My son, Nathan, teaches English at Soonchunhyan University in Korea. Throughout homeschooling high school, his love of world history/literature, languages, and international friends laid the foundation for his job. We studied world history/literature through our co-op, real books, and media. Here's his advice for homeschoolers:
What is it that excites you? What do you find yourself wishing you had more time to do? What are you good at?
As you think about the rest of high school, college and beyond (for yourself, or for your child),
I encourage you to think about those three questions. As Americans, as Christians, as homeschoolers, figuring out what to do with our lives can be a challenge. While I do not believe that God has only one career plan for you set in stone, I do believe he has lovingly created you with a mix of gifts and passions that are uniquely yours. These gifts and passions should lead – with many false starts and wrong turns – to a job and life that are exciting and rewarding to you and that touch a part of the world with some unique aspect of Christ’s love.
For me, it’s a passion for other languages and cultures. I have loved England, I think, as long as I have been sentient. As a boy, I used to dream of being a missionary to the Amazon. In high school, I was completely obsessed by all things Russian. In college, I fell in love with World History as a subject – Armenia, India, East Asia, Africa, the Middle East, South America. My junior year of college brought a pair of experiences that changed my life forever – first forming deep friendships with a diverse group of internationals at a summer job, and then studying abroad in England for a semester. My memories of that summer in 2003 – making my Russian friends teach me phrases, which I would scribble down
on napkins, or visiting Manhattan for the first time with a group of Poles – still make me smile; and England! – I was in love with everything about it. Both experiences awoke in me a profound sympathy for and interest in internationals. What a thing to leave your home and live in another country! What a thing to speak a second language! I have been enthralled ever since, and this passion has been nudging me – with the false starts and wrong turns I mentioned earlier – along a path that I find as deeply meaningful and energizing today as I did ten or fifteen years ago.
When you know what things God has made you to love and to excel in, follow them fearlessly – you never know where he will take you, but it is sure to be amazing. A very brief example: this past December, I was itching to get abroad again, so I bought a ticket to Europe and spent almost two weeks of my Christmas holiday in Belgium and Germany. On my first Sunday over there, I was in Brussels, Belgium. For church I chose a small, Protestant service and arrived after a long walk along Brussels’ winding streets. The church felt strangely American – think a southern Baptist or Charismatic building – though it was French-speaking. A visiting pastor (of Central African Republican
heritage) happened to be giving the message, and I listened in awe as it proved to be the exact message I needed to hear at that point in my life. After the service, in my broken French, I complimented the pastor, and we got into a conversation that ended with him and his wife inviting me to lunch. After lunch, they helped me shop for a few items I required, and then we parted. Thus, in the matter of a morning and afternoon, the passions God has given me opened the door to new friendships with French-speaking Christians in Belgium, and my knowledge of the world and God’s kingdom grew by a little more. Now, following these same interests in other languages and cultures, I am about to embark on a new adventure teaching ESL abroad. I know it will be hard, but I look forward to the doors that God will open for me.
My path has been twisted and confusing at times. Yours will be, too, I’m afraid. But keep God close to you, and he will keep you close to him. Explore the interests and talents he has given you, and you will find a life in which the rewards and joys far outweigh the sorrows.
What paths are you exploring?
An important part of Nathan's homeschool high school experience was to do some good career exploration. He used this curriculum. You can pick it up in our 7 Sisters ebookstore and then visit my Vicki Tillman Pinterest Career Exploration board for more good stuff.
Start off with our FREE Career Exploration Questionnaire that gets the brainstorming started with questions about the influential role models in your homeschooler's life.
In case you need a little encouragement, here is Sabrina's vlog on A Work in Progress:
Join us for a classic post from our intern, Kyle. Kyle is about to graduate from Grove City College and head for grad school. He homeschooled all the way through high school. The study guides and curriculum that he used in high school are the very things we carry in our ebookstore. Enrich your homeschoolers' lives with Literature Guides, Writing Guides, Psychology, Human Development, Career Exploration and more.
If you’re part of the homeschool world, you probably have some familiarity with “the bubble.” You want your children to receive the best education possible, so you tailor your teaching to fit each child’s individual needs. Consciously or unconsciously, you make decisions that affect not only their education but their social, emotional, and spiritual life.
