Did this past year of school, in whatever form it took, wipe you out? Did the long, chaotic schedule of traditional school, lots of evening homework and rushing about cause too much stress on your family? Did the lack of structure, the desire for a break, and just the plain old exhaustion of planning and implementing your homeschool nearly kill you?
nOne of the greatest lessons I've been learning in my adulthood is, "You have more power to change your circumstances than you think. You can make changes. You can do something different. You can try something new." This is a motto I've said to myself over and over the past two years as we launched The Classical Academy.
As a previous full-time school educator, and now a mom of five kids under age 9, I quickly grew weary of both schooling traditions- the five day a week, full-time outsourcing of education know as public or private school, as well as the full-time, being in charge of everything type of education known as homeschooling.
As a full-time teacher in a traditional five day a week school, I left school at the end of every week thinking to myself, "This is insane. I love teaching. I love the classroom. I love the community. But this schooling system we've created for our children is out of control. It just keeps getting far more reaching into young children's lives, far more pressing with testing and regulations with every passing year. Even in those full-time teaching days I weekly said to myself, "Give me half the time, along with dedicated parents who take charge of their child's education, and we can give a stellar educational opportunity that absolutely offers the best of both worlds."
I'm an educator. I know there is great value in professional teachers and the school community. But, I'm also a mom and when it came time for my oldest to start kindergarten I simply couldn't put him into that kind of schedule or system. I couldn't launch our family and their childhood years into that kind of exhaustion.
So, somewhat on default, we launched into full-time homeschooling. It had all the perks I was looking for: more time with my kids, the ability to have a little bit less chaotic day to day life, no homework evenings, the ability to craft how they view learning without overemphasizing grades and who is better than who, the ability to avoid over-testing and over-categorizing of students' academic achievements, and the list goes on!
Fast forward 5 years. We added 4 more kids to the mix and life was anything but getting easier. The kids loved being able to have a more flexible home schedule but they also desired to have a little community of friends outside of home and church. They wanted to enjoy teachers besides mom and school community functions that their full-time schooling friends had. So, we did what most homeschoolers did. We joined co-ops. Co-ops work for lots of families, but they didn't work for us. As a mom of five I simply found them utterly exhausting. Not only did I have to drag the three littles along, and usually during naptime, but I had to volunteer and teach, and stay there all day. It was my least favorite day of the week.
I began to research and brainstorm, and had many late night conversations with my husband about what we most desire for our kids education and our family. Jon always asks good questions and this time he said, "If nothing was stopping you, in any way, what would you want for their education and for our family?" The big long string of desires and values that I so easily rattled off came down to this.... the best of home AND the best of school. So with a sleeping newborn tucked into the crook of my arm that night, he said, "Launch it. Let's do it." I looked at this baby and thought of the other four kids older than her and thought, "Surely he must be crazy. Right now? In this season of life?" But the reality was, if we wanted something different, we had to make a change. We had to try it.
So, I got a part-time job and began funding the launch of The Classical Academy.
What about the educational piece of your child's life do you want to change? Either with traditional full-time school or with full-time homeschooling?
*too many hours away from home
*no time for anything in the evenings
*too much focus on testing
*too much homework
*siblings barely ever seeing each other
*no break for mom
*the headache of curriculum choices
*worry over their progress or lack thereof
*just wanting them home more without having to be in charge of everything
*better social environment
*a childhood where they get to actually have more time to play and be a kid
If you want MORE....no one is stopping you, but YOU. Finances? We've been there. We are always there. Get creative! You can most often find a way. You want to see your kids more? You want a more flexible schedule? What are you doing about it right now? The best thing I've learned over the last two years is that we all have choices. If you want to live a different life then you might have to make some different choices. You can't keep doing the same thing and hope for different results.
Scary? For sure. Is it going to cost you? Yes, yes it is (in more ways than you probably think). Is it hard doing something new? It sure is. Is it hard going against what society says you should do to educate your kids? Yes, definitely. But is it worth it? Oh goodness, absolutely!
