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In Praise for the Average

A good few years ago I read the book “Blessings of a Skinned Knee” by Wendy Mogel. In the opening chapter of her book the clinic psychologist described a new phenomena, in which parents were welcoming the news their children had a “diagnosis”. When parents were told the “good news” that their child was normal she was met with disappointment. “If nothing was wrong, if there was no diagnosis, no disorder, then there was nothing that could be fixed.” Mogel writes. Re-defining Special The problem was that we have created a culture in which everyone is special, and this creates a problem, because not everyone is special. Let me explain: my children are special, they are very special- because they are my children. Do I have a family of geniuses? Are the child prodigies? No on both counts, they are in fact normal kids, and thus they are no more special than the next child. By making everyone special negates the fact that most people are not. Most children are not maths geniuses, or reading fluently by age 3. So when we see our child struggling or just plain failing in an area we need a reason. And averageness is not a worthy reason. We not only want a reason, as parents we feel like we have failed them. That there is something wrong. What’s Wrong with Average? At what point did average become as sin? When did not racing geniuses make us failures? I’ve been meditating on these things lately and by coincidence I read a quote in Ann Voksamp’s latest blog post, by D.L, Moody “If this world is going to be reached, I am convinced that it must be done by men and women of average talent. After all, there are comparatively few people in this world who have great talents.” There are very few Einstein’s in the world. An yet God has called us to affect the world- whether that is telling the multitudes, or being faithful in the small circle He has placed you. God doesn’t judge value or success in size and numbers. He isn’t going to use that extraordinary person in the pew next to us, because he’s not that extraordinary. He’s going to use all of us ordinary people. In the homeschooling world we do see the families who have children graduating with degrees aged 13. But these are the exception. Most of us have our average children, who struggle with their times tables, still don’t get the difference between their and there, and think pumping jokes are the height of...

What Our Homeschool Looks Like this Year

This year we have taken on a Charlotte Mason flavour to our home school. I have always looked on with admiration at the method, but never knew quite how to go about the method with children of multiple ages. One friend who I look up to as a Charlotte Mason devote told me that they introduced things bit by bit over the years, not trying to do everything at once. With this knowledge I have moved in that direction. We do not rigorously follow a Charlotte Mason curriculum but have taken little steps in that direction. Introducing Charlotte Mason for the boys I have used the book list found on Linda Fay’s excellent website Charlotte Mason help. I find her curriculum less daunting than the one found on Ambleside Online, although this is still an excellent resource and I use it frequently. For the boys I am starting them all, regardless of age, on the history books listed for Year 1. The reading list here, even for my nearly 10 year old has something for each boy to take something away from. We read the material and then do dictation based on the material read. This is adapted for the different boys. The younger boys use the year 1 material for general literature reading and poetry. Whereas for Noah I have used some of the material from the year 3 schedule. This seemed a good place for him to begin, however I do not use the history books for him here. He is also doing Apologia Science this year, he chose to study Astronomy, and he is enjoying it. The boys also do copy work year day, Noah from the Bible, and Jude from a free printable booklet off of Simply Charlotte Mason. For maths the two older boys are using Galore Park maths books, and Thomas who is just starting this year is doing the Maths Enhancement Program, this is a free curriculum devised by the University of Plymouth. I still do a little text book work for the boys. Thomas is doing the Jolly Phonics program, and Jude Jolly Grammar. Noah is using Galore Park Junior English books- I have not been brave enough to leave the text books totally behind. The younger boys are also doing Mystery Science, a free online science program. Starting Secondary “School” Rebekah who is now of an age for secondary school, has started using Omnibus books. These are a very comprehensive series of books which teach history and literature from source texts. The books are written from a classical perspective. She...

Summer Holiday 2016…Is Here :)

I always like to have some sort of plan for summer: last year we made a “sunshine list” (basically a bucket list written inside a sun, with activities to bring a little bit of sunshine into even a Scottish summer), and on other years we have done traditional bucket lists. This year after reading Sally Clarkson’s latest book “The Life-Giving Home” I was inspired to do a historical summer holiday. In “The Life-Giving Home” Sally and her daughter Sarah share how they would do historical road trips in the summer. Where they would chose a theme and visit historical sites linked to that theme, for example the Civil War. This would enable them as a family to immerse themselves in a particular time in history. Although we are not going to do a road-trip, we are going to choose a period of Scottish history and explore it by visiting locations linked to that period. This year we have been looking through Scottish history, so I thought it would be good to visit sites linked to Mary Queen of Scots. This was a period in Scotland’s history in which the country went through tremendous change: both religious and political. It can be a complicated period for a child to learn about. By visiting various sites the memories created will, hopefully, bring history to life. The idea is not so much rigorous academic study into a subject, but the development of our minds, the creation of memories, and the building of a heritage rooted in where they are from. We learn a lot about ourselves from studying history. To prepare for this I have drawn up a list of sites which have played a key role in the life of Mary Queen of Scots. Some of these we have visited before, so may not visit at this time- concentrating on new places. This has the added fun of two boat trips. The young Mary was kept on a small island on the Lake of Monteith, to protect her from the English who wished her to marry the young Edward VI. And another boat trip on Loch Leven to the site of the Queen’s imprisonment for a while. In doing the list I have found that we have enough sites to go to at least one per week over the summer holiday. In visiting our first castle, a ruin on the east side of Edinburgh, as well as learning what role the castle played in Mary Queen of Scots’ life, they also had a jolly good time. They had the joy of...

