Posts in Homeschooling

3 Tips for Isolation and Quarantine

March 16th, 2020 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting 2 comments

In a way that you neither anticipated nor planned for, your children are now home. All of them. All the time. In addition to that, there are added worries on your plate. Will your business/job survive this economic crisis? More importantly, will all your loved ones, including aging parents, be healthy and well? Will there be shortages…? Anxiety abounds.

Making things more complicated, libraries and other attractive venues are off-limits. Your children might have on-line learning organized by their schools or they might not. If the above scenarios don’t describe your city at the moment, they may very well in the next few days.

I’d like to share three tips from my daughter, Rebecca.  While four of her children homeschool, her two high-schoolers are now home as well. The tantalizing playground next door is off-limits as are the many friends with whom the family usually plays and the homeschool activities they usually attend.

  1. Children crave routine. Whether or not your children are expected to keep up with their studies, let them know that the day is not open and endless. The schedule will look different depending on the ages of your children as well as your own personality, but you will all benefit from knowing what time to get up, what chores are expected and when meals will be. Setting times for family reading, for a walk around the block, for crafts and for other activities will make life easier than having a laissez-faire attitude. For younger children, use pictures to share the schedule.
  2. Give Mommy-time to children before they feel the need for it. Pay attention to them before they demand that you do. If you start the day by giving your children your full focus, share time with them before you need to make a business phone call and offer yourself to them first rather than last, you will probably find that they are more willing and able to be on their own and let you have the time you need (in reasonable quantities) to do what you need to do by yourself.
  3. Keep your frustration and anxiety to yourself. Vent in your room and to a friend when you need to, but recognize that the most important lesson you may be providing for your children right now is how much you enjoy being with them. Let them see you rejoice in time spent together. When they are older, they will also look back with wisdom born of maturity and recognize that you modeled how to handle difficult times with grace, prayer and love.

Rebecca always makes a point of saying that each parent needs to know what works for him or her. If her words are helpful—use them. If at this point, they aren’t appropriate for you and yours—ignore them with confidence that you are the leader that God provided for your unique family.

Your Children, Their Values?

February 23rd, 2020 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting 4 comments

During the almost two decades that I homeschooled, I tried hard to let my friends whose children were in school know that I wasn’t judging them. And, I usually wasn’t. I was too busy being hard on myself and wondering if I was making the right decision. When mothers would say to me, “I wish I could do homeschool, but…” I responded that it wasn’t for everyone and that there were many good educational paths.

In hindsight, my husband and I are thrilled that we homeschooled. Of course, our children missed out on certain positive experiences, but that is part of real life. Since no children are always in the perfect class in the perfect school with the perfect teacher, everyone misses out on certain positive experiences.

However, hindsight has also revealed how too many of my peers didn’t realize that the messages their children were receiving in school frequently ran counter to the family’s values and beliefs. They thought their children were learning math, literature, history and science; they didn’t realize that these were being packaged in an anti-faith, anti-patriotic and anti-family container. Even if the early years’ teachers were neutral, their children were ill-equipped to counter the hard-sell propaganda on college campuses.

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It’s Fettuccini, Not a Kidney by Randy Weiss

January 8th, 2020 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting No Comment yet

Jim Weiss’ recordings are among my favorite homeschooling and mothering resources. For decades, this master storyteller’s work, produced with his wife Randy, have been favorite gifts for our children and now grandchildren. They range from CDs or downloads meant for four-year-olds to those that are more suitable for high school and up. If you aren’t familiar with JimWeiss.com do yourself a favor and check it out.

Every other month, Jim and Randy send out an e-magazine telling of appearances, new products and specials. Randy has her own column and graciously gave me permission to share her most recent offering, a piece that I loved. You can also access previous essays on the website. 

It was a few weeks before Thanksgiving and I was two hours from home for a variety of appointments. The emotional payoff for the day was that I could go to the community’s local Whole Foods (often referred to as my “Mother-Ship”). I wanted to pick up our favorite brand of eggs, challah, rye bread, and fish. And then something special for dinner.