Change is always hard, no matter what category of life it's in. The difficulty increases when it costs you time, or money, or simply a new way of viewing something. If the change goes against the natural grain of what society is doing, you may experience more difficulty or more peer pressure to not go out and try something different.
But what if the change brought you the breath of fresh air your family was looking for? What if the change allowed your kids to grow up at home with their siblings, to spend more unrushed hours at home than away from home? What if the change allowed less stressful evenings with no homework, time for sports, friends, and family nights? What if the change gave your kids something for themselves- a school community that provided them with all the fun aspects of school but yet didn't overrun their lives? What if the change meant that you gave up planning and choosing the curriculum for the trade-off of getting a break to be the best you can be for your kids, as well as being able to enjoy the days your kids are home, helping with their schoolwork instead of doing ALL the full-time schoolwork? What if the change gave you a break and made you a less stressed out mom?
You may never know the answer to any of those questions if you don't take a step into the unknown, into something different, into something less traditional.
Tired of whatever you are doing that is simply not working or draining the life out of your family? Contact us and come see how Fishers first classical, Christian, university-schedule school may be exactly what you've been looking for!
"How do I help my child fall in love with reading?"
"My son hates to read."
"Reading and decoding words is still difficult for my child. She gets frustrated easily and doesn't want to read."
"My kids hate to read. They would rather watch TV and play video games."
One of the questions I hear a lot in education is, "How do I get my child to love reading and choose books over technology?"
In our current day and age, technology is at our children's fingertips every single day. Between the television, video game systems, iPads, tablets, and phones, there is almost never a day that goes by where our children aren't passively entertained by something flickering and moving on a screen. The constant exposure to screens where children have to do little brain work has undoubtedly caused children to choose screens over books. It's simply easier.
Reading takes effort, and I don't just mean it takes effort by way of decoding and sounding out words (although that is the case for many beginning readers). But reading words on a page, even for an adult, takes more mental and concentrated energy than what's involved with passively watching a screen. A Netflix binge is way easier than reading a book series.
So what do you do? We can't change the culture of technology, and we can't hole our children up and never allow them to see screens or interact with them. But, we can be wise stewards of technology and we can absolutely help our kids fall in love with reading!
The Top 6 Ways to Help Your Child Fall in Love with Reading
1. Get your child to fall in love with STORIES, not books. Some people are surprised by this answer and it's my absolute, number 1 tip for getting your child excited about reading and wanting to read their own books. Stories are at the heart of mankind. Our very being is drawn towards stories. From the beginning of time, the human heart has shared experiences and wisdom through stories, even before the written record of these stories came into play. Humans passed on traditions, cultures, and life lessons orally in the form of a story. Even in the Bible, Jesus often used stories to teach and connect with people.
Decoding words and phonics readers definitely have their place. After all, that's how a child will learn to read for themselves. But there is no story, no true delight, and no satisfying the thirst for adventure, mystery, and intrigue in a phonics reader. And most often, you won't find your child begging to practice the difficult skill of decoding. BUT- you can give them a love for stories!
2. Reading Aloud- Read aloud to your children! It sounds simple- and it is! But, we often forget how powerful this is and often parents stop reading aloud to their child after preschool or once their child can read for themselves. However, reading aloud gives your child the ability to fall in love with stories. Most young children cannot decode reading at the same level in which they would enjoy a story. So what are they to do? Put those exciting, adventurous stories on the shelf until they can read them independently? Only allow them to enjoy stories that are at their decoding/independent level? No way. That's the quickest and most surefire way to kill a desire and love for stories. Reading aloud gets stories into your child's imagination and heart before their ability to read them independently. Childhood is a time to fill up their reservoir with all kinds of adventures through stories. A rich catalog of stories will eventually propel your child to want to read for themselves too.
Tips for Reading Aloud:
* Choose books YOU enjoy. If you hate the book you're reading to your children, you won't prioritize picking it up and reading it to them. You'll also pass off the lack of excitement to them. Avoid the black and white notion that you HAVE to finish what you start. If the book is not enjoyable and not cutting it, pick another one!
