3 Steps to a Calmer Homeschool Morning

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3 Steps to a Calmer Homeschool Morning • homeschool schedules • time management
Are you feeling overwhelmed by the challenges of trying to juggle homeschooling multiple grades, keep up your home, invest in your marriage, and have a little time to breathe? Do you feel like your schedule is too packed and your to-do list is too long?

If so, you might be in need of a makeover to your routine that leads to a calmer homeschool morning.

You see, the morning sets the tone for your whole day. When the morning goes well, the rest of the day usually goes well. And conversely, when you wake up rushed and harried, those feelings often filter down into your entire day.

I’ve spent the last few years working on changing my approach to morning, and while I’m far from perfect (you should have seen me running around like a crazy woman to get out the door for an appointment the other morning!), here are three keys I’ve found that are imperative to having a better morning.

1. Begin the Night Before

You're tired at night. I totally get that. I am, too. In fact, most nights, I can't wait to get some comfy pants on, put my feet up, and enjoy a good book or movie.

But I've found that if I take 15 minutes to prep for the next day, I do myself a huge favor. I use these 15 minutes to do three main things:

  1. Quickly clean up the main living areas of our home.
  2. Look over our plans for the next day and make a short to-do list or loose schedule for the next day.
  3. If I have anywhere I need to go (appointments, field trip, errands, lessons, etc.), I get together everything I need to get out the door the next day (diaper bag, library books to return, etc.).

When I do these three tasks, I enjoy crawling into bed and curling up with a book much more because I know I have things in great order for the next morning. Plus, those 15 minutes of effort often completely change my morning.

Not only do I wake up to a cleaner house, but I wake up feeling in control of my day because I already have a plan of action in place. Now all I have to do is just follow the plan!

Tip: When making your to-do list, challenge yourself to immediately cross three things off, without even doing them. This will force you to carefully evaluate everything on the list and help you weed out what isn't that important.

2. Get Up a Little Earlier

I know, I know. Getting up early is not fun, glamorous, or exciting. And if you're currently in a stage of life where you're getting up multiple times in the night due to illness, pregnancy, or caring for a fussy infant or child, you can skip this point entirely.

But the rest of you, hear me out. Getting up just 15 minutes earlier can make a tremendous impact on the overall success of your day—and quite possibly your entire life! I dare you to try it for just three weeks to see if you prove me wrong.

Instead of pulling yourself out of bed at the last minute and then rushing around like a mad woman so you can get everything done you need to do before your homeschool day starts, try waking up 15 minutes earlier than normal in order to spend quiet time praying, reading the Bible or an encouraging book, or writing in a journal. This will give you a calm start to your day and will allow you time to be still, count your blessings, and begin your day with a great attitude.

Tip: Find a friend to join you in your early rising challenge. It's so much easier, and more fun, when you're not going it alone. You might text each other in the morning when you get up to help you stay accountable.

3. Attack the Hardest Thing First

I can be a master procrastinator. I can come up with all sorts of seemingly good things to do instead of doing what I really should be doing. But when I spend most of the day procrastinating, I feel behind and unfulfilled.

Thanks to Brian Tracy’s book, Eat That Frog, I’ve been challenging myself to begin my day tackling those dreaded tasks first. You know what I’ve found? Those tasks I thought I loathed really aren’t usually that hard when I just set my mind to do them and then get them done—as soon as possible. They usually take less time than I think they will, and I always feel so good to check the hard things off my list early in the day.

You know what else I’ve discovered? I have more time than I thought I did! When I stopped burning daylight and stalling in order to avoid the unpleasant tasks, it has freed up a lot of extra time in my day. This, in turn, made me feel much less busy and able to go through my days more calmly and cheerfully because I don’t constantly feel behind.

Tip: Have a dreaded task to tackle? Set a timer and challenge yourself to race against the clock. This will motivate you to work harder and faster, and will make it more like a game than a difficult task! You'll probably find you get the project done in no time at all!

If you need more help with planning a doable homeschool schedule, we have experienced homeschooling moms who would love to talk to you. Click here to connect with your homeschool consultant.

3 Steps to a Calmer Homeschool Morning • homeschool time management • homeschool schedules
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Getting Angry as a Homeschool Mom: Strategies to Help

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Getting Angry as a Homeschool Mom: Strategies to Help

  • "I wish I didn't yell at my kids."
  • "I try so hard to be patient, but I lose my cool at least once a day. Then I feel terrible."
  • "I make my son cry during Math!"
  • "I'm setting a bad example for my kids!"

