Monday, April 25, 2011

The Benefits of Home Schooling

Dear friends,

I'm starting a new little series that I hope to add to every now and then.  For today, just a little excerpt from the first chapter of my first book The Real Life Home School Mom, which is available for free download or on-line reading in the sidebar of this blog,  I have another book, Common Sense Excellence: Faith-Filled Home Education for Preschool to 5th Grade, which is available for purchase.  You can e-mail me at for more information on ordering that.  I also invite you to visit my middle school blog,, my high school blog at, my blog of inspiration and practical tips for mothers,, and my regular blog,

Next time, I'll share about how our family, which now has six school age children and four young adults, got involved in the home schooling movement over 20 years ago.

The Benefits of Home Schooling

Sometimes to keep ourselves on track, we need to go back to the beginning and remind ourselves why we chose to home school in the first place. Let's focus for a few minutes on the visions we had at the start. If I were writing a pro-con list about home schooling, the “pro” side might be like this. Home schooling allows us to:
  • nurture a lifetime love of learning in a natural, affirming atmosphere
  • grow in unity as we spend time learning with and about each other
  • watch our children blossom and know that we played a major role
  • refresh our own knowledge of school subjects
  • direct the education and upbringing of our children (Deuteronomy 6:4-7)
  • present issues in the context of our family's values and beliefs
  • select and customize effective methods and curriculum for each child
  • give individual attention so each child can work at his or her own level
  • weave school subjects together logically and creatively
  • delve deeper into fascinating topics, while cutting out busy work
  • let our children pursue personally motivating interests and projects
  • find out what truly works for our children with learning disabilities
  • protect our children from physical dangers rampant on school campuses
  • reduce peer pressure and competition, while offering positive training and opportunities for socialization
  • set our own daily and yearly schedules
  • train our children in the work ethic and responsible living
  • stay in touch with our child's environment
  • deal with problems promptly in accordance with family policies
  • teach children to make wise choices and set solid standards for excellence using the Bible, good literature, and mature adults as resources.

It sounds exciting, and what's more, statistical research on home schooling shows success. As a whole, home schooled children far surpass the national norm in scores on standardized academic tests and have also excelled on psychological profiles measuring self-concept and leadership aptitude. According to studies by Dr. Brian Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute, the academic scores are not even very dependent on the socioeconomic status, education level, or professional certification of the parents. It appears that the key factor to success is the commitment of the parents to making sure their children receive an excellent education.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Learning on Their Own

Dear friends,

While I try to be very purposeful in planning lessons for my children, I find that so much of their learning consists of what they come up with on their own!

Today, since it is Good Friday, we aren't doing much for formal school.  We finished up our book on World War I this morning, and read the poem "In Flander's Fields" by John McCrae about one of the battlefields.  My 13 year old, Andrew, has been doing his on-line math lessons, but everyone else is doing other things right now.

My 16 year old daughter Lydia is home from public school for the holiday and making biscotti (Italian cookie sticks) with her 10 year old sister, Naomi, who has also been busy making colorful booklets about cubes, cones, triangular prisms and other solid shapes.

Melody painted a green ladder picture with water colors at the dining room table.

Ben put together a small terrarium, soon to be stocked with lizards or crickets.  Micah set up a larger one on the back porch and transferred a grasshopper into it from the big pretzel jar he had been using.

In the afternoon, Naomi and Ben are visiting their married sister Mary, who is planning crafts and swimming for them.  I'm sure they'll love playing with their little nephew Jacob, too!  I can't believe my grandson is 10 months old now!

Here are some other recent pictures of independent learning in our home.

A U.S. map drawn freehand by Micah (6th grade).

Ben (2nd grade) decided to make a map, too!  Our kids inspire each other.

Micah's nature pictures -- more here:

Ben, reading up in the backyard magnolia tree.

 Preparing for their aunt's birthday party


Our largest aquarium out of several -- these are baby convict cichlids that hatched from eggs a few weeks ago.

Andrew, our 8th grader, making a green screen to use in video production

And with the web cam, with the green screen in the background.

A screen shot of a video in which he cloned himself using video effects.

I guess that is one of the beauties of home schooling --
the kids have time to learn things for themselves without me even assigning it!

Virginia Knowles

Monday, April 11, 2011

Easter Card Outreach and the Jesus Game

EASTER CARD OUTREACH by Virginia Knowles

Our family likes to make regular contact with our neighbors to let them know we are thinking about them. Here is an idea we tried several years ago.

Make springtime shapes such as flowers or butterflies from colored paper. With fine-tip markers, letter a friendly greeting, such as “Jesus is Alive! Hallelujah! Happy Easter from....” Sign your names. Then deliver these to your neighbors with some cookies or muffins and a Gospel of John booklet. (You can get these free at If your church is having special services for Good Friday or Easter, be sure to tuck an invitation in with your card! You never know who may come, or what conversations this may open up.

Another way to make butterfly decorations is to use coffee filters and either paint or colored water. Take a coffee filter, hold it with the small end at the bottom, and cut off the two sides. Open it up, then put small blobs of washable tempera style paint in between the two layers. Close it back up again so that the paint spreads symmetrically on both sides. Open it up and let it dry, then cut around the edges to give it a butterfly shape. OR use medicine droppers to dribble colored water on an opened coffee filter. For either kind, make a black body and antennas for it and attach it to the middle.

by Virginia Knowles

My neighbor Marie used to bring over day old baked goods that she picked up for free at a local grocery store. One year, just before Easter, she brought over a huge sheet cake. We knew we couldn't eat it all ourselves, so we decided to have an Easter party for about 10 neighbor children, ages 4 to 11. I decided not to plan anything fancy, just cake, soda pop and the following game.

I gathered up several objects from around the house and hid them in a pillowcase. I blindfolded each child in turn, and had them try to figure out what I put in their hands. Each item represented some facet of the story of Christ. When they said what the "thing" was, I asked everyone, "Why did I choose this item?" I was pleasantly surprised that even the children who don't usually attend a church knew many of the answers. They also thought up some extra ones that I hadn't.

  • apple -- the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden which has been passed down to all of us
  • 3 lb hand weight -- the burden of sin feels heavy on us -- we need someone to lift it away
  • toy lamb -- Passover lamb, sacrifice for sin
  • baby doll -- Jesus came as a baby
  • Band-Aid in wrapper -- Jesus healed people
  • flash light -- Jesus is the light of the world
  • hand towel -- King Jesus washed his disciples feet and set the example as a servant -- this can also represent his burial shroud
  • cross -- Jesus died for us
  • nail -- the nails went through his hands and feet
  • dice -- the soldiers gambled for his clothing
  • rock -- the angel rolled the stone away from the tomb
  • soap -- Jesus washes our sins away
  • heart -- Jesus loves us
  • small house -- he is preparing a home for us in Heaven
  • G, O, and D letter shapes (from a wooden puzzle) -- we can't see God, but he is there!

The game went over very well with our neighbor kids, some of whom had no church background at all. One 2nd grader commented that it helped him think about Jesus and God, so I know it was worth the small effort on my part!  Another year, I used the same game in the four year old Sunday School class, and they enjoyed it as well. The class was big, so we split them into three groups, and had the other two groups do other activities. 

This reminds me of the Resurrection Egg sets that you can buy, which have tiny little symbols inside of plastic eggs. We used to do these each year at our former church's Good Friday picnic, and there are instructions for this in one of the following articles. The benefit of using large objects, though, is that the children can see and handle them more easily, and it lets them guess what each thing is.
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