So I am an author. And like most other authors, I have a side gig. My side gig so happens to be raising miniature humans (no hate mail please, I have nowhere else to go from the term humans). And that includes educating them at home. Unlike many home educators, the approach I take is slightly un-orthodox, but it works well for us and is tailored to the individual giftings and callings of my children, as well as accounts for the Hand of Providence to guide and do what Providence does: make sure I don’t royally mess up.
In the fall, Yah willing, we will be enrolling our children in the program Classical Conversations, a wonderful program which does not teach children WHAT to think, but HOW to think, and also does not contradict the very important phases of cognitive development, as set forth by the Creator, and discovered by some. As we are made in the Creator’s image, and I ascribe to the “inspire, not require” philosophy of home schooling and self motivation, a lot of what I do in our children’s education is to model for them the creative and innovative processes. Which means I do a lot of reading, a lot of writing, a lot of self improvement, a lot of praying, and a lot of “thinking out loud” or sharing my ideas through an often-overlooked educational tool- discussion.
This morning, I woke the kids up by telling them the inspirational story of Temple Grandin. I explained that as an individual who so happened to have the condition known as autism, Temple Grandin did not allow her limitations to get in her way. Instead, she used her unique perspective on the world (specifically her love of animals and ability to empathize with them- a detail which captured my animal-loving daughter’s attention) in order to make life better for cows. Specifically, she was able to discern that cows did not like the rigid corral system set up for them by men who sought to make things more convenient and bearable for only themselves. But rather, she saw from the perspective of the cows that they did not like the sharp angles and scary corners of the conventional corral system. So, she designed a much more loving, user-friendly system for the cows. And by doing so, revolutionized the way the industry operated. Stressed-out cows full of the hormone cortisol in their muscles often made for tougher meat, and so the beef industry benefited well from her invention.
At this point, I had triggered the imagination of my ten year old son, who tends toward creativity and innovation. In fact, I pride myself on the frequency of one of his hobbies, which is to “think.” “What are you doing, son?” I often say. How my heart beams when the reply comes, “I am thinking.” In my estimation, when a child matures to the stage of being able to think in abstract concepts and what’s more, chooses to spend his free time doing such, nothing makes me gladder. So my son starts his morning actually wanting to get out of bed (a feat in and of itself), but not only that, starts on a tangent of creativity and idea generation, and shares those ideas with me; which I then give positive feedback and encouragement through a variety of ways, one of which is to ask questions, which then causes him to learn to think about his ideas in more critical ways, and all this before breakfast. Win.
During our discussion, my son asks me how Facebook became a multi-billion dollar company, so we google the history of Facebook, and watch the movie trailer for The Social Network. Then, we watch a youtube video, something along the lines of the Stock Market for Dummies, which leads us to have a discussion about how innovative ideas can drive markets. I continue my recent education in this area right alongside him.
Then I cooperatively work to help my eight year old prepare breakfast, to which we all sit down and eat together. I pull out the Brain Quest game, which is a series of trivia questions, using facts and general knowledge from many different areas: grammar, math, history, geography, and we set ourselves to playing the game and the kids are learning without even knowing it. After breakfast is group prayer, where I take prayer requests and praise reports, and lead us in prayer. This is a mainstay of our lives, and we do this almost every day without fail.
Next after breakfast is chores, or “family work”, an important staple of Core Phase, and a sturdy practice which all the other phases of learning can be built upon. Together we learn hard work, we learn it alongside each other, we learn it can be fun, and we learn to take pride in our work, for which we are accountable. This is an invaluable lesson to learn before they reach scholar phase, during which they apply the principles of hard work to academic discipline, a time during which eight hour days of nothing but reading and studying are not rare. That is, if they successfully progress through the phases.
After chores is personal hygiene. Then my son redeems some computer time, which he earned, through my system of rewards, which really does shape behavior and was invaluable, especially during those years when it was very difficult to find what would actually motivate him. Speaking of difficulty in motivation, after this, they do their copy work, during which they copy a passage from the scriptures and progress nicely in the act of forming letters and sentences on the page, a practice which will become of greater value later, especially to my son, after he develops the area of the brain which forms thoughts, and what’s more- combines them with the skills needed to organize those thoughts, allowing them to flow out the hand in the currency of letters, words, and eventually, paragraphs, then sets them down on the page through the pen. I spent a good deal of this past Saturday afternoon following Brave Writer’s advice of writing down everything your child dictates to you when they reach the point of what she calls “red hot language”, that point when the child is most excited and talking a million miles a minute about something they love. Doing this regularly, will give reluctant writers the message that their thoughts are important and that is indeed what you want them to write down, making the imperative connection between their thought life and writing, a connection which will be filled in later on with the writing of narrative, descriptive, expository, and persuasive essays.