* Don't take no for an answer! Typically, toddlers and preschoolers, even early elementary kids won't complain about you reading aloud to them. But if you've already stopped, or they're older, start right away! And yes, even your big kids! They may groan and moan and complain. But this is one of the best things you can do for them mentally, emotionally and academically. It's no different than requiring they eat vegetables because it's good for their bodies. I guarantee you that if you stick with it, they'll begin enjoying it!
* Inspire yourself to join the read aloud movement. Motivate and encourage yourself to pick up books and read to your kids! Here are two of my favorite resources to do just that.
Read Aloud Revival Podcast. This is an incredible resource (and website). Tons of topics about
reading aloud to your kids such as reading to older kids, special author highlights, the best books in each genre, etc. There is a wealth of info here! I often listen while making dinner or folding laundry.
The Read Aloud Handbook, seventh edition, by Jim Trelease. This is an absolute must have family
resource. If you don't have it, go to Amazon right now and buy it! It's that good. All kinds of data and research and best practices for reading with your kids. It will truly inspire you like nothing else! I promise!!! Best of all, a HUGE section of the book is designated to book lists for every age and genre. It's made its way into all my baby shower gifts recently!
* Don't feel tied to the boundaries of a chapter, if you're reading a chapter book. This one has helped me personally the most. I often felt like I had to read the whole chapter. But time is sometimes short or I would be falling asleep three pages in. Ha! Mom life. But, who says you have to read the whole chapter. If you get used to picking up a book when you have five minutes and reading, you will be shocked how much you can cover!
*Give your kids something to do while they read. This is crucial! We often times utilize meal times because their hands and mouths are busy. The other activity my kids love when we read is coloring. They all grab a favorite coloring book, crayons or colored pencils and sit around the coffee table or around the living room and listen while I read. This activity reaches all age categories with the big kid and adult coloring books too! Here's a GREAT list of activities your kids can do while reading. There's something on this list for every age! Even teens!
3. Audiobooks- I'm a mom with five young kids. Reading aloud? I get it. Sometimes it seems like where on earth am I going to find the time to read aloud a chapter book consistently?!?! Enter, the audiobook! The goal is getting quality, exciting, and memorable stories into our kids imaginations. Sometimes the best thing to do is put on an audiobook! Sure, we don't want audiobooks replacing all read aloud time because that strips away the relational aspect of reading to our kids, but there is for sure a solid place for audiobooks.
Tips for Audiobooks:
*Audiobooks are perfect for breakfast time and lunch time. I've found that they help curb the loud chaos of small kids while eating. We bough an inexpensive blue tooth speaker that connects to our phone and we play audiobooks while they eat. My kids have grown to love it! It's another easy and fun way to get stories into their minds every day! Another way to utilize audiobooks, especially during the hot summer months is to use them for rest time. Often times, my kids are outside all morning through lunch, swimming or playing in the sprinkler, and just being kids. By the time lunch is done they're tired and it's usually the hottest part of the day. They often retreat to the living room where I put on an audiobook and everyone plays with something quietly (like Legos, dolls, a craft kit, blocks, etc) while they listen.
*Utilize audiobooks when transitioning out of naps. When my late toddlers, early preschoolers were growing out of an afternoon nap, I found they still needed downtime and I still needed a break. We gradually transitioned to audiobook time. They would still have to go in their room at "nap" time but they could play by themselves quietly while listening to an audiobook. We would set the playlist for however long we wanted rest time to be. We tell them they can come out when the stories are done. They grew to love this quiet time to play and listen to stories and I found them requesting favorites again and again.
*Audiobooks in the car! This is another great way to get books into your daily routine! Instead of turning on the van DVD, get them into an exciting audiobook that they can't wait to hear what happens next. Bonus, it too, can keep a van quiet just like the DVD player. But beware, it might not happen at first. When kids are used to the flickering, mindless screen, they may moan and groan for awhile about having to use their brains on an audiobook instead. But I guarantee if you stick with it, they'll be hooked!
