Wednesday, April 28, 2010

How Are We Doing?

I sat down this evening to write Wednesday’s blog and realized I couldn’t think of anything new to say. So I think it is time to ask for some feedback from everyone out there.

Are we covering topics that are meaningful to you and your homeschool experience?

Are there topics you would like us to cover?

What are you struggling with right now?

What kind of encouragement are you looking for?

What have you enjoyed about the content of this blog?

What have you disagreed with?

Please let us know if we are meeting a need for you all. That is why we do this, because we know how hard it is to follow through on this commitment you’ve made to the Lord and your children. Take a few minutes to help us help you better!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Matter of Character

For the first time in my life, this year I followed the NFL draft. I couldn’t help it because a homeschooler made history. At least (in my limited knowledge) I’d never heard of NFL teams considering a homeschooler before.
A lot of hoopla circled around Tim Tebow mostly because of his fine Christian testimony. Many of the naysayers downgraded his chances in the draft saying he dipped his arm too low as he passed the ball and the offense of his college team wasn’t conducive to the NFL.
Most predicted he’d go in the third round or later if anyone wanted him at all. But there was one thing everyone agreed upon. Even the detractors had to admit that he brought something important to the table: “off the chart intangibles”.
Translation: character!
No one could deny Tim Tebow’s leadership qualities and dedication to hard work. He’d already spent a month fixing the problem with dipping his arm before passing. He’d proven time and time again that he would be the one to be first on the field to work and last to leave. He’d shown how he could lead his team, inspire them, and take them to championships.
So when all was said and done, the Denver Broncos traded up and down the board and gave up a lot to go with the young man who displayed outstanding character.
I hope you moms who find yourselves in the thick of homeschooling will take courage in this. It’s not the academics that matter most. It’s not the advanced classes or increased time for creative outlets that will contribute the most to your children’s success.
It’s a matter of character.
Tim Tebow has already used his platform as a successful college football player to start a foundation for Christian ministry. So I took great delight as my Internet connection gave a live shot of Tim answering the phone call from the Denver coach. I look forward to see where this new platform leads him.
As you work day in and day out with your children, I pray that you will remember most of all to point them to Jesus and develop their character.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Mommy, Read Me a Story

I just spent a very emotional afternoon going through our homeschool books for a garage sale. I realized that they are more than bound paper. They are representatives of my son’s obsession with dinosaurs and desire to write comedy, and my daughter’s fascination with fairy tales and interest in interior design. Our family’s life is wound through those pages.

I’m sure all of you agree. Homeschoolers and books go together like mice and cheese. Reading to our children is one of the greatest gifts we can give their emotional and intellectual lives. Here are some of the reasons you should make reading with your children a priority.

• Memories….My family still quotes favorite lines from Ramona the Pest –and teases me about my Irish accent I attempted when reading Jamie O’Rourke and the Giant Potato. They were precious times spent learning and laughing.
• Cognitive Development….Studies have shown that children whose parents read to them end up as better readers. Some have even suggested it may the single most important common denominator in successful students. When someone reads to a child before he can read (decode) himself, he learns to listen, pay attention, keep track of details, picture what is happening and anticipate what is next in the story. By learning this at an early age, the child can then concentrate on decoding when he begins to read for himself because he has already mastered the other factors of reading comprehension.
• Physical Touch….I don’t have to explain that cuddling up to read a good book together just feels good, which is an important part of a child’s (and mother’s) emotional well-being. It also makes a positive association with reading in the child’s mind.
• Discussion….Everything you read together can then be discussed and evaluated right away, helping us as parents to reinforce values in our children’s minds.

I wouldn’t trade a minute I spent reading to my kids. We read together until they were in high school, and many of my children’s strengths resulted from those times.

What are your family’s favorite books? Share them with us!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Where Do Writers Get Their Ideas?

Simple answer: everywhere!

We writers sometimes laugh at ourselves because everything, and I do mean everything, blossoms in our minds as something to write about. Someone in the grocery line speaks snarky to us, and we smile inside thinking we’ve got a great place in our story to include those words.

Or we see a middle-age man at Starbucks every time we go in who’s sitting there hour after hour with a chessboard in front of him, waiting for someone to join him and play. We begin to ask questions: Why isn’t he at work? Do many folks play with him? Does he ever win? Why does he like chess so much? Does he have a family? Next thing you know, he’s the creepy antagonist in our story. Or even the handsome protagonist who’s in an undercover job!

Writers can take two unrelated news stories and combine them for a unique twist. Or they take on old classic story and give it a new slant. What if a Tom Sawyer story happened in 2010 on the streets of L.A.?  After all, Cinderella (rags to riches) stories have been retold through the centuries, and we still love them.

Some writers focus on an issue such as Internet bullying and find a story. Others reach into their own lives or the lives of their grandparents to find what they want to write about. Once a dream my daughter told me about sparked a story idea.

I’ve heard of writers who simply write the first line of a story and follow it wherever it leads. Sometimes we simply play games of “what if”. One of my writing students started thinking, what if there was another American Revolution? What if another George Washington leader emerged, but the leader was a woman? What if the man she fell in love with was blind? (I promise you, she’s got a great story going.)

