Spirit-led Scheduling

I have 10 children from 19 mos up to 19 yo. I don’t have things down perfectly. Sometimes it feels like I can only either get school done
or get the house clean. I have a few things that have been helping me lately. I’m always working on this. One thing that has helped me get the kids to do more chores is www.chorebuster.net It divides the chores among the kids after I filled in the ones that needed to be done and
how often each needed to be done. It allows you to give the younger ones fewer and easier chores. But the kids accept the assignments as fair, because they know a computer assigned them, not me. And each of them gets to learn how to do each chore at their ability level. It takes some time to set it up, but then the program works automatically to assign chores each week. I have an ideal schedule made up, but we hardly ever follow it. Chores are supposed to be done right after breakfast. Then I do together school with the 6 oldest, which consists of my reading aloud to them. I do Bible and History, using books from the Sonlight reading list or other books that are related to the unit we’re studying. I pray and ask the Holy Spirit to lead our homeschooling each day, then I do pretty much whatever I think of. Without the help of the Holy Spirit, I can’t think! So whenever a plan or title comes into my mind, I figure that’s Him! I also use the Narrated Bible and Genesis: Finding Our Roots and other books that Heart of Wisdom recommends to do our Bible time. We pray together to start things off. We put our spiritual armor on first thing. I have the 10-year-old and the 8-year-old work on Phonics and Math on their own during this time.

I’ve gotten a lot of help from www.cindyrushton.com for scheduling and doing unit studies and notebooking and lapbooking. This is the schedule I used 3 years ago. I put the 4 oldest together to try to get most things done, then they did math and language arts on their own. Then I grouped the 6 and 8 year old together for some things. The twin 3-year-olds sometimes did preschool with the 6 and 8 yr. olds. They liked being teachers. Sometimes this worked, sometimes it didn’t. The older kids took turns watching the baby while I was reading to them. If the chores hadn’t been finished before school, I had them do them after school. But by that time, my husband was usually home from work, and we had to fix supper. I’m getting the older ones to help with that. And a big thing that someone suggested that really helped me was to have the older kids do their own laundry.

My 16 year old prayed about what his responsibilities should be, and he said the Lord told him to clean the dining room table every day, vacuum around the dining room table and the living room and do the dishes every day. Those are the main things that make the house look company-ready. Since he started doing these chores things have looked pretty good most of the time. If we know someone is coming, usually it doesn’t take too long to make things look pretty spiffy, by my standards! My standards aren’t very high after all these years and all these children, but I know what’s livable for us and what’s reasonable for me to expect.

I am doing school mostly with just Bible, Math and living books. It’s working for us. I feel really good about what my children are learning. We talk about relationships with others, too, and walking in love and forgiveness. Some days we just talk about what the Lord has been laying on my heart or my oldest son’s heart. But I still feel like they’re learning the most important things on those days.

We don’t have a whole lot of fellowship with others. The ones who drop in on us are single people! It’s really hard to get together with other families right now. But I consider it a season that will come to an end some day, and then we can have people over for dinner and go to others’ houses. My main ministry right now is to my own children and husband. I’ve finally accepted the fact that this is enough. God is pleased with me.

As far as crafts and nature study, I think I will take days off from the regular
schedule and devote most of a day to these extra activities.

My menu planning is: I make a list of meals for the week, make a shopping list, go grocery shopping on Sat. or Sun. and then try to remember to look at my list every day when it’s close to meal time! My husband and I go grocery shopping together. It gives me time away from the house and gives us time together.

A Snapshot of Our Homeschool Routine

I’ve found that as my kids got older, they wanted to learn more on their own. Once I taught them to read, they could each explore things they’re interested in. Well, they could do some of that even before they could read because the older ones would read to the younger ones.

But I have kept doing “together” school with the oldest 6, who are 19, 16, 14 and 12, 10 and 9. And it mostly involves reading a good historical fiction book, missionary biography or historical non-fiction book to them. We almost always have at least one read-aloud going. Our main goals each day are to pray together and share anything the Lord has been speaking to us and put our spiritual armor on and to read the read-aloud. I have relaxed lessons with the younger ones as things come up during the day, and as the Lord gives me ideas. I have 10 kids all together, so I have to take things as they come. I can’t make my baby nap right when I want her to or my 3-year-old sit still and be quiet when I’m reading to the older kids. If I try to structure things a lot, I get frustrated and angry and upset. Things rarely go the way I plan. So I leave things loose and trust God to take up the slack for me.

I have Math curricula for each level (Teaching Textbooks for 3 of them), and I check with them to make sure they’re moving along in them. They each have areas that they like to study. They use the Internet. My oldest listens to audiobooks from Librivox, and he has listened to many Classics that way. If they want to know something, they research it. My oldest son is doing Geometry now, on his own. He’s using Life of Fred. He’s studying Chemistry because that is the subject he chose. He doesn’t like Biology, but he did Apologia Biology last year, because I asked him to. Last year, his main area of study was the Bible. That was what he chose. He is a very responsible, advanced, intelligent young man. He helps me so much with the younger kids. I couldn’t do it without him.

