I have been searching for the perfect curriculum since….

(Drum roll please.)

Since 2000.  A friend showed me her curriculum (Konos) when my pretty little daughter was four.

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We began homeschooling in 2001 with much fanfare and enthusiasm.  I had found Susan Wise Bauer and The Well Trained Mind and I was on FIRE!

Throughout the years, I loved and used Sonlight, Tapestry, My Fathers World, and an eclectic hodge podge pulled from catalogs, recommendations, book lists, Ambleside, and TWTM.

I compared, listed pros and cons, sold curriculum, bought *more* curriculum, and was absolutely bent on using the best curriculum I could find.

It has been seventeen years since I perused my first curriculum and that pretty litte girl has graduated our homeschool.  Goodness, that pretty little girl has almost graduated from college!

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So, seventeen years and what would I do differently and what would I do the same?

I think the differences in who I was as a mama then and who I am now reflects my homeschool choices.   Morning Basket mama, Pam Barnhill, talks about Truth, Beauty, and Goodness, and these characteristics resonate with my soul.

Oddly, often, when mamas talk about these three characteristics, textbooks are shunned.  Speaking as a mama who has a one room schoolhouse going on in her home every morning, I felt that way too.  Originally, following TWTM, I began with Rod & Staff as spines.  Strangely, seventeen years into the journey, I am using Rod & Staff again as my backbone every day.

Am I advocating everyone jump to Rod & Staff?  LOL!  No!  I am saying that if something works well with your family, you have permission to use it.  I found flaws in each curriculum I was using…. A never ending thirst.  Now, older, wiser, more experienced, I am looking beyond the curriculum to the heart of the creators…. I am so grateful to John Holtzmann, to Marcia Somerville, Marie Hazell, Charlotte Mason.  I think it is so important to think about who they are/were and why they devoted their lives to the education of children and their end goals.

Each of these authored and compiled curriculum in the quest to equip and inspire the hearts and minds of children for the glory and goodness of Christ.

Pay special attention to that – each of these people had a goal.  What is that goal?

To EQUIP  and INSPIRE hearts and minds of children for the GLORY of CHRIST.

There is no perfect curriculum but I will confess I believe, firmly, there is one perfect goal.
I want to equip and inspire my children to the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.

It is acceptable for me to use real, living, beautiful books AND textbooks.  It is okay for me to use narration, copywork, or a workbook or two.   I have found that textbooks give me time and permission to get the basics done and then move onto real books, handiwork, or just plain free time to be spent together or alone as individuals.

Ask yourself, on your quest, does this equip and inspire my child so that he is better equipped, wholeheartedly inspired, and growing in Christ?  If it does?  Good curriculum.

We had DS’ senior pictures done last month.  How is it that I see this:

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But what really is now is this:

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Mamas, I know all the old-timers say it, so maybe that makes me an old-timer. 😉

Heed these words: they grow up SO fast.
Love them, nurture them, inspire them, equip them.

If there was one thing I could share with people, it is the necessity to remediate dyslexia.

Dyslexia is an inherited brain type.  This means, most of the time, either mom or dad has been coping and overcoming dyslexia themselves.  Often a parent will say, once they realize they had dyslexia themselves, “I struggled.  I overcame.”  It is true that dyslexics are AMAZING when it comes to compensation.  Their ability to compensate often creates a hard worker, a bright individual who can think outside the box.

That said, why would you send your child out into the world with handcuffs?

Dyslexia remediation lets your child succeed with their amazing brain while giving them the tools they need to truly succeed!

There is much research being done on the concept of neuroplasticity.  The idea that the brain is moldable gives light to the belief that, if remediated, the brain can be trained to read more efficiently and more automatically.  One of the most necessary skills a child will learn in this life is the ability to read.  To be able to read AND comprehend efficiently is a gift.  We owe it to our children to equip them with this ability.  Science has proven that the younger a child is when remediated, the more likely the brain is to adapt.

If you are sitting and wondering (for the 1000th time) if your child has a learning disability and if your child could have dyslexia, can I beg you to get assessed?

There is a huge breath of relief that comes from knowing the hurdle you face.  And once you know your battle, you can stand and face it.  The more you know, the more equipped you are for this battle.  And a battle it is indeed!  However, your child’s dyslexic brain makes them unique, gifted, amazing.  I believe the dyslexic brain is a creation of God, intentional, purposeful, and a gift.  It comes with a challenge – learning to decode, comprehend, and encode the written language.  However, once equipped with the tools to face the challenge, you will find your child winning this battle!