Ever had thoughts like these? If so, you're definitely not alone.

An informal survey a few years back revealed that many homeschool moms' biggest worry was about their own attitudes. These loving, hardworking moms wrote in things like what you see above.

I hear you, moms (and dads). My pastor has said that you can have a fuse a mile long, and your kids will still find a way to set it off.

So I wanted to share some thoughts to offer perspective and encouragement about getting angry as a homeschool mom.

Most moms get angry sometimes

This is not an excuse, but just a reality check. I recently heard a mom say that she had thought she was the only one who would sometimes yell, stomp around, slam a cupboard, or otherwise have a mommy "temper tantrum." She was so relieved to find out that she's not a monster, she's just human. Other moms struggle with this as well.

You may be surprised – if you finally talk with your mom friends about your struggle with anger, they'll probably say they struggle too. Put it in perspective – of course it's frustrating when your kids disrespect you, when they don't listen, or when your best laid plans go awry.

Yes, we should strive to grow in maturity. We want to model positive ways to handle our anger in front of our children. But first, it's okay to admit you're not perfect.

Consider why you get angry

I've heard that anger is a secondary emotion. It usually signals that something else is going on.

That "something else" is often fear.

  • Are you scared that your children will make you look bad by making you late to the co-op again?
  • Are you scared that you will never get anything done again?
  • Are you scared that your husband will think you're lazy when he comes home to a messy home and a boring dinner?

Take an honest look at why those things frighten you. If you can, remind yourself of truth and the big picture.

Or perhaps you're angry because your hormones are off today. If so, have extra grace for yourself and everyone else, and know that tomorrow will, actually, be better.

If you're angry because your children never listen to you, then your children are in need of correction. This may or may not be righteous anger, but there is a legitimate reason for you to be angry. When you are at home with the kids, you are the captain of that ship. If there's a mutiny underfoot, of course you'll be angry.

Another common factor in anger is when we neglect our own physical needs. We can get so caught up in caring for others that we don't pay attention to what our bodies are telling us. Are you eating a substantive, healthy breakfast? Do you drink enough water? Are you getting enough sleep (if that's at all feasible in your stage of life right now)?

If you're angry because you want more "me" time, you can deal with that. Perhaps you could look at your full week (all 168 hours) and find a few additional pockets of time for you to do your own thing. Or maybe you need to repent for not being thankful for the gifts of this season. Prayer and discernment can show you which is applicable to you.

Noticing the root of your anger won't automatically fix it, but it will help you start to move forward in love.

We're never completely stuck: we can try something new

Can you start to notice as soon as you feel your blood pressure start to rise? If you catch yourself on your way to an anger outburst, do what you need to do right away to stop it. That doesn't mean you can't be angry, but try to choose an appropriate way to express it.

See if one or more of these strategies could help:

  • Give yourself a "Mommy timeout." If your kids are safe, just tell them, "I feel myself getting angry and I don't want to yell, so I'm going to go take a timeout for 60 seconds in the other room and I'll be back." Use that time to get perspective however you can so that you can approach the situation more thoughtfully.
  • Count to ten and take a deep breath before you say anything.You've heard it before, but there's a reason this is everyone's go-to strategy. Pausing and taking a deep breath is a great way to model to your children how to calm yourself down.
  • Act before you cross that invisible line and explode. If your kids are doing something they're not supposed to, or if they're just being annoying, intervene early before you blow up about it. If you act soon you could calmly say something like, "Abby, you can throw the ball outside, or you can find something else to do now. If you throw it again inside I will take it away from you." If you ignore the behavior and let it go on, you might just snap and scream, "Abby! JUST STOP IT!!!"
  • Consider a new discipline strategy. If your approach to discipline isn't working for your family, maybe it's time to pray, research and try something new. If you theoretically have a discipline plan but you're not actually comfortable with it and therefore don't use it, it might be time to try something new.

 Remember that God's mercies are new every minute

My daughter Amy says that everything changed for her when she realized it's not just "every morning his mercies are new" but "every minute his mercies are new." If she'd gotten angry before breakfast, she didn't have to stick with the mentality of: "Well, today was a bust, but hopefully tomorrow will be better" That's a long time to ride out a bad attitude.

Far better to acknowledge failure and move on in grace and joy: "I didn't respond as I should have. Will you forgive me? Let's have a good rest of the day!" In most cases like this, kids are surprisingly quick to forgive. They want to have a good relational day too. And what a gift to model for our children how to ask for and receive forgiveness.

