Our Reasons for Home Education:

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Although he was achieving good results, he wasn't reaching his full potential because his love for learning had been destroyed & hence his grades were steadily declining.

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Completely failed by the