Christian Heritage Conference

This weekend, my husband and I left the kids with Grandma and went on a retreat to the Christian Heritage Conference with key note speaker Ken Ham. It was not technically a retreat. It was actually a homeschool and family discipleship conference; but, since we stayed in a hotel room without the kids, I’ll call it a retreat. Our family supports Answers in Genesis and the outreach this ministry provides through conferences, curriculum, and the Creation Museum, so we were tremendously exciting to have a chance to listen to Mr. Ham speak in person.

I took away several encouragements during this conference, but want to share 3 of the big ones here with you.
1) It is of the utmost importance that we teach our kids how to defend their faith Biblically in this Greekified culture. Mr. Ham explained the difference between an Acts 2 evangelism, which is spreading the gospel to a society that already has the foundation of God as creator and understands sin with death as it’s consequence, and Acts 17 evangelism when one is evangelizing to a culture in which there are many gods and death is believed to be a natural process of life. America has become an Acts 17 culture. Most have become Greekified, and therefore we, the evangelizing Christians, must be sure to define our terms. By started with Genesis, we can define God as The Creator and sin as the cause of death. We must teach our children that the Bible is the authority and that science proves God’s word is true.

2) The second point I got out of this conference was from a workshop hosted by Jennifer Bliesner about the effects of technology on brain development. Research has shown that technology changes the size and texture of the brain by keeping kids at lower level thinking patterns. Computers only teach through patterns and do not require interaction with language; therefore, higher levels of conceptual thought do not develop when a child is learning at a computer. Bliesner encouraged us to promote empathy in our children by labeling emotions with meaningful words and fostering meaningful discussions within our schoolwork, rather than sitting them at a computer where language rich interactions with a subject do not occur.  Computers and TV are a primary reason for language and information processing disorders in today’s culture.

3) This workshop also confirmed and encouraged my conviction to homeschool for the glory of God. Dr. R.C. Sproul Jr. explained the fact that our children are made in God’s image; therefore, since we are to render to Ceaser what is Ceaser’s, that is a coin with his image on it, we are also to render to God what is God’s, that is our children made in His image. My goal is to educate my children so that they will understand God’s world: how He created it, and how He saved it. God’s Word will equip them for every good work. His Word will be the main text in our homeschooling and our life learning.

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Tim 3:16-17

 

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On Today’s Music

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My drummer boy has been taking drum and guitar lessons for 3 years now. I would have preferred to start him in piano, as this would have appeased my classical tendencies, but since he literally came out of my womb drumming, I figured he had a different path.  His music teacher, however, was a God send. He works very well with my drummer boy’s language disability and has the same humor as my son, which I have since learned is actually a “drummer’s humor.” There is a good mix of silliness and hard work, so we are all happy.

Recently I had a conversation with my drummer boy’s music teacher in which he explained the dumbing down of today’s music and the inferior musicians being popularized in today’s culture.

To paraphrase, he explained that kids are only exposed to music played with 4 basic chords, and these are the songs they want their teacher to teach them how to play. “This is simple,” he says, “and after a few lessons, my work is done.”  He then went on to explain that quality musicians cannot be produced in this fashion. To add to the problem, boys compete by playing louder and faster, which does not surmount to good music; it is just louder and faster. This is his source of frustration, and rightly so. 


I explained to him that my son is mostly exposed to music that glorifies God; however, since we are not fans of hymns, that music is generally composed of those same four chords that cause him grief.

rush

My drummer boy does listen to Rush, and so I wondered if that is what his music teacher considered to be quality. He often has my drummer boy practice pieces by the Beatles, Elton John, and other classical rockers, as well as other forms of music such as jazz, and so he confirmed that at least Rush is one of the better ones. We only exposed our drummer boy to Rush when we were introduced to Neil Pert as a means of exposing our 6 month old drumming prodigy to another drumming sensation. In the last 10 years, my drummer boy has memorized every Rush song and can imitate each band member almost perfectly. He can also imitate our church’s worship band leader, which is much more desirable in my book; however, I am pleased that Rush maintains a higher expression of musicianship than your run of the mill four chord band.

praise with cymbalsThe conclusion of this conversation, resulted in confirmation that his teacher and I are on the same page as far as the direction his lessons should go. It is our desire that my drummer boy composes quality, cutting edge, music that glorifies The Lord. I have hopes that he will greatly influence the world of music with musical patterns and melodies that will send contemporary worship music into a new genre. That he will be the leader of a new musical sound that glorifies The Lord in a way that the world has never heard. In this way, even none believers will be drawn to him and he will point them to the gospel and true worship of The Lord. I pray that through his music many will be saved. 

The Week Before Spring Break

The week before Spring Break had a frustrating start, but ended in accomplishments in growth.

On Monday, I spent about 15 minutes teaching one of the twins how to make circles, again! He seemed to have lost all orientation with the top, middle and bottom lines, but only while making a circle. He consistently writes his capital J in the lines, so I know he understands the concept. We also had to spend a considerable amount of time finding 2’oclock when orientated at the top line, although he understands how to find 2’oclock when he writes his o and a from the midline. This twin’s brain was turned off!