I know because this is what my mom did for me.
I had the privilege of growing up with some of the most awesome friends and teachers because my homeschool community was the perfect environment for me. In other words, I had an excellent bubble.
The only downside to being inside an excellent bubble is that, in the end, it’s still only a bubble. At some point you discover that the rest of the world isn’t quite so perfect. There are people with different values and different beliefs. There are some people who may not be interested in your individual needs at all. (Shocking isn’t it?)
The bubble is safe, but outside the bubble it can get scary. Growing up is all about moving outside the bubble. Usually that means graduating from high school, going to college, getting a job, getting married, getting a house, and having kids. But you can do all of those things and still live in a bubble. You could do what I did and move from the homeschool bubble to a college that is essentially a larger version of the same bubble. Your bubble can be whatever you make it. Your youth group, your Bible study, or your mom’s group could be a bubble.
Like I said, the bubble is where you feel safe, and safety is a good thing. God can teach you a lot in friendly, comfortable settings, but that knowledge isn’t much use until you take it outside the bubble. You can’t grasp the full value of your knowledge until you’re willing to get your feet wet.
Speaking of getting your feet wet, that’s exactly what Peter had to do before he learned to trust Jesus. It was one thing to listen to Jesus’ teaching on the safety of the mountain, but it was another to step out of his boat onto a lake in the middle of a storm. Even when he found he could walk on top of the water without drowning, he became afraid when he saw how violent the wind and the waves were. Think how he must have felt when Jesus saved him and brought him back to the boat. In that moment Jesus had unmistakably proven everything Peter believed about him.
Have you experienced that “Aha!” moment where you start to doubt what you know about God only to see him prove himself in a remarkable way? I have had a few experiences like that this year. Not only have they helped me to grow in my faith, they have also allowed me to show God’s love to people I never would have interacted with in my own personal bubble.
Although there are times when a comfortable bubble gives us the security we need, that bubble can keep us from growing and acting on our faith. If we let it, the bubble becomes a prison. It’s only when we allow God to burst the bubble that we can experience true freedom.
Elementary students in your homeschool need to tell stories as much as they need to hear them. Are you helping your child tell stories well? Storytelling skills equip young children for a strong language arts foundation that will prepare them for writing in the upper grades.
Some little ones are very imaginative, and they love to tell creative stories to anyone who will listen. Others are not natural story-tellers, so it's important to help them learn to articulate their stories competently and confidently. Strong, effective writing in middle school and high school will be easier for a child who was equipped to tell his story while he was young.
Literal thinkers, those who like nature and science and transportation more than fantasy, can be gently coached to tell stories well in the early elementary years.
Here's an idea for helping your little one tell her story in her own voice.
- Ask your child to tell what just happened on your outing. (Car-rides home are a great time to do this.) Your question might produce an answer as simple as, "We went to the grocery store and I rode in the cart and we bought bananas and milk." That answer included a setting and plot elements.
- Follow up with a question. "Did the bananas look good at the store today?" Your child now has to think about ways to describe the bananas. "No, they were all really green."
- Another question. "Who cares? Why did it matter?" Now she's exploring her emotional reaction to something she's described. "We were going to eat peanut-butter-banana sandwiches for lunch today, but we can't eat the bananas yet when they're green." (These are concrete, literal responses, but your child is observing the effect the circumstance had on her personally.)
- Encourage her to articulate the outcome of the situation. "So what did we do?" "We bought them anyway. You said we have to eat grilled cheese today and save the bananas until they are ripe."
- Your child doesn't even realize she is telling a story. But her brain is practicing the tasks that produce a story when they are performed together. So now add a twist to her story. The phrase, "What if...?" is a powerful tool. "What if the produce manager had come out with a cart full of riper bananas before we left the store?" She may say, "That would have been good; we would have gotten yellow bananas instead."
- "What if he said we had to pay more for the yellow bananas because they were organic?" Now you have presented a very real possible challenge in the story. Your child has to consider motive (How badly do we want peanut-butter-banana TODAY?). She has to make an inference by playing the story forward in her mind. She has to reach a conclusion; knowing the characters as she does (Mommy, herself), does she think they might have paid the extra money for the ripe bananas?
