Is the Goal of Education the Process or the Destination?

IMG_0657When we have preschoolers, we can’t wait to see them reading for themselves. When we have elementary aged children, we can’t wait for them to be able to express themselves in their writing. We have similar goals through out our children’s lives. Milestones that tell us that we are indeed progressing in the right direction.

But sometimes education, and life itself, can become a series of benchmarks that push us along to a destination where we finally feel like we’ve accomplished something important. We’ve “arrived.” But somewhere along the way, we’ve lost something important. We’ve lost the opportunity to enjoy the journey.

Watch this thought-provoking video that compares education to a musical composition.

One Secret to Success

I have a couple of pet phrases that my boys tease me about. One of them is “Do something productive” and the other is “Find something constructive to do.”  I use them interchangeably, often when I am heading out the door, leaving one or more boys at home.

It’s not that I’m a slave driver, never wanting them to have an idle moment to themselves. It’s just that I seem to have an increasing awareness to how much time we waste. And I’m not pointing fingers at my kids as the only ones who are affected. I can be a world class time waster without any trouble at all.

And I don’t have anything particular in mind when I declare that they should do something of value, but I do have some idea what qualifies and what doesn’t. For instance, watching a program on TV can be productive while surfing the channels for twenty minutes is not. Of course, not all TV programs are created equal, and that’s a topic for another day.

Since our homeschool is what I would call relaxed, it’s harder to measure what is productive and I’m the first to admit that some days my list of accomplishments is rather sad. And while I can’t account for every minute, and would probably go crazy if I tried, I do think it’s important to be intentional about how I spend my days. I only have a limited number of them and it seems that they are going by faster all the time.

I try to get my boys to think about how they’ve spent their time each day. They would like to spend it gaming on the computer or sleeping or texting. I would like them to spend it reading and learning new skills and helping others. It’s a challenge to steer them in a direction away from themselves and in a manner that will give them a shot at a successful life in the future. You know, building character and all.

I saw this video and thought it was a great way to visualize how we spend the days that God has given us. I plan to tell my boys to “Do something constructive…watch this video!”

Homeschooling During the Holiday Season

How does your family manage your schooling schedule around the holidays? We’ve tried different methods over the years. Here are some of them.

Keep the same schedule as the public schools. Take just the few days surrounding Christmas and New Year’s Day off and keep to a normal schedule the rest of December. It works okay, I guess. But there always seemed to be way more activities that we wanted to experience but just didn’t have time for.

Take the days from Thanksgiving until New Year’s Day off. While that sounded great at the time, it really was hard to do. We had to work harder the rest of the year in order to pull it off and we had a hard time getting back to work in January after such a long break with little structure.

Use a more relaxed learning style for the holiday season. This is our current plan and what we have done for many years now. We put the school books aside and instead, use the many seasonal opportunities available as our curriculum. Here are some ideas that have worked well for us.

Math – We get plenty of practice with fractions during all the holiday baking we do. One year we made 140 dozen cookies in 26 varieties to give away as gifts. Lots of math practice there! We also have talked about averages and probability when it comes to whether we’d have a white Christmas. And we’ve worked with budgeting our money as we plan to purchase gifts for friends and family.

Reading51388TDMZWL__SL500_AA300_ There are so many wonderful holiday books available for all ages. We have our favorites that we revisit every year but we’ve always kept our eyes open for new books too. We make time each day to read together and enjoy all the special stories that bring the Christmas season to life.

Language Arts –  Writing Christmas letters, thank you notes and Christmas cards provide practice with handwriting, spelling and grammar. We’ve written our own holiday stories, some based on actual experiences and others completely from our imaginations. There are many new words to add to our vocabulary that we only use during the holidays. And cooking and making crafts is a great way to practice following directions.

Social Studies – The study of the history of traditions as well as investigating how other cultures celebrate is an ongoing part of our homeschooling. During the Christmas season, we try to take time to consider how others choose to celebrate. It often involves research skills, map reading, and even crafts and good things to eat.

Science – There is a lot of sIMG_1762cience that can be learned in the kitchen and we spend a lot of time there during the holidays. We also take time to see what we can learn from winter weather. And nature studies focusing on how the animals and plants survive the cold can be a fun part of our school time.