We can use anything to help teach our children

We are teaching our children more than academics. We want to teach them how to be well-adjusted, loving people who can manage their emotions. What a privilege that we can model to them how to reconcile after we mess up!

This doesn't mean it's fine to snap in anger at them, but if we do we can then model healthy repentance. You can communicate huge amounts of grace if you get down on your children's level, apologize to them for yelling and ask them to forgive you. You can tell them that you are asking God to help you grow in patience. You could even stop and pray out loud with your kids for mommy to be able to act more lovingly. Your kids might surprise you by returning the favor sometime and asking if you could pray for God to help them be more patient and loving, too.

Some translations of Ephesians 4:26 say, "Be angry, but do not sin." It's what we do with our anger that counts ... and that teaches our children what to do with their own anger.

I know this is a tough issue. And really, any adjustment of anger is going to take some self-awareness–to know why you are angry, what parts are legitimate, who is in sin, and in what ways, and then prayerful determination to change. Ask God for help and clarity, and he will help.

And if this is an overwhelming struggle for you, don't be afraid to reach out for more resources. There is no shame in reading books on anger, talking to a trusted friend, or working with a wise counselor to help you develop new patterns in your life. Praise God that we can change!


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7 Tips for Homeschooling Gifted Students

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 7 Tips for Homeschooling Gifted Students • accelerated learners • special needs • When homeschooling gifted students, your curriculum isn't the ending point. It's a jumping off point.

How do you homeschool accelerated learners? How do you keep pace as they zoom through books? How do you meet their thirst for knowledge? A homeschool mom emailed me recently to ask these questions. Though I don't know the particulars of her very bright daughter, based on my own years of experience, I can share a seven tips for homeschooling gifted students.

Tip #1: Use a Curriculum as Your Foundation

If you're of the unschooling persuasion, you'll probably disagree with me here, and that's okay. But I firmly believe that you can best help your children by using some sort of curriculum as the foundation of your homeschool.

My learning in school came in unrelated snippets. One week we studied the pilgrims. Then we moved to ancient China. Then we studied space. I never learned the big-picture of history and how the world works until I pieced it all together on my own and kept on learning as an adult.

Using a history-based curriculum (like Sonlight) gives your children the framework of knowledge they need. As you move through time you give them a cohesive map of knowledge they will build on their entire lives. As they learn new information, they can place that knowledge in the appropriate place in their mental map.

For example, if your child becomes fascinated with Ancient Egypt, that interest will pay off all the more because they'll be able to place what they learn within the general framework of history. They'll know when Egyptian kingdoms came onto the world scene and how they influenced the cultures around them.

Without a curriculum, students don't gain this mental map of knowledge. They learn in bits and pieces and only fit it all together if they're lucky (or if mom exhausts herself creating her own program to fit everything together).

A curriculum keeps you on track and makes sure your children learn the important things they need to. The big-picture doesn't get lost in their detailed curiosity about butterflies or the engineering principles of Egyptian pyramids.

But here's the catch:

The curriculum isn't the ending point. It's a jumping off point.

More about this point is in tip #3.

Tip #2: Use a Literature-based Curriculum as Your Foundation

In the past twenty plus years, I've seen Sonlight's literature-based programs work splendidly for learners across the spectrum.

Why? Because one piece of literature (unlike one textbook) can speak to children at a variety of levels. Little ones can listen in to understand the general ideas while more advanced students can appreciate the nuances of the text and find connections with other concepts they've learned.

Literature-based curriculum provides the flexibility to speed up and slow down as best suits your family. It naturally leads students into all sorts of self-led learning. As you read Charlotte's Web, you can easily slow down and detour into learning about spiders. As you read Johnny Tremain, you can dive further into the intricacies of the American Revolution.

Furthermore, as one mom wrote on the Forums, "Great literature is a hallmark of the truly educated mind." I agree. Literature provides the cultural literacy, vocabulary and global awareness children need. Even gifted kids need to learn empathy and develop emotional intelligence to interact with others (which reading can provide). Before they can learn to write, they need to learn the rhythm and flow of good writing by hearing good examples. They need to discover the joy of books as a lifelong source of new knowledge.

Even gifted children aren't born knowing all of this, but literature inherently teaches it.

Tip #3: Go Broad!

Do you have a genius in your fold? Enjoy your accelerated freedom and help them explore the world around them. You'll know you're hitting what you need to because of the curriculum you use as your foundation. So enjoy some tangents and enrich that foundation!

