Archives For Homeschool

I recently had the privilege of being a guest on an XYZ Google hangouts panel, which included XYZ’s editor-in-chief David Hiscox, & Matt from Matty’s Modern Life.

A few things worth mentioning: this was a first for me, though I don’t think this factor took too much away from the overall discussion. It was great to sit down with David and Matt to discuss, in brief, the finer points of homeschooling, Resurrection, freedom in Christ and cultural Christianity.

The panel was live streamed to YouTube and the link can be found here:

The Flower Of The Holy Night

December 16, 2017 — 2 Comments

December 12 is National Poinsettia Day in the United States.

Running with a few ideas for the remaining weeks of term 4, I settled on one which contributed to our encounters with cultures different to our own.

Combining craft, theology and horticulture, we looked at, painted, cut and pasted together the Poinsettia; otherwise known as the ‘Mexican Fire plant’ or the ‘Flower of the Holy Night’.

Poinsettia Collage 1_0

The resources included ‘Christmas around the World Scrapbook {Supplement}’ from Sarah Cooley, a TpT contributor, and a video presentation of Tomie dePaola’s book,  The Legend of the Poinsettia’. (Both worth checking out).

I didn’t have the room to advance beyond this activity supplement and launch into the scrapbook. I was, however, able to merge the activity into a hands-on discussion surrounding the history, theology and tradition.

Poinsettia Collage 1_solo 1

According to the official website for Poinsettia Day[i], the plant was renamed after American Statesman and botanist, Joel Roberts Poinsett (1779-1851), who brought the ‘red-leafed plant into the United States’[ii] from Mexico.

‘Mexico’s relationship to the plant begins with The Aztecs, who called the plant “Cuitlaxochitl” meaning “star flower” and used it to produce a red dye. The sap was also used to control fevers. Mexico’s use of the plant to celebrate Christmas dates back to the 17th century.’ (Source)

Mexican tradition speaks about how the Poinsettia came to be an important part of Christmas celebrations there.

‘The flower connects to the legend of a young girl, distraught about not having anything with which to honour the Baby Jesus in a Christmas procession. An angel tells her that any gift given with love is a wonderful gift. Later the weeds she gathers by the roadside to place around the manger miraculously transform into the beautiful red star flower we think of as Poinsettia.’ (Source)

The Smithsonian Institute is also loosely connected to the Poinsettia with Joel Poinsett being a founding member of its progenitor, ‘The National Institute for the Promotion of Science’. An organisation later renamed the Smithsonian after James Smithson, its primary benefactor. ’[iii]

Should you receive or see a Poinsettia this Christmas, its history and tradition are good conversation starters.

As far as facilitating a homeschool lesson that includes horticulture, history, tradition and theology. It doesn’t get much better than this.

Related reading:

Poinsettia care tips


References (not otherwise linked)

[i] http://www.poinsettiaday.com/

[ii] Smithsonian Institute, A Smithsonian Holiday Story: Joel Poinsett and the Poinsettia sourced 13th December 2014

[iii] Ibid.

This post was originally posted on the 13th December 2014.

An Advent Jigsaw Journey

December 6, 2017 — 2 Comments

A few years back we came across this 24 piece jigsaw by Juliet David (Author) & Pauline Siewert (Illustrator).

U.S: Amazon, AUS: Koorong 

Advent_JigsawPuzzle

At some point in November 2012, my wife and I got to talking about one of Ann Voskamp‘s family traditions. In a moment of inspiration, we wondered out-loud how cool it would be to use this jigsaw as an interactive advent calendar. Participating in Advent is another act of worship. It’s lived out daily. Hence, I’m not an admirer of chocolate filled cardboard Christmas countdown boxes, so this fit the bill.

IMG_20131202_093013

The general idea is not complex.

First: set up the jigsaw by numbering the back of each piece from one to twenty-four in a permanent marker, leaving the 24th piece with Jesus on it for Christmas Eve, or Christmas Day.

Second: match the date with each piece, daily.

Worth noting: after some rough starts, we decided  to create a basic roster on our calendar for December. That way each child was free to monitor it, knowing when and who got to have their turn. We found that this fostered a sense of community. Discussions each morning nearly always included reminding each other who’s turn it was on the day.

The end result is a historical scene that comes into view over the course of December. Empowering a very real experience of reverence, hope and anticipation. I’m a big fan of encouraging theological themes where relevant, this deeply entrenches us in what the Christ-Advent is all about.