4. Bring them to the library- There's a certain ethos that a library gives off. It's one of imagination, far off places, characters, and other worlds right at your fingertips. Most reluctant readers or kids who say they hate books and don't want to read get excited about the library. There's just something about all those books at your fingertips.
* Stay off the computers. I tell my kids the library is for exploring and choosing books, not for playing games on a computer. There are plenty of other places to play video games and be on screens, and surrounded by hundreds of thousands of books is not one of those places!
* Go armed with a book list. Does it matter what books your kids choose? Absolutely yes, and sometimes no. (Blog post coming soon on choosing books). Your kids will grow to love what you continually put as a feast before them. If all you place in front of their eyes is Dora the Explorer and Thomas the Train books, or dumbed down chapter books devoid of deep story lines and zero complex language patterns they surely won't be picking up the good stuff in middle and high school. High quality books with complex language patterns train your child's brain to process and think a certain way. If you don't train their brains towards those kinds of books, they will give up reading as they get older or never gravitate towards some of the best literature the world has to offer! The rule in our house is that you can look at all the "twaddle" books (character books, dumbed down versions of books, etc) while we are at the library and you can take home five books of your own choosing. The rest of the books we actually bring home come from mom's list. Another coming blog post will detail some ways to find good booklists, but for now, start with The Read Aloud Revival website which has book lists by the month and for all kinds of different categories.
* Utilize the library hold system. If it is too daunting of a task to take the time to walk around and collect the books on your booklist while making sure your toddler isn't ripping all the books off the shelf, put them on hold so pick-up of your good take-home books is already done for you. Then let the kids browse, enjoy the ethos of the library, and pick out their favorite five books.
5. Build a home library. Building a home library can take many forms. This doesn't specifically or only mean you have to have one designated library room. It can take many forms. At our house we converted an under the stairs closet into a reading nook. We hung up spice racks on the wall that are used for book racks and stashed up the floor space with beanbags and put in an overhead light. It's the sweetest little nook. We also have books all over our house. You can't find one room in our house that doesn't always have a stack of books somewhere.
Tips for building a home library.
* Be selective about the books you purchase. Why? Because these will be the books your kids read and re-read, or that you read and re-read to them. They will be the books their eyes gravitate towards during each and every day they are present in your home. Instead of seeing the cheesy TV show character books everywhere that do little to warm the heart and bring beauty and goodness to the atmosphere, let your child see Madeline and Corduroy, Charlotte's Web, and Stuart Little laying around. Again, your child can choose his five "twaddle" books (or whatever you decide) from the library to borrow, but be selective about the books you purchase and have as keepsakes. If you are a student at The Classical Academy your family will receive The Classical Academy Treasury of Children's Literature. It contain hundreds of the best and most beloved books of childhood, the ones you'll want to purchase that will be keepsakes for even the grandkids!
* Go through your owned book stash and clean it up! Provide all the best loved children's classics- both picture read alouds and chapter books at your child's fingertips. It makes a difference. I promise! Keep twaddle from having a permanent space on your shelf.
* Build your library slowly. There's no need to go out and spend thousands at a time purchasing books. A little at a time goes a long way! If you commit to spending even $10 a month on new book purchases it'll build your stash quicker than you think. For every birthday and Christmas our kids always get books as some of their gifts, both from us and grandparents. Utilize used book sales at the library or half priced book stores. Compile a master list of books you want to own and slowly start accumulating them. Two great places to start online are Thrift Books and Abe Books.
6. Give the Gift of Time. It takes time to build a culture of reading in your home and within your kids. Time is something most families don't have in excess. But what we do have is control over our time. We can choose to take things out and we can choose to add things in. It's all about what and how you prioritize. If you want your kids to read, to really read, if you want to enjoy reading to them, you have to actually have time to do it. Kids today are too rushed, too bogged down with activity after activity. They spend WAY too much time in school and they have little time to free range, to explore, to create, and to READ.