I found myself in the fresh pasta section and I could instantly picture Jim and me savoring Fettucini Alfredo. Adjacent to the pasta section was the beverage bar, and behind it was the pasta guy. He was waiting on a young women with 3-year old twins in a double stroller who drew me into an intriguing and adorable baby conversation. The twins were charming entertainment as I waited for an exceptionally long time for their mom to make her purchases.

Finally, the pasta guy came rushing over and slipped behind the pasta counter and apologized profusely for the wait. He went on to say that his work partner was nowhere to be found and how he hates to keep people waiting. I appreciated his customer care ethics but my immediate response was, “It’s fettucini, not a kidney.” His frazzled demeanor suddenly relaxed and he laughed and agreed with me as we engaged in a discussion about working with the public and dealing with all sorts of personalities and expectations.

I often refer to my fettucini/kidney quote in my own mind. It’s important to consciously acknowledge what is important and what is not. I am not the most patient person in the world-all the more essential for me to work on this characteristic. Sometimes I rush around like a chicken with its head cut off and in those instances, waiting for service can seem unbearable. That’s when I need to reign myself in and choose to slow down and be patient.

It’s all about perception and perspective, isn’t it?

In my experience most issues heat up or calm down depending on how we view the situation. I have come to realize that ones’ perspective and perception can both be influenced by a choice to be in the here and now and in the process be grateful that “It’s fettuccini not a kidney”.

Caveat Parente!

December 30th, 2019 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting 4 comments

If your five-year-old cannot translate the above title or write an essay about the play on words with the better know phrase ‘caveat emptor,’ perhaps you should hold off sending him or her to kindergarten.

Ok. I’m exaggerating. But if an article in Psychology Today reflects current trends, I am not off by much. The article focuses on the anguish of kindergarten teachers as they are instructed to treat their young students in ways that they, especially those teachers with years of experience, feel damages the little ones psychologically and educationally.

These teachers speak of pressure from the government (Common Core) via the administration insisting that they do age-inappropriate activities in their classrooms. They find themselves needing to ignore the tears, frustrations and growing hatred towards learning that they are seeing. The teachers’ other option is to quit their jobs.

There are many reasons why too many of America’s schools drastically fail those they are supposed to be serving, whether we are speaking of elementary, middle, high school or college. At the same time, as a society we are encouraging parents to put their children into organized, structured groups at earlier and earlier ages. It is not unusual today for kindergarten to be a youngster’s third, fourth of even fifth year of day care or schooling.

We can certainly get involved and try to solve society’s ills. However, as parents, our first responsibility is to those lives we brought into the world. We cannot afford for our motto to be, “See no evil; hear no evil.” Our eyes must be open and we need to be ready to act.  The onus is on us to know whether those teaching our children nod in agreement to the horrific comments below the article. Are we harming or helping our children by sending them off to school? Isn’t that an important question to ask?

Girls in the Locker Room Meet Boys in the Boat

November 26th, 2019 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting No Comment yet

Those of us blessed to be born during safe times in prosperous places  grew up with certain illusions. Among them was the confidence that we could plan reliably for our futures. Military veterans, refugees from war-torn countries, and those who have survived a critical medical situation know otherwise. While we can and must make our best personal efforts for a successful life, outside forces  will sometimes derail  us. At that point, we have no choice but to react.

That reality struck me forcefully when I read Daniel James Brown’s book The Boys in the Boat. The young men featured overcame adversity, persevering until they excelled at the sport of rowing. This they did, winning a gold medal at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Yet, the book doesn’t end there. Along with other men of their generation, their educational and individual aspirations soon took second place to the task of defeating Adolf Hitler, not in a series of games but in the arena of war. As such, this inspiring and uplifting book ends with the recognition that some of these young men ended up having their futures tragically cut short while those who survived the tumultuous years of World War II had to adjust and realign their plans.

Some threats such as approaching war are readily recognizable. Others—sometimes subtle warning signs of what is to come—are far easier to ignore or miss altogether. Threats are often camouflaged  and human nature makes us expect danger to look similar to how it looked in the past.