As Deanna in CO wrote on the forums, "Gifted kids are still kids, after all, and the world is an enormous place, with tons of different kinds of things to learn."* If your children fly through their programs, enrich their studies with a broad spectrum of other areas they may never think to explore.

For example, could you add any of these areas to your children's plate?

a. foreign language

Consider that the educated class of past eras often learned many languages as children and teenagers. I've heard that J. R.R. Tolkien knew at least twelve!

Could you add Spanish, Russian, Mandarin, Arabic, Latin, Biblical Greek, Ancient Greek, Biblical Hebrew, sign language … or other languages that could prove useful?

b. computer programming

c. electrical engineering

d. music theory

e. mechanical engineering (from fixing cars to designing machines)

f. robotics

g. creative writing

Encourage your child to write stories, plays and poetry, or participate in the NaNoWriMo Young Writers Program to help your child write her first novel.

Sonlight student Joshua N uses an electromagnet he created in Sonlight Science E. • 7 Tips for Homeschooling Gifted Students • accelerated learners • special needs • When homeschooling gifted students, your curriculum isn't the ending point. It's a jumping off point.

Sonlight student Joshua N uses an electromagnet he created in Sonlight Science E.

Tip #4: Use More Than one Program Per Subject when Homeschooling Gifted Students

Is your child flying through math? Deepen and broaden his understanding by using more than one math program at a time. I highly recommend Life of Fred for accelerated math students. It approaches math from a different perspective and helps students see the big picture. It's a great starting point or a fabulous addition to your current math regimen.

Enrich your Sonlight History / Bible / Literature (HBL) program with extra courses that go deeper into a particular subject. Check out The Teaching Company for lots of courses that examine particular eras or themes of history. (But please use discretion as you decide on courses; The Teaching Company courses are created for secular, adult learners.) Your HBL will keep you on track with the big-picture movement through history, and your extra courses will broaden your child's appreciation of specific ideas that catch their interest.

Tip #5: Remember that Education is More than Academics

With all students—including accelerated students—our role as parents is to guide them in much more than just academics. If your child is an accelerated learner, perhaps he can use some of that extra time to dive into projects that make a difference in your community or the world.

Is there a charitable project your child can participate in or even create and spearhead? Consider how you can help your child learn that life is more than knowledge and good grades! May all our children discover the joy of giving our time and talents to serve others.

And also, kids are kids. Help them enjoy the many other facets of life! Can they explore various sports, art forms, musical instruments, outdoor activities, entrepreneurship and more?

Sonlight student Quentin F became an Eagle Scout last year. | 7 Tips for Homeschooling Gifted Students • accelerated learners • special needs • When homeschooling gifted students, your curriculum isn't the ending point. It's a jumping off point.

Sonlight student Quentin F became an Eagle Scout last year.

Tip #6: Consider a Gap Year for Gifted Students

Concerned that your child will finish high school early? Consider the benefits of a gap year before sending her off to college.

Just think of how much she could learn and serve during a year helping a missionary family overseas, serving with an international aid organization, or even volunteering in your home community. Many top colleges value the life experience such opportunities provide.

Tip #7: Find Community

I developed many of the ideas I shared in these two posts through 20+ years of working with homeschoolers. But the wise parents on the Accelerated Learners section of the Sonlight Forums helped me form more specific tips and advice.

The Accelerated Learners forum will connect you with other parents who can offer encouraging words, listening ears and timely advice. You'll find help for academics as well as other aspects of parenting a gifted child, including self image, sibling rivalry, burnout, and more.

This is a private forum, so you'll need full Forum access to read and post on it. Get ready to meet some parents who have "been there, done that" and are happy to help!

I hope these thoughts help as you consider homeschooling your gifted learner. But I know I only scratched the surface here. Do you have experience teaching accelerated learners? I'd love to hear what you've found helpful. What advice would you give other parents?

*I am indebted to Deanna in CO and other parents from the Accelerated Learners forum for many of the specific suggestions in this post.

7 Tips for Homeschooling Gifted Students • accelerated learners • special needs • When homeschooling gifted students, your curriculum isn't the ending point. It's a jumping off point.
 7 Tips for Homeschooling Gifted Students • accelerated learners • special needs • When homeschooling gifted students, your curriculum isn't the ending point. It's a jumping off point.

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You'll be encouraged by the words of founder Sarita Holzmann, inspired by real-life stories from other homeschoolers, pick up practical tips for the journey and more.


