How to Succeed in School

Parent-Teacher conferences were last night. As a guardian of a high schooler, I got to listen to the teachers gush about how great my student is.

The highlights: Her English has much improved (one teacher attributed this largely to the fact that we've been reading-aloud at home, Sonlight style), she's engaging more in class, and she works hard.

The growth areas: She needs to keep working on her English spelling (I need to keep working on my English spelling), she needs to do her math homework (I had missed the fact that she'd missed several assignments -- bad guardian!), and she needs to study more for Anatomy (yes, yes, she does).

All told, her grades are predominately "A"s. She has the highest scores in several of her classes. And even in the classes in which she struggles, her marks are quite good (as long as she does her homework). This leads to four tips for how to succeed in school:

  1. Try - teachers like to see effort. You don't even have to be good at it, but if you're working hard, your teachers notice and reward you for it.
  2. Engage - simply participating in class improves your marks. My student tells me she's rarely even on topic, rambling about "random stuff" (which wouldn't surprise me), but her teachers love her. That ultimately translates into higher grades.
  3. Complete - do your homework. That alone can undo bad test scores; the practice often helps improve your test scores.
  4. Study - learning how to regurgitate the "right" information when asked is essential for the more "academic" courses.

These are actually four tips we could apply to our lives as homeschoolers:

  1. Try - we aren't perfect teachers. But simply starting down road of homeschooling unlocks tremendous benefits for us and our children.
  2. Engage - there are a growing number of computer-based, "hands-off" home education options ... and none of them will ever be as good as when we participate in our students' education.
  3. Complete - do your homework. Sometimes the daily grid can be overwhelming and we should take a break. There are bad homeschool days. But stick with it, even if you have to stretch out your school year just a little longer.
  4. Study - learn about how your students learn. Seek out advice and encouragement. You do this naturally as a parent, but I think we sometimes feel the need to have our homeschooling all figured out. It's good to keep learning, even when it comes to how to homeschool.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Guardian

P.S. I enjoyed this video about what historians say about the resurrection of Christ from BibleMesh on this Good Friday. As always, I think there's a bunch of other interesting stuff in my Other Posts of Note.

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He Is Risen Indeed!

It's one of my favorite traditions. Fellow believers greet me on Resurrection Sunday with "He is risen," and I get to respond, "He is risen indeed!"

Sonlight student Rebekah R

Sometimes I get too focused on the tasks of everyday life. But Passion Week and Easter always pull my attention back to the glorious reality of Christ's resurrection.

I recently got to share the Easter story with a group of Christians and non-Christians. As I prepared for this great privilege, I was struck again by the fact that Jesus knew what was going to happen to Him. And He not only knew it, He actively predicted and chose to go through with it.

When Jesus announced that He was headed toward Jerusalem before the Passover, His followers were amazed. Didn't He know how dangerous that was? People were waiting to kill Him there! Yes, Jesus did know this. And He knew it was His time. So instead of hiding, He openly went up to Jerusalem.

When Judas was secretly preparing to betray Him, Jesus broke bread with him and said, "What you are about to do, do quickly." And so Judas left to carry out his plans.

It even seems like Jesus chose when to die. On the cross He cried, "It is finished." Then He gave up His spirit and breathed His last.

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus explains that He will be put to death and then rise from the dead. It takes a while for the disciples to understand this. But by the end, even the religious leaders knew that Jesus was predicting something big. So, they went back to the Roman governor (whom they despised) and asked for round-the-clock guards at Jesus' tomb.

Why does all this matter? Because Jesus actively chose to follow the Father's will. Jesus accepted the most painful and shameful death the Romans knew how to inflict. Even more, Jesus – who had lived in perfect unity with the Father for eternity – took on our sin and therefore suffered apparent separation from the Father. (This caused Him to cry out on the cross, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?")

Jesus was able to choose this path because He was not just a nice teacher or prophet, but Lord. He chose this because of infinite love between Him and the Father and His children (us!). Jesus rose from the dead because He is God. The Romans guarded an empty tomb that Sunday morning because Christ had conquered death.

When someone close to us dies, we come face-to-face with the ultimate wrong. But Jesus' resurrection conquers death for us all. We have a hope of resurrection and new life even after this one. Oh, glorious hope!

So this weekend, let's allow ourselves to be pulled out of our everyday tasks. The Jesus we serve is truly our Lord and savior. Let's rejoice that we can respond: He is risen indeed!


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Why the Internet May Rip People from Faith

I read an intriguing post about how The Internet Is Disrupting Religion. The author, Andy, is pleased to see religion go; I offered a few observations in the comment section. But a larger question has been forming in my mind since reading the post this morning: Should parents be concerned about their children browsing the internet?

First, the answer is a definite yes! Your children can encounter all manner of terrible content without warning. Inappropriate images and video abound, much of it no longer behind an age gate. If you are not aware of what your children are seeing, get involved. Educate yourself. Install tools to help you if needed. I believe some people abandon their faith simply because it's easier to wallow in sin.

Join the Dark Side

Second, the answer is no, not if your concern is that your children will walk away from the faith because they read something online. The problem is not, as Andy postulates, that your children learn things. Learning stuff is great! But learning in a vacuum without seeking out truth is bad. It's too easy to just gulp down what's given you. So if you don't talk with your children about the interesting stuff they find online, you should. Discussion about difficult subjects is one of the many things that sets Sonlight apart. Tackling tough topics together is a hallmark of Sonlighters. There's nothing to fear in encountering these ideas, but there is a tremendous opportunity to learn and grow in your faith!