Tips for the gift of time:
* Resist the pressure to over-schedule. In the world of social media and Pinterest every mom everywhere has felt the pang of guilt that they haven't created summer minute to win it games with their kids and their friends. Alternative? Kick your kids outside and make them create their own minute to win it games. Resist the pressure to sign them up for every summer camp and every summer sport because they just get super annoying after awhile. Resist the urge to throw them in front of the TV. Will this happen? Absolutely. Actually, right now, all five of mine are watching a show while I work. But is this every time? No. But yes, it's sometimes. Some of the time, do something different. Tell everyone to grab a stack of books, set a timer for 20-30 minutes and tell them to look at books. No they don't need to even be readers. There is absolute value for a toddler and preschooler to be able to sit down for concentrated time with a giant stack of books.
*You have more control and choices than you realize. This was huge for me personally. And, it's why I started The Classical Academy. Realizing that there ARE alternatives to what you aren't happy with in your life has changed everything. Not happy with a chaotic life? Fix it. Can you? Yes. Not happy with the overrun childhood school schedules? Make a change. Want your children to have more time for childhood and reading and just playing? You can have that too. Think you can't change the reading attitudes of your kids? It's too late? Nope. It's not. It's never too late! You can change what you think you can't. Believe that and act on that and you'll quickly see things changing for the better!
Are you interested in exploring the innovative educational model of The Classical Academy that utilizes the gift of time, paired with a high quality, classical, Christian education? Join us June 11th for an informational meeting!
#momfail. Do you feel like your entire life could be written in the #momfail category? I often do! But, fear not!! My friends will make you feel much better about your life (and I'm not telling which one of these is mine). ;)
"I was with a nurse in the elevator at the hospital, in a wheelchair, holding my newborn daughter while my husband brought the car around. A group of people began gushing about the new baby and asked me her name. My mind went blank. I had no idea. I told them, "I don't remember." They looked absolutely mortified. Faces of horror."
"The time I took so long and so many tries to get my child’s birthdate right on the phone that the nurse asked if I was really the mother."
"Left my kids in the car to run into Kroger for a moment and found them screaming “Mom!!!!” through the store in shorts and T-shirt’s and no shoes when it was below freezing out. And they had already been to the bathroom without me."
Walking into the school nurses office and having her look on at me with pity as she referred to me as “the lice mom.” Or even better....when the people at the lice clinic say as you walk in the door “oh this is the mom with cute purses.” No one wants to be known this way....ever."
"The time I left my 6 month old baby home alone while the rest of the family happily drove to meet up with friends. Worst part, I had to literally step over her and open and close the baby gate in order to get down the stairs and out the door."
"Told my little bully of a son who called his sibling fat that “I’d rather be fat than MEAN!”
"Picked up my first grader from the bus stop to find that he had gone to school in a bathing suit and swim shirt. In his defense, I did scream to him that I didn’t care what he wore as long as it matched."
"The time my son broke his arm and I told him to hold his arm over his head to show it still hurts because I didn't want to pay the medical costs. Turns out he had a severe fracture on his elbow."
"3 of my children missed a piano performance because I forgot about it. My mom called 5 minutes after it started because she was worried about us. When I answered the phone she asked where we were and I said “We are at home. Why? Did you want to come over?” She said, “Well...Dad and I are at the piano performance to hear the kids.”
"The time my husband, myself and my two year old were all in an elevator together. The elevator stopped at our floor, and my husband and I stepped out and the doors closed...leaving our two year old ALONE ON AN ELEVATOR IN A PARKING GARAGE."
"I grabbed what I thought was a V8 Fusion out of the fridge and put it in my son's lunch bag. It turned out to be a Shock Top BEER... I thought he was getting his veggies — not so much."
When you missed 5, 6, 7, and 8 months. Last child.