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6 Steps to Fit in All the Subjects for Homeschooling Each Day

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6 Steps to Fit in All the Subjects for Homeschooling Each Day • homeschooling • homeschool scheduling
A common homeschool dilemma:

Take things too easy and you won't finish your school year on time.

Push too hard, and the kids hate school.

Where's the balance? How can we fit in all the subjects? How do we cover history, geography, reading, spelling, math, science, Bible, penmanship, grammar, and electives in a reasonable day of homeschooling?

Step 1: Recognize that no one does every subject every day.

As you look back on your education, I think you'll see that—like me—you didn't study each subject in depth every single day. There were times when you glossed over a bunch of different subjects, briefly dipping your toes into the gentle surface of the stream. Other days, you were thrown, headfirst, into the deep raging waters of a subject.

You aren't going to fit in all the subjects every single day. There simply isn't time to cover everything. That's why I say, "Don't mind the gaps."

Homeschooling is great because it allows us to adjust our focus as needed. Some days your students may need a big picture overview of many subjects. The next day you may need to plumb the depths of a single area of study and move other topics to a later day.

What does this mean practically? Some families do Science on Fridays. My family made some Read-Alouds bedtime stories (and we kids didn't even realize it).

Step 2: Combine subjects.

One of the shortcomings of modern education is the segmentation of knowledge. In school, History is a subject; Art is another. Language Arts is a topic all to itself. But this is not how life is and, I believe, detracts from the beauty of the world and our ability to understand it. So the more you can interweave your studies, the better. That's one reason why Sonlight links your Readers with your Language Arts and History. Not only is does this practice help us fit in all the subjects efficiently—to practice penmanship, grammar, and creative expression all at once—but it also ties ideas together and helps us make connections. The more we can link ideas, the easier they are to remember and the better we will be at creative thinking.

How do you do this? Your Instructor's Guide has much of this built in. Indeed, your Sonlight homeschool curriculum links your subjects together again and again, starting with the history "spine" and building out from there.

Step 3: Set deadlines or goals or consequences.

I, personally, was always johnny-on-the-spot when it came to my studies. <cough> But my little brother, that brilliant guy who's in Discover & Do and MathTacular, had other interests. My wife admits to being similarly distracted and unmotivated. If you have students who aren't thrilled to accomplish their tasks each and every day, having a routine can help. Consequences can motivate as well.

In my family, my mom read to us after lunch. If we weren't done with our studies before then, we'd have to go back to the books after reading instead of going out to play. There was also a goal to have certain work completed by snack time at 10 a.m.

Step 4: Take your time.

Somewhere in the middle of my high school experience, schools in my area began experimenting with a different scheduling option. They, too, were struggling to fit in all the subjects. And if schools can tweak their schedule to accommodate their students, you can too.

Some homeschoolers study all year, taking breaks as needed and keeping their days manageable. Many Sonlighters take a year and a half to complete their History / Bible / Literature program. (Yes, there's that much great content in each program.) Others school throughout the day, breaking up their daily routine to meet their needs.

Step 5: Buckle down.

Sometimes you just have to slog through the work. For as much as we talk about the joy of learning and the wonder and excitement of homeschooling, some subjects and areas of study simply require tenacity. For us, it was spelling. We needed to improve our skills, so we did short spelling tests every day. It wasn't fun, but we needed it.

Step 6: Remember the goal is lifelong learning.

Something that helps me keep everything in balance is to remember that the goal isn't a fun day of school. The goal is developing a lifelong love of learning. I can tweak my schedule, adjust my studies, and push myself through frustrating situations because I love learning. I don't love every moment, but, overall, I'm thrilled to learn.

If you have specific subjects you're struggling to fit into your school day, please chat with a Sonlight Advisor. These homeschool moms can help you figure out what will work for your family.

6 Steps to Fit in All the Subjects for Homeschooling Each Day • homeschooling • homeschool scheduling • Six steps that help you fit in all the subjects and finish your homeschool year on time without making the kids hate school.
6 Steps to Fit in All the Subjects for Homeschooling Each Day • homeschooling • homeschool scheduling • Sometimes you just have to slog through the work. For as much as we talk about the joy of learning and the wonder and excitement of homeschooling, some subjects and areas of study simply require tenacity.
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How NOT to Teach the Difference Between Fact and Opinion: A Lesson in Moral Relativism

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How NOT to Teach the Difference Between Fact and Opinion: A Lesson in Moral Relativism

How do you teach your children the difference between fact and opinion? It seems most schools do so in a disturbing way. It looks innocent enough, but the results are a bit scary.