And so it was a full year before we decided to make that appointment to have our son diagnosed.  The two boys presented very differently and because I still wasn’t totally on board with the idea of dyslexia, despite how much I had researched at this point, we chose to make appointments with two separate, reputable professionals.  One was Kelly Arnold of the Northwest Dyslexia Center and the other was Cynthia Arnold,  a wonderful neuropsychologist just outside of Portland, Oregon.

Guess what?  They’re both dyslexic – one moderately and one profound.  The moderate dyslexic READS.  It is a myth that they will not.  As a matter of fact, when tested he read above a 12th grade level – the highest level available for the given test.  But, upon further testing of reading nonsense words, we found he actually could only decode at a 4th grade level.  He was reading purely from memory.

So I asked her, “What’s the harm?  If he reads at this level then what is the point of remediation?”  She explained to me the brain is very much like a computer.  Let’s say your computer is running a huge program.  It bogs down.  It isn’t running optimally, efficiently.  So, while your child finally catches up “reading” around 3rd or 4th grade most often and does generally well through middle school, you’ll find that he will hit a wall again in high school.  Why?  Well, when that brain is running that giant DECODING program with new vocabulary (for example, in Biology) then another program that runs in the background is bogged down. That program is COMPREHENSION.

These kids CAN read.  But when you ask them, “What did you read?” Often they either can’t tell you or they don’t pull as much information as they should have.  In schools you’ll hear from their teacher, “He reads well, but his comprehension isn’t where it should be.”  Ya’all this is textbook.

Let me stop here for a moment and explain something the way it was explained to me.  The dyslexic brain is THE brain to have.  It is the brain of military giants, political leaders, gifted scientists, inventors, mathemeticians, astronomers.  Before the existence of the printing press, these were the people who ruled the world.  They are often highly gifted.  As a matter of fact there are people who believe, reading aside, you could “diagnose” dyslexics based solely from their unique gifts.  I absolutely agree.

My oldest son is past his hurdle of learning to read.  It no longer stymies his academic prowess.  He is intellectually gifted.  It is pure joy to see him succeed now, as a junior in high school.  He has all the gifts that accompany that beautiful dyslexic brain and the reading challenges no longer hold him back.

I cannot encourage you enough – remediate the reading skills.  Don’t let a child question whether he is bright or not based on his reading ability.  Do not allow that to be the measure of him.  Most people who are dyslexic have elementary stories – tales of being in a separate “slow” reading group, being held back in school, being called upon to read aloud much to their shame and consternation.   As a matter of fact, science is currently estimating 50% of prison inmates are dyslexic.  How much did their early academic experience scar their outlook of themselves?

We CAN fix this.  Please join  your state’s Decoding Dyslexia page on Facebook so that you are aware of the legislation going through your state’s House of Representatives and Senate.  Be active.  Be an advocate for your child.

Today was supposed to be Part 2 on Dyslexia.  Forgive me, I’m easily distracted.

It is popular these days to revel in our shortcomings as homeschooling mothers.  I have plenty.  But I don’t believe we are to toss our hands in the air and say, “Well, this is the way I am.”  We aren’t to be stagnant, using our inborn personality traits to excuse a lack of intentional teaching and parenting in our roles as homeschooling mothers.  I am an extrovert… I can’t use this as a reason to flit from one activity to another, never intentionally and purposefully being at home.  And at the same time I have seen introverts use their own quirks to excuse not pouring themselves into their children.  We are not excused.  Recognizing our personality traits is good – through knowing ourselves well, we can recognize our strengths and weaknesses.

I was in Philippians this morning.  I think Paul’s prayer for the people of Philippi is such a great prayer to pray for our own children.
Philippians 1:9

And this is my prayers for you – that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth and insights so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of GOD.

Further in Chapter 1

If I am to go on living, it means fruitful labor for me.

I pray for each of us, as Christian homeschooling mothers, that we would rejoice in fruitful labor.  I am often mindful of John 15 and the the analogy between God as the gardener and true vine and us as part of the plant.  If we are to see fruit in our children, we should be mindfully tending the garden.  We must prune, fertilize, nurture our tender young plants so that they can grow strong and bear much fruit.  We must labor towards this end.

 

Dyslexia.

My life has been forever changed by dyslexia.

The irony isn’t lost on me.  I once believed dyslexia was  a concocted disability… And if it did exist then it was probably over-diagnosed.