Third, of course you should be concerned with what your children ingest via the internet. But I don't think it's facts or arguments that pull people away. It's normalizing the non-religious. It's what Andy labels "the spotlight effect." But instead of presenting justice, mercy, and humility as how we ought to live, the internet often highlights things that promote our self-centered-ness. We, as followers of Christ, are abnormal, the minority, strange. So it's little wonder that our ideals would be overshadowed by secular ideas on the net. If we passively soak in those waters, it's little wonder we absorb some of the thinking.

But, no, there is no need for Christians to fear the internet. It's a tool. It offers amazing opportunity. Like every tool, we should use it properly, with wisdom and skill. And, like everything, you should be involved in helping your students learn to navigate the world wide web.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Guardian

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Don't believe the lies

Just because you are accused does not mean you are guilty.

I wrote last time about how I was attacked on my Facebook page. How I had my morality, my ethics and my intelligence challenged. I talked about how that crushed me. How that stuck deep inside and caused me to almost crack.

After I moved on and had time to reflect it struck me: it wounded me so deeply because I was swamped with the overwhelming accusations of not one person on the Internet, but by the accuser of my very soul.

The Liar, the lion who goes about seeking whom he may kill and destroy, stands before our Father day and night accusing us. But that does not mean we are guilty.

Hear it again: just because you are accused does not make you guilty.

I know for me the problem is the voice in my head. When I let down my guard I accuse myself more loudly than anyone around me.

A comment about the state of the house? "Slob, lazy, never going to get it together, worthless..." is my own accusation.

A child disrespectful or disobedient? "Failure, why do you even try?" I accuse myself.

Not being able to complete an assignment in the time I've set for myself? "You will never succeed, you cannot do this, give up now" is what I tell myself.

Crying alone in a new church? "No one sees you, no one knows your story."

But then I hear a whisper from on high, "I see you."

And it cuts through the lies.

I am created by God himself. He knows my abilities. He designed my passions. He established my family. He knit not only me, but my husband, and children together too.

He asks that I be the clay in His hand, that I allow him to mold me; that is His desire. While I am not even close to worthless, I believe that God desires to shape me into something greater. More useful. More beautiful.

But more loved? More precious? More unique? Not a chance. My place and worth in God's eyes is secure, nothing will change that.

When I tell myself the truth, God's truth, no accusation can stand.

Until next time,

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Rosetta Stone for $95 (only through Friday)

Rosetta StoneGet a Level 1 Rosetta Stone program for under a hundred bucks. That's an amazing deal!

Look, Rosetta Stone runs sales all the time. But they usually only offer deals this good -- 40% off -- on their foreign language program bundles. If you order before Friday 4/18, you can get this great discount and not shell out a few hundred dollars. You can be on your way to learning a new language for $95 (and 40 cents).

Order your Rosetta Stone language today.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Guardian

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Pitting Educators Against Parents is a Bad Idea

Sarah at Little House of Penguins makes an observation that Common Core math instruction pits educators against parents. Her points are well made. My concern isn't, however, that parents will no longer be a moral influence for their children. The issues of passing along values arise naturally if students are not taught the foundation for why something is true (a recent post about the purity movement pokes at this a bit). What concerns me is that if parents can't help their kids with math at home... will not learn math.

Plain and simple.

Educators know that student success depends on parental involvement. And I've shared my own experiences with classroom math instruction. Parents need to be equipped to help their students.

The good news for us homeschoolers is that we are involved. No matter which math curriculum we opt to use, we can follow along. We get the opportunity to (re)learn right along side our students. And so the practice work makes sense. We're not struggling to figure out the meaning of some obscure phrase a teacher is required to use by national standards.

MathTactular4 Sample
MathTacular Makes Math Unbelievably Understandable

Stay involved, even if your student takes a class outside the home. Teachers want you to be on their team, even if political policies push in the other direction.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Guardian

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Words From a Wise Woman

As I was driving home the other night, flipping through local radio stations, I heard an advertisement for an upcoming seminar titled "Words from a Wise Woman". The title caught my attention, and immediately brought to mind Proverbs 31 ... until I heard further explanation of the event. The featured speaker is an entrepreneur in business and has risen fast and far in her field. The evening's purpose is to allow other women to hear "how it's done" and to be encouraged as they pursue the top of the ladder in their field of interest.

Continuing down the road toward home, I wondered if anyone would pay to come listen to me share words of any kind ... or if they would classify me as a wise woman. My tongue has always conspired to get me in trouble ... whether I'm talking to my kids, or my husband, or co-workers, or friends. I'm not sure I could say that wise words always come from my mouth!

There is a book that sits on my shelf titled "Words That Hurt Words That Heal", by Carole Mayhall. The binding is a little worn as I've had reason to read it over and over again. The synopsis of the book reads "Our mouths are supposed to be fountains of life (Prov. 10:11), but all too often they sound like babbling brooks."

It is so easy to get frustrated with parenting, or with homeschooling, or just with life in general. I don't know about you, but that daily frustration often expresses itself in my words. Mayhall's book is just over 100 pages in length and a very easy read ... but oh so necessary. In fact, instead of attending that seminar next week to hear "Words From a Wise Woman", I think I'll curl up with this book once again and be reminded that when God's wisdom fills my heart, it will overflow into my conversation.

Still on the journey
~Judy Wnuk

When a good man speaks, he is worth listening to, but the words of fools are a dime a dozen.  Proverbs 10:20

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