The Benefits of Reading Biographies

My big girl and I have been having a read-aloud together for a while now. She’s a very competent reader in he down right- she doesn’t need me to read to her, in fact she kept me right with the Elvish whilst I read aloud Lord of the Rings! But she still enjoys being read to, and it is a special time for us to spend together. About a year ago I started to concentrate on reading Christian biographies as her read aloud. These are not the children’s versions of biographies, but the kind I would read. This practise has been of benefit to us both. We are both partaking of the pearls that the patriarchs of the faith have gleamed. From Corrie Ten Boom we were inspired by her faith under great trial, and we’ve been inspired by those who lived by faith for their every need: living lives of prayer. I found last year the biographies we read inspiring for myself. They helped me remain focused despite the struggles we were facing. They helped me stay faithful in prayer, when I felt like giving up. Seeing how God acted through the faithfulness of his servants encouraged me to trust in the God who never changes. Reading biographies of those who have gone before: men and women with the same failings as us all, and yet doing extraordinary things for God creates a treasury of testimony to draw upon. The Bible teaches us to “keep the testimonies” of God: “Ye shall diligently keep the commandments of the LORD your God, and his testimonies, and his statutes, which he hath commanded thee.” Deuteronomy 6:17 Deuteronomy 6 also impresses upon us the importance of passing the testimonies of God onto our children. By reading biographies of the men and women of God who have gone before us we pass on the testimonies of what God has done in their lives. The Hebrew word for testimony comes from the root word meaning to “do again”. This is why testimony is so important. They teach us that the God who was faithful in the Bible, who did extraordinary things for His people thousands of years ago, has been doing extraordinary things throughout his dealings with men, and therefore will do extraordinary things with us too. Share this:PrintFacebookTwitterEmailLike this:Like...

Keeping Your Vision

I lay in bed almost paralysed by fear and hopelessness. The grey morning light of a winter’s morning in Scotland beginning to illuminate the room. I could hear the boys in the other room, playing and chatting away. A pretty normal morning. Except for the crippling fear, the exhaustion making me want to hide from yet another day. This was how the days met me in my early pregnancy with John: the combination of grief after Lucy’s death and the fear that John too would be born with ARC was almost unbearable; and I had to still get up everyday and raise my four children, educate them, keep the house, and cope with the issues that accompany first trimester pregnancy. These were hard days. I knew if I did not find a way to cope all of us would suffer. I’ve noticed that a lot of hard things can happen in a child’s life but if mummy has it together they can cope with it. But even with little problems, if mummy is losing it then everyone is all at sea. In the charismatic church we can major a lot with “God’s plan for your life”, when we talk about God’s Plan we are thinking big, purpose of life stuff. But in this season I learnt the value of focusing on today. What was God’s Plan for today? God had given me four wonderful healthy children- they were his plan for me today. Keeping my vision in the small things of life, the day to day and mundane things helped pull me through. It’s easy to drown in a sea of grief, to allow despair and hopelessness to win. But it’s vital to find the hope for each day. “Where there is no vision, the people perish:” Proverbs 29:18 For me it was important to maintain my vision for the here and know. I focused on homeschooling with renewed intentionality, I read books that affirmed my role as a mother, and I spent time with people who would encourage me. I found great comfort and encouragement reading Sally Clarkson’s books. I shut out the “voices” that would make me feel pressure to be what I was not, and could not be. And now that John has died I again recognise that need to recalibrate and renew my vision for today. I think part of the nature of grief must rob us of our vision. Share this:PrintFacebookTwitterEmailLike this:Like...

Longterm Vision for Creating a Learning Culture

It’s that twilight zone of a week, the weird non-week between Christmas and New Year. A busy December has left me tired, I don’t want to do much to be very honest. The weather has been truly rotten this festive season, so we have spent much of it in doors. The year we enforced a no video game/ console games ban for Christmas presents and it has worked, so they have not spent this week playing new electronic games. Every morning the boys like to check if it’s still holiday time, if they still don’t have to do any work. And they are delighted to learn they are still off! I’ve not been super-mummy making a lot of fun activities happen, to be honest I’ve tried to do as little as possible. But something wonderful has been happening. Jude’s miniature digital piano he was given at Christmas has become a focal point of learning. The three oldest children all spending time each day trying to learn the piano, and not just plonking on keys in an annoying fashion, actually working at mastering little songs. Noah has picked up a chapter book- and this boy who has lacked so much confidence with his reading and the ability to read independently; he is going off alone and is reading, then telling me excitedly what his little tale of rabbits is all about. My only organised activity was the creating of thank you notes, this led Noah to look at Youtube videos on how to draw, which has led to all the boys spending hours (literally) drawing, and trying to do it well, to master something. As well as this the boys have been putting on dance performances to entertain us. And Jude has been creating wonderful things in lego. I’m amazed at how much “learning” has happened this week… and the boys are none the wiser :). What this has taught me is: by limiting gaming, by creating an atmosphere where learning is natural children will by themselves choose this path themselves. This does require longterm vision. It means working with them so they acquire the tools to go further themselves. Although Noah has found reading a struggle we have focused on making good quality books a central part of our home, so reading is part of the family culture, so as he himself gains the skills to read independently he will choose it as a natural past time. But if we furnish children with easy boredom fixes- copious gaming devices, endless television, DVDs a plenty then they will choose the...
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