Twins practice cursive
To top that off,  my daughter rushed to play through her piano piece and played the entire thing incorrectly. I think she was hoping that I wasn’t listening. Well I was, so I very patiently, with a smile, went to sit beside her in order to help her play it correctly. The minute I sat beside her, she began to cry! If you have been reading my posts, you know the battles that we have had with the dreaded piano lessons. The piece is only 2 lines long!

But the Monday woes were not over. Both my 7 and 10 year old decided to use their checklists as a race agenda. Each child spent about 5 minutes on each checklist item. At one point, my drummer boy took out a book, looked at it, and then marked his reading log off as done. Really! Both practiced their typing for about 2 minutes and my drummer boy played his guitar for 5.

On Tuesday, the twins decided to switch roles in their cursive practice. The one who struggled Monday, did much better with sticking between the lines, but the other had a melt down, because he couldn’t do things his way. When he needed my assistance, he didn’t want it. Then when he messed up, he got upset. I insisted on aiding him, but he resisted. I do, however, always win!

I added times to the checklists and the kids had fun setting their timers. Their work was of a much better quality and there was no melt down at the piano!

Activity M T W F
ELI
Typing 15 Min
Drums 2 songs
Guitar 30 min
Reading Log 20 min
Drawing

On Wednesday, the twins did the ol’ switch-a-roo again! Both did much better at writing in the lines, but this time it was the others turn to attempt to control the situation through whining. The outcome was the same, however. Mom won!

Sample cursive Caleb sample

 

 

 

Thursday and Friday were pretty low key. I did end up correcting the twins grip. One of them actually writes better with the incorrect grip, so I am reluctant to correct much further. I will, however, gently guide him towards it as he continues to practice. The other twin corrected his grip quickly and easily. And these twins are identical?

incorrect grip incorect grip 2 Cursive J Correct grip Caleb incorrect grip

 

 

 

 

 

 

As for other curriculum news:

Easy Grammar

We started Easy Grammar, Grade 3, a few weeks ago, and we are truly loving it. My daughter and my drummer boy have both memorized the list of prepositions and find the lessons to be quick and painless. I was worried that my drummer boy would struggle through grammar, because of his language processing issues, but he is progressing very well and I am seeing connections forming.

We did have one issue with the order of adjectives to nouns, that told me a lot about how my drummer boy processes and retrieves information.
In the lesson, he had to unscramble the prepositional phrase. The scrambled words read, “old inside an shed.” He unscrambled them to read, “inside an shed old.” I had him read his phrase out loud and then asked him if it sounded correct. He said that it did. Then I read his sentence back to him the way he had written it, and asked him again if it sounded correct. He held to the affirmative. Next I asked him if “the boy young” sounded correct. He thought it did, but when I asked him which sounded better, “the boy young” or “the young boy,” the light went on, and he said that the young boy sounded much better. So then I asked him again if the shed old still sounded correct. He did not connect the two phrases, so I asked him to choose which phrase sounded better, “an shed old” or “an old shed.” At that ah ha moment, he took off, and with only a little more help, completed the lesson correctly and quickly.

ELI

My oldest and my drummer boy have been participating in educational therapy through the Essential Learning Institute for about a year now. I haven’t seen much improvement in my drummer boy’s ability to recall word meanings after an exercise, so I called the therapist for advice.
The therapist decided to move him back several lessons until his word meaning recall becomes more automatic. I had to encourage my drummer boy to persevere through his exercises this week. I explained to him that this will make the brain stronger so that he can learn easier, just like physical exercise makes the body stronger, so that every day life is easier. I believe I was encouraging myself as well, because I am just as sick with this therapy program as he is. The program was only supposed to be 9 months and he would be “fixed.” Honestly, that should have been a red flag right there, but I was suckered in anyway. It is not all for waste though, we have seen tremendous improvement in his language processing capabilities, but is that because of the therapy, or the GAPS diet, or the art classes? How is one to tell? My oldest says that it has helped his concentration, so that is good. Still wondering when it will end though!

Bible/Character Study

We have been studying 1 Samuel and this week we studied the story of Abigail and her foolish husband Nabal. I was amazed that Abigail actually took the blame for her foolish husband’s actions toward David which nearly got them all killed. This was the characteristic trait that I wanted to teach my children. I have been pointing out situations in which they place the blame on another, and ask them to rethink it “Abigail style.” For example, when a younger sibling is playing with legos and leaves the room without cleaning up, and an older sibling is in the room, not playing with the legos, but sees that the younger sibling has left the room without cleaning up, that older sibling should remind the younger sibling of our clean up rule and then help him clean up. Therefore, when I tell everyone to clean up the room, and I hear, “But I did not make the mess!” I can redirect their thinking Abagail style. It is a humbling experience to take the blame for someone else, but Jesus took the blame for us too.

Amanda Bennett Unit Studies

This week we also started our first Amanda Bennett,  Twisting Tornado, unit study. It should only take 4 days, but will probably take us 8. My drummer boy is easily distracted this week, probably due to the Zyrtec, but it is either that or allergies, not sure which is worse, so the study is taking longer than it might when he is better focused.