Those are the core subjects, but we can’t forget art and music.   With all these opportunities during the holiday season, we just don’t have time for textbooks and spelling tests. We have so much to learn and only a few weeks each year to take advantage of it. We love our more relaxed holiday season. We never know just what we’re going to learn but we do it as a family, all learning together.

How does your family combine homeschooling with the holidays?


Are You Too Busy?

Several years IMG_9588ago I began reading on a topic that I would call “life priorities.” I was raising a houseful of boys and there seemed to be an endless to-do list that plagued me no matter how hard I tried to check off the items. I also had another list, mostly in my head. That list consisted of activities that all started with the phrase, “someday I’d like to…” Those things were rarely checked off.  In fact, they were rarely even considered because the other list was more urgent.

Charles Hummel’s booklet, Tyranny of the Urgent,  helped me see how warped my priorities had become.  He talks about how we get caught up in what is urgent at the expense of what is important. The booklet was written in 1994 and now, nearly twenty years later, the urgent is even more intense than ever before. Now we are not only fighting the urgent but also the instant. I also read several other books that were helpful as well. One was Margin by Richard Swenson and another was First Things First by Stephen R Covey. All of these authors confirmed what I had been feeling. If I wasn’t intentional, life could get way out of hand.

Now remember, this was years ago, before Facebook, Twitter, smart phones or ipads. How did we manage? An even better question is, why is it that the addition of all our modern conveniences has made our lives more stressful instead of less?

I can’t help but ponder the irony that a century ago, when just managing the tasks of everyday living took so much more time and energy, people seemed to have more time. Folks managed to get everything done and still have time for the people who were important to them. How is it that in our modern era when we have all the most time-saving conveniences imaginable, things that should make life easier, we have calendars jammed with all kinds of urgent activities, and no time for anything?

It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was bringing my first little boy home from the hospital. That little boy turned thirty this year. I am so thankful that I learned long ago to be intentional about choosing the important over the urgent or instant. My boys haven’t been involved in every activity available and I’ve said no to many opportunities over the years. I have no regrets, we have so many wonderful memories of just being a family. We try to take time for the little surprises in life that might go unnoticed if we are so focused on our to-do lists. We try to be intentional about how we spend our time.  Most evenings you will find us home.

If you find yourself longing for a less stressful lifestyle perhaps it’s time to reassess your priorities. Each choice we make shows clearly what we perceive as important. Are you choosing God and family over everything else or do other things push their way into first place?

National Novel Writing Month – How Homeschoolers Can Join in the Fun


If you don’t already know, November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short. It’s a month-long campaign to get folks to write a novel. There is a lot of buzz about it in the writing community and why should homeschoolers miss out on the fun? If you have a homeschool student who is an aspiring writer, give them the heads-up about NaNoWriMo and see what they can do.

So what do you have to do to participate?

Check out the NaNoWriMo website and sign up. This website has a lot of ways to encourage writers who make the commitment to write a book in a month. You can track your progress, get pep talks and support, and meet other writers who have taken the same challenge.

Set a goal for each day of November. A common goal is to write 50,000 words in the thirty days of November. If you write every single day that’s a little over 1500 words a day. But you can write more or less than that, just write!

Don’t worry about editing and proofreading. This challenge is about getting the story out of your head and onto your paper or computer screen. You can make the changes and fine tune your novel later. The goal this month is – just write! Didn’t I say that before?

Give yourself some grace. Life happens, even in November. Some days you’ll find it very difficult to make the time to write 1500 words. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Hey, you are doing something huge here, just write, and have fun while you’re at it. Even if you miss a couple of days, even if you don’t’ end up with 50,000 words, if you have a rough draft of your story you have accomplished a huge goal.

Maybe you aren’t into novel writing. What if you are a blogger and love to write but don’t want to write a book? Well, there’s a group for you too. NaBloPoMo has a website dedicated to bloggers who will commit to posting on their blogs once a day for the thirty days of November.

Even if you don’t feel like you can commit to either group, why not join in the fun in your own way and just see how much you can write in the month of November? You might be surprised at what you can accomplish.

Even the youngest students can set realistic goals that they can reach during the month. Maybe it’s just a few sentences each day. There are no rules! I’m going to attempt to blog as many of the thirty days as I can. We’ll see how it goes! I’d love to hear what you are doing, so leave me a comment. We can all write together.