Advent_JigsawPuzzleexample2012

We’ve done this alongside our Nutcracker Advent calendar every year since. Not just because the kids loved it, but because the process also reflects an interaction with the history surrounding the curious journey of Mary, Joseph, Jesus, Angels, shepherds and wise-men.

I wouldn’t quite call this sacramental, but I would emphasise the significance of its symbolism and its potential as a very simple spiritual discipline.


Over parenting is not the same as homeschooling. Over parenting is the parent smothering the child in too much kindness. An old term for this is ‘’babying’’. Suited for when the parent refuses to let their child grow up.

Every bump, bruise or brawl is accompanied by an excessive amount of sympathy and concern. Even if their child started the fig)ht, or caused an incident, their child is innocent and everyone else is to blame.

What usually drives this is insecurity and separation anxiety. Mum or dad projects their fears and insecurities onto their child. Out of an unhealthy fear and connection the mum or dad wraps their child in cotton wool.

In some instances, over parenting is about making the parent shine. Everything done for the child is only done for sake of the parent. The world looks on and applauds. Here, vanity metrics matters.

Being seen to be a good parent, always saying “yes” to our children in order to keep them feeling happy, is of high importance. In these cases, maintaining appearances in public or on social media takes priority over the actual nurturing a child’s character.

Over parenting is not the same as homeschooling because over parenting involves doing everything for the child. Ironically, this results in the parent having done next to nothing for the adult their child turns into.

19th Century pastor Charles Spurgeon, using the pseudonym, John Ploughman wrote,

‘Happy is he who is happy in his children, and happy are the children who are happy in their father. All fathers are not wise. Some are like Eli, and spoil their children. Not to cross our children is the way to make a cross of them. Those who never discipline their children, shouldn’t complain when their undisciplined children become a burden to them.’ (2007 pp.80-81) [i]

In addition, Psychologist, Lisa Firestone notes:

‘When we assume our children need more than they do, we are undermining their abilities and hurting their confidence… as parents, we often fail to recognize how capable our children are.’ (2012) [ii]

There’s no disputing that most parents want the best for their kids. For some parents, though, the only way they think this can be achieved is by doing everything for their child. Everything they might never have had done for them. This is admirable, but it ultimately goes from one extreme to another.

The problem is that,

‘doing too much for our kids teaches them to be dependent.’ (Firestone, 2012)

It’s important children be given guidance and a reasonable amount of room for independence as they are growing up because

‘growing up, by its very nature, is a series of weaning experiences for children. From the moment a child is born, they are weaned from the comfort and safety of their mother’s womb. Learning the lessons of how to get their needs met then transitioning to meeting their own needs is not only essential to a person’s survival but to their psychological well-being.’ (Firestone, 2012)

While over parenting can be a real trap for some homeschooling parents, it’s wrong to equate over parenting solely with homeschooling.

The basic goal of homeschooling is raising children up outside the academic industrial complex. There is no conveyor belt conformity. Homeschooled kids do not become clones of the system nor are they forced to conform to any playground social order.

Homeschooling means equipping the child with the shared responsibility for their own education.  Ideally, the homeschooled child will not only have acquired academic skills from a holistic and rigorous learning environment, but the child would also have acquired a decent amount of life skills.

For instance, among other things they learn to love learning, how to manage a budget; where to shop on a budget. How to change a car tire, maintain a bike, cook, clean, and craft. Most also learn how to engage people of different ages, recognise and refute the propagandists when they come, think critically, when to show compassion and hopefully, how to live out a loving relationship with God and neighbour. In short, they learn to become independent.

Homeschoolers won’t be entering the adult world with unrealistic expectations about how society works. They won’t have had these expectations drilled into them by the social order set by the trends, likes, dislikes and moods of those who dominate the playground or schoolroom.

Over parenting is not homeschooling because the aim is to

‘help our children get a real feeling for themselves by offering them real love and affection, while equipping them with skills that help them feel competent.’ (Firestone, 2012)

Homeschooling isn’t about training up experts. That’s an untenable goal. Homeschooling is about training the child up in the way they should go. Independent of the academic industrial complex, both mum and dad, provide guidance and enough resources to empower their child to succeed in life. Homeschooling is about doing school together.

