They are told that their children will naturally want to learn if the schooling is directed toward the areas of the child’s interest. We hear about the importance of reading whole books to our children rather than textbooks. All of this appeals to our motherly desire for our children to be happy. In the process, though, it often, perhaps inadvertently, puts a great burden of guilt on a mom who doesn’t choose to homeschool like this.
Homeschool Textbooks Prepare Children for Life
Steve and I have realized that we have a different philosophy for our homeschool than many of these other homeschool authors apparently have. We want our homeschool to be a vehicle to prepare our children for life. This life that we envision for our children when they are adults will entail diligence and perseverance. As adults, they will often be called upon to learn something that isn’t particularly interesting to them. Even if something they learn catches their attention, the educational aspect of the topic will most likely not be exciting or enticing.
Our Christian textbooks are the perfect tools for achieving our goal of preparing children for their adult lives. There will be parts of the textbooks that appeal to the children and parts that they dislike. The children will catch on to some of their textbook work quickly and easily, while other sections will be difficult and tedious. We want our children to be able to learn under all these circumstances because this is exactly what they will face as adults in a grown-up world.
Using a traditional Christian textbook approach to homeschool allows our schooling to be consistent. I have received many e-mails from homeschooling moms who use other homeschool methods and are always pushing harder and harder to make school fun and exciting. When Mom’s energy level falls, she feels like a failure because she isn’t able to supply the enticement that makes the children love what they are doing. She wears herself out gathering information, supplies, planning her studies, and looking for better materials to help her keep school such that her children will be delighted with it. In this scenario, because Mom is often exhausted and discouraged, school regularly ends up being skipped, with the children playing, while Mom feels guilty and retreats to other less demanding tasks.
With the textbooks we use, we simply move through them day by day, making slow and steady progress. I don’t have to make continual trips to the library and other places for fresh school supplies. I can focus my energy on our actual schooling because we are at home. School doesn’t depend on whether or not I have had time to plan for it. We just do whatever comes next in the book. I am not required to come up with creative presentations to keep the children interested enough in their school that they are willing to do whatever Mom has for them to do. We just do school every day.
School is Consistent with Homeschool Textbooks
We have found great accountability for our homeschool in traditional Christian textbooks. Without this accountability, it is easy to skip school for almost any reason that comes along. However, we want to finish our school books by the end of our school year or even before, so we count the cost of missing a school day. With our textbooks, even on days that I need to be away for one reason or another, the children can still accomplish the majority, if not all, of their school work. They know what to do, we have been doing it consistently, and they can do it on their own.
Traditional Christian textbooks have given our children a strong education. This is partly due to the regularity of our schooling and partly due to the textbooks themselves. Because textbooks present their material in a structured, repetitive manner, the children are receiving an excellent education. It has appeared to us that often there are “holes” in other homeschooling methods. We used unit studies for almost ten years of our homeschooling. Our older children have repeatedly told us that they believe their younger siblings have a better-quality education than they had, although we diligently covered all of the material suggested.
Even using Christian textbooks, we are cautious of the influences they will present in our children’s lives and look for the right texts for our family’s needs and the direction the Lord has set for us. For example, our children have chosen not to have dating relationships. One Christian high school level English book had a dating theme, so we eliminated it for our family. We prefer to spend our time in Bible reading and ministering to others rather than in sports. Therefore, we don’t want a major sports theme in the children’s school books, although we have found this hard to avoid altogether. We have seen worldly and silly selections in some Christian reading and literature courses. We have instead chosen the reading courses without those focuses.
Our Christian textbooks have helped us fulfill our goal of keeping our children innocent regarding evil. We don’t want to introduce them to false religions through their school studies. “Take heed to thyself that thou be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before thee; and that thou enquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise” (Deuteronomy 12:30). “. . . I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil” (Romans 16:19). Many homeschooling materials will study false beliefs in depth with the idea that the parents are to point out what is wrong with them. We see Scripture telling us that we are not to learn about them at all. Christian textbooks will give some general information about false religions in history books, but we have found it is easy to edit, with white-out, what is unacceptable for the children to know at their age. We feel it is appropriate for them to read that the Egyptians worshipped false gods but not that they know names and details of those religious practices.
