Our Curriculum This Year

The students at Terrace Hill Academy are crazy!

The students at Terrace Hill Academy are crazy!

School has been in session in our household for almost 3 months now.  We are tending to start a little later in the morning than I would generally like due to my early morning fatigue (thank you, pregnancy).  However, we are learning a lot and having lots of great discussions, and I am really enjoying seeing the academic growth of my children.  The difference between this year at this time and last year at this time is vast.

This year, Terrace Hill Academy has 2 students enrolled:  one in 2nd, one in 3rd.  There are also 2 preschoolers present in the household, making things fun and a bit crazy. One is 3 and is full of life and passion and energy.  The other recently turned 5 and the day he did so, he developped a sudden and avid interest in school.  This child is a fascinating combination of easy-going and totally persistent.  He’ll say, “I’m hungry mommy, can I have a treat?”  I will reply, “No, it is not time for a treat.”  He’ll say, “Ok, mommy.”  A few minutes pass.  He’ll say, “I’m hungry, mommy.  Can I have crackers?”  I’ll answer, “No, honey, it is not time for crackers.”  He’ll reply, “Ok, mommy.”  A few minutes pass.  He’ll say, “I’m hungry mommy.  Can I have a cheese stick?”  Then, unless dinner is minutes away, I finally offer him an apple or a carrot.

So he has been doing this with school.  “I want to do school, mommy.  Is it time for my school yet?” (Repeat this according to his pattern, as described above.)  I can’t resist him for two reasons:  1.  He’s interested!  Let’s not let all that great enthusiasm go to waste!  2.  He will drive me completely mad if I don’t do something to get him to STOP ASKING.

So, these are curriculum choices and academic plans for a 3rd grader, 2nd grader, and a “Transitional Kindergartner” (whose occasional school buddy is the 3 year old preschooler).

Elementary School (2nd & 3rd grades):

Bible– We are reading through the New Testament and will learn 10-12 new hymns  (Transitional Kindergartners and Preschoolers are required to be present at this time)

Phonics and MathLanguage Arts includes phonics, copywork, reading, and literature

      Phonics– We complete one lesson per week in Logic of English D, spending 5-10 minutes to complete one section of the lesson each day  (We finished Logic of English C a few weeks ago).

      Copywork– My 2nd grader and my 3rd grader each select a sentence or passage from our literature, history, or science book, a verse from a poem or hymn, or a passage from the Bible. They may not repeat the genre in the same week, so they are exposed to a variety of different types of works and sentences.  I plan to find some proverbs, quotes, and wise sayings to include in their options.

       Reading– My 2nd and 3rd graders each have an Independent Reading Notebook where they keep a log of the books they read.  We also chart the types of genres they are reading, keep  track of their reading goals and have a place for recording their responses to their reading.  I assign only a very few books for them to read themselves (at this time), and for the most part let them choose what they will read.  We visit our local library weekly and I try to assist or guide their choices a little bit, hoping to whet their appetite for good, living books that are at their reading level.

Reading Notebook

       Literature– I read aloud living chapter books that either correspond to the history we are studying currently or that I think my children would love.

History– We are finishing The Story of the Romans and then will move on after Christmas to The Story of the Middle Ages.  Both of these books are from Nothing New Press and are very interesting and enjoyable to read.  We also supplement with a number of living history biographies and books about specific topics in history.

Science– We finished Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Astronomy and have just begun Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Botany.  We will take many (hopefully weekly) nature walks to observe and explore creation firsthand and take special note of the plants that are all around us.  We will also read Seed Babies and Little Wanderers as they correspond with my Boatany lessons.


Math– My 2nd grader is working her way through Singapore Math 2A and will begin 2B this year.  My 3rd grader completed 2B a couple of weeks ago and is now working his way through 3A.  Playing AnimaLogic is a fun math class reward or enrichment and both my 2nd and 3rd graders enjoy the logic puzzles this game provides.  We are also participating in a monthly Math Group with other homeschoolers in our area who use Singapore Math.  It is a great opportunity for my kids to work with other kids to solve problems and gives them plenty of concrete, hands-on practice with mathematical concepts appropriate for their level since the mom who leads it has SO MANY awesome math manipulatives.