This process involves parents working alongside their children, helping them to identify and then develop their childs gifts and talents; and work towards a trade and career. Over parenting dis-empowers, whereas homeschooling channels freedom for empowerment.

It isn’t fair to equate homeschooling with over parenting:

‘The most honest proof of good parenting is seeing our child doing well, showing interest, learning skills, finding contentment, and finding him/herself. What we can offer as parents is love, safety, support, and guidance, a strong security from which our children can confidently venture out and independently experience the world.’ (Firestone, 2012)

For me, the purpose of homeschooling is best summed up by Hannah Arendt:

‘[Homeschooling] Education is the point at which we decide whether we love our children enough not to expel them from our world and leave them to their own devices, not to strike from their hands their chance of undertaking something new – but to prepare them in advance for the task of renewing a common world’
(Hannah Arendt, 1961:193 parenthesis mine) [ii]

This isn’t over parenting. Homeschooling is about funding and facilitating our children’s potential.

It’s another way of selling all that we have and giving it to the poor. (Matthew 19)


References:

[i] Spurgeon, C.H. 2007 The Complete John Ploughman: Combined Edition Christian Focus Publications

[ii] Firestone, Ph.D, L. 2012 The Abuse of Over Parenting Sourced 20th November, 2017 from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/compassion-matters/201204/the-abuse-overparenting

[iii] Arendt, H1961 Between Past & Future, Penguin Classics p.193

As we approach term four in our seventh year of homeschooling, I’m continually amazed at the blessings we receive. Not only having the freedom to do what we do, but the guidance and provision to do it. The kind that only God can provide.

One such example this term was Shakespeare’s play, The Merchant of Venice. We read the play, talked about it and watched the movie. We devoured it, comparing the movie to the play and writing our own commentary on it.

As it turned out, our regional theatre was hosting a Bell’s Shakespearean version of ‘The Merchant of Venice’. So I added this to compliment our learning.

The same thing happened when we did Hamlet a few years back. I tend to leave these events out of the yearly calendar, largely because of cost. Like Hamlet, I didn’t plan on seeing T.M.o.V live when setting out the course of study for the year.

I’m a Christian, therefore I believe that the Holy Spirit leads us and that we should invite such leadership into our lives.

Joining with the Psalmist,

“Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground!”
(Psalm 143:10, ESV)

That, His

‘gracious Spirit will lead me forward on a firm footing.’ (Psalm 143:10, NLT)

It’s this faith that drives us towards better things; holding onto the good, correcting the bad. If we, as parents aren’t humble enough to be led by God, how can we, ourselves, be humble enough to lead?

Since it’s offered, I’ll take the Father’s hand, and choose to trust in the wisdom of His government before I do my own.

For:

‘Neither man’s headship or humanity’s dominion (lordship) over the earth equals ownership of woman or creation. Humanity’s rule exists, as a gift. It exists in the light of God’s rule and therefore cannot be absolute.’
(Karl Barth, p.205 paraphrased) [i]

Koral Wojtyla, (John Paul II) in his 1979 address to the Latin American Churches encouraged its leaders to look upon the pastoral care of the family, for

‘…evangelisation in the future depends largely on the “domestic church”. It is the school of love, of the knowledge of God, of respect for life and for human dignity.’ [ii]

 

 

This edition sees some exciting reflections on the term that was and the term that will be. We, I’m happy to say, more than reached the goals laid out in our Winter edition.

On top of these, we’ve travelled African river rapids in The African Queen, traversed the English country-side, chasing puppies in 101 Dalmatians, unpacked the lessons of George Orwell’s, The Animal Farm, and revisited The Pilgrims’ Progress. We also made our way through the ups and downs in the book of Deuteronomy, farewelled Moses and got excited about our new journey with Joshua at the helm.

As for this term’s reads:

1. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Janet & Geoff Benge, 2012

I’ve insisted on each of our homeschoolers learn about Corrie Ten Boom and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. When it comes to history, the Holocaust and the events surrounding it is the only real history, outside the Biblical texts, that I place an importance on learning above all others.

This will be our fourth journey into the life of Bonhoeffer and the tragic events that brought about World War Two. I am of the firm conviction that in learning from Bonhoeffer, Boom and countless others, such as the White Rose Movement, that society can not only avoid the horrors witnessed then, but navigate a path towards a future that gives rise to Christian compassion, Christian passion for truth and Christian mercy in the seats of human Government.