Read this description from the Common Core:

Facts are statements that can be proven true. Opinions are statements that reflect the author's feelings or views, and they cannot be proved true.

Do you see the problem? Philosopher Justin McBrayer explains it brilliantly in his New York Times piece: Why Our Children Don't Think There Are Moral Facts.

The Trickiness with Facts

Even before Common Core, most children have been taught since their early years in school that facts are things that we can prove true, and opinions are things we merely believe. That's well and good for factual statements like "Ants have six legs," and opinions such as "I think chocolate ice cream is the best." But what about statements like "You should stop at stop signs"? Or even "God exists"? You cannot use the scientific method to prove either of those statements true or false. Yet either God exists or God doesn't exist. Whether I happen to believe God exists does not change the reality.

And there's the trickiness with facts. I would define a fact as "something that is true." We can prove some things that are true, and some things are true even though we can't prove them. Likewise, some of our opinions are true, some are probably false, and some are neither. (There probably isn't a definitive truth on which ice cream flavor is the best, for example.)

A Sonlight dad reads the Bible with his daughter.reads to her 9- and 11-year-old children
A Sonlight dad reads the Bible with his young daughter. As homeschoolers, we can teach our children during school that Biblical truths are not "mere" opinions ... but actually true.

I highly suggest you read McBrayer's approachable article to get the full picture. He explains the problem well:

Things can be true even if no one can prove them. For example, it could be true that there is life elsewhere in the universe even though no one can prove it. Conversely, many of the things we once "proved" turned out to be false. For example, many people once thought that the earth was flat.

It's a mistake to confuse truth (a feature of the world) with proof (a feature of our mental lives).

Fact or Opinion? Or Both?

Another problem McBrayer points out? Students learn that statements must be either opinion or fact. But in reality a statement can be both. After his second-grade son dutifully learned at school that a fact is something that is true and opinion is something someone believes, McBrayer describes this conversation between them:

Me: "I believe that George Washington was the first president. Is that a fact or an opinion?"

Him: "It's a fact."

Me: "But I believe it, and you said that what someone believes is an opinion."

Him: "Yeah, but it's true."

Me: "So it's both a fact and an opinion?"

The blank stare on his face said it all.

What this confusion leads to is students' unexamined assumption that all statements of value and morality are simply opinions. Is it wrong to cheat on tests? Should students respect people who are different? Is it OK to kill someone we don't like? Since we can't use the scientific method to find answers to those questions, students assume there are no answers.

There is a Truth Behind Moral Statements

Anecdotally, it seems that most students who enter college today would claim to be moral relativists (saying that there are no moral facts). But did you know most philosophy professors are not? Even in that largely liberal academic field, philosophers know that moral relativism is just not an intellectually tenable position.

Instead of hoping a good professor corrects this intellectual laziness in our students later on, let's teach them correctly from the start. Let's teach our children that things we believe can also be facts. There is a truth behind moral statements. As McBrayer puts it:

Facts are things that are true. Opinions are things we believe. Some of our beliefs are true. Others are not. Some of our beliefs are backed by evidence. Others are not. Value claims [e.g., statements of right and wrong] are like any other claims: either true or false, evidenced or not.

Again, another great freedom of homeschooling! With a literature-rich curriculum that inspires questions and conversations, we can teach our children sound and logical thinking from the beginning. And we can set them up to understand that things can be true even if we can't prove them with the scientific method. Amen!

How NOT to Teach the Difference Between Fact and Opinion: A Lesson in Moral Relativism | Let's teach our children that things we believe can also be facts. There is a truth behind moral statements.
How NOT to Teach the Difference Between Fact and Opinion: A Lesson in Moral Relativism | Avoid simplistic, either-or explanations of fact and opinion. Instead, teach your children that things we believe can also be facts. | homeschool | parenting

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How to Create a Lifestyle of Learning

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How to Create a Lifestyle of Learning • HOMESCHOOL

When you homeschool, your whole approach to learning starts to change. You may begin to look at nearly everything as a learning opportunity. That newfound perspective doesn’t mean you drag an encyclopedia to the playground. But it does mean you've discovered that learning new things is exciting! You stop and wonder and talk about the world around you. And your kids soak it up. You begin to create a lifestyle of learning.

If you grew up bored in school, be prepared for your kids to have a very different experience—a wonderful experience—with this lifestyle of learning! We all know that children who love to learn will absorb far more wisdom and knowledge than children who think they hate school.