My parents used to wonder about what I was doing with the kids. We live far from them now. They came to visit a while ago, and they were very impressed with our oldest son. They were impressed with his respectful attitude and his willingness to work. They are now saying good things about my kids. They used to just not say much of anything. I think they still wonder about us not being on the same time schedule as the rest of the world, but it’s okay. If my son doesn’t want to graduate from homeschool at the end of this year, I’m not going to make him. Having another year with him will be just fine with me.

Help for Creating a Family Mission Statement

There’s a new website to help families create their Family Mission Statement. It is engagefamily.com. This is a Christian site that will help your family find the words to express the purpose of your family and then put it in an attractive form on a magnet that you can display on your refrigerator where the whole family can see it every day. They are fulfilling an important role in supporting families. I believe that this practice is vital in pulling a family together and helping them to seek the Lord together to find out what His purpose is for their family and the message He wants them to convey to the world.

We started doing this years ago after I read the book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families by Stephen Covey.

I wrote about our family’s mission statement here.

One thing that Stephen Covey said in his book that really encouraged me was that we should not expect perfection or get frustrated when we miss the mark. He said that setting these goals would at least give us something to shoot for. If we are aiming at nothing, that’s what we’ll get. But if we have a target, we are more likely to do better than we would if there was no target at all. There would be something that our family could rally around, a plan that would promote unity and define what kind of family we are and what we’re all about.

Several months ago, we were assessing how we’ve been doing in living out the mission statement we came up with, and I realized that we had become that family that I was hoping and dreaming that we would become. It’s all by the grace of God. He is strengthening our family, and I pray that something I share here will help someone else strengthen and build a loving, godly family that will be able to make it through any storm or trial.

What Does Noah's Ark Have to Do With Going to the Moon?

(Post originally written Nov. 17, 2007)

We’ve been studying Genesis, but we’re not moving through it very fast. We keep going back to Noah and the Flood! I don’t know why exactly. I just keep finding resources about it, and they’re too good to not share with my children.

We’ve read these books:

The Secret on Ararat

by Tim LaHaye and Bob Phillips

The Heavens Before by Kacy Barnett-Gramckow

Sequel to The Heavens Before – about Nimrod and the Tower of Babel – He Who Lifts the Skies

A Rift in Time by Michael Phillips.

I had the kids watch the video In Search of Noah’s Ark.

It had the same information that was in The Secret on Ararat.

There have been so many people through the years who have seen the Ark on Ararat and have even gone onto the Ark, that it’s hard to believe that we’ve been so deceived to believe that it’s not even there.

The kids loved reading The Secret on Ararat because it was full of action and suspense. They were begging me to read more chapters. They are also loving The Heavens Before. We have really been immersed in what it must have been like in the Days of Noah. It was awful when every man’s thoughts were evil continually. It’s hard to imagine everybody in the world, except one family, being evil. How God must have grieved. And how sad and frustrated Noah must have felt to be preaching and warning all the time for 120 years and not having any converts, except perhaps for 3 women who became his daughters-in-law. Talk about an unsuccessful man! Or was he unsuccessful? I’d say he was the most successful man of his time! He sure came out on top in the end. He was the only one who survived. And he became the father and grandfather of everybody on Earth. What is the measure of your success? Obedience to what God has told me to do. That’s the measure of my success.

There are so many lessons to learn from these stories in the Old Testament. I’m amazed at the way God leads our studies. Because of our studies of Noah’s Ark, I started reading about the astronaut James Irwin. He led expeditions to Ararat to look for the Ark because of the spiritual experience he had while spending time on the moon. He felt God’s presence there with him on the moon. He came back to Earth with a new mission: to tell everyone that God is real and He loves us and we should be so thankful for this wonderful home He gave us to live on. He felt at home everywhere he went on Earth after his time on the moon.

I wonder if he felt a bit like Noah, though. I think he was pretty well-received in the churches he went to, but I wonder how the scientific world received his message. As skeptical and humanistic as the scientific establishment is, I doubt if they gave him a very warm reception. No matter that he knew as much as they did and more, having been an astronaut, and having been on the moon; they still reject his message and deny the existence of God.

Science was started by Christians. I pray that Christians can take back the ground they have lost and get the funding and the platform they need to make a difference in what is taught in public schools and in the media.

Let the Children Come… At Their Own Pace

I keep reading posts by homeschooling mothers talking about all of these learning problems that their children have. I was a first grade teacher in public school before I became a homeschooler. I wanted to do the things they taught me about in college when I started teaching in the classroom, because they made sense to me. But I couldn’t because the school had a system. They used textbooks. Everybody used the same books, and rushed every student through these books page by page. There was no time for anybody to have a learning difference. The ones who weren’t ready to read got held back in first grade. Then they suffered that stigma of “failing” first grade. I hated that. But it had to be done. That’s how the system worked. If they couldn’t handle the second grade books and program, I couldn’t send them on to suffer even more failure.