2. The Wind in The Willows, Kenneth Grahame, 1908

I didn’t read a lot when I was growing up. We learnt from movies and television. Most of that wasn’t all as wholesome as it should have been. I do remember The Wind in the Willows, though.

This book is a classic. Our youngest has only just picked it up, is having a great time.  I wanted something to keep his interest going after finishing the 101 Dalmatians, and the Oxford Children’s version fits the bill.

3. Teen Sex, Dr. Patricia Weerakoon, 2012.

Patricia is a Sri Lankan born Australian. Like most parents, dads in particular, I was very apprehensive about teaching this subject. That was even after my wife read it and gave her own thumbs up.

Don’t let the title of the book distract you. The heading grabs as teens attention, but doesn’t do a lot of justice to the breadth or level of precision Patricia skillfully employs in bringing to the Church, what is, in my opinion, the best sex education book available.

Patricia is graceful, God centered and she handles each subject with the dignity it deserves. This is a counter-cultural read, far from any “Puritanical” view of sexuality. I’m glad we chose it.

4. The Infidel, Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Over the course of the past year, our older homeschoolers have read through both of Lacey Sturm’s autobiographies.  As we read we discuss the material; stopping to cover thoughts, emotions and any areas that we found surprising. Our older homeschoolers handled those with excellence.

So I decided to take them through Ayaan Ali’s autobiography. Ayaan is an atheist and an ex-Muslim. She often talks out, under threat of death, about life under Islamist rule. In The Infidel, Ayaan outlines her life experiences openly and with honesty.

Adding Ayaan’s YouTube lectures in with our read and discuss sessions added value and depth. Ayaan is skeptical of religion, and has good reason to be so. Our prayer for Ayaan, though, is that she will find her ultimate peace in Christ, and as such move beyond religion towards relationship with God.

5. Lord of the Flies, William Golding

Lord of the Flies is, once again, being turned into a film. This time, however, it’s apparently an all girl cast. Golding has captured my attention when I first saw the 1990 film adaptation. Since then I’ve been returning to its key themes in discussions about politics, society and world history.

One of those key themes is the regression into tribalism and exercise of arbitrary power. For our year 9 studies, this has also coincided with our work through Deuteronomy, Animal Farm and Ayaan’s autobiography. I recommend it.

Through most of our read and discuss subjects, each child reviews the chapter they’ve just worked on. I set the task within a read and response paradigm.

This allows us to practice paragraph writing and sharpen our essay writing skills. In order to do this, I also will, for important paragraphs, read their final draft out loud over some thematic music. This measures whether or not the paragraph has rhythm, dynamics and flow.

For example:

Requiem for Piggy (Lord of the Flies, Year 9), read out loud over the theme from Rambo:

“Piggy is unjustly treated. No one knows his real name. The boys just called him “Piggy” because he was short and pudgy. Piggy was a friend and advisory to Ralph. He helped Ralph when he needed it. Piggy was smart. He knew of Jack’s hatred for Ralph and warned Ralph of it. This shows he was observant of those around him. Piggy chose to stay with Ralph, who put down rules and order. Unlike the majority of the boys, who follow whichever leader looked the most fun. Piggy chose the one who was the wisest.”


References:

[i] Barth, K. 1958. C.D The Doctrine of Creation, Hendrickson Publishers

[ii] Wojtyla, K. 1979. On Liberation Theology et.al Third General Conference of the Latin America Episcopate (Sourced 26th September, 2017 from The Holy See

Homeschool Dad 1A homeschooling dad finds himself on a journey of challenges and contradictions.

His first thought is to mingle, learn and explore the various ways one does this delicate, surreal task.

Overwhelmed with information, he emerges from a blitz on ebooks and Pinterest perfect ideas into a continuous fog of do-it-yourself blogs.

He finds himself confronted. Not by this, the curriculum, organisational needs, kids, latency, scheduling, or the plethora of home education options, but rather by the simple fact that he is a dad in a world of mums.

His second thought is to run. Run far, run fast and hope no one noticed the awkwardness of his presence.

Awkward, fumbling and trying to avoid the “creepy” tag his blubbering momentum might reflect, our homeschooling dad defiantly storms ‘once more unto the breach.’ {Such is the enormity of the task – it requires citing a Shakespearian King} [i]

This is the road he must take; a road lined on one side by homeschooling professionals. The other, picketed by suspicion, criticism and at times disapproving silence.