At times writers start with a plot first, and other times they start with characters. It really doesn’t matter because writers get their ideas from everywhere.

I’d love to hear how you came up with ideas to write about.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Cultivating Explorers

I think homeschooling provides a great opportunity for children and young people to explore. I’m not referring here to just the people who travel to unknown or unusual places, although it could be included.

I’m talking about giving your students time and ability to explore some of their passions and even some areas of life they may not yet know they have a passion for.

One of my sons discovered after many years that he loves the medical profession. Since I’m not a medical person myself and didn’t have a clue of his interest, I never really provided him the opportunity to explore this possibility.

As you plan your homeschool schedule, consider adding opportunities to explore. Let them explore writing something different from the typical essays. Cartoons? Greeting cards? A screen play?

Or give them opportunities to explore different areas of science. Check out a book about chemistry experiments and see if you have a chemist on your hands. Let them explore making things out of wood or metal. Or let your daughter have her way in the kitchen. What if you led her in a study of colors and let her decorate her own room? And who says decorating is only for girls?

Some of these things will never happen if you don’t take time to schedule them into your day.

It’s hard to allow such exploration in a typical classroom, and homeschoolers can lose this opportunity as well if we’re not careful.

Schedule a time when you unleashed your children. Give them opportunity to explore.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Topics for Writing

Your children haven’t written anything in a while, and you’re not sure what to assign? Here are some topics to get you started—and them writing!
• Describe a place you love (or dislike) focusing on those details that give you a specific impression. For example: The mall is the scariest place I know. Or: Walking into the library feels like coming home.
• Pick an article in the newspaper and write an essay supporting your reaction to the news event. Example: The city of McAllen should invest in electronic stop lights to catch drivers who speed through red lights.
• Narrate your most embarrassing moment, brush with greatness, a time when you were tempted, a turning point in your life, the most ordinary day, a glimpse into your future, a wild ride, the best day ever, or a disappointment.
• Detail how to make a parent mad, how to keep a secret, how to be a good friend, how to make the best ice cream sundae, how to clean your room in ten minutes, or how to drive your little/big sister/brother crazy.
• Compare your life to a video game—how are the two alike?
• Compare homeschooling to public school—how are they alike?
• Tell about what makes you mad.
• Tell about the person you admire least.
• Tell about the talent you wish you had and why you wish you could do that.
• What kind of music should be outlawed and why?
• Tell about the best way to stay awake when you are bored.
• Develop an argument for why tennis shoes are the only shoes a person needs.

These are just a few to get you going. Try to come up with something that will challenge thinking and maybe even be a little bit fun.

Happy writing!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Motivation for Moms

The subject of motivation has popped up in my life on several levels in the last week. It first appeared in a writing class where we explored the role motivation plays in character development. Then it popped up in my own “work in progress”, as we writers call our manuscripts. Then I observed first hand a young man who bristles with potential but lacks motivation.

Finally, I remembered a challenge an author gave me a couple of months ago. She challenged me to find a quote, perhaps a sports quote, and paste it on my wall near my computer that I would read daily to motivate me to start clacking the keys on my computer and get to work on my novel. Then find a verse from the Bible that also applied to my writing.

Today, I’d like to challenge the homeschool moms to take the same challenge. Some days the difficulty and effort of homeschooling can overwhelm. I remember those days when the kids didn’t get it (and acted like they didn’t even want to get it), when the ungraded papers spilled off my desk, and when the floor went unmopped (again) while we raced to basketball practice.

If you’ve never asked why am I doing this, you probably haven’t been homeschooling for long. (Either that or you’re Super Woman and the rest of us aren’t sure we want to meet you.) Motivation answers that question “why”. A motivational Bible verse and inspirational quote just might help you remember why you’re doing this on those difficult days.

I’ll give you some examples, but I really hope you’ll find the one that speaks especially to your heart. When you do, place it on the wall or the fridge where you’ll see it often.

Sports quotes as applied to homeschooling:
  • The day you take complete responsibility for yourself, the day you stop making any excuses, that’s the day you start to the top.

  • Adversity cause some men to break; others to break records.

  • Sweat plus sacrifice equals success.

  • It's not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog. 

  • The will to win is important, but the will to prepare is vital.

  • The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary.

  • The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will.

  • Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever.

  • Champions aren't made in the gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them -- a desire, a dream, a vision.

  • Champions never complain, they are too busy getting better.

Bible verses applied to homeschooling:
  • "Train a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it." Proverbs 22:6

  • "You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up." Deut. 6:7

  • “For the Lord gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” Prov. 2:6

  • “My son, keep your father’s command, and do not forsake the law of yur mother. Bind them continually upon your heart; Tie them around yur neck. When you roam, they will lead youp; when you sleep, they will keep yu; and when you awake, they will speak with you.” Prov. 6:20-22

Once you select you inspirational quote and Bible verse, pray the quote before you start the day. For example, you could take a sports quote and pray, "Lord, help me to see that the pain and difficulty of this day is temporary, but to quit could have consequences with my children that last forever."

Please share what motivates you to keep on.