Extras– The plan is to do Art Study, Composer Study, Poetry, Geography, and Nature Study each weekly.  We are also working our way through Speaking Spanish with Miss Mason and François and watching our Whistlefritz Spanish videos.  We also try to spend some time drawing and doing handicrafts.  I’m sporadic at best at arts and craftiness, but I am trying to get better.


Transitional Kindergarten & Preschool

Letter of the Week– We are focusing on a letter each week, reading quality picture books that highlight that letter and completing a page for a personal alphabet book.  Both Z-urchin (5 year old) and Shortstop (3 year old) participate in this and LOVE it!


Number Sense– We will be working on understanding number bonds in the numbers to 10 by focusing on a different number each week or two and spending a good amount of time on number bonds of 10.

They are also creating number cards

They are also creating number cards

Extras– Our kids have a blast during our weekly visit to the local children’s museum where we have a membership.  I purchased three games/resources to use with my Transitional Kindergartner: Penguins on Ice, Logik Streetand Miniluk.  Z-urchin absolutely loves these activities- in fact, we all find them fun and intriguing.  I highly recommend these resources!  I am hoping to do some fun sensory and science experiments and activities with my preschool boys this year.  They also watch Leap Frog and Reading Rainbow with our Netflix Streaming subscription.  I love these programs for they are engaging and educational and give me a solid- peaceful- half hour to focus on schooling my older two.




Happier Homeschooling: Free Time

Sometimes you really need to close the books and build a tent that takes up your entire living room.

The tent takes up half the house

Along with teaching to your kids’ learning styles and incorporating nature study into your curriculum, one of the greatest benefits of homeschooling is the free time your kids have at their disposal.

With the video games and television firmly turned off (usually, anyway), free time is an extremely important part of our daily schedule.  They are free to explore their interests, paint, do crafts, climb the apple tree, play with their toys in new creative ways, dress up and act like animals, create games, draw, get messy, make mud, and enjoy childhood.  Free time is a beautiful thing.

Climbing the Apple Tree

Climbing the Apple Tree

Painting Wilbur after reading a chapter from Charlotte's Web

Painting Wilbur after reading a chapter from Charlotte’s Web

Playing with Angry Birds Jenga- making his own creations to knock down

Playing with Star Wars Angry Birds Jenga- making his own creations to knock down

Time to be a Bunny Rabbit- complete with carrot!

Time to be a Bunny Rabbit- complete with carrot!

Working with the pebbles & creating a board game for the family to play (with extremely complex rules)

Working with the pebbles & creating a board game for the family to play (with extremely complex rules)

Making Mud

Making Mud

Free time is incredibly valuable in teaching the kids to take initiative, to begin and finish projects, and to cooperate with others as they practice these skills in this little microcosm alone or with their siblings.  It is time for self-directed sensory and hands on play and learning.  Protecting free time in our daily schedule is as important as making the time for reading and math instruction.  It is vital for a happy homeschool day, and for well-educated, well-rounded, independent kids.  And I get a little break too, which might be a factor in how carefully I guard this time.  It’s fun for all of us!

Happier Homeschooling: Teach to their Learning Styles


“Teach your kids about how they learn: this is the most valuable thing you can do, because they will have that forever.”

~Mariaemma Pelullo-Willis, cofounder of The Learning Success Institute and coauthor of Discover Your Child’s Learning Style

One of the greatest things about homeschooling is that you get to teach your kids according to their personal needs, styles, gifts, and interests.  Your kids are free to develop in their own time, rather than forced by predetermined schedules to learn and be tested on things they are not ready to do and thus feel shame or learn to hate something they might have come to love.  You are free to create learning environments that are tailored to the needs of your own children and experiment with a variety of methods to see which one your child responds to the best.  If you plan and prepare and teach to your child’s needs and interests, you will find them happier, more motivated, and more interested and excited to learn.

It is also extremely important that your kids know how it is that they learn best.  For if they learn how they learn, if they are free to develop their own interests and talents, and they experience the confidence that comes with having their own learning styles and personalities respected, they will be prepared for a life that is filled with learning and purpose.

So what do you do?  Here are a few things I’ve done (or plan to do):

1.  Educate yourself about the various learning styles.

I really like The Learning Success Institute’s system for profiling learning styles.  They describe 5 aspects that make up each person’s individual learning style:  Disposition, Modalities, Interests, Talents, and Environment.  The learning disposition, or personality, forms the foundation for your learning style.  It describes how the world views you as a learner.  The modalities are the various ways we take in, process, understand, and remember information.   Interests and talents will guide individuals in their focus and the environment where one learns best can provide the setting for success.

I recommend listening to the podcast Learning Styles: The Key to Confidence & Success or reading the book, Discover Your Child’s Learning Style.  Then go through the process to discover your own learning style so you can see how you are similar and different than your children and your husband and therefore help you to respect and value the differences you find.   It can also give you tips and techniques for getting more out of sermons or seminars, conventions or workshops, and so that you can learn better what it is you then need to teach your children.


2.  Observe Your Child(ren)

After you have educated yourself about the various learning styles and therefore understand what to look for, watch your children as they learn, play, interact, and relax.  Ask them questions about their interests, what they want to do with their free time or their future, and about how they like to learn.  Watch to see what motivates them and what deflates them.  Observe how they learn in different subjects, as a person’s preferred modality may differ from subject to subject.

If they are old enough to take an assessment, you may consider having them go through the learning style assessment at the back of the Discover Your Child’s Learning Style or on the Learning Success Institute’s website.

Developing her interest in cooking

Developing her interest in cooking

3. Use a Variety of Methods in the Various Modalities in your Daily Lessons

Regardless of anyone’s individual learning style, the more ways you present the information to your students, the more connections are made in their brain and the better they will know and understand the material.  Then in using the various methods, you have more opportunities to observe your children to see the dispositions they possess and the modalities they prefer.  Incorporating the students’ interests in the curriculum or lessons can increase their motivation and delight in their studies which increases retention and understanding.

The modalities include visual print and visual pictureauditory listening and auditory verbalkinesthetic-tactile sketching, kinesthetic-tactile writing, kinesthetic-tactile hands on, and kinesthetic-tactile whole body.  

Here’s what this looks like in our homeschool:

Kinesthetic-Tactile Bible Lesson: The Creation of Man from Dirt

Kinesthetic-Tactile Bible Lesson: The Creation of Man from Dirt

       Bible:  We sing a hymn (auditory listening and verbal).   I read the story (auditory listening) while illustrating it with flannelgraph or occasionally a painting or illustration from a children’s Bible (visual picture).  I allow questions at natural breaks in the reading (for those learning dispositions- such as the Thinker-Creator- who ask questions based on their seemingly randomly connected thoughts) and because I allow this,  we will often discuss important theological or moral concepts which is perhaps the most meaningful and significant learning that we do in our homeschool as a whole.  After the reading, I ask the kids to tell me back what happened (auditory verbal) and then I will occasionally have them draw a picture of what we just learned (kinesthetic-tactile sketching) or act out the story (kinesthetic-tactile whole body).

Kinesthetic-Tactile Writing

Kinesthetic-Tactile Writing

      Language Arts:  We review phonograms and their sounds (visual print, auditory hearing, auditory verbal).  We play games to learn and review phonograms (kinesthetic-tactile whole body) and we do worksheets (kinesthetic-tactile writing).  It is incredibly motivating to my Performer (disposition) son to compete but it is vital to my Relator (disposition) daughter that we do not.  So I compete with my son- often humorously, which also motivates him, and  my daughter and I cooperate together in her version of the game.  Then they both learn!

Today we played a game where I put the phonograms and blends I wanted to practice on cards on the ground and gave instructions, such as, “Skate to the beginning blend in skate,” and “Hop to the middle sound in hop.”  My son and I competed (and kept score), my daughter just joyfully followed the instructions.  This game used the kinesthetic-tactile whole body and the visual print and the auditory listening modalities.  After the game was over, they told me, “Can we do that again?  That was fun!”

  We do not yet do grammar, as they are both too young for that, but you could use the same ideas: obviously worksheets, interactive activities, conversations or games that use listening, speaking, pictures, print, writing or their whole bodies.

   For handwriting, we are learning cursive and I show them the letter and how to form it while explaining verbally how it is formed (visual picture/print and auditory listening), then we form the letter in the air with big arm movements (kinesthetic-tactile whole body), they may trace it with their finger or in sand or rice (kinesthetic-tactile hands on), and then write the letter on a white board or on paper a few times (kinesthetic-tactile print).  Finally, they look at their letters and select their favorite one (visual print).

        For literature, I read them a picture book (visual picture and auditory listening) or a chapter or section from a book without pictures (auditory listening).  We often informally discuss vocabulary, themes, or other questions as they come up (auditory verbal).  Then they draw a picture of something from the book (kinesthetic-tactile sketching) and then they narrate the book or chapter or section to me and I write it down for them on their paper (auditory verbal).  Sometimes, during or at the end of a larger chapter book, we will do an activity, such as making maple syrup candy when we read Little House in the Big Woods (kinesthetic-tactile hands on).

Kinesthetic-Tactile Hands On Math Manipulatives

Kinesthetic-Tactile Hands On Math Manipulatives

      Math:  We use RightStart Math, which means that our math lessons are full of manipulatives and games (kinesthetic-tactile hands on).  Some problems are given verbally (auditory listening) and require a verbal response (auditory verbal) and there are some worksheets and visual aids (visual print, visual picture and kinesthetic-tactile writing).  Often I will incorporate their interests (such as video games, mazes, baking, parties, friends) in the word problems I give them which has helped in their enjoyment and motivation in this subject.

Field Trip to the Egyptian Museum

Field Trip to the Egyptian Museum

      History:  I read the chapter, book or section to them and show them illustrations as I have them available (auditory listening, visual picture).  They draw a picture illustrating what we just read (kinesthetic-tactile sketching) and then narrate to me what they remember from what we read (auditory verbal).  We occasionally go on field trips or do hands-on projects (kinesthetic-tactile hands on).

Kinesthetic-Tactile: Pretend Cuneiform in Playdough

Kinesthetic-Tactile: Pretend Cuneiform in Playdough

      Science:  I read the selection for the day while they look at the pictures and illustrate what they are learning in their science notebooks (auditory listening, visual picture, kinesthetic-tactile sketching) and then they narrate to me what they learned (auditory verbal).  We often to hands-on projects and experiments (kinesthetic-tactile hands on).

      Foreign Language: We are using Speaking Spanish with Miss Mason and Francois, so we learn a series every two weeks.  We listen to the teacher say the series (auditory listening) while we act out what the teacher is saying (kinesthetic-tactile hands on/whole body).  Then we practice saying the series while acting it out (auditory verbal, kinesthetic-tactile hands on/whole body).

      Art/Music/Poetry Study:  For art study, I show them a painting (visual picture), then we talk about it (auditory verbal).  For music study, I tell them about the life of a composer and we listen to their music (auditory listening).  I also read poetry that has been illustrated with pictures to them and they often request their favorites (visual picture, auditory listening). 

Free TIme Fun

Free Time Fun

      Free Time:  My kids are given plenty of free time in which they jump on the trampoline or climb the apple tree in our back yard or play dress-up (kinesthetic-tactile whole body), or play in the sand box or with the pebbles in our back yard (kinesthetic-tactile hands on).  They often choose to create books or other artwork or work on crafts (kinesthetic-tactile hands on/sketching/writing).

Right now,  I have a second grader (who can read, but doesn’t enjoy reading- and can’t easily comprehend what he’s read aloud), a first grader (who is not a fluent reader), and two preschoolers.  Therefore, not much of my information is given via visual print and not much is expected out of them via kinesthetic-tactile writing.  The opportunities to use these modalities will increase as they develop these skills in their own timing.  Meanwhile, I am delighted to read to them, so they learn to love stories and to have them narrate to me while I write down their words so that their composition is not hindered in any way by their growing- but not yet fully developed- writing skills.

 4.  Talk to Your Kids about their Learning Styles

In the podcast, Learning Styles: The Key to Confidence & Success, Mariaemma Pelullo-Willis concludes with this message she wants her listeners to remember,”Teach your kids about how they learn: this is the most valuable thing you can do, because they will have that forever.”  So talk to your kids about their learning styles.  Help them to discover how they learn best.  Not only will it make for a happier and more successful homeschool experience, it will help them later in college, in their workplaces, and throughout their lives.

Space to Think

Our School Room: Where Learning Happens and So Does Mess

When we moved into this house two months ago, we made a lot of changes.  One of those changes was our schoolroom.  My husband’s step-dad decided to build us a schoolroom in the garage and I was so thankful and so excited.  He took the wood from the deck we tore out to help build the floor so that the floor would be level with the kitchen, instead of a few steps down.  It also means that our schoolroom floor is nice, rather than a concrete floor and he gave us storage underneath the schoolroom!  He also gave us a window and it is a very nice little room where we can do all of our learning and then shut the door on the mess.

Not that the rest of the house is free of mess at this time.  Or any time.

Anyway, I would like to give you a little tour of our schoolroom.  We also do school at the kitchen table (I like to read while the kids are eating and are therefore more quiet than at other times) and we do some reading cozied up on the couch.

1 Circle Area

This is where we do our “Circle Time.”  Circle time includes practicing our verse or passage (right now it is Psalm 100), practicing our Spanish series (from Speaking Spanish with Miss Mason and Francios) or poem, and then an activity from our daily focus.  On Monday, we focus on geography (right now we are learning the continents and the oceans of the world), on Tuesday, we focus on music (right now we are learning about Vivaldi), Wednesday is poetry day, Thursday is art day (Renoir is our current artist, as you can see), and on Friday, we read a chapter from Wisdom and the Millers.  We finish Circle Time with reviewing our phonograms and playing phonics games.

Underneath the easel, I store GeoSafari stuff, clothespins for pinning cards to our clothesline timeline, and dry erase boards and activities.

2 School Supplies and Kits

Here is where I store our art kits and some of our school supplies.  In the baskets we have a loom, door plaque kit, a flower box kit, perler beads, pony beads, a bracelet kit, pastels and special art supplies, an aquadoodle mat and magnet letters.  In the plastic drawers, I have all the normal office/school supplies: dry erase markers, pencils, pens, highlighters, tape, printer ink, label stickers, notepads, a labeler and things like that.

The basket on the top has our phonics cards and things I use for Circle Time.  And we love having an electric pencil sharpener easily accessible for all to use!

3 Teacher Desk

I sit here (right now, as I type this) often to plan, prepare, print, and pray.  Underneath the desk is a lot of stuff that is only barely organized.  I know where everything is, but it is not efficiently organized like I would like it to be.  I just have not had the time to devote to that yet.  Right now, I am keeping a huge box of stickers ,drawers with pens, pencils, and markers, a file box for school records, my laminator, a box of stationary and my three-hole punch.


4 Student work area

Here are where my students sit.  Each of my older two students have a set of drawers and a basket for their school supplies and books.  The whiteboard is magnetic and the perfect size for our needs.  The table was made especially for me by my sister-in-law’s ver skilled brother.


In this corner, we have our main craft supply cabinet. Way up at the top, we keep paper bags (for puppets), paint sponges, a wood working kit, and our math balance.  The next shelf contains books, special markers, and a ship-in-a-bottle kit.  The next shelf down contains our math manipulatives and supplies (for RightStart Math).  The middle shelf contains a spice rack of little art supplies (including pompoms, googly eyes, sequins, brads, and glitter) and paper of all kinds.  In the lower shelves, we keep paint, do-a-dot markers, big pompoms, craft sticks, stencils, pipe cleaners, and a puppet making kit.

5 Preschool WallI would really like our world map up here, instead of our USA map, since we are doing ancient world history this year.  However, due to several moves happening between my last use of the world map and now, I cannot find it.  Yet.

We also have a chore chart up here.  I haven’t started using it yet, but it is up in hopes that I will be reminded to start that soon.

The pocket chart holds our preschool project.  Z-urchin and I are going through the alphabet and putting stickers (from my big sticker box that is under my desk) on the cards for each letter.  Z-urchin loves this activity and it is sweet time with him.

6 Shelves

Finally, this is our wall of shelves.  We have our nature shelf and nature board, ready to fill with nature things.  We are focusing on learning about birds (through Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Zoology 1: Flying Creatures), so we have some bird guides and pictures up, with our other science books and nature tools.  Then all of our current curriculum and some art books are on the other shelf so I have easy access to them.

We also keep our Child Training Bible and Virtue Training Bible on this shelf.  These are resources we love, designed by a dear friend from college.  Her system reminds me very much of how she liked to study and our study sessions together!

We are now in our fourth week of school, using our new little schoolroom and it is great!





Charlotte Mason Methods: Short & Varied Lessons

I was introduced to Charlotte Mason when I was looking at Apologia science curriculum and found Jeannie Fulbright’s website.  This was actually before I had ever even given birth to a child.  I was a teacher and working at a homeschool co-op, felt the call to homeschool, and started researching curriculum (because I’m crazy that way).

A few years later, an experienced homeschool mom led me to Charlotte Mason Help and her description of Miss Mason’s methods at work in her home drew me in.  One principle in particular resonated with me.  The idea that you keep the lessons (especially in the younger grades) short, paired with the practice of varying subject schedule to use different parts of the body and brain just made so much sense to me.  As Simply Charlotte Mason puts it, “Short, interesting lessons build the habit of attention.”

In my homeschool experience this year with a 5 year old and a 6 year old, I have especially seen the value of short, varied lessons.  If a lesson or reading drags on to long, their attention wanes, their motivation dwindles, and their restlessness increases.  I can see it in their bodies with the drooping of the shoulders and the glazing over of the eyes.

Short, interesting lesson

Short, interesting science lesson

So how do we keep lessons short?

1.  Proper Planning- It took a little trial and error, but I now know about how much we can get through in 15-20 minutes and make sure that I only assign as much as we can reasonably accomplish in that time frame.  Of course, that means that it is all about to change, right?

2. Divide Subjects by Type of Activity– History as a whole subject might actually take 30 minutes, but it is divided into 15-20 minutes of reading followed by a change of venue and then 10-15 minutes of completing a history notebook page.  Math might include a 15-20 minute lesson and then later 10-20 minutes of a math game.

3.   Diligence Required- Sometimes my lessons ended up being long and drawn out not because I had planned too much, but because my children were not focusing on our lesson.  They would ask questions or talk about this and that.  The younger ones would have needs, the older ones would need bathroom breaks.  Then I would get very frustrated.

So I took a look at what Charlotte Mason saidin Volume I, Part IV, “In the first place, there is a time-table, written out fairly, so that the child knows what he has to do and how long each lesson is to last.  This idea of definite work to be finished in a given time is valuable to the child, not only as training him in  habits of order, but in diligence; he learns that one time is not ‘as good as another;’ that there is no right time left for what is not done in its own time; and this knowledge alone does a great deal to secure the child’s attention to his work.” (p 142)

Therefore, I told the children that I had a specific amount of material that we should be able to read in the time I have allotted for this lesson.  If we do not get through it, we will stop this lesson at the appointed time and we will finish it during your free time.  This sobered them up real quick and we have had much more success ever since.

Change of venue for our literature reading and they brought paper to draw what they heard

Change of venue for our literature reading with paper to illustrate the reading

4. Use a Timer (or keep an eye on the clock)- The timer keeps me accountable and reminds me to stay focused on the task at hand.  It reminds my children to remain focused or whatever we don’t finish will be completed during free time.  When the timer goes off, we can finish the sentence or a final stroke or item, and then we move to the next subject or task.

And how do we vary the order of our subjects?

I try to intersperse the reading type of lessons between the doing type of lessons.  I tie our chunks of lessons around meal times and give them breaks between chunks of school.

Here, then, is a general schedule of how a typical school day tends to go:

Bible (with breakfast)

Chores & Exercise


History reading

History notebook page






Geography/Art/Composer/Poetry (with lunch)



Break time!

Break time!

We do not do all of these every day and sometimes we switch the order of things.  But I never put two different reading subjects next to each other.  And I never put two subjects that are heavy on writing next to each other either.  That way, my children stay fresh for each new subject and do not get bogged down by fatigue or discouragement.

Short, varied lessons have really blessed us in our educational pursuits!  Thank you, Charlotte Mason!


Homeschool Teaching Techniques: 5 Tips for Teaching Bible

Teaching Techniques

Bible is the most important subject I teach my kids.  In fact, God’s truth and good news revealed in the Scriptures is  foundational and central to all that we learn and do.  As they grow, learn to read, develop maturity and understanding, my methods for teaching the Bible to my children will change.  For now, I want to introduce them to the Lord through the stories He tells about Himself and His dealings with the people of this world.

To that end, I came up with a plan for going through the Highlights of the Old and New Testaments.   With Penny Gardner’s list as a reference and skimming through the Bible, I listed 180 Old Testament stories (with a theme for each of the 36 weeks) and 180 New Testament stories (again, with a theme for each week).

That is the backbone of our Biblical studies.  I want to share with you my 5 favorite strategies for teaching the Bible in our homeschool classroom:

A Joyful Noise

A Joyful Noise with Breakfast

1.  Bible with Breakfast:  I think that starting the day with the most important subject is a good practice.  It reminds us all of our priorities and it starts us off on the right foot and sets the mood (at least for me!) for the whole day.  Given that, I have found the best success with doing our Bible lesson during -or right after- breakfast.

It is convenient, for the kids are already at gathered at the table.  Mentally, it is helpful for me to start school so early- I have found that I am more likely to keep the ball rolling with school for the day if I have started at breakfast.  Finally, even if nothing else gets done for the day, we have at least done the most important thing.

2.  Begin with a Hymn:  I’ll be honest here.  I’m actually not my best in the morning.  I find myself a little too sharp, impatient, short with anyone who tries to talk to me.  So beginning the morning with my children by worshiping the Lord together is beautiful and uplifting.  I love it.  It is precious.  It helps me not snap their heads off when they ask for more food.

We do a hymn a month (chosen to correlate somehow with our Bible stories) and when we are first learning the hymn, I will play it on YouTube for the children and we sing along with it.  After that, we just sing together a capella.

A Bible3.  Flannelgraph:  Several years ago, I purchased a set of Betty Lukens flannelgraph.  It was a lot of work to cut out all the pieces (over 600 figures).  But it was well worth the effort.  The figures are absolutely beautiful and vibrant and my children love having the story told to them with flannelgraph.  It is true that this is a very old-fashioned medium, but every child I’ve taught- my own, or in Sunday School- is very drawn to the use of flannelgraph.  And then they want to play with it!

4.  Narration:  After I tell the story, I want my children to tell me back what they just heard.   I usually have to ask a few questions to encourage them to remember it all.  Then often, we discuss what the passage teaches us about how we should live or what God is like.  We have had many deep and interesting conversations come from these discussions.  These conversations are the very best part of our whole homeschool.

Often, I will help them narrate by using the flannelgraph to aid their memory.  Eventually, I would like them to use the flannelgraph to tell back the story.  (Just not when they’ve just had syrup with their pancakes.)  We will also occasionally act out the story we’ve just heard and I have plans to have them make popsicle stick puppets someday to narrate the story.  And then practice it to give a show to Daddy!

5.  Bible Journal:  They have composition books where each page has half a page blank for drawing purposes.  Right now, about once a week or so, I have the children choose a story from that week to illustrate in their journal.  Then they dictate to me the story and I write it down for them.  I have been impressed with the details that they remember from the stories.  They love drawing and telling me these stories and so their Bible journals are quite a treasure.

Highlights of Charlotte Mason’s Volume I, Part VI- The Will

Have you ever asked yourself, “Can’t you  make yourself do what you wish to do?” (p 323)  Or do you ever find yourself agreeing with Paul in Romans 7:15, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate”?

There are so many areas in which we must exercise discipline- that is, exercise our will to determine and carry out what our mind and heart says is good.  We get into bad habits in our daily routine, in eating, in training and caring for our children and those bad habits make grooves in our inner man that are very difficult to escape.

Here we come to the very last Part of Home Education.  In Miss Mason’s words, “We have now to consider a subject of unspeakable importance to every being called upon to sustain a reasonable life here, with the hope of the fuller life hereafter; I mean, the government of the kingdom of Mansoul.” (p 317)

In reading and taking notes on this section (the first section of Part VI), I find myself personally convicted and inspired- and not just about training my children.  These points are valuable for anyone wishing to strengthen his or her own will and not just for those who are homeschooling children.

The highlights of this section of Part VI-

1.  What is the Will?

  • First of all, people may go through life well enough without ever developing strength of will.  These people may be intelligent,  endowed with great skill of some kind, kind and easy-going so that they have been obedient, well-mannered children.

“He may reflect and imagine; be stirred by the desire of knowledge, of power, of distinction; may love and esteem; may form habits of attention, obedience, diligence, sloth, involuntarily– that is, without ever intending, purposing, willing these things for himself.” (p 318)

  •  However, strength of will and character do go hand in hand.
Bad Mood

Willfulness is not strength of will

“In fact, character is the result of conduct regulated by will.” (p 319)

  •  Many people think that ‘willfulness’ is a sign of a strong will, when actually, it is not.

A toddler described as screaming for something forbidden or monopolize other’s toys “is in a state of absolute ‘willfulness’- the rather unfortunate word we use to describe the state in which the will has no controlling power; willessness, if there were such a word, would describe this state more truly.” (p 321)

2. Why do we want to develop the Will?

  • Because it is what assists us to become what we want to become and do what we wish to do.

“… most of us desire to do well; what we want to know is, how to make ourselves do what we desire. And here is the line which divides the effective from the non-effective people, the great from the small , the good from the the well-intentioned and respectable; it is in proportion as a man has self-controlling, self-compelling power that he is able to do, even of his own pleasure; that he can depend upon himself, and be sure of his own action in emergencies.” (p 323)

3. How does the Will Work?

  • One key way to work your will- to persevere in a difficult task or to refrain from temptation- is to change your thoughts.  These thoughts you should prepare beforehand- decide what you will think of, what motivates you, what distracts you.  Then when a situation comes up where you wish to persevere or refrain- change your thoughts!
Bathing Suits in February

Diversion and incentive

“It is by force of will that a man can ‘change his thoughts,’ transfer his attention from one subject of thought to another, and that, with a shock of mental force of which he is distinctly conscious. And this is enough to save a man and to make a man, this power of making himself think only of those things which he has beforehand decided that it is good to think upon.” (p 324)

Incentives- “His thoughts are wandering on forbidden pleasures, to the hindrance of his work; he pulls himself up, and deliberately fixes his attention on those incentives which have most power to make him work… His thoughts run in the groove he wills them to run in, and work is no longer an effort.” (p 324)

Diversion- “he just compels himself to think of something else… anything interesting enough to divert his thoughts…” and when he gets back to considering the offense or temptation, it has lost its sting.

In routine, boring tasks, “give himself something pleasant… to think of, and …no work is laborious.” (p325)

“… the knowledge of this way of the will is so far the secret of a happy life, that it is well worth imparting to the children.” (p 325)  In difficult situations- when the child is grumpy, longing for some forbidden thing, tired of trying- he can change his thoughts and things will run more smoothly for him.

“…this is the sole secret of the power over himself which the strong man wields- he can compel himself to think of what he chooses…” (p326)

4. How can we Train the Will?

  • Start by training the habit of attention.  You must be able to pay attention for a period of time to the thoughts you wish to think of.

“…before the parent can begin to train the will of the child, he must have begun to form in him the habit of attention.” (p 326)

  • You must understand the value or motivation behind the actions you wish to carry out.  Or understand the danger or problems behind the actions you wish to avoid.
9 May2

Strengthened by exercise

“If his understanding does not show good cause why he should do some [thing]… -the movement of his will will be feeble and fluctuating, and very barren of results.” (p 327)

  • Train children in the habit of obedience while gaining his cooperation in the endeavor.  To gain his cooperation, give him the motivation behind learning to obey.  If he knows why he should obey- that this will make his life easier and more delightful- he will be more inclined to cooperate and use his own will in the process.

“Now, obedience is valuable only in so far as it helps the child towards making himself do that which he knows he ought to do.  Every effort of obedience which does not give him a sense of conquest over his own inclinations, helps to enslave him, and he will resent the loss of his liberty by running into license when he can…. But invite his co-operation, let him heartily intend and purpose to do the thing he is bidden, and then it is his own will that is compelling him, and not yours; he has begun the greatest effort, the highest accomplishment of human life- the making, the compelling of himself.” (p 328)

Teach the child “…the secret of willing…”- that is that with a force of will he can turn his thought to what he ought to think of and that when he is feeling upset or angry, he should turn his thoughts to something he likes.

  • Will,  like the body, is nourished and strengthened by exercise.
Shaping the will influences his destiny

Shaping the will influences his destiny

“…it becomes vigorous and capable in proportion as it is duly nourished and fitly employed.” (p 319)

5.  How Important is the Will?

  • Our duty to develop our own will and our duty to train the will of our children is of far greater importance than our educational pursuits and efforts.

“Let me add one or two wise thoughts from Dr Morell’s Introduction to Mental Philosophy: ‘The education of the will is really of far greater importance, as shaping the destiny of the individual, than that of the intellect.'”