Fighting off the temptation to label this an emasculation of his manhood, he is wise enough not to be drawn into the broad and bloodless conflict; the scramble for ground in the battle between traditional gender roles, and those fixated on gender politics, who parade an aggressive overemphasis on egalitarianism.

Recalling the burden of responsibility in the embrace of the extraordinary, he reaches a resolve and chooses to press on.

It is at this particular junction that the homeschooling dad finds a pioneering collaborator in the words of L’Arche co-founder, Jean Vanier:

‘Constancy of place seems to me imperative if we are to be Christians who don’t abandon one another in the name of greater goods’ [ii]

That is the reason for this season.

As far as ministry goes homeschooling wasn’t my first choice. That said it’s also not the only choice available. By doing this I get to empower and encourage my wife. As she sets out to achieve her own educational goals. The added bonus is that after 17 years of my own hard work and study, I get to participate and be present for the journey my kids take in their own education.

I call that a win, win.


Sources:

[i] Shakespeare, Henry V Act III.I

[ii] Hauerwas, S. & Vanier, J. 2008, ‘Living gently in a violent world: The Prophetic Witness of Weakness’ Intervarsity Press, p.47

(Originally posted 14th November, 2014)

Marcus Garvey was a Jamaican poet and civil rights campaigner. He had a level of popularity in America during the early post-war years, from 1919-1922, wasn’t an academic, but had a keen eye for studiousness.

He was intelligent, talented and charismatic, but appears to have lacked consistent success because he lacked staying power.

Garvey clashed with intellectuals like W.E.B De Bois.

He had a flair for the flamboyant and not being an American, at times found himself outside the very communities he was seeking to raise up.

Because of this he is credited by some, as having a significant role in laying the early foundation for what would become the African American Civil Rights movement.

The decline in his popularity coincided with Garvey’s radical views on Africa, and the way forward for Americans, such as his support for Black Nationalism and pro-segregation.

His five year imprisonment in 1922, for mail fraud, sealed his, now inevitable, ultimate removal from public life. He served two years before being released and sent back to Jamaica.

Garvey was schooled and later self-taught. His radical racial views aside, Garvey’s short treatise called ‘Educate Yourself’ is a back to basics organic approach to education. The kind of stuff homeschoolers do daily.

It’s clear that some of the ideas on education presented by Garvey are not unique to Garvey. What is unique is the fact that Garvey saw these ideas as worth reflecting on from within his own experience.

Taking into consideration the racism of the era and the muddied struggle for equal educational opportunities, Garvey’s words here carry inspirational gravitas.

 ‘’Never stop learning. Never stop reading […] Make pencil or pen notes of the striking sentences and paragraphs that you should like to remember”
“You should also read the best poetry for inspiration. From a good line of poetry, you may get the inspiration for the career of a life time.”
“Read history incessantly until you master it. You can only make the best out of life by knowing and understanding it. To know, you must fall back on the intelligence of others who came before you and have left.’
“Never write or speak on a subject you know nothing about, for there is always somebody who knows that particular subject to laugh at you or to ask you embarrassing questions that may make others laugh at you. You can know about any subject under the sun by reading about it.”
“By reading good books you keep the company of the authors of the book or the subjects of the book when otherwise you could not meet them in the social contact of life.”
“You should learn the two sides to every story, so as to be able to properly debate a question and hold your grounds with the side that you support.”
“Always have a well equipped shelf of books.”
“In reading it is not necessary or compulsory that you agree with everything you read. You must always use or apply your own reasoning […]Pass judgement on what you read based upon these facts. When I say facts I mean things that cannot be disputed.”
“Don’t waste time. Any time you think you have to waste put it in reading something.”
 “Never pass over a word without knowing its meaning.”
“Read a chapter from the Bible everyday, Old and New Testaments. The greatest wisdom of the age is to be found in the Scriptures.” [i]
“God gives you intelligence to do things intelligently for yourself. You will get no more out of life than you put in.” [ii]


References:

[i] Garvey, M. The Ultimate Collection of Speeches and Poems.

[ii] Garvey, M. 1937, Speech (source) Hill, R.A. (Ed.)

[iii] Sandbrook, D. 2008 The Rise And Fall of Marcus Garvey, The Telegraph (source)