So besides using a fascinating curriculum like Sonlight, what else can you do to help your children love to learn? Here are pictures of what a lifestyle of learning could look like. You probably see your own family in these portrayals. But you may find a few new ways to create a unique lifestyle of learning in your home.

(And don’t worry—no one does all of these things all the time. They’re simply ideas to spur your own imagination.)

Read out loud.

Read out loud with your kids when they’re young and after they learn to read. Nothing opens up the world for them quite like an adventure to another time or place, snuggled up with mom or dad on the couch.

Help your kids love to read on their own.

Better to help your children learn to love reading at their own pace than to make it such a chore that they grow to hate it. (Read about how this worked out for one my sons who struggled with the mechanics of reading.)

Answer why with why.

When your child asks a why question, see if you can turn it around and ask what she thinks the answer could be. When you help her discover the answer, it’s more satisfying to everyone, and often gets more at the heart of what she wanted to know in the first place.

Stop and marvel at nature with your children.

If you are outside and a giant flock of geese flies overhead, you might stop, bend down to your kids’ level and watch in awe. That might lead into a conversation about the migration patterns of geese, or it might not, but either way it feeds your children’s natural awe at God’s creation.

Include your children in housework.

If you have the time and the patience as you do your housework, slow down to a kid’s pace and let your children help you as much as possible even if it takes much longer that way.

Try new foods.

Let your child pick out a new fruit or vegetable to try when you’re at the grocery store. Or better yet, let them choose some seeds to plant a new flower, herb, or vegetable in your backyard.

When you learn about a different culture, consider trying some food from that culture, whether you cook it yourself, browse a grocery store from that culture, or go out to eat.

Listen to good music in your home.

Listen to your favorites, but also try new genres you don’t often hear, such as Jazz, Broadway, Gregorian chant, Bluegrass, and a variety of Classical music. (Sonlight does carry some classical albums to help you here.)

Have conversations around the dinner table.

Talk about what your children learned during dinner. Show them that both their parents are excited about what they’re learning.

Ask your child for input.

Ask your child periodically if there is anything he’d like to learn about or something he’d like to learn to do. Then help him brainstorm how to make that happen.

Pursue your own interests.

Learn new things that you want to learn. Let your children see this process and know that you are learning, too.

Talk. Really talk.

When you children ask you a tricky question (about sexuality or evil, for example), take them seriously and give them a real answer. Try to listen and figure out what they’re asking and what they want to know. Set yourself up as the place to go when they have questions that feel too big for them.

Make connections.

Make connections between things you’ve learned in various books and different subjects. When you notice something you’ve learned about in a new context, point it out to your children.

Play!

Give your children plenty of unstructured play time both indoors and outdoors. Behind reading, this might be the most important thing you can do to help them learn! There are countless benefits to letting your kids get enough physical and imaginative exercise.

Invest in art supplies.

Provide access to art supplies, even if you only bring out the messier ones at designated art times.

When you travel, take time to learn about where you are.

Whether you go to visit a cave, visit a museum, or read a piece of historical fiction about the place, enjoy the chance to see something new!

Provide tools for their interests.

Give your children basic tools to pursue their interests (or help them earn money to buy such tools). For our children, this meant a musical instrument and a swimsuit for each child, a basic video camera for Luke, some art supplies and lessons for Jonelle, and plenty of social opportunities for Justin. Amy just needed plenty of books and free time!

How has your family moved toward learning in all parts of life? What lifestyle of learning components are the most meaningful for you? Take note and treasure those special moments together!

How to Create a Lifestyle of Learning • When you homeschool, your whole approach to learning starts to change. You may begin to look at nearly everything as a learning opportunity.

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Four Myths About Teaching Writing in Your Homeschool

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Four Myths About Teaching Writing in Your Homeschool

How do we teach our kids to write well without killing their joy in the process? Beware these four myths about teaching writing that can frustrate our kids and keep them from loving to write.

Myth #1: Good readers make good writers.

Truth: Before my fellow book-lovers attack me, let me explain. It is true that reading good books provides our kids with examples of good writing and vocabulary and fuels imagination. Yet simply reading on their own won’t supply the kind of language database kids need to draw from as they write. Why?

A child reading on his own often reads quickly, sometimes skipping words, phrases, and even pages as he skims. He’s still taking in good content, but missing the complete effect.

However, when we read aloud to our children, it forces them to slow down and absorb the more complicated language patterns they might skim over when gobbling up their latest page-turner.

