Curricula Decisions Impact Homeschooling Success

This is the time of year when many homeschooling moms are beginning to think and plan for their next school year. Homeschool conventions are on the horizon where materials can be purchased with no shipping fees. 2010 catalogs will be arriving in the mail with their spring-ordering specials. Discussions of the various homeschooling methods are the featured articles in the homeschool magazines. These are the days to be praying about what your homeschool will entail for this coming fall.

Our family is looking forward to starting its twenty-sixth year of home educating. For many years, I looked through catalogs searching for the perfect curricula that would address the problems I had faced the previous homeschool year. It took us about thirteen years of experimenting before we finally settled into what we used for the subsequent thirteen years and what we plan to continue using.

Regularly when I receive e-mail questions, they will revolve around the difficulty the mom is having for one reason or another with actually accomplishing school. She has an ideal in her mind based on what she knows of her chosen homeschool method, but she finds that living it out day-to-day simply doesn’t match the ideal.

Here is an example of one such e-mail.

“We homeschool, and I have always used the ???* approach. To be honest it’s just too much for me to handle right now. I’ve never been a textbook homeschooler because it always seemed like too much busy work. Now it’s hard to do anything, but I still need to school my seven children. Does your book lay everything out in a simple-to-implement way, and do you share what curriculum you use, or do I have to search it out for myself?” Sandi (*So as not to be negative about the homeschool approach Sandi was using, we chose not to give its name.)

Christian Homeschool Textbooks Are Effective

Thirteen years ago our family discovered that Christian textbooks were a productive and effective way to homeschool. I was pretty shocked that we actually liked using textbooks because all that I had read about homeschooling with textbooks was negative. We had moved to them mostly out of desperation because of our need to find something that would give our children a solid education while being manageable for us to accomplish. What a delightful surprise to find that not only did Christian textbooks accomplish our goals, but we enjoyed them as well.

After Sandi’s e-mail, I suggested to her that she begin using Christian textbooks and a daily schedule. That was last spring. Over the summer, she purchased her textbooks and put together a schedule. I have a progression of reports I want to share with you that document the comparison between this school year and previous one.

“Sept. 9—School went great. It was the best day I have ever had with school. The kids loved it. Our one-on-one time went great, and we were even able to finish early. This has been the best thing that has ever happened to our school. Finally, we are actually getting things done. I wish I had done this years ago. My twelve-year-old daughter is doing great. She just loves it. Our one-on-one time took only fifteen minutes today. She loves the tests, quizzes, and being independent. My seven-year-old son is doing super. He is so much more independent than I thought he could be. And the six-year-old is doing so well. He was so excited to start school. He was actually jumping around on Monday saying how much he loves school. The children even get up early to get started. It is just amazing to see this change in the children. I love doing schoolwork too!

“The only problem I am running into is with my ten-year-old son. He is a really slow reader, so if I want him to work on his grammar book on his own he can’t get through the entire lesson at one sitting. With math I just let him use times tables to do his lessons because he still doesn’t know his math facts. I have him do flash cards every day for fifteen minutes, but they never seem to stick. For science and history, I have him read a paragraph, and I read a paragraph. It takes a long time. When I tried to get him to read it himself he couldn’t get many of the words and got frustrated. Spelling is going really well for him. He is able to do that subject by himself.” Sandi

That report describes the beginning of the school year with some remarkable transformations occurring within just the first week. There were still struggles to be worked through, particularly with one of her children. However, those problems would have been there had she continued with her previous homeschooling method as well—perhaps they were even prolonged by it—and most likely they wouldn’t have been resolved.

Often the first week does go well, but what about six weeks later? Here is another glimpse into this “new” way of homeschooling using a very old, tried-and-true method of Christian textbooks.

“10/21—I’m so excited to tell you that school has been so good. This is the first year it has really been successful. We are getting everything done on time, and the children are really learning. My twelve-year-old girl loves it and my ten-year-old son is doing better. We are going much slower with science and history, but he is retaining what he is learning. Math is still challenging, but I’m just plucking away at it and encouraging him. His reading is starting to get better. We actually have three reading sessions scheduled in a day. I keep them short, but I’m trying to have him practice as much as possible. My husband and I make sure we pray for his ability to read every day, and we just keep doing the most we can with him.