Managing Homeschool Textbooks
Despite using Christian textbooks, I still need to invest time in our homeschool. I spend several hours a day meeting with each child individually-from a half hour to an hour per child-going over their schoolwork. We will read the math lesson together and work the new practice problems. We read the English lesson and make sure that the assignment is understood. Anything the child needs help with or that I want to make sure he understands, I go over with him during that time. In the afternoon, I have time set aside to check the children’s school work. For five children, this takes me a total of about an hour to an hour and a half. I also spend time during the summer dividing up our textbooks and making assignment sheets to be sure we complete our books within the number of weeks we will be doing school.
When I was brave enough to realize that I didn’t agree with so much of the writing and talk in the homeschool movement about what was a good way to homeschool, I discovered the joys of homeschooling with Christian textbooks. My hope for this Mom’s Corner is to support those who have chosen a traditional, Christian textbook approach to homeschooling. I would also like to recommend this homeschooling method to moms who are dissatisfied with what they are doing for their school. We love our textbooks, and they are accomplishing our educational goals for our children.
Since this article was written, we now have a book titled Managers of Their Schools: A Practical Guide to Homeschooling. The book is full of practical information about the nuts and bolts of homeschooling, along with a chapter written by our four oldest children.
For many homeschooling moms, the beginning of a new school year is just ahead! In this Mom’s Corner, I would like to share with you three suggestions for making the coming school year the success that you want it to be.
As I approached the first day of school last year, I was dreading it! I wasn’t ready for the changes full-time school would bring. I knew that if my spirit wasn’t right, my children’s wouldn’t be either. I cried out to the Lord concerning the state of my heart, and He answered me.
The Lord encouraged me to set aside the Saturday night before our first day of school as a time to dedicate the school year to Him. I worked on Friday and Saturday to complete all the practical, weekend tasks I had to do so that my Saturday evening would be free. I shared with my family what I was planning and received my husband’s blessing. As I waited for my evening with the Lord, I jotted down areas that I wanted to pray about.
After dinner that evening, I gathered up school books, schedules, assignments—anything that had to do with our school. I carried them into my bedroom and stacked them in piles. I pulled out my prayer notes and started praying for our school, for Steve, and for myself.
Then, child by child, I placed their school materials in front of me. I thumbed through them and made notes as to what I thought might be difficult areas for the child. I noted that on my prayer list. Then I prayed for each child and their school year. If the Lord brought ideas to mind during the prayer time, I paused, made a note, and then continued on.
I had such a sweet, sweet time with the Lord that it completely transformed my heart toward beginning school again. I would counsel any homeschooling mom, whether she is excited about her school year or dreading it, to set aside a special time to pray about and dedicate her school to the Lord. This might even be something a husband and wife could do together in addition to Mom praying alone.
Psalms 37:5 says, “Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.” I certainly saw the fruit of this as I purposed, in a different way than I ever had in the past, to commit my school year to Him. I am planning to do this every year!
The second area I would like to encourage you in is chore assignments. This would include making a list of each child’s chores, scheduling a time for them to accomplish the chores, setting aside time for you to check their chores, and agreeing upon consequences when the chores aren’t done properly. I have found that one of the most draining aspects of homeschooling is not the schooling itself, but getting children to fulfill their household responsibilities before and after school. For more information about chores, see our book, Managers of Their Chores: A Practical Guide to Children's Chores.
What do you do if the child assigned to wash breakfast dishes doesn’t do them or takes five times longer than he should? You need to have thought through the possibilities and have consequences in place so that you aren’t frustrated when this occurs. We can handle failure in our children calmly when the consequences have been planned out for future use.
When assigning chores and consequences, try to keep personalities in mind. Don’t give your dawdler a mission-critical chore that must be accomplished before school can start. If he is the only choice for the job, try giving him a “first school activity” that can easily be made up in his free time later in the day, since some days he might have to spend that slot of school time doing his chore.
The last area I would like address has to do with curriculum. Having prayed about what to use for school this year, be wary of any dissatisfaction you might experience toward your curriculum. The Lord may have a different purpose for those materials that don’t seem to be working out as you expected.
When something isn’t going well, we are very quick to desire a curriculum change. I know, because I have “been there” many times during the past sixteen years of homeschooling! Perhaps your six-year-old’s phonics program isn’t working out the way you envisioned. It may be that you should lead your child through at a much, much slower pace while he matures and gradually grasps the material. Could it be your child needs to learn, even at six, to push himself beyond his comfort zone? Maybe you are to learn an extra measure of patience. We can rob our children, and ourselves, of these valuable lessons by “jumping” curriculum too quickly.
I pray that as we enter a new homeschooling year we will seek the Lord on our knees before we ever start the first day of school. May we look for His solutions in helping our children learn responsibility. May we also rest in His purposes for the curriculum choices He has led us to make.
If you would like to view our current school schedule, you can do so.
Recently, I received this note and question from a homeschooling mom. I asked her if it would be okay for me to answer it with this month’s Mom’s Corner, and she agreed.
I started to read the book Homeschooling with a Meek and Quiet Spirit by Teri, and I was wondering this. How do I have a quiet spirit when it seems that my blood is boiling from every little thing? I cry out to God. But I still feel that anxiety. I am really confused about this. Should I just force myself to be soft spoken and cry on the inside? How do I keep from exploding? I just feel like the warden. I was wondering if anyone else might suffer from this. It seems God just did not bless me with these qualities. I have always been loud and outspoken.
A homeschooling mom
I expect almost every one of us can relate to what this mom is saying, and perhaps each of us has also experienced her feelings. I remember hearing the Christian writer and speaker Elisabeth Elliot say something to the effect that she regularly asked the women in her audience if anyone was born with a meek and quiet spirit. She never had a hand go up. That tells me that God has not created women to be naturally meek and quiet. However, He does tell us in His Word that wives are to have a “meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price” (1 Peter 3:4).
Even though many of us, if not all, struggle because we aren’t gifted with meek and quiet spirits, this doesn’t mean this lack is something we accept and feel doomed to live with throughout our lives. God knew exactly what He was doing when He made each one of us, and yet He also gave us direction in His Word about how to deal with this. I would encourage this mom in several things, while reminding myself of them as well.
Make the desire for a meek and quiet spirit the focus of your time with the Lord each day and of your prayer for yourself. Search the Word, as you read it each day, for verses that help you toward a meek and quiet spirit. Look for ones that give you direction on what you should be doing and what you should not be doing. Here is an example.
“Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice” (Philippians 4:4). If I were to read this verse in my daily time with the Lord while my life was desperately lacking in being meek and quiet, I would copy this verse out and memorize it. It gives me information on how to have a meek and quiet spirit. I am always to rejoice in the Lord. It is extremely difficult to be angry with the children while rejoicing in the Lord. When I found myself in a stressful situation, I would repeat this verse to myself.
I wrote a four-part Mom’s Corner series on anger. You might find some helpful information in them. There is much in this series that relates to anger and how to overcome it. I would also suggest that you finish reading Homeschooling with a Meek and Quiet Spirit, which you said you had begun.
Be sure to check your heart and relationship with your children. Scripture says, “He maketh the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children . . .” (Psalms 113:9). “That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children” (Titus 2:4). That is our hearts’ desire—to be joyful, loving mothers of children. However, if we feel like a warden with our children, then something is wrong. It is likely our focus has become ourselves and the personal difficulties and inconveniences of raising children, including disciplining them. This is true if we are continually experiencing anger toward our children.
To be joyful, loving mothers of children, our focus should be on the good of our children—their spiritual and personal growth. If we must stop what we are doing to correct a child, we will feel angry when we are thinking about ourselves and our need to accomplish a particular task. On the other hand, if the interruption causes me to thank God for the opportunity He has given me to bring this child up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4), then I can receive that interruption joyfully and lovingly.
Can you see how the way I think about a situation determines my response to it? When I am thinking of my time investment with my children as a part of bringing them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4), then I see my role in a joyful, loving, positive light. I can accept the difficulties because my eyes are on the future outcome for my child’s spiritual benefit rather than the immediate difficulty for me. When my thoughts are on my hardships and myself, then every struggle is cast in a negative light and becomes a burden driving me to anger.
The word “quiet” in meek and quiet doesn’t refer to volume, as in loud versus soft. Rather, it is a heart attitude of quietness. It is a picture of resting in the Lord, not being anxious. Even though the word doesn’t have to do with the volume of our voices, in a home, loudness associated with anger isn’t healthy. So I would encourage you that, yes, it would be good to make yourself respond to the children in a very quiet voice. Scripture attests to this: “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). This doesn’t imply to me a loud voice. In dealing with the anger, I also strongly recommend Dr. S. M. Davis’ teaching audio, Freedom from the Spirit of Anger.