Encyclopedia

This is our first unit study and we have only completed the first day, but I already love it. I especially love how she incorporates scripture. This gets us out of the box of grammar, spelling, and math as separate subjects and connects it all together. It allows the kids to express themselves and critically think about a subject. This study even had the kids use a dictionary. Oops! I may have forgotten to teach that skill. I look every unknown word up on Google. I guess they should learn how to do both, just in case they don’t have a computer, Iphone, or Ipad near by, which is almost never for my kids. I actually had to dust the dictionaries off!

We chose to study tornadoes because the book club we had joined chose weather as the first month’s theme. Not to mention that ever since we had read “The Wizard of Oz,” the kids have been obsessed with tornadoes. More updates to come on this engaging activity.

That’s the skinny on the week before spring break as we anxiously await the arrival of our beloved family.

Learning the Hard Way

My first and second born are 7 years apart, so I have learned a lot in regards to homeschooling at the expense of the first. Unfortunately, he was sort of the guinea pig. Gratefully he didn’t fair too bad and the 7 years worth of one on one time made up for what I might have done wrong. I am not saying that I am now a perfect parent, but I have learned a few things from the journey of homeschooling my now graduating senior.

My oldest son is 2E. He has always read well above his grade level, is an excellent problem solver, and understands high-level math concepts. He was a difficult child to teach however. We butt heads often and I always felt he just resisted my teaching and me. At the age that he should have been able to do more independent work, he seemed to get slower and lazier. It seemed as if he wasn’t retaining anything. After all the incredible literature we had read and analyzed together, all of the countless hours I had read to him, and all of the spelling and phonics lessons we had done, how could it be that he was still an atrocious speller, takes hours to complete an assignment that should only take 20 minutes and constantly makes what I considered to be careless mistakes? I was certain that he was just lazy and disobedient.

By this time, my second born was about 3 years old and I saw in him a lot of the same developmental characteristic my first born had. Neither of them spoke very coherently until they were about 4, but my second born was much more delayed than my first.  My second born is a musical prodigy, but this gift could not cover his language disabilities, whereas the gifts of my first-born were able to mask some of those same language challenges that my second had. Because of the language delays in my second born, I started to research learning disabilities. Through my research, I discovered stealth dyslexia, auditory and language processing disorders, and the twice-exceptional child. I was humbled and convinced that my oldest had all of these. I was determined not to overlook these issues with my second, but this is a subject for a future blog.

I had assumed that my firstborn’s resistance to school work was because of laziness. Now I understand that he just didn’t get it. The words and information get jumbled up in his head. Information retrieval is not an inherent skill of his. It doesn’t matter how much I read to him, or how often we analyze literature, the information in his head just does not get processed correctly. In the last 5 years, however, things are finally clicking and I think it is because I am seeing “him” and God’s design for him. He is a visionary and science orientated and I wish I had seen that in the beginning. I had on blinders, and could only see my vision for my child, but my vision was not God’s.

Now with my little ones, I look for those things that they delight in, and that drive them and I let them run with it. I don’t get hung up on what lesson they are on, or how much they have read. If my daughter wants to spend the whole day sewing and designing clothes, I let her. If my musical prodigy wants to spend the whole day drumming and playing his guitar, I let him. Fact is that in order to get good at the things they delight in, they have to know how to read, and they have to have basic math skills, so that is how I hook them in.

My second born has to work 5 times as hard as my younger 3 to be able to read and comprehend as well, so I have to ask myself how much of that is necessary in the big picture. Honestly, I believe he was created to be a rock star for God’s glory, so how much reading and math is really necessary? I will teach him the basics and if he wants to know more I will teach it. This was never my attitude with my oldest. It was always that he had to be at this level in reading and math or else I was a failure. Now days, if my children show frustration, resistance, or even tears, I change it and find something that they like. If they aren’t getting it, I stop and bring it back later, sometimes even a year later. I don’t care what level they are at, but only that they know more than they did last year. I focus on the things they can do well. We move as slow or as fast as we want. They play a lot. They create a lot. My younger children know who they are, because I have let them discover the things that they are good at and delight in.

There are many things I wish I could go back in time and do over with my firstborn, but that thinking is futile, so I have picked up the pieces. I have put together those pieces that fit into his personality and have thrown out those pieces that don’t. He has been allowed to pursue the activities that drive him and because of this, he has grown into an excellent example of a God fearing young man who takes great care of his younger siblings and has the utmost respect for his parents. He loves to be with his family and even willingly takes his younger siblings to the movies and on outings with his other teenage friends.  He is a musical composer and mad scientist at heart and I am a thrilled to see where he will go with that. He no longer has that lazy attitude. He willingly tries even those things that are hard, probably because I don’t badger him for taking too long. I keep those assignments that I know will be difficult, short and simple. I am happy if he obtains a basic knowledge of the subject and more times than not, he is now pushing himself to get it right and even to find out more. School time is more enjoyable for everyone, and all of my kids and I have a better understanding of God’s purpose for each one of us. This is homeschooling for the glory of God.