For this reason, I am writing to address parents who may not recognize potential perils facing their children. I am going to use one example to make my point, but I strongly urge each mother and father to take time on a regular basis to  ask themselves if anything  similar might be endangering their children. When our children’s physical and emotional health is at stake, waiting for others to sound the alarm and provide guidance isn’t enough. When we are surrounded by Neville Chamberlains, calling us warmongers and telling us that we are exaggerating the dark clouds on the horizon, each of us truly has to decide that the groupthink is correct or we must be willing to serve as our family’s own Winston Churchill—unpopular, derided and scorned until later years prove us right.

The issue that provoked these strong words is the decision of the school district in Palatine, Illinois to allow male and female students to access locker rooms based on “how they feel”. The ACLU helped a ‘transgender student’ bring this suit to the school board and, if you read or listen to many news reports, only the most backward bigots oppose letting children “be who they are”. Conservative news sites at least showed the other side. They featured a girl on the swim team, changing clothes multiple times a day, who is uncomfortable doing so next to a biological male. Yet, even as she squirms with embarrassment, she tries to sound loving and warm towards her fellow student. I assume that is because she has been trained through the years to distrust her own feelings in favor of minority ‘cultural darlings’. For her to be in public school at this point means that her parents, too, have made peace with a step-by-step normalization of views that were universally considered radically extreme only a short while ago. Each of us has to decide which straw will be the one that is too much for us to bear.

I don’t know this individual child or her family and wouldn’t presume to tell them what to do. But, if you are reading this and have not already recognized the unhealthy and insidious nature of society targeting your children, I am speaking to you.  Pulling your child out of school, either to a carefully vetted and chosen private school or to homeschool, may very well not accord with your child’s wishes. It means leaving friends and either being unable to participate in team sports or having to exert tremendous effort to do so. It may mean seriously considering a closer, or a new, attachment to your religion. Private school means added expense and homeschooling usually entails one parent needing to seriously curtail his, or more likely her, earning power. It very well might mean completely changing the trajectory of your family’s life, deviating from the future you so carefully planned.

There is no draft and no rampaging army forcing us to react at this point. Many parents are concerned about the direction society is taking and for this reason are paying attention to politics. That is important, but will not protect our children today. If you read about the increasing mental health issues presenting in our teens and college students, look carefully at what is being promoted in government schools and on college campuses, and contemplate what a different world we are living in, you may well decide that you are in a battle right now and doing nothing is a form of surrender. The stakes for your child and family are high.

2 Book Reviews: Girls on the Edge and The Collapse of Parenting

November 5th, 2019 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting, Reading Recommendations No Comment yet

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how eye-opening I found Dr. Leonard Sax’s book, Boys Adrift. Since that time, I have read two more of the doctor’s books: Girls on the Edge and The Collapse of Parenting. I highly recommend them both. Let me share some of my take-aways from these books.

Dr. Sax spends a great deal of time visiting different schools. On one of these trips, he came across an optional physics class in an all-girl school that appealed to an unusually high percentage of the students. A conversation with the perceptive teacher revealed that she taught topics in a different order from that standardly used when teaching girls. Nothing dumbed down, nothing left out—simply starting with a concept that appealed more to the female mind so that the girls were interested and “hooked into” the idea of learning physics. (This works in the reverse as well, of course. Many of today’s literature assignments are geared for girls and our boys’ interest wanes.) That’s an insight I could have used when homeschooling.

I found similar “aha” moments in The Collapse of Parenting. My husband and I certainly parented in the more traditional mold. I was still surprised to discover from this book areas in which I had been seduced by popular thought. Dr. Saks focuses a great deal on how to pass along your primary values to your children, especially in a culture that is working against you. His chapters on the fragility of today’s children and the importance of transmitting the value of humility (which paradoxically makes for stronger children) are tremendously worthwhile. 

