Teaching children how to think can be difficult.  In contrast, teaching children to merely reflect the thoughts of others is simple in comparison.  Think about it for a minute.  Requiring children to memorize and repeat correct answers can be done by practice and repetition.  Sometimes it is necessary to learn this way, like in the case of memorizing times tables or equations.  But the way a child learns best and retains knowledge is when he or she can reason and comprehend why things happen.  Knowing how and why helps him or her understand and apply it to their field of knowledge and usefulness.  When a child learns to think for themselves, they achieve a level of growth and autonomy that surpasses students who simply memorize facts and figures.  Even the subject of spelling requires more than mere memorization.  Critiquing words and how they are spelled based upon phonics and rules of the English language requires reasoning abilities.  Teaching thinking necessitates several things.  Using an inquiry method of instruction, where problems are directed to the student and where the student is given time to think and solve is one of them.  Comparison and contrast, evaluation, and questioning are all necessary components in creating thinkers.  Giving the student the ability to evaluate and make judgments teaches them to think for themselves.  If you are asking your child to list, label, match, name, or recall information, you are teaching them to be reflectors of the thinking of others.  But, if your instructional technique leads them to interpret, discriminate, defend, critique, appraise, or explain something, you can be sure you are on the pathway to teaching your child how to think.  This is the challenge of educating the student, but one that reaps great rewards!


The Most Precious Gift

Children are the most precious gift. According to Psalm 127:3 they are a heritage. It says that “children are a gift from the LORD; they are a reward from him.”

The dictionary defines gift as something given voluntarily without payment in return, as to show favor toward someone, honor an occasion, or make a gesture of assistance; a present.

Such favor from God can only be appropriately met by placing much value upon it. We can show our children that they are valued by loving, cherishing, and appreciating them. Kind words, a gentle touch, and an ear that always listens can bless them and show them their merit. It is a favor that exists simply because they exist and it is one that is not earned.

Tangible affirmation reminds children that they are valued. Years ago, when my children were in early elementary school, I cross-stitched a verse that said “Children, the most precious gift”. It was framed as the focal point between two old-fashioned art prints of children and hung as a unit over the sofa in the living room. Placed there, it held place of significance in our home and served to remind the children that they were important to us. This framed art remained as the central focus during their teenage years. Although they are now young adults and living on their own, I’ve decided that the framed art and cross-stitched message remains. No matter what the age, children are a blessing and it is our responsibility as parents to affirm this to them always.

Blessings are words of affirmation and love spoken to another. When a parent speaks these words and then exhibits them by action or deed, the child is blessed beyond measure. Gary Smalley and John Trent speak of the five elements of the blessing in their book by the same title. These elements are a meaningful touch, a spoken message, the attachment of high value to the one being blessed, the creation of a word picture of the special future perceived to the one being blessed, and an active commitment to fulfill the blessing. Although all parents can share the blessing with their children, the homeschool parent has a greater opportunity to pass this blessing along to their off-spring simply because of the dedicated amount of time he or she spends with them. The creation of a warm and responsive environment facilitates a positive sense of self-worth in children, blesses them, and helps them develop intellectually and to his or her full potential.

Today, thank God for the special opportunity He has given you to homeschool your children. And don’t forget to give your children an extra hug and words of affirmation! They are His gift.

School Store Sticker Options for Week #2

Remember that the school store activity is for extracurricular or supplemental learning. It is in addition to “core” subjects that are taught each day by the teacher-parent. Each activity is designed to be self-guided. Each week the teacher-parent will post a list of tasks and activities that can be completed to earn stickers. The teacher-parent can assign specific things that need done or the student can choose an assigned amount from the list. The student should always be encouraged to do more than the minimum. Sometimes the student will have an idea that he or she would like to do to earn a sticker. That is great! But be sure the student knows that they must receive approval for all projects by teacher-mom or dad first in order to receive a sticker.  This list is for students in K – 3 (or as appropriate for your child).

____ 1) Go to the park with mom or dad. Play on the playground equipment. Make up a routine on the slide, monkey bars, pole, swings, etc. See how long it takes you to complete your routine. Then race yourself by trying to do it faster and faster each time. You can earn one sticker for each time you complete the routine. Have mom or dad time you so you can see if you improve. Limit 10 stickers.