“The rest of the children are doing really well. My six-year-old can be a little tough at times during school. He gets frustrated easily and will start to cry. I used to stop doing school when a child cried, but now I wait until he settles down, and we begin again. I always let my ten-year-old quit, and I know that is what has caused him to want to quit all the time when school gets hard. Now I have learned from my mistakes and keep going. I have learned so much about homeschooling with textbooks in the last six months, and it has transformed our family.

“The schedule is working super. I can’t imagine what I would do without a schedule. I never would be able to handle everything without having my schedule. It probably sounds funny, but I don’t think I could survive this time in my life without the schedule (and the Lord of course).” Sandi

Homeschool Textbooks Promote Diligence

How long does it take to see amazing progress when one sticks to a school schedule and uses textbooks for the curricula? Of course, Sandi has already shared in general what is going on in their homeschool and the advancement her children made within the first six weeks of school. This next snippet shows those exciting breakthroughs that often come through diligence, consistency, and persistence.

“12/14—My ten-year-old son has finally learned his multiplication facts!!!!! I never thought he would ever learn them. I just had to share that with you.” Sandi

It is now the end of February, and Sandi has been faithfully following her schedule, using the textbooks for six months. Here are her thoughts as she approaches the end of her first year of homeschooling with Christian textbooks.

“2/22—I have done so much school work with the children that three of them will be all done by the middle of April. In fact, the only thing they will be doing at the end of March and then through April will be phonics. My ten-year-old can’t handle as much schoolwork in a day so he won’t be done until the end of May. My other daughter, too, will be done by mid-April. I feel so blessed that I learned such an effective way to do it. My husband even commented about how the children are learning so much more this year. I too am amazed at how they are doing. This is the first year that I will actually finish all the books, and therefore the first year that I don’t feel discouraged. Oh, the years I wasted trying to find a method of homeschooling.”

I wonder if you might be a homeschool mom who is struggling with the actual outcomes of your current homeschooling method. Perhaps you are a mom who is considering homeschooling, and you are overwhelmed with all there is available to choose from as you try to decide how you will homeschool. Maybe the ideal of your homeschool method isn’t matching the reality of life in your home. I want to encourage you to consider the use of traditional, Christian textbooks for homeschooling. They have brought a multitude of benefits to our homeschool, to Sandi’s, and to many others’ as well.

If you want more information on reasons why textbooks are beneficial, here are links to two other Mom’s Corners I have written endorsing the use of Christian textbooks for homeschooling: Traditional Christian Textbook Curricula and A Voice for Traditional Christian Textbooks.

In addition, we now have a book called Managers of Their Schools that deals in depth with Christian textbook homeschool. This book answers the host of questions we have been asked through the years about how we homeschool, including which books we use in each grade for every subject. We give details about how we organize our homeschool materials and how textbooks facilitate not only our academic goals for our children but spiritual ones as well.

Scheduling information is found in Managers of Their Homes.

Worldly Friends – Part 5

This month we will conclude our discussion of how to teach our children to love the sinner but hate the sin without having a condemning attitude toward the worldly person. Here is the link to the first four articles in this series.

Last month we began looking into the book of Jude for direction concerning how we as parents are to interact with those who are worldly around us. This is not only important in our lives but also in our children’s because our children will model what we do. If we don’t want them to have worldly friends then we won’t be able to have them either. So how does Jude teach us to be in the world, be around the worldly, and yet not led away from our Lord? There are several things that are key, and we will break up the verses in Jude to discuss them.

First, we read that we must be in prayer. “But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost” (Jude 20). We are to be in serious prayer as we encounter the worldly. We have already seen how the relationship isn’t to be a friendship. Prayer is first because we recognize the frailty of our ability to protect ourselves: therefore, we cry out for the Lord’s strength and protection. We need to be aware of the danger we are in if we are trying to restore or win a worldly man.

In Jude 21a, he is telling us to “Keep yourselves in the love of God.” We keep ourselves in the love of God by obeying Him. “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:3). To know His commandments, we must be in the Word. Every family member should be individually reading his Bible every morning and then come together as a family to read every evening. As we are in the Word, we learn His Word, it comes to mind through the day to direct us, and then we must choose to obey it.