God has a sense of humor.  And often from the biggest skeptics He molds the best advocates.

1 in 5

One in five people are dyslexic.  You know a dyslexic, actually, you know several.  That friend who writes emails and can never remember when to use their/they’re and were/where?  Yeah, she’s probably dyslexic.   Your kiddo that struggled mightily to learn to tie his shoes, never was good at nursery rhymes, and  struggled to learn to sound out CVC words? Probably dyslexic.  It’s okay though!  That kid really had a “light bulb” moment… Probably right around 4th grade.  All of a sudden that child could READ!

I had that child.  “He’s a boy,” I reasoned.  Late bloomer.  Active.  Bright.  And, sure enough, age 10/11, he began to read and read and read.  In one year he went from struggling with simple three and four letter words to reading The Hobbit.  All of my concerns were minimized, my belief that he would read in his own time was completely validated, life was grand.  And I did my part to spread the propaganda that kids learn to read on their own timeline and early struggles mean nothing but give them more time.

Shame. On. Me.

I’m sorry.  I was so anti-dyslexia that when a friend came to me and said, “Kelly, I really think you should have your son evaluated.  I see in him several signs of dyslexia,” I flashed her a partronizing smile.  (This was our second son.  He was about six at the time.) She further explained that one of her own children was dyslexic.  And in my ignorance I said, “Almost every homeschooling mother I know has thought she might have a dyslexic child.  If you just keep plugging at phonics, slow and steady, they read.”  I was confident.  Still, my beautiful friend was tenacious.  She insisted we go hear a wonderful speaker, Kelly Arnold, from the Northwest Dyslexia Center.  Kelly Arnold is the best speaker I’ve heard so far and I’ve heard a few, including Susan Barton twice.

I went.  I dragged my husband along.  I figured it was the only way I was going to be able to say, “We listened.  We’re confident in our path for him.”

About ten minutes into the lecture our world tilted.  The light began to go on and not only were we realizing our sons (plural) and one daughter had all the trademarks of being dyslexic, so did my husband… Right down to the “horror” stories of elementary school – being put into speech class, the slow reading group.  He despised being asked to read aloud.  He hated rading, didnt like spelling tests and, to this day, worries over spelling something wrong in a work email.  Keep ’em short, sweet, to the point, and there is less room for errors.

We walked away from that speaking engagement that evening with our eyes wide open.

And yet……….

And yet there is a tiny piece of you that wonders if you aren’t a bit of a hypochondriac.  Did you make the symptoms “fit” because it was convenient?  Because she was such a compelling speaker?   We did nothing.  As a matter of fact it was almost a year before we decided to have the boys professionally tested.  Separately, by the way.  We actually had them tested by two entirely different professionals so that I could be more certain of the results.  I was *not* a believer.

More tomorrow………

What inspires us to be patriotic?  A shared heritage? Traditions?  Culture?  Shared goals and thoughts towards the future?

Our citizenship within our families is all of those things. Are you nurturing the same? I’ve seen strong families bonded by sports, by board games, by a love of reading, by debate and discussion, by quirky sense of humor.   Find it – those things that make your family special and nurture those characteristics.  Seek out ways to continue to grow and nourish a strong family culture and traditions – somber as much as fun and carefree.  Both are treasures.

One of the greatest blessings to our family has been our introduction to board games…. Traditional American games like Sorry! and the more popular Euro games like Catan that are catching on everywhere.  This has especially been a great way to connect with our teens – to set aside and carve out time to spend with them.

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I cannot emphasize enough to you that beginning traditions in which your older children and their friends can participate has great value.  So often we invest in teaching our littles and spending time with them, that we just aren’t sure how to change and continue family traditions when they get older.
Eurogames are more expensive than traditional games, however, we think they are a worthy investment.  They are a great gift idea for grandparents, family gifts, and collections.
Our favorite family games: If you’re looking into branching out, try Catan.  It is a great intro game and has many extensions to encourage new and exciting scenarios.  When you’ve advanced beyond Catan, our current favorite is Agricola.  Our older kids love Seven Wonders and Dominion.  For the younger set?  Ticket to Ride!  This is one of my husband’s favorite games.  Pictured above is Carcassone.  This is a game my husband and I play almost every morning over coffee.  We think it makes a cute couple game… As long as you aren’t too highly competitive.  And if you are (I am) then it’s a good start to learn to play for joy.