____ 2) Help with washing the car this week. You can earn three stickers by washing and rinsing the car. Put away the washing gear when you are done.

____ 3) Find a beautiful plant that is growing in the garden.  Write a free verse poem about plants. Illustrate your poem. Earn five stickers for your poem with illustration. If you mail your poem and picture to someone else and address the envelope yourself, you get one more sticker.

____ 4) Pretend you are a plant scientist. Your assignment is to design your own seed. Draw a picture of your seed and of the plant your seed turns into. Write a paragraph about the seed and the plant you invented. Imagine how much fun God must have had creating the world and inventing so many things. Thank Him with a special prayer for all the things He created. This assignment is worth three stickers.

____ 5) There are two main types of seeds.  They are naked and enclosed. Seeds have three parts: the seed coat, the embryo, and the food storage tissue. Make a list of five kinds of each of the two varieties of seeds. Worth four stickers. Use a plant/tree identification book to help you.

____ 6) Learn Psalm 100 (It is good to give thanks unto the Lord. . .). Once you have it memorized, repeat it from memory to mom or dad at family worship time. This is worth 10 stickers.

____ 7) Cook something in the kitchen that is very high in B vitamins. Serve it to the family at mealtime.  Be sure to clean the kitchen.  Worth 3 stickers.

____ 8 ) Play multiplication bingo.  Worth 1 sticker for 15 minutes of play.

____ 9) Play vowel bingo.  Worth 1 sticker for 15 minutes of play.

___ 10) Make a collage on a topic of your choice. Do a careful job. Put a title on your collage. Hang it on a bulletin board. Worth 2 stickers.

___ 11) Make a salad for dinner. Use vegetables that are dark green and add something with orange or red color. Use at least five different raw vegetables. Put them in a pretty bowl and set on the table. Worth 2 stickers.

____ 12) Set the table for dinner with a tablecloth, napkins, and proper settings of plates, cups, flatware, and a centerpiece. Have a parent check it to make sure you put things in their proper places. Worth 1 sticker.

____ 13) Repeat the days of the week to a parent.  Be sure they are in the correct order. Then tell today’s date and what day of the week it is. Repeat the months of the year. Worth 2 stickers.

____ 14) Listen to a CD from “Adventures in History” (story). You will receive one sticker for listening to the story.  You can earn a second sticker by telling the story to someone else.

____ 15) Take a trip to the grocery store with mom or dad. While you are there, make a list of ten foods that you think are healthy and nutritious. Make sure they don’t have harmful ingredients or empty calories in them. Worth 2 stickers.

____ 16) When dad comes home from work, ask him if there is anything he would like you to do for him. He will be surprised. Complete the task he gives you to do. You will receive two stickers.

____ 17) Ride your bike today. Be sure to ride it continuously for 20 minutes so you can get your heart rate up. Give yourself one sticker for every 20 minutes that you ride.

____ 18 ) Write a story about a wild animal that you like. Use descriptive words to tell about the habitat, characteristics, and appearance of the animal. Research your subject in books or on the Internet. You may use the computer to type your story. You will receive one sticker for every page you write. You will receive another sticker per page if you make corrections to the spelling, punctuation, and capitalization after it has been marked by teacher-mom or dad.

____ 19) Repeat the pledge to the flag from memory. Worth one sticker.

____ 20) List each set of words below in alphabetical order:  a) house, hill, hat, help; b) up, in out, apple, yet, enjoy; c) popcorn, pickle, pears, peaches, and lettuce; d) grape, orange, cherry, apricot, plum; e) limp, ride, walk, skate, ski, run; toe, tickle, tall, tame, talent; f) smile, say, see, said, savory, sachet. Worth 3 stickers.


These are suggested activities.  You can design your own to meet the specific needs of your own children.

School Store Sticker Options for Week #1

In review, the school store activity is for extracurricular or supplemental learning. It is in addition to “core” subjects that are taught each day by the teacher-parent. Each activity is designed to be self-guided. Each week the teacher-parent will post a list of tasks and activities that can be completed to earn stickers. The teacher-parent can assign specific things that need done or the student can choose an assigned amount from the list. The student should always be encouraged to do more than the minimum. Sometimes the student will have an idea that he or she would like to do to earn a sticker. That is great! But be sure the student knows that they must receive approval for all projects by teacher-mom or dad first in order to receive a sticker.

Below is a list for the first week of activities that our children did in the school store project. You should adjust your list to the abilities, needs, and ages of your own children. The list below was designed for kindergarten and lower elementary grade students. This list should be printed and laminated for easy use. An of course your list should be designed to meet the needs of your specific children. Place in a notebook or on a clip-board where the child can find it with ease. 

List Week #1

_____ 1) Walk laps around the front yard, outside the tree line where you will receive maximum exercise. One sticker per lap; maximum 20.

_____ 2) Weed the flower bed beside the well-house. Prepare it for planting using your hand rake and trowel. Worth 2 stickers.

_____ 3) Pull the weeds in the bark beds on each side of the back porch. Two stickers per side.

_____ 4) Watch an approved animal program on PBS. After the program is over, tell teacher-mom five (5) things you learned or that you thought were especially interesting about the program.  Worth one sticker.

_____ 5) Watch a Moody Science DVD on a nature subject. After watching a complete program, write the following information on a piece of paper (or type on the computer):  a) subject of the DVD, b) three complete sentences, each telling of something from the DVD. Worth 2 stickers.

_____ 6) Draw a memory verse from the memory verse jar and memorize it.  Then repeat it (without help) to teacher-mom or dad and receive 3 stickers.

_____ 7) Surprise dad! Clean the area around his workbench in the shop.  For this service project receive 2 stickers.

_____ 8 ) Bake cookies and put them in a package that you decorate. Ask Dad to drop them off at Mrs. Smith’s house on his way to work tomorrow. For cheering up a shut-in you receive 5 stickers.

_____ 9) If you make a nice card and add a note that says “thinking of you” to go with Mrs. Smith’s cookies, receive 2 more stickers.

____10) Make a memory verse book using nature pictures from the picture box. Find and write a memory verse to go with each nature picture. Take your book to children’s story hour at the migrant camp on Saturday afternoon. Receive 5 stickers.

____ 11) Go on a nature walk at the wildlife refuge next door. Take a notebook with you and record the things you see that God has made. Use words and pictures to record your findings. A careful observation list merits 3 stickers.

____ 12) Learn your multiplication tables through the five’s. Repeat them from memory to teacher-mom or dad. Worth 3 stickers.  (Younger sibling can do addition or subtraction instead).

____ 13) Play the game “Sentence Game for Juniors” with your sibling. At the completion of the game you will be rewarded with one sticker.

____ 14) Practice making baskets on the basketball court. Earn one sticker for every 10 baskets you make (limited to three stickers per day).

____ 15) Take turns leading your sibling in exercises like jumping jacks, push-ups, running in place, and more. Earn one sticker for every 15 minutes of exercise.

____ 16) Pretend you are a teacher. Teach your younger sibling a math lesson.  Concentrate on the 100’s family chart. Worth one sticker for every 15 minutes you spend teaching. (If you are the younger sibling, receive on sticker for every 15 minutes spent learning).

____ 17) Play the game “You Can Read” using the phonics card game set. Teach your younger sibling the words and what they mean. Worth 1 sticker for every 15 minutes spent playing. (If you are the younger sibling, receive one sticker for every 15 minutes spent playing).

____ 18) Write a letter or draw a picture and send it to Grandmother. After you have it in an envelope and it is properly addressed and stamped, you will be given one sticker.

____ 19) Learn how to do origami paper folding. Find a site online that teaches you how to fold something or use the origami paper kit that we bought at the craft store. Every correctly and neatly folded project earns one sticker.

____ 20) Use your kids cookbook and bake a loaf of mini-bread. Clean up the kitchen afterwards. Worth 4 stickers for a completed project and clean kitchen.

Enjoy a very great week! Keep up the enthusiasm and good work.  You are doing a great job! If you would like to earn stickers by doing something that isn’t on this list, tell teacher-mom your idea and receive her approval to do it.  

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Tomorrow suggested activities for week 2 will be posted.  We’ll see you then!

Teaching Your Own

An excerpt from “Teach Your Own” by John Holt, the educator who promoted freedom for children to learn naturally and coined the term “unschooling”.
“I have used the words “homeschooling” to describe the process by which children grow and learn in the world without going, or going very much, to schools, because those words are familiar and quickly understood. But in one very important sense they are misleading. What is most important and valuable about the home as a base for children’s growth into the world is not that it is a better school than the schools but that it isn’t a school at all. It is not an artificial place, set up to make “learning” happen and in which nothing except “learning” ever happens. It is a natural, organic, central, fundamental human institution, one might easily and rightly say the foundation of all other institutions. We can imagine and indeed we have had human societies without schools, without factories, without libraries, museums, hospitals, roads, legislatures, courts, or any of the institutions which seem so indispensable and permanent a part of modern life. We might someday even choose, or be obliged, to live once again without some or all of these. But we cannot even imagine a society without homes, even if these should be no more than tents, or mud huts, or holes in the ground. What I am trying to say, in short, is that our chief educational problem is not to find a way to make homes more like schools. If anything, it is to make schools less like schools.”

As you establish your philosophy and guidelines for the school year ahead, consider the benefits of home schooling rather than conducting school at home.  There is a tangible difference.  Can you identify them?  Comment welcome!

Motivating with the School Store

In the previous post I mentioned our “school store”.  Would you like to know more?  It was a great motivational force for our elementary age children.  Here’s more about it:

1) The school store was a large bulletin board with a banner that said “School Store”. Attached to the bulletin board were objects or coupons of things that could be purchased. Small zip-lock bags were stapled onto the board which held things like pencil erasers, miniature cars and trucks, trading cards, pocket knives, flash lights, compasses, combs, Legos, hand-held games, flashcards, and other small games or objects.  Obviously our school store was geared to boys, but girls items would be easy to add.  Also attached were coupons for fun things to do, like going to get an ice cream cone with dad, or tickets to go roller skating or to the water-slide park. Each item or coupon had a value attached to it. But the value assigned was not for money. The items in the school store could only be purchased with stickers. Stickers were given for work completed that was above and beyond the “core” curriculum that was taught each day. Stickers given were attached onto sticker sheets that had spaces for 25 stickers.

2) Our core curriculum was what was considered the essential for each school day. It consisted of opening exercises (devotions, prayer, story time/character development, Bible class, daily language arts/reading instruction, and math instruction). Things could be added to the core each day, depending on teacher-mom.  Stickers were not given for school “core”.

3) Each sticker earned was worth one unit towards purchase of an item in the school store. Stickers were earned by doing extra-curricular activities like completing drills creating things, doing extra work in a subject, chores, or other activities that teacher-mom had printed up each week and put into a notebook.  Each activity completed was worth one sticker. Remember, stickers were not given for “core” schoolwork.

4) Items were not easy to earn. They were worth as much in effort as they would if you were to earn actual money and go to town to buy them.

5) Items in the store were marked or labeled with a sticker price. There were many one-of-a-kind items. An item could not be reserved for any specific person. Whoever had the stickers necessary to purchase an item was allowed to purchase it. An item would not be saved for a specific individual simply because they really liked it and wanted it.  This helped give incentive to the children.  If they really wanted something badly, they had to work hard to get it.

6) The school store was only open on school days. It would not open until all chores and all school work were completed by all the students for that specific day.

7) The school store would stay open for 15 minutes per day. Then it was closed until the next school day. No exceptions.

8 ) All purchases were final. Students could not exchange items purchased for something else simply because the purchaser changed their mind or got tired of their purchase.

9) The teacher-parent reserved the right to take store privileges away due to lack of work or poor attitudes or behavior.

10) Students were reminded that they may not be able to purchase something from the store every day. There might be inexpensive items available that the student could spend their stickers on daily, but they were encouraged to save their stickers for higher sticker priced items, like a small Lego set or coupon for doing something fun.

There were several reasons for developing our school store. First, the children enjoyed the motivation. It helped them to develop self-discipline and take some of the responsibility of learning upon themselves. Some days (most days, perhaps), the teacher-parent can be very busy taking care of the household, the children, and the their education. On really busy days, the children might be short-changed because their teacher-parent may not have enough time to sit down with them and do as much as they would like. The school store was a supplemental plan which allowed for enriched learning experiences for the children. The school store provided the opportunity for children to spend their own time exploring learning experiences. They could select their own projects according to their interests and abilities. Occasionally the teacher-parent might select activities for the child, but generally the idea was to be open-ended and to allow the child freedom to be self-motivated and self-directed in their learning.

The next post will give ideas for the learning activities children can complete to earn stickers.  Please come back again to see what ideas will be shared.