A guided conversation like this one helps an elementary child with no interest in fanciful creative stories (the one who will later moan, "I hate creative writing! I don't know what to say!") lay a foundation for writing using the steps in her thinking that will produce good stories on paper some day. It will become normal to think in terms of settings and descriptions, characters and motives, plot twists and multiple potential outcomes. And it may save you both a lot of language arts frustration down the road!
The 7 Sisters Ebookstore has homeschool resources for elementary students as well as high schoolers. Have you visited recently to see what's there?
I remember when my daughter, Bekah, was about 6 years old and we were having a heart-to-heart talk about what it means to be a Christian. She had been asking questions, and I had spelled out for her the gospel of salvation. My heart was all a-flutter; this was the moment my little girl was ready to give her life to Jesus!
Her questions had been answered. The message had been clearly presented. Now it was time for MY question:
"Bekah, do you want to be a Christian?"
She thought for a moment. (That's okay....this is a decision to think about, and not something to take lightly.)
"No," she said, "I want to be a dentist."
Sometimes they miss the point.
How can we keep our chins up when they do?
Perspective. We are ALL works in progress. Our children are not living their lives in a predictable, linear fashion. The order in which things made sense to me as I learned them is likely not the exact order in which my child will grasp them. They are distinct from us, not extensions of their mom and dad. And they have a God who loves them vastly more than we do.
When our perspective becomes, "It's okay; God's got 'em. And we'll work it all out eventually," we can stay encouraged.
Even when they miss the point.
She stood by the window in the bedroom in the wee hours of the morning. Every day had been hard for longer than she could remember, but the nights were worse than the days. Sleep came easily at bedtime only to disappear just after midnight. In the darkness of the rest of the night there was no relief from the battle in her mind and heart.
She had been a Christian since she was a little girl. She knew of her Father's love, her Savior's sacrifice, and her salvation. But life had done to her what life can sometimes do. Family strife and the death of a child and church struggles and financial difficulty and friendship conflicts had chipped away, bit by bit, for years.
She no longer had any hope for change. During the days she was resigned to getting by. At night, she wondered how she would.
This night was worse than usual. This night was the third night in a row that she was consumed with the shame of her own sin. Poor choices had been made in the last couple of years, and those choices had been hers. She wished she could blame someone else, but she knew who owned them. The point was not the specifics of the sin; the point was that these sins were HERS.
The last three days an unrelenting voice in her head told her that it would be better if she was simply gone. The problems weren't going to improve. The people she wanted to help her were unwilling or unable. If only she could find a way to die, a way that she was brave enough to face but that guaranteed her little children would not be the ones to find her body...
It was Easter.
Even in the midst of the noise, she heard the still small voice in her spirit.
"Why are you so distraught?"
"God, You know why! I'm stuck in a mess that is never going to improve. But worse than all of that, I just can't believe I've been so stupid. I didn't even know I had it in me !"
"Yes, but I knew. I always knew you had it in you. And I took care of it all with My blood. I just had to let you see that it was there so you could release it to me. Daughter, it's okay. I knew it was in you and I forgave it all. What you need is to accept My forgiveness."
I was that woman, that homeschool mom, that desperate and hopeless daughter of the King of kings.
That Easter was more than a decade ago. And every year from Good Friday through Easter Sunday I am reminded vividly and personally of what forgiveness looks like.
I consider that night at the window to be the night I was reborn. Wasn't I "born again" long before, when I first gave my heart to Jesus as a little girl? Absolutely! But that night life rose up in me over death in a profound way, and I will always celebrate it.
Sometimes even children of the King find that life has done to them what life can do, from the outside and from the inside. And sometimes things reveal themselves that we did not even know were in our hearts.
At those moments, my friends, there is no profit in shame. Shame is the devil's way of keeping my eyes on me when they are almost ready to turn in repentance to my glorious Savior.
I didn't know I had it in me. But He knew, and He had already forgiven it. And He taught me how to forgive myself as well.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!
Take that notebook, for example.
It doesn't look like much, does it?
I gave this simple spiral notebook to my son Sam at Christmas when he was 13 years old.
On the gift tag I wrote: "In which to write the next blockbuster. Love, Mom"
Sam was born telling stories.
By the time he was 9 years old he had read the junior biography of Stephen Spielberg more times than I can count.