On one hand, I find the plethora of books on parenting to be a disturbing phenomenon. I think that they add to parents’ feelings of incompetence and reliance on misguided “experts.” However, the reality is that our children are growing up in a world where we and they face unhealthy influences emanating from places ranging from their pediatrician’s office to schools to entertainment to the halls of Washington DC. These exert tremendous pressure whether or not we seek direction from them. In that atmosphere, we need to be extremely vigilant and deliberate in how and what we do. Books like those of Dr. Sax can raise questions, stiffen our spines and remind us to carefully choose and guard what matters to us.

(If you do like what you see and purchase using the links in this post, we will receive a small commission on the purchase.)

Boys Adrift – a must-read book

October 6th, 2019 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting, Reading Recommendations 7 comments

You have seen those ads for medications that ask questions such as:

  • Do you ever have trouble falling asleep?
  • Are you ever anxious?
  • Does the world ever seem like a scary place?

They might as well ask: Are you human?

I have two questions of my own:

  • Do you have any sons? Daughters? Students? Neighbors? Grandchildren?
  • Do you have a stake in the future?

The 99.9% of you who answered yes need to read boys adrift: The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men by Dr. Leonard Sax. It will not be a pleasant read. Not because the book is poorly writtenit is very readable. But the information it contains and the questions it asks will make you uncomfortable. Truth often does that. While I have a few quibbles here and there and would like to see further information on some of the avenues he explores, overall this is a valuable read.

Dr. Sax is a family physician and an author. I have not read his other books yet, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that this one is only of interest to you if you have sons. That is a bit like suggesting to the rest of your body that it should ignore an infection in your finger. It can’t. The body is interconnected and a danger left untreated in one area doesn’t stay confined. Society is the same. We all have a stake in understanding the ways in which we are failing boys. Things have only gotten worse since the book’s 2016 date of publication.

On the plus side, if you do have specific boys under your influence whether as a parent or grandparent, a teacher, an employer or through your church, synagogue or community, this book will provide you with tools to improve the lives that intersect with yours. Whether discussing ADHD, girl-centered education or endocrine disruptors, Dr. Sax makes a compelling case that, as a society, we are on a dangerous path. Like me, you probably know amazing, mature and wholesome young men. Yet they don’t spontaneously erupt. The more aware we are of the pitfalls on the road that impede boys from turning into men we can admire and upon whom we can rely, the more we can actively intervene to help them achieve that goal.

(If you do like what you see and purchase using the links in this post, we will receive a small commission on the purchase.)

What about Socialization

September 5th, 2019 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting, Susan's Musings 31 comments

Today’s Musing is actually a triple-header. It was inspired by an Ask the Rabbi question. In order not to make that answer too long, I intended to follow up with a Practical Parenting column. Finally, I decided to bundle all my (our) reflections  into one Susan’s Musing.

Here is Dave’s Ask the Rabbi question and our answer:

Greetings Rabbi and Susan,

I’m a long-time listener and grateful beneficiary of Ancient Jewish Wisdom, the Podcast, Thought Tools, Susan’s Musings and your books.

My question is in regards to the most recent podcast on “Dealing with Death.” In it, Rabbi, you mention that most mass-shooters are basically lonely men; unmarried, childless, disconnected, involuntarily celibate, etc. I completely agree. However, you mention that if these men were more connected to family, friends, sexual relationships, etc., the problem would be virtually resolved.

When I heard this, I couldn’t help but think about homeschooling. As a homeschooler (which as I understand your family did also), I often find myself defending our decision to homeschool against naysayers who argue that my children will not receive the necessary social skills they’ll need to function in society. Usually, it goes something like this: “You’re sheltering your children; they’ll never make any friends being cooped-up in your house all day.” Surely they’d receive all their “necessary social skills” in public school. I was the product of a GIC [Government Indoctrination Camp] (one of my favorite acronyms or yours, I must tell you) and will never be an apologist for them. In retrospect, it seems that being forced to go to a place with thousands of my peers every weekday provided harmful “over-socialization” if there is such a thing.

I remember from my school experience is that there wasn’t much learning going on. Instead it was an utter fashion show. I spent every day being hopelessly obsessed with girls, the latest loud music and my own popularity. Now twenty-five years removed from high school, I can’t think of even one life-affirming or life-enhancing connection that remains.

