Sunday, August 7, 2011

Teaching Character - Part 2

In part 1 of Teaching Character I gave a general overview of the "Blue book" and the "Green Book". These photos depict a close up of one of the pages in the Green Book ~ its correct title is Achieving True Successs.

There is no Scripture in this particular book. I balanced that out by using the "Blue Book" ~ The Power for True Success.

One way to use the book is to chose a particular character trait on which to focus for a particular period of time. To fully soak in its meaning and to allow the Lord opportunities to bring real life lessons, we often focused on a trait for a month at a time. But you can also use this by determining a negative trait you want to address - in this case you can see the opposite character trait for Deference is Rudeness. So if rudeness is something that you are struggling to root out in your family, then by focusing on deference, you can highlight how rudeness has crept into your daily lives.

Another help to ingraining this character trait is to memorize the 5 "I Wills". This gives the children (and adults!) a hook and measure as to how deference is being portrayed in their lives. Granted there are many other ways to portray this trait, but a concrete starting point of the 5 "I Wills" gives one a place from which to launch out.

I also like the concise definitions of each trait. Children do not always understand exactly what that definition means, but as one lives it for a month of study, memorizes the 5 "I Wills" and then lives out the trait over the ensuing years, the definition begins to take on nuances and meanings as the child matures. After all, character is a lifetime goal, not an answer to fill in on a test and move on.

And last, I love how there are ideas to jump start what we can do in our homes to live out this character trait. My children loved to pick one or two of these activities or ideas and then carry them out. It always made them happy to bless someone else in the family.

Often there is an animal linked to this trait (though not always, occasionally it is a plant). These can usually be coordinated to correspond to a section of the Character Sketch Books. This gives a multilevel approach to each unit of study. And if you are using the ATI curriculum, then you can see how all the layers work together to teach that one concept/trait.

The Proverbs in general, and Proverbs 2 in particular, stress the importance of searching for Wisdom - not knowledge. I fear that in our society today we have reversed that order and knowledge is being given an exalted place. So many homeschool families fear that their children will not have enough knowledge, that they let wisdom (character) fall by the wayside. I have found that when I am faithful to put wisdom first, the rest will follow in ways I don't even expect.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Teaching Science

Science is one of my favorite subjects in homeschool. There are so many options and so many fun projects to do. I have always used a wide variety of options in this area as opportunities and materials were available. Here is a partial list:
Plant, tend, and harvest a garden (God does the growing).
Raise an animal.
Visit a museum or other science related site.
Do experiments - there are lots of books available on experiments with common household items.
Keep a science notebook or sketchbook.

The possibilities are endless - but my favorite, steady diet of science is from this 3 volume set pictured above.

CHARACTER SKETCHES from the IBLP ministries.

It is arranged so that there are groupings of 4 animals (occasionally a plant) depicting a single character trait. Each volume contains a wide array of traits such as Generosity, Loyalty, Determination, and so on. The art work and the science are amazing. The applications memorable. My daughter has even used examples from the texts in some of her college papers. One of her favorite selections is the Canadian goose representing loyalty.

Each animal also has a corresponding Biblical personage representing that same trait. We would generally spend 1-2 weeks on each animal, and up to 2 months on a particular trait. To round out the full study this was also used along with the Blue and Green books previously mentioned on this blog, and our ATI curriculum Wisdom Books. All focused on one character trait. But the Character Sketches books can also be used as a stand-alone study no matter what curriculum you are using.

And they cover a wide range of ages. The youngest children are fascinated with the art and a selection of stand-out facts. I continued our study all the way to 12th grade as a major part of our biology. To help back up the vocabulary and main ideas we also used the companion Crossword Puzzle books (though I do not know if these are available any longer as I did not see them in the IBLP store.) For younger children (and olders that like to color) there are the companion Coloring Books.