In Jude 21b we now are told the secret of not condemning those who are worldly but whom we would be called to exhort. Look at this phrase with me, “looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.” As we live our lives in Christ, serving Him every day, we look toward His mercy. We are to be constantly aware of our failures, and how we need, but don’t deserve, God’s mercy. When we remind ourselves of how pitiful we are before the Lord Jesus, we see that we have no room to condemn anyone else.

“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15). Here was God’s Apostle to the Gentiles describing himself as the greatest sinner of all. He wasn’t excusing sin in his life by way of grace, but he saw how far short he fell and was constantly aware of his wicked past.

“For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (1 Corinthians 15:9-10). Paul is demonstrating to us the secret Jude shared in how we reach the worldly, protect ourselves, and not judge them at the same time.

As we remind ourselves of our past, we are all the more grateful for God’s mercy and grace, desiring not to return to our previous way of life again. Those memories also stir in us compassion for others still trapped in sin and or worldliness. “And of some have compassion, making a difference” (Jude 22). I’m often moved to compassion for others when the phrase comes to mind, “Except for the grace of God, there go I.” Every one of us is capable of extreme worldliness and sin. Therefore who are we to judge another? Each will have a judge, and that is the Lord Jesus. Until then, we do all we can to reach and help them.

In Jude 23 we now have the key to protect ourselves from falling into worldliness and sin, “And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.” First we observe in this verse, that the goal of our interactions with the worldly is to bring them to repentance. Next the Holy Spirit via Jude is telling us that we must hate what has trapped others. The Greek word “hate” means just that. We are to so utterly detest what ensnared the worldly that we don’t want to get close to it. It isn’t enough that we dislike worldly activities. We must hate them and teach our children to hate those things as well.

One example of something I despise is the TV. Many families are ensnared by the trap of loving to be entertained by it and are thus influenced by it. The only way to protect my children from that trap is to teach my family to hate the TV. “I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me” (Psalms 101:3). I don’t condemn the families caught in the trap. My heart aches for them because they are addicted to the TV (beast). So many families are being infected, and they can’t break free from the worst worldly friend their children (and parents for that matter) can have—the TV!!! Therefore, I am teaching my family a disdain for TV by pointing out to them the wickedness found therein, the time that they waste, and the outcomes in the lives of families who are ensnared by it.

Since last month’s Corner I have received a few e-mails that asked how what I have shared in this series is applied when the worldly “friend” is actually a worldly relative. The danger is just as real with extended family as it is with other friends. As a matter of fact, the more your child enjoys the worldly relatives, the greater the potential harm. What do you do when you don’t want to hurt or offend your relatives, but you feel the need to set boundaries? Ask yourself, “Am I willing to sacrifice my child for the sake of relationships with my extended family?” Considering we are commanded to bring our children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, we must choose to do what we should to follow the Lord Jesus. Therefore it will require some courage to take the stands with relatives that we might be forced to make if we want to keep our children’s hearts.

I had finished writing this article when I met a sixty-year-old man whose life story was the perfect but sad conclusion to this series. While I was waiting for him to complete some paperwork that I needed, I asked him where he would be in a million years. He said he would be dirt. I countered him by saying that certainly his body would be dirt, but where would he be?

Discerning where the conversation was going, he briefly described his childhood. He was raised by very conservative, Christian parents who went to church three times a week and read the Bible together every night after dinner. His folks didn’t drink or smoke, but he decided he wanted to do those things. Therefore, he hasn’t touched a Bible in many decades and has no interest in spiritual things. My heart was grieving for him and his parents when I summed it up like this. “So it is a personal preference—along the lines of your parents like vanilla but you like chocolate?” He smiled at me and said, “Exactly!”

I asked him what had happened when it sounded like he had the perfect Christian home? Did he have friends who led him the wrong way? He looked at me with an expression that said, “Now you got it.” And then verbally affirmed, “Exactly!” With a heavy heart I left him and wondered how parents could ever think that it wouldn’t matter if their children had worldly friends.

What about you? Have you learned to love the sinner by not condemning him but hating his sin? Are you teaching your children to do the same? Is your goal in a relationship with a worldly person to help him to a spiritual walk with the Lord Jesus? Do your children have worldly friends? There is much at stake in your answers to these questions—the spiritual future of your children. May I encourage you to evaluate your life and your example and make sure it is what the Lord Jesus would want it to be.