Reading great literature aloud to our children even after they are able to read on their own, is the best thing we can do to help our children develop as writers. We are building a mental storehouse of sound structure, rich vocabulary, and flow of language that will inhabit their own writing.

Unless we fuel our children’s minds with the great rhythms of beautiful language, they are running on empty when they sit down to write.

Myth #2: Be a ruthless grammarian.

Immediately correct grammar and spelling in every creative writing assignment with a heavy hand. Children should learn to avoid lazy writing habits early.

Truth: Nothing squelches the creative process more than coming up with an interesting idea, only to meet the red pen in all its glory. Grammar, punctuation, and spelling have their place, but let’s not nitpick our children’s creative efforts–especially in the early writing stages.

When we give kids a chance to write freely, they are more likely to take chances. We don’t want them to play it safe and use only vocabulary they are sure to spell right on the first try, or write only a few stilted sentences because they are afraid of making mistakes. Set them free! Teach them proofreading and editing skills at another time altogether. Work on grammar separately. Now is their time to learn to brainstorm, organize their thoughts, and communicate.

Myth #3: Handwriting and Writing are the same subject.

Truth: The difference might seem obvious, but think how many young children are forced to labor over long assignments with shaky hands in order to express themselves. Instead, these exercises sap their enthusiasm and push them to think they hate writing long after they have mastered the mechanics of forming letters. Tragedy!

Especially in the early years, it’s important to remember that we can build the kind of brain connections needed for good writing in other ways besides the pencil. Narrating, brainstorming, dictating, storytelling, and playing with words all contribute to the mental process of writing. Handwriting is simply a physical skill to get the words on paper.

Just as our children can benefit from hearing us read aloud from a book that is beyond the level they can read on their own, we can encourage them to compose beyond the level of their handwriting ability.

Myth #4: Writing can be taught only as a formal subject, confined to a desk.

Each lesson must include a dose of drudgery, a strict grading system and significant writer’s cramp.

Truth: You can help your children build composition skills in a variety of surprisingly fun and simple ways. Besides what we think of as formal writing instruction in your language arts curriculum, kids benefit from playing with words and incorporating writing into an overall lifestyle of learning.

Here are a dozen simple ideas to get your creative juices flowing in terms of homeschool writing:

  1. Write scripts and film your own how-to shows on topics your kids love, from cooking to fort-building.
  2. Combine art and writing. Highlight things you are learning with illustrations, try making ads or books in a multimedia style, or write and illustrate in a beautiful journal.
  3. Interview interesting people and write down their stories. Grandparents could share stories of their heritage, a local businesswoman could share how she got started, a fireman could outline a typical day, or a family who recently adopted could trace their journey.
  4. Write clues for scavenger hunts and involve the neighbors.
  5. Make up character sketches from photos of interesting people you find online or in magazines.
  6. Keep a gratitude journal on the kitchen counter and add a line every day.
  7. Find and correspond with a pen-pal.
  8. Gather for teatime (or lemonade) to write and illustrate letters for those you know need encouragement.
  9. Host an open mic night in your home for family and friends. Help kids prepare skits, songs, poetry, or even original jokes to share.
  10. Write a letter to a favorite author or even a fictional character from a book you just finished.
  11. Offer your kids inspiration with one of these 100 Non-Boring Writing Prompts or try Diamond Notes to get beyond a blank page.
  12. Play games that develop some aspect of the writing process. Taboo forces you to think of another way of saying something. Balderdash requires innovative wording, and StoryCubes stretch the imagination. Party games like Never Have I Ever and Two Truths and a Lie develop storytelling skills as well.

If you'd like formal instruction laid out for you, but still want a gentle approach, be sure to check out this updated Language Arts program to get an idea of how Sonlight might help you raise competent communicators who love to learn.

How do you help your kids play with words as part of life? What myths and truths would you share about teaching writing? Leave a comment below with your ideas.

How to Teach Writing in Your Homeschool Facebook Meetup

P.S. Want to swap writing ideas (or struggles) and ask questions within the Sonlight community? Join me on Tuesday, April 18, for a Sonlight Conversations Facebook MeetupHow to Teach Writing in Your Homeschool.

Veteran homeschool moms will be on hand to answer questions and offer their best tips for shaping good writers. Grab your coffee and join the conversation at 7 p.m. Central on the Sonlight Facebook page. See you there!

Four Myths About Teaching Writing in Your Homeschool
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