After copy-work, both children set to a rhythm of independent reading and academic online learning in grammar, reading, and math, a schedule which they themselves get to decide on and have wiggle room. Sometimes my daughter plays “Beat the Clock”, a timed exercise in doing math fact exercises. After they have done these for awhile, I call for Power of an Hour, a technique I learned from another home school veteran, Donna Goff (because borrowing for your kids from the best is a wise idea). During Power of an Hour, I read aloud from the Torah portion from that week, while my eight year old daughter usually doodles or colors on a paper while she listens, and my ten year old auditory-learner son soaks in all my words as he glances around the room. Sometimes I give a little treat to sweeten the deal. At then end, I ask questions and we engage in discussion (something which we all do an extended version of with Papa as a family together on Sabbath morning, as we learn to engage and ‘midrash’, or discuss, the scriptures). Then I read aloud from a work which has high merit and applies to the applicable phase and the prayer for guidance I have lifted up. We had been reading out of “Born a Jew, Die a Jew” by Yohanna Chernoff, a biography on the life of Martin Chernoff, a pioneer in the Messianic Jewish Movement. Now we are reading aloud “Carry On, Mr. Bowditch”, the story of a boy who loves arithmetic and grows up to be a sea navigator. This inspires in us all a love of all things math.
After Power of an Hour comes lunch where the children are on their own in the kitchen with some minor loose supervision from me from a distance (so as not to make it seem as though I am hovering over them too much), where they get to practice making good choices for their health and building a sense of confidence and autonomy in the kitchen with those essential life skills. It is at this time that I either do a workout, take a much-needed shower, or write. After this we either head off to the library, or the kids do what I call Free School. At the library, they hunt books like they are prey on the African savannah, bringing them to the mama lion, (me) with enthusiasm (look what I killed, err, found, Ma!) and I have to tell them when their piles of selections are about to break my back when I carry them to the check-out counter. I smile inwardly, knowing they have safely entered the Love of Learning Phase of their education, and I have a pep talk with myself to try not to do anything to mess that up. If they do Free School, it can be any project or interest (within reason, not just watching tv and my kids don’t have phones, so no texting), but for my son, it usually involves learning about computer programming, and for my daughter, usually involves learning about animals. It is during these hours where sometimes each child will narrate to me a book or story which I type out for them, or my daughter works on her own story typing it out on the laptop. Sometimes, it means we get out on a nice spring sunny day. This is also the time of day where we either do a field trip when one is planned, at the end of which I might run a quick errand before the afternoon routine of karate class preparation and afternoon chores take over, before we get in the car or I do another load of laundry or another round of health-driven food prep while on some days, we will do a lesson from Supercharged Science (e- science), with Miss Aurora, a real NASA rocket scientist, or the kids will play Word Roots or Roblox Studio.
Today I was also able to fit in an online training about innovation/entrepreneurship and learning about crypto-currencies, as well as read a few pages of my step-father’s new novel, one which he so graciously allowed me to get a sneak peak of (mind you, these personal activities were done mostly before waking kids and before my coffee had a chance to get cold).
After dropping off my son at karate class, I rush home, throw dinner together, greet my husband when he comes home, pick up my son from karate (daughter will be beginning horse riding lessons soon and that will be incorporated into our busy afternoon schedules), and get the night time routines going. These routines end with brushing teeth, the kids self-monitoring the shut off time for tv, praying with Papa leading the family prayer, and them getting settled in with a cozy book in bed, usually one or more of their library killings. (Lol!) After which, I will either help my eight year old get on with her settling-in skills, or I collapse into the current book I am reading, Facebook, or an episode of whatever Netflix series I have been vegging my mommy-brain on (I just finished all of the up to date offerings of Call the Midwife).
The next morning, it all starts again and I wake up seeking inspiration and vision which will sustain not only my own life and calling, but also that which will spur the littles on toward forging a path of their own, using their unique giftings and callings. And the time of day will again come when I settle back with a Chocolate Moses (a low carb dessert I coined, long story of why that name), and reflect on how I can do it all again- rise up to sustain my important role as Vision Caster and Encourager Extraordinaire. Either that, or to thank Elohim that the kids’ clothes made it into the hamper that day, instead of landing on some pipe somewhere undisturbed, and I was able to keep some semblance of sanity, as I endeavored to keep the roof from falling down on all our heads.