I don’t think the Lord wants us crying on the inside except to be calling out to Him. He is the One Who comforts us. “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). He is the One Who answers our prayers. “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). He is the One Who pours out grace into our lives and the lives of our families. “. . . My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
In our roles as mothers, we want to love, bless, and encourage our children. We would like them to live with mommies who are joyful and loving. A meek and quiet spirit leads us toward these goals, while anger destroys the relationships that are so dear to our hearts. Even though meek and quiet spirits don’t come naturally to women, the Lord has shown us that this type of heart and thinking leads to peace, contentment, and blessing. No matter how lacking we have been in our lives regarding a meek and quiet spirit, I think Paul sums up our hope and our direction. “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).
Homeschooling moms can find themselves feeling discouraged by the constancy of their job in the midst of what they want to be the most joyful years of their lives. Here are a couple of moms with whom we might relate:
I am failing miserably and feel awful. I am irritable, cranky, and anxious. Please pray for me that I can get thru this, that God will give me strength, and that I will not be crabby to my children. A homeschooling mom
I am feeling overwhelmed and depressed. I have 3 kiddos. First of all, my 5 and 2 year olds constantly run and make noise, noise, noise. I am always tripping over train tracks, etc., because they drag all of it out into the living room. I have tried to carve out times where they play in their room or take quiet time, but they are constantly running out. I feel like I am interrupted so many times that I can’t keep a thought in my head, or get any time alone to sort out my thoughts. It is very discouraging to me. Another mom
“ . . . In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength . . .” (Isaiah 30:15). Here we read three words that can be very meaningful to a discouraged homeschooling mother: quietness, confidence, strength. We know that we want quietness of heart and confidence in the Lord; that will be our strength. However, sometimes it appears that the circumstances of noise, disorder, and pressure rob us of any quietness or confidence.
Quietness, confidence, and strength—it all comes back to our focus. Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:29-30). God’s Word tells me that Jesus’ yoke is easy, and His burden is light. That is truth. When I feel a heavy burden or difficult yoke, then something has happened that isn’t right. I can know for sure the problem lies with me and not with the Lord!
Perhaps the starting point for moving back to quietness, confidence, and strength is, “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). For my heart to remain quiet, I can’t be anxious about anything. Therefore, Philippians 4:6-7 tells me that I am to lift up my concerns in prayer. Sometimes we may feel like we are doing this, but are we really? It could be that we think about our problems, we worry about our circumstances, and we try to figure out solutions. However, do we truly and simply pray about them? When we pray, they are no longer our problems, difficult circumstances, or solutions. They belong to the Lord. He can deal with them infinitely better than we can.
Paul knew what it was to have difficulties, ones beyond what most of us have experienced. “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed . . . For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9, 16-18).
While the tasks of a homeschooling mom may at times seem mundane, wearisome, and constant, our eyes must be focused not on the temporal but on the eternal. What we are doing in our homes with our children has value that goes far beyond feeding and caring for children. We are impacting their souls for eternity. The opportunity is given to us to mold the hearts of these children for Jesus Christ. The noise, discouragement, and fatigue that may accompany this high calling of mothering are nothing in comparison with the eternal benefits we can reap. Just like Paul, if we are troubled on every side, we are not to be distressed. When we are perplexed, we don’t want to be in despair. At times of feeling cast down, we know we aren’t destroyed. Paul’s secret in this was his total, wholehearted, complete commitment to the calling Jesus had given to him—his mission. That will be our secret at well—commitment to our mission as Christian mothers.
We are being renewed day by day, 2 Corinthians tells us. This doesn’t happen apart from where our thoughts are. “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:1-2). As we are seeking those things which are above and setting our affections on them, our thoughts will automatically be on Jesus. If we think about ourselves, we set ourselves up for feelings of pity, selfishness, and hopelessness. However, when our minds move to Jesus Christ, then there is joy. “As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full” (John 15:9-11).
If we are to let quietness and confidence be our strength, then we will choose to give our anxieties to the Lord Jesus in prayer. We will set our minds on what is eternal rather than what is temporal. May we be homeschooling moms who have a greater focus on the calling we have to impact our children for eternity than on our own difficulties or discomforts.