I know these are expensive - but they are a lifetime investment for your children. I know of a number of families that have managed to find used copies and that helps with the cost - though I can't imagine why anyone would part with the books once they have them! Ours are here to stay.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Teaching Character - Part 1

Below are two "Must Haves" for teaching character to your family - and yourself. I have used these two books at least 4 or 5 times each week. I study them and refer to them over and over. I have read them to my children regularly. I know of no other resource even close to these two books. (Have I said it strongly enough?) These are important.

Available Here
I call this "The Blue Book". Character traits are explained in detail using Scripture and notable quotes. The pictures are beautiful. The evaluation analysis at the end of each trait listing is thorough and brutally honest. We would do a section at a time with me reading it out loud. We would save the evaluation section for the end and use those questions to generate discussion - and prayer needs - as well as seeing how we measured up and where we needed to improve. We concentrated on one character trait each month.

Available Here
I call this "The Green Book". It is not as detailed and in depth and does not use Sripture, but this is where I get the *hook* to help my children visualize the character trait being studied. We learn the 5 "I Wills" for each trait. That gives us a means of understanding what that trait looks like in action. We also get ideas of things we can do in our family to practice that trait.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Teaching Reading

People have written books on how to teach reading. College students take an entire class on how to teach the subject. Lifelong careers are based around it as well. What can I hope to contribute in one puny blog post? - not much, but I can give my testimony of how our family has walked this path to literacy.

It is my amateur opinion that one never actually "teaches" a student to read. You facilitate a means to help that student figure it out for him/herself. And to make it even more interesting we never really know when that reading "light bulb" will turn on. Some children learn the decoding as young as 2 or 3 years old; some much older. It is not uncommon for that "much older" to reach 10 or 12 years old. The only book that I feel ever really helped me understand the process is called Better Late Than Early by Dr. Raymond Moore.

In our home we kept learning to read fairly simple and never had the bells and whistles type of curriculum materials one can find on the market today. My basic tool was simply the little (quite beat up looking) book pictured above: A Handbook for Reading from the ABeka publishers. We just read a page at a time until it was mastered, then went to the next page. Total time spent on phonics: 3-5 minutes on 3 or 4 days a week.
As the child mastered a goodly amount of lessons in the phonics book, I liked to add in books from the McGuffey Reader series. We never did all the lessons in all the levels, but we did quite a bit of them. They reinforced our basic phonics rules, and they used fat, juicy words like "hath" and "glorious". The McGuffey Readers teach character, respect, and include God and his creation as a normal part of life. The children do not get bored with the stories, and it lends itself to some interesting discussions on their level.

During this process of learning to read it is very important for your child's vocabulary to grow at a significantly faster rate than their ability to read. By the time my children were 4 or 5 years old we were regularly reading beginner chapter books. Our fist chapter book has traditionally been The Boxcar Children. We moved on to favorites like Mr. Popper's Penguins and Dr. Doolittle in short order. In fact we often had 2 or 3 books at a time that I would read out loud to my children. Usually a chapter book, a nonfiction book, and a bedtime book were all peculating at their given time of day. It is very (VERY) important that you read out loud to your children every day. This is even more important if you have a late-blooming reader. (I will have a testimony about this in an upcoming post.)

So there you have it ~ in one blog post how I teach my children to read.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Just Starting Out?

Here are two sayings that have gotten me through many challenges ~ I repeat them often, to myself and others:

"Homeschool is NOT school at home."

"You can't ruin them in a year!"

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Left to Rust?

Sadly, I have done it too many times to count. We start a book with the best of intentions and a few days, ...weeks, into it, it gets laid aside - usually through neglect or perhaps the rush of the urgent. Now, six months (two years!) later said book is exposed from under the pile in which it was lurking. What do I do now?

It depends, but think it through. Should this just be relegated to the unused pile and leave it at that? Should we start over? Or just pick up where we left off? Usually I would never start over - that is so boring! Just because I don't remember the details doesn't mean that the kids are clueless. They usually remember much more than I do. We make a game of remembering - the kids almost always "win".

I have on a few occasions just not finished. Oliver Twist is one such example. It just got to be too much time and I lost interest. If the kids really want to know the story then they will some day pick it up and finish it on their own.