But the theories and methods I learned about in college were more about letting children do things that helped them get ready to read. The big thing at that time was whole language. We learned that we should use real books instead of textbooks. We learned that we should let them be creative instead of making them use workbooks. We were taught that we should immerse them in a topic by using unit studies, and by connecting new learning to knowledge and experience they had already attained.

I couldn’t figure out how to do any of that with all the workbooks I had to get the class through and the rigid system that was already in place. I had to do things the way all the other teachers did them. I’m sure I wouldn’t have had a job as long as I did if I had tried to stray too far from the norm. I did a few of the things that Ruth Beechick recommends long before I ever heard of her. We made lists of words that start with the same letter or have the same spelling pattern. We wrote stories together as a class. I even had them do some copywork. But mostly I had to try to rush the children through all of the books and hope they could pick it up by the end of the school year.

Now that I’m homeschooling my own children, I can do what I wanted to do all along – what I was trained to do in my education classes. I can do all kinds of pre-reading activities with my children. I can read aloud to them and take them places and point out things in nature. I can fill them up with all kinds of experiences and knowledge before I ever ask them to write anything down. I can give them something to write about, to think about, to wonder about. They can make connections in their own minds in their own time. They can look at books on their own and make the knowledge their own. I’m available to them when they want to come and share what they’ve been learning through reading or being read to or through watching a video or even sometimes through playing a video game. I’m not concerned about dyslexia or dysgraphia or any other dys- somebody might come up with next. Each of my kids is learning at his own rate and in the way the Lord wants him to, because I’m letting Him lead. I’m giving them time to grow and develop in the way He made them to. I’m so glad I don’t have to force my children to perform according to an arbitrary schedule or system set in place by people who don’t even know my children and most likely don’t know God, either. I would rather get my wisdom from my Creator than from administrators and professional educators.

I was so excited to find Susan Schaeffer Macaulay’s book For the Children’s Sake when my first child was just a toddler. Her description of Charlotte Mason’s methods sounded like the ideal way to educate children. Then I read more about Charlotte Mason and became even more convinced that God was telling me to use real, living books and to let them learn a lot from nature. I also believe in short lessons and lots of time to play. When I read Teaching Children which is like a companion book to For the Children’s Sake, I knew I was home.

I have loved our homeschooling journey. We have learned so much together as a family. And each of my children has learned so much on his own as he delves into what interests him. We use the Sonlight reading list to pick out so many very good books that have drawn us even closer together as a family as we read them together. Recently, I have discovered Cindy Rushton who has helped me pull together lots of things I couldn’t seem to figure out on my own. Notebooking has helped in our organization and in getting something on paper, so that our learning is set in place by the act of processing the information by narrating and writing about what we’ve read and learned. And even more recently I discovered Heart of Wisdom, and finally got the revelation that the Bible really is the most important thing for us to study. I used to say it was, but I didn’t know how to incorporate it into our homeschool plan. Robin Sampson has convinced me of its importance and shown me how to teach it in a way that my children will be excited about it and will really learn it because they want to. She and Cindy both encourage us to pray and find out God’s will for every detail of our homeschooling. I’m grateful for these mentors who are helping so many of us to teach our children well and love them well. And their devotion to the Lord and His Word and His will inspire me to press in and read His Word more and pray and seek His will for each of my children’s lives. Their example has helped me to set goals and define the things that are important to me and that will improve our family life.

Another author who influenced my thinking was Dr. Raymond Moore. His book, The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook, helped me to see that giving children real things to do, projects and tasks to accomplish, would produce the best learning. He believed in giving children time to mature before asking them to do academic work. He did research that showed that eye muscle development and fine motor skills develop later than 5 or 6 years old. He encouraged parents to wait and let the child’s readiness signal when to start academic work.

Pushing children to read when they’re six years old or younger, pushing them to write on the lines and make it look nice before they’re physically or mentally ready is doing those children a great disservice. And then to call this immaturity a learning problem or learning disability and to try every kind of curriculum to find the one that works for this child seems to me to be a waste of money and time, not to mention the stress and worry that this kind of thinking engenders. I just want to encourage mothers who are afraid their child may be behind to realize that there is no “behind”. All children are different, and 6 years old is not the magic age that every child should be ready to learn to read. Don’t stress. Don’t worry. Don’t fear. If you truly believe in Ruth Beechick’s teachings, Charlotte Mason’s method, Cindy Rushton and Robin Sampson’s approaches, then give your children some freedom to learn and grow and develop according to their bents, the way God made them. Relax and let God have the wheel. He knows the way.