By the time he was 11 he had made oodles of short videos with his family and friends.
The Christmas that Sam was 13, my funds were severely limited. I was a newly-single mom of four, and each child got a couple of inexpensive gifts wrapped in lots of careful thought and love. Thus, the spiral notebook.
The picture on the left was taken just a couple of days ago.
Sam is now 22 years old.
And do you know what that battered notebook is filled with?
Screenplays. Notes for screenplays. Pages of dialogue. Ideas for shots. Stories.
He recently pulled this notebook out and showed it to me.
"Do you remember this, Mom?"
I didn't until he reminded me.
But he knew because it was precious to him.
Never underestimate the power of simple gifts you may give to your homeschooler.
Here's a homeschool documentary Sam made as a visual arts student in college a couple of years ago:
It was an ordinary Thursday morning, and I was ready to begin British Literature class with my darling homeschooled students who study together at our local umbrella school. (The Ebookstore has the one-credit high school course available, by the way. Try it....you'll LOVE it!)
We had spent months together studying many British authors, and this week near the end of the school year we had read H.G. Wells' The Invisible Man (click for the 7 Sisters study guide that accompanies this classic). Gathering with the students in the sanctuary of the church where we have class each Thursday is always one of the high points of my week. Homeschooled kids are the best kids in the world!
I was all excited for our class discussion in groups; we were going to do this cool activity where each group of kids chose a current form of technology (like cell phones, or GPS', or wireless internet) and used their imaginations to take it to a fantastical conclusion. Then each group was going to write a cooperative creative short story about an abuse of that fantastical technological advance.
But first, I said, "Everyone take out a piece of paper, please. Quick quiz to make sure you did your reading." Amid the rustle of papers, I heard a voice I recognized say,
"Mrs. J? May I borrow a piece of paper?"
I looked up surprised. "Thomas, you didn't bring paper to class?"
Except that Thomas wasn't there. I scanned the room and couldn't find him.
"Thomas! Where are you?"
"What do you mean, Mrs. J? I'm sitting next to Jake, where I always sit."
The seat next to Jake was empty. Jake was looking far too angelic NOT to be in on the joke. The other students were beginning to chuckle.
"It's the Invisible Man, Mrs. J!"
"He's here in class!"
"Thomas found the notes for the experiment, and he's invisible!"
A moment later, Thomas (third from the left on the back row in the picture above) came around the corner and through the foyer doors. He was wearing the wireless lapel mic, and his buddy Jake (who volunteers in the sound room at church) had set him up to be "invisible." It didn't get either or them out of the quiz, but it sure did start class off with a laugh!
Have your students ever pulled a practical joke on you? Tell us about it!
And for more details on that class activity creating fantastical technological devices, click to read Homeschool, Belly Buttons and HG Wells!
I learn best with stories. Once upon a New Year, God was reminding me about the gifts he had given to me for sharing, so He gave me a story to share. What are your gifts? Here is the story:
Once upon a time, there lived a simple and grave peasant woman at the edge of a simple and industrious village.
One spring morning, as the woman tended her garden, the mighty king rode up on his handsome stallion. He spoke kindly to her and then entrusted to her care a curiously-carved box. He instructed her to dispense of the contents with wisdom. The peasant opened the box and was surprised to see the box filled with gold.
The woman began to give gold to her fellow villagers whenever there was a need. Soon the story of the give-away gold got around. Her fellow peasants from near and far would line up in the mornings to receive a gift. The gold-giving was so pleasant to her that it seemed easy to her to dispense of the gold with wisdom.
However, the peasant woman feared that she would soon run out of the gold and wondered what the king would say when he returned to an empty box. Soon she realized that each morning, the box was mysteriously replenished.
Once in a while, some mischievous youths would make a game of stealing coins from the box when she was distracted. This grieved the woman because she would have given them even more than they pinched- had they only asked.
Then one day, some vagabonds rode through town. They heard about the peasant and her box. Overcome with greed, the miscreants pushed through the honest crowd and demanded gold from the woman. Saddened by their rude behavior, the woman determined that it would not be wisdom to give these scalawags any of the gold.
For several days, the vagabonds pushed through the peasants to cajole, threaten and finally shove the woman- demanding gold in ever louder voices.