Monday, April 4, 2011

How ATI Saved Us....Literally.

A sunny day in April 2005, on our front porch, was what I now refer to as Meltdown Day. I was in constant conflict with our 16 year old son, Carl. We had homeschooled him for 10 years and I knew I still had three years at home with him, and I also knew I was done. I had no more methods, curricula, or energy to continue this battle. My husband had pretty much given up and was marking time until Carl turned 18. He got to go to work every day and escape the worst of the battles. Unfair! I begged, I pleaded, I cried. Something had to be done.

The last resort; the only program we seemingly hadn't tried was ATI. I had heard of the program way back when we first started homeschooling – over 10 years before. Michael had even been to a Basic Seminar, though I had not. When I mentioned the idea of using ATI, Michael rejected it. He never really gave a reason, just that he wasn't willing to give up some of the lifestyle we were used to, so he said it wasn't a program for us. Over the years I had met other ATI families and briefly discussed the program with them so I was gaining some insights into how it worked. I brought the subject up to Michael every once in awhile over the years, but always he said it wasn't for us; and truly I think the Lord knew that our hearts were just not ready.

But on Meltdown Day, I could think of no other option. In between sobs, I reviewed all that we had tried, how each new method had failed, each program was unsuitable. I pleaded that I needed something for me to learn how to reach our son. I did not know the terminology – but I instinctively knew that we did not have his heart. I begged to try ATI as one last resort – not for our son or for my husband – but for me, to see if it would teach me what I needed to do to reach our children. Michael reluctantly agreed that we would try. It was a very tiny, baby step of faith to crack open a long shut door.

I printed out the application. Many questions I didn't even understand, but Michael and I agreed to write only totally honest answers the best that we could figure out. We knew it would take a bit of time to do all the steps, but for the first time I saw a glimmer of hope and I held on to it with an iron grip. I arranged to have the Basic Seminar sent to us for home viewing. It had been almost 20 years since Michael had first seen it – and I never had. We also sent in our forms to attend the Homeschool Conference coming up the end of May in Nashville.

Our family watched the Basic Seminar together, even our older son Josh who was home for awhile since his military enlistment had ended. (We have two older sons, Josh and an even older married son, Seth. Plus we have Carl and a younger daughter, Hannah, both of whom are still in high school.) My husband, myself, and our two younger children attended the Homeschool Conference without even knowing if we were accepted in ATI – but they only come once a year, and I was not going to miss this one and then have to wait another whole year to attend. It was in Nashville during the new family sessions that we met Mr. and Mrs. Bowman. All throughout that week we met many wonderful families during our time at the Conference. Every family was welcoming and helpful. I desperately craved what they all seemed to know – they could reach their children in a way that I could not. It was during that week that Michael and I had assurance from the Lord that we would be in the ATI program. And it was shortly after returning home from that week that we received our rejection letter from ATI.

We remained calm, but determined. By this time both Michael and I knew that ATI was where the Lord was going to teach us to reach the hearts of our children. So we counseled with the admissions staff on our next steps to be ready for acceptance, and prayed a lot. We did have some older Wisdom Books a friend had given us (we didn't know any better) and about $800 of materials we had purchased during the conference. So we began to plan the next school year using what we had, and the little that we knew. Then I remembered that during the new members classes we had attended, Mr. Bowman had said that he would welcome any calls for counseling and assistance, so after praying and deciding on some specific questions, Michael had me call Mr. Bowman.

Our main question to Mr. Bowman was for counsel on what would be the best way to use this next school year to reach our son using the materials to which we had access. We knew we had only a few years left of high school and could not afford to waste a single day. But Mr. Bowman wasn't as interested in that question as much as he was in why we had been turned down for admission. We had several long phone sessions, with both myself and with Michael. We followed every suggestion he gave us. It was much more than we had asked for – but we can now see that the Lord was also speaking to Mr. Bowman that he was to help us.