This parenting thing is hard and if you spend any amount of time scrolling social media you can quickly feel like the biggest lone failure with all the picture perfect, filtered photos and posts. But then, creators of hashtags and contributors to #momfail specifically, save the day because suddenly you don't feel so alone in your sticky, slimy, what is that on your face, chaotic world that you feel only you live in.
Failure. All moms feel it. All moms know it. And all moms, at any given point, can list ways they feel like they are completely dropping the ball. Balanced meals, schedules, goals, family nights, reading aloud, Bible time and catechism planned out with the rest of the kids like you did with the first, reading the best literature, having kids who do chores, and kids who contribute to the world instead of taking from it. At any given point you can find a mom who simply feels like she failed on just about every front possible when it comes to their kids. Been there. Done that. Will be there again.
Recently, a fellow educator shared these words about her feelings of panic on whether or not she is ruining her children. I found them so fitting for the constant pressurized world of formulas and do's and don'ts for raising successful and happy kids.
One of the drawbacks to having been in the teaching profession for so long is that it can fill one’s mind with phobias. Teachers see so many sweet little children grow up, and many of them do not turn out the way you would have expected. Many of the model students from my school teaching days ended up connecting with bad crowds in college and made life-altering bad decisions. While some of the rougher students, students who struggled socially and academically, ended up making excellent decisions in college and are still walking with the Lord. “Why is this?”
Several years ago, I was drowning in #momfails. The to-do lists were piling high, goals were left behind, my kids seemed all out of control, and everyone was always tense. It struck us that something had to change. My husband and I made the decision to shift our focus with our children. We changed our focus from being on correct behavior to developing a strong relationship with them.
Focusing on relationship altered our parenting in so many ways. It suddenly made sense of everything that I had seen as a teacher in school. The students who turned out well were not the students who always had great grades (some were, but certainly not all). They were not the students who always looked great. They were not the most popular students. They were not the most socially astute students. And bigger shocker, they were not even the ones who had impeccable behavior and manners. The students who seemed to turn out well were the students who had close relationships with their parents. In most cases that turned into a close relationship with God when the student was on his own. Of course as I looked at my time as a teacher, it wasn’t a paint-by-numbers book. No one student’s story was like another’s, but I couldn’t ignore the number of students who, as kids (even if they were the misbehaving kids) had close relationships with their parents and then, as adults, they had close walks with the Lord.
I thought this was an interesting observation by a fellow educator. I will not for a second lay a formula out that says if you do x.y. and z, your child will or will not turn out like this or that. Because such a formula doesn't exist. But there is something to be said about relationships where the focus is on "relationship." People don't change and grow outside of relationship. This is laced all throughout the Bible. But this fact, this common grace truth stretches across all of human history (whether you are a Christian or not). Change happens within relationship, not within a set of perfectly followed rules, or a perfectly crafted life.
So moms...we don't need a perfect mom score to raise great kids. Love them in relationship. Make mistakes. Apologize. And make mistakes again. Increase the day to day time you spend with them. Be their primary influencer. Be the relationship that gets more hours than the rest. Does it matter? It does. It really does. And no, this doesn't mean the mom guilt "spend more time with your kids and do Pinterest crafts, be the super sweet, silly, fun ridiculous mom that plans all kinds of insane activities and never gets on her phone." It means give them relationship. It means give them quantity. Give them the time and ability to see you live out the glorious mess of the sinner saved by grace. They don't need a perfect mom. They need a mom who makes mistakes and says I'm sorry. They need a mom with a hilarious stash of #momfail moments to share when they are grown. They need parents who bring them home more than they are away. To shelter them? No. To control them? Definitely not. To perfectly craft a bubbled life so they stay out of trouble? Absolutely not..... Then why? Why go through all the trouble to increase family hours, to increase sibling friends, to be an integral part of their education? Because the simple gift of time exponentially grows the ability to love them in relationship.
How can you bring them home more? How can you give your family the gift of time even in regards to education? What if you're not the "teaching" type? What if you want them home more, but don't want to jump into homeschooling? Come hear all about Fishers university-model classical school on June 11th at our next informational night.