Finally, in despair, the woman closed the box tight and turned to leave. The wastrels forced the box out of her arms. They pounded it and kicked it to try to get to its contents. The grieving woman was relieved to see that the box refused to open for them.
Leaping on their horses, box in hand, they turned to ride out of town. However, the box would not leave the woman (this kind of thing happens in fables all the time). Instead, the box kept slipping to the ground. After several of these mishaps, the woman dashed to the box and sat on it, waiting for the vagabonds to leave before she would begin the give-away again.
Then she remembered the instructions of her king- dispense the gold with wisdom. He did not say that she should only dispense when there were no enemies. He said to dispense.
So, in the presence of her enemies, she opened the little box and gave a handful to a needy peasant. Her heart leaped with joy. She pulled up her courage and faithfully re-engaged her task.
The naughty youths and the miscreants were able to slip behind her and snatch a coin or two, but she had made up her heart to obey her king- so she kept on dispensing.
The following spring, the mighty king galloped up to her cottage again. There he found the peasant happily sharing the inexhaustible gold. He was pleased, so he opened the packs on his steed’s back. Pulling out another curiously-carved box, he informed her that this box was full of rubies- and she was to disperse these with wisdom also.
Your king has given you gifts. What are they? How are you dispensing them? With a new year starting, it is good to pray about these things…
If you'd like some prayer ideas for this new year, please go to the EBookstore and download a prayer journal.
I'm a homeschool mom who found herself staying in the lap of luxury in Montego Bay for a wedding two weeks ago! Here's something amazing that happened while we were there:
The weather was a perfect 82 degrees without a cloud in the sky. The food was amazing and abundant. My husband Fred and I were in the Caribbean for his daughter Jacki's destination wedding when God surprised us with a ministry opportunity.
The Sandals Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the resort chain at which we were vacationing, plans trips to rural schools in Jamaica to invest in the next generation of citizens. The poverty in much of Jamaica is astounding, and without a good education the children have little hope of improving their lot in the coming years.
We learned about the Foundation's efforts at a welcome party at our resort where they solicited donations for Christmas gifts and school supplies. Happy to invest in something worthy (especially where our dollars go so far!), we began talking to the Foundation representative and learned that we could go with her team on the day after Jacki's wedding to visit a school about 45 minutes outside of town.
80 children ages 2 - 8 go to school there, and they have two classrooms with desks in rows 2-deep in the larger room. Their teachers were clearly devoted to them, and it was such a joy to serve the children cake and ice cream and play with them at their Christmas Treat.
They were lined up waiting for us when we arrived.
You just never know when God will surprise you with the chance to do something really cool!
Have you ever been surprised by a ministry opportunity where you never thought you'd find one?
Read his amazing autobiography and get the most out of it with the 7 Sisters literature study guide that accompanies this deeply moving story.
Click here to view excerpts and download from the EBookstore!
I've read some great stuff recently.
Here are links to some great posts I've read in the last few days:
- Daniele at Domestic Serenity offers words to spur you on -- your dreams should not be ignored.
- Carol Anne shares the real-life-real-hard-stuff that parenting is made of when the mean times hit:
- Good ideas from Martha Schaum to keep your homeschool schooling during the Christmas season (from Homeschool Mosaics):
- No, our kids won't just automatically be thankful people. Here are Rachel Martin's (Finding Joy) tips for teaching gratitude:
(and if you have an extra moment, please read her post "Knowing That You Cannot Do It All" - and be a little kinder to yourself the rest of the day!)
- Lee Binz has a wise perspective on homeschooled graduates entering the work force:
- Poignant and practical words from Penny, talking about one of the topics everyone is afraid to mention:
- Would you like a free gift from Kendra Fletcher at Preschoolers and Peace? Know a mom of preschoolers who could use some help? Click over here:
- Jimmie shares thoughtful and practical tips for reaching out to a teen who's recovering from major illness or surgery at Jimmie's Collage:
- Sarah Small has a smart take on middle school at The Homeschool Classroom:
Looking for a one-semester course to begin after the start of the New Year? Consider Introduction to Psychology from a Christian Perspective. You will find nothing like it anywhere else. Click the title to view an excerpt from this excellent high school resource!
And watch my interview with the author, Vicki Tillman, to understand why Psychology is an important course to take in high school: