Family, Homeschooling, Parenting

Our Family Newsletter

When my children were ages five to eight, we started a family newsletter. It was snail mailed to their grandparents, two aunts, and two great-aunts. Our boys drew cartoons, provided book reports, reported family current events, and gave updates on their guinea pigs. One column had prayer requests. The boys chose all topics.

My kindergartner dictated his articles. Occasionally, the older two dictated while my husband typed their contributions. For the first year, we “published” every two weeks. Eventually, we dwindled to once a month.

Our newsletter lasted only three to four years, but along the way, it became a precious history of our family. Copies reside in our safe.

At the time, I didn’t realize the educational impact of the newsletter. Later, I realized that dictation gave the boys confidence to write. Recording our children’s “talk” and showing them the results, took some fear out of writing. Writing begins—although it doesn’t end—by putting “talk” on paper.

After a friend and her husband reviewed long ago copies of their family newsletter, she said, “They were the best and most encouraging items we had read in years.”  

Any family activities worth recording for posterity?


Let’s Celebrate!

Homeschoolers celebrate high school graduation in style, and our family followed that tradition.

Unfortunately, we didn’t celebrate other milestones that traditional schools celebrated. Along the way, I learned.

At one annual portfolio review of my boys’ work, my reviewer—who later became my supervisor and dear friend—gave me a Lenox plate. “You are my Homeschool Teacher of the Year,” she said. “It’s not fair that homeschool teachers are not recognized.” My husband agreed and took the family to dinner that night.  I have vivid memories of that occasion.

I should have been spurred on to celebrate more of my sons’ achievements. I wasn’t.  I continued to lag in celebrating.

A couple of years later, a phone call from my brother motivated me.  He was headed to my niece’s end-of-the-school-year award ceremony. She was being recognized. I hung up the phone, ordered a cake, and bought three gift certificates from the local bookstore. My husband made certificates for the areas in which the boys had improved the most. We partied a few nights later, something we should have done much sooner.

June is a great month to celebrate our students’ work and progress.


Family, Friendship, Homeschooling, Parenting

Admonish. Encourage. Help.

And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.

1 Thessalonians 5:14

When I recently re-read this verse, I remembered a sermon Dr. Bill Clark from the Lay Counselor Institute had preached over a decade ago. Admonish. Encourage. Help. He gave an example where he had to employ all three with a client, but usually only one was needed.

I was struck how my “go to” response of helping was not always the best choice. Occasionally, my response was random.

I had admonished the fainthearted when I should have encouraged. I had helped the idle when I should have admonished. I had encouraged the weak when I should have helped.

The only “go to” response in this scripture is “Be patient with them all,” rarely my first choice.

Do you naturally admonish, encourage, or help?

Homeschooling, Parenting

A Teachable Moments Perspective*

I ended my last blog with the question How do you decide whether to ignore or seize a teachable moment? (See here.)

Kathleen, one of my favorite moms, responded with her answer. Seize when your children are interested.

I never had a problem with my mom’s teachable moments, but I’ve never cared for my dad’s. I think the difference in their cases is that my mom taught when WE were interested; my dad taught when HE was interested. 

Kathleen, a second-generation homeschooler, with her boys.

This perceptive mom pinpointed the overload of teachable moments in my household—and other households with curious parents. Not only did I want my children to learn from any educational opportunities, but also, I wanted to learn. Loaded with new knowledge and understanding due to homeschooling, how could I not pass along new connections as soon as I discovered them?

What could be better than delving deeper into past or current lessons? My sons’ answers: Legos, Playmobils, baseball, and Redwall books—eventually replaced by music, running, and computers.

Kathleen ended with this advice: Keep teachable moments short, responding to cool things as a parent and not as a teacher.

*Used with permission.


Teachable Moments

While homeschooling, I seized opportunities to make connections between academic learning and everyday life. I referred to these chances as “teachable moments.”

After graduating, one son participated in a panel discussion with other homeschool graduates. I did not attend so my son could speak freely. The next day, a mom said every student complained about school never ending.

Why did movies, news accounts, neighborhood events—almost anything—that related to a former or current school topic have to be discussed from a learning point of view?

A few weeks later, I reviewed the portfolio of a frustrated homeschool mom. After teaching her daughters about the fall of communism, Gorbachev was mentioned on the national news. “Wouldn’t any teacher want to connect current news to a history lesson?” she asked. “Why did the discussion make my daughters angry?”

Along the way, I learned that homeschooled students disliked and dreaded the “teachable moments” we parents loved and seized. I wish I had known to be more discerning about applying academic lessons.

How do you decide whether to ignore or seize a teachable moment?