We also found that as we began to obey the light in front of us, the Lord began to speak to my husband and change him and direct him. We were driving to the IBLP Health Conference in mid-June (shortly after the Homeschool Conference) when Michael shared with me how the Lord showed him in Ezekiel that we were to set no evil thing before our eyes – and that meant we would permanently leave our television off! This was one of the very points on which Michael would never budge from when we first heard of ATI all those years ago – and one of the reasons we were not accepted for enrollment. We had honestly answered the question on television that while we were willing to drastically cut viewing time, we weren't going to totally eliminate it. Mr. Bowman had suggested a 30 day fast from the TV, and that we did. It was during that fast period that the Lord directed Michael to the passage on what our eyes are to watch. I was pretty amazed because I knew that this could only have come from the Lord.

It gets a bit involved here with many things taking place on multiple levels and with many individuals. It seemed like all the pieces were hovering and ready to go into their places, and with each step of obedience that we took, those pieces began to fly into place, making a sort of a “quilt of circumstances”, that if viewed in just pieces it looked like scraps, but when sewn together became an amazing work of beauty fit for the Master's use. The example of how we were counseled and taught by Mr. Bowman became the foundation of how we in turn counseled and taught – and continue to counsel and teach – our children. It was never a list of “How To's” or legalistic steps – but we were encouraged to seek the Lord and see what He would have us to do. We were given tools with which to guide us, but always the freedom to make decisions as the Lord showed us.

A few weeks later around August of 2005, Mr. Bowman said that he wanted to make an appeal for us to conditionally start in ATI. Due to our progress and the age of our children he felt the Lord wanted us to begin that fall. In all this time we had never revealed to any one that both Michael and I had assurance from the Lord that we would someday be in ATI – but we had already accepted the fact that it would not be until at least 2006. We were so excited that we were granted conditional admittance into ATI in September of 2005! We kept in monthly contact with Mr. And Mrs. Bowman throughout that school year as a term of our enrollment – but we were blessed to be able to do that.

We have now almost completed our second full year of ATI. I have testimony after testimony of how the Lord has used this program to teach our family how to follow Him more closely, and of the blessings we have received. It has not been without trials and bumps, but it has all been good. My most desperate need of how to reach the hearts of my children has been fulfilled (well, it is a work in progress – but it continues to get better and better.) The Lord showed us that we were to go into ATI under the covering of John 15 – and we continue to go back to that passage time after time as the Lord prunes us and refines us to His work.

Michael and I have also seen that we were returned to a place of counsel in the lives of our two older sons. ATI has brought our whole family closer together in learning to walk with the Lord. The missing gap of how to make the Word the center of our lives is no longer a gap due to the Wisdom Books. Sometimes I believe I learn more from them than my children do!

The one missing link that we still felt in our family life was answered for us at the 2006 Homeschool Conference last year in Nashville. I have suffered deep regret that we did not look at ATI much sooner in our lives – when all four of our children were still young. Michael feels that we were not ready then – I tend to think our hearts were too hardened – but they are actually both the same thing in the end. But as we were driving back from our noon meal to the church for the afternoon sessions the Lord revealed a vision to Michael that ATI is for our grandchildren and that this is the right time for us to have begun the program.

We now come to the 2007 Homeschool Conference in Nashville with our oldest son and his family (our grandchildren!) attending with us. Our second son has rededicated his life to the Lord by driving hours through the night to meet Michael and I face to face, and confess and repent of years of sin. After gaining a clear conscience and obtaining our forgiveness and love, he had to turn around and go right back to his Army base where he is currently stationed (he has returned to the military part time as National Guard). We know that he personally came to us because of the Basic Seminar he heard while back home with us for a time two years before. Carl, our teen son, was saved during our first year of ATI! And now our two youngest children are growing in the Lord and learning to hear His voice in their lives.

Michael and I know this is not the final chapter in the story. We will continue to have trials and testings, but we are facing them with our foundation on the Word, and with understanding that we have never before experienced. We are so blessed to be a part of ATI. Thank you for this amazing teaching.

*Note:First written in 2007 and shared with Mr. Bowman and Mr. Gothard.