Still, it seems that homeschooling is antithetical to your point about mass-shooters needing more connections. Is this a legitimate disparity, or one of life’s many paradoxes? Furthermore, I’m sure you and Susan heard the same objection to homeschooling. How did you defend your decision?

Thank you again for all you and Susan do. It is more valuable to Christians like me than you might ever realize.

Dave

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First Do No Harm

July 26th, 2019 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting, Reading Recommendations No Comment yet

As a young adult, I spent some time in Israel. One bonus of being there was meeting people who came from so many different places and backgrounds. When a rare snowstorm hit Jerusalem it was the very first time that a number of my friends had ever seen snow fall. While there is always something beautiful in watching falling flakes, it was especially exciting experiencing that event alongside those for whom it was new.

As adults, parents and teachers have the awesome opportunity of introducing so much of life to innocent children. We may take snow or stories or physical laws like gravity for granted, but one of our gravest responsibilities is making sure not to diminish the wonder of these things for the next generation.

Ann Patchett is a successful novelist and the co-owner of a bookstore in Tennessee. In that capacity she said, “I find myself flipping through the giant green binder of summer-reading lists from all the area schools and being struck by how many seem committed to wringing every ounce of joy from a young person’s relationship to a book.” She then proceeds to describe the often boring and cumbersome instructions that accompany the list of required reading.

What a condemnation! I can think of few skills more important than knowing how to read, but it is a wasted skill if a passion for reading doesn’t accompany it. A talented parent or teacher can peel open a book revealing depths not necessarily evident on a first reading and guide a young reader to get more from a story. A mentor can point a child towards books that will help the youth become a greater person. Those same educators can crush a love of reading, impoverishing and harming a child.

There are a few more weeks of summer. What books have you been reading aloud to your children during these longer days? If you aren’t confident in your reading, there are wonderful audio books to listen to alongside your children. One can hope that their teachers are not among the Grinches stealing the pleasure from reading. If they are, your role is even more important. Just as I enjoyed my Jerusalem snowfall more because of the friends sharing it, little will make your children enjoy reading more than sharing it with you.

Summer Homework – for Mothers

July 17th, 2019 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting 4 comments

I loved our family’s summer boating trips for many reasons. Among them was, that as long as my husband and son were willing to heave and ho, I could bring along as much stuff as I wanted. This meant boxes and boxes of books and supplies that I used to plan the coming year’s homeschool.

Doing this in the lazy days of summer was so much fun. I could be swept away by a period of history and spend more hours reading about it than I would ever share with a ten-year-old. I could explore craft ideas and experiments without any pressure to have them ready by the next morning. Most of all, I could imagine that our children would be engaged by everything I was excitedly choosing for us to do. Of course they would want to dissect a cow’s eyeball—who wouldn’t? (That would be each and every one of my children including the future doctor and the future nurse.)

If you are a homeschooling mom who takes things easier in the summer you, too, probably use this time for planning, ordering and organizing. If you are not homeschooling, this time is valuable for you as well. A September reset button allows us to review what worked well and what didn’t over the previous year.

Maybe there were just too many activities and we became chauffeurs more than moms. Maybe our kids’ lives were so structured and busy that they had no time to be creative. Maybe we turned into grumpy crones every afternoon when a hungry family and tired mother faced each other.

Perhaps we read some books out loud and we still hear our children referencing them. Or we might have cut back on screen time, endured grumbles and whines for a few days or weeks and then found that our children were quite able to entertain themselves. Maybe we need to take the time to notice that a child we worried and worried about matured and is in a new and much more pleasant space.

Make some time this summer to think through the past year and plan for the next one. Turn off your auto-pilot and figure out what will work best for each of your children and your family as a whole. Enjoy these precious days before ads for school supplies set you back on a treadmill that may not be the one you want to ride.

If you do want to watch TV, check out our newly downloadable sets
of the Ancient Jewish Wisdom TV Show. (Introductory pricing right now!)

 

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