Decisions, Homeschooling, Parenting

Finding The Answers

I was a young teaching assistant standing in front of twenty college students when one raised her hand and asked the answer to an economic problem. I had recently passed my doctoral exams in economics, but I did not know the answer.

After a fleeting moment of panic, I said, “Let’s work the problem together.” Step by step, I led the class until we had a solution. More importantly, I had an epiphany.

I had not been trained to know all the answers. I had been trained to find the answers.

That was the difference between me and my students. My job was not to give them answers but to show them how to find their own answers. Along the way, I watched many students hunt and find the correct answers

Corrie ten Boom is one of my heroines. Her parents did not give her the answers for surviving the Holocaust. However, they trained her to find the answers she needed. (See In My Father’s House by ten Boom for more.)

Even today, it helps me to know my adult sons know where and how to find correct answers.

Training anyone?

Homeschooling, Parenting

Start One Step Down (Or Two)

The tide by the pier was lower than it had been on our previous visit. We didn’t need our memory.  Abundant remnants of exposed oysters—in the most interesting formations—confirmed it. They were latched onto a discarded whelk shell, wedged between rocks, partially buried in sand, covered in algae

How did oysters choose their mooring? Become anchored? Who were their predators?  

Where did I turn for answers? Picture books.

While homeschooling, an experienced teacher told me to introduce new information by having my sons read a book at least one level below their abilities. Not only would they have a quick overview, but the most important facts would be emphasized. Understanding and retention would be increased.

My friend’s advice was confirmed by my neighbor who taught middle school biology. Magic School Bus episodes succinctly covered information on her classes’ standardized testing.

I ordered several picture books from my library before I turned to the internet. My internet hits were oyster recipes, restaurant recommendations, mineral and vitamin content, and scientific classifications.

My friend’s advice was confirmed again. Begin with picture books for a good overview.

Where do you start?


Grade Like A Professional

I “liked” a boy when we were in the 8th grade. We became better friends in high school, and he wrote the sweetest words in my yearbook our senior year.

How did we meet? Kevin sat behind me in pre-algebra and graded my homework. Mrs. Parker began most classes by saying, “Pass your homework to the person behind you.”

Even though homeschoolers do not have thirty papers to grade each class period as Mrs. Parker did, we can learn from traditional teachers. (See Think Like a Professional Here)

Allowing siblings to grade each other’s papers can save time.  It is also a chance for the grader to practice humility and grace and learn themselves as they see their sibling’s work. Kevin was so nice that I never minded him seeing my mistakes.  I also thought he was a bit more lenient than Mrs. Parker.

How are you thinking like a professional?


Planning For Sick Days

Even after I realized I should think like a professional—see here—I pushed forward and taught when I was sick. How could I stop homeschooling for a couple of days, let alone a week? I always felt behind, as most homeschoolers do.

Pushing on always delayed my recovery, which prolonged my misery and the number of unproductive school days. Each time I said it would be different next time. It wasn’t.

Paid teachers at traditional schools—notice I didn’t say real teachers—have substitutes and lesson plans for sick days. I might not have a paid substitute, but I should have had a plan that allowed rest and healing. Eventually, family circumstances required a plan.

My favorite was educational movies from the library and the How Great Thou Art art curriculum by Barry Stebbing. The easiest was a reading marathon. My boys could camp out in my bedroom and take turns reading aloud. Today, Kindle and streaming give last minute options.

A container of materials with a “Sick Days” label helps. It is also a constant reminder that sick days are a normal part of a parent/teacher’s life.

What is your favorite strategy for family illnesses?

Decisions, Homeschooling, Parenting

Allowing Space to Grow

I dislike gaps in my flower beds. Therefore, I never planted my marigold seedlings the recommended distance apart—eight to ten inches for French marigolds and a full twelve inches for African marigolds.  I learned the error of my ways when I passed marigolds beside a city sidewalk. One seedling had grown into a small bush. I checked. One stalk.

Room to thrive. September 2019

Disliking gaps—especially while raising children—my husband and I crowded activities into our lives the same way I jammed marigolds into the small, soil patch at the top of our driveway.

Some academic years, I added too many subjects. I assured my husband I would find a way to make everything fit. I never did.

I wish I had known how much space was realistically needed for my flowers and my family and myself.

I enjoyed a variety of little blooms, but when I desired deep roots and tall flowers, I should have given more space—more than I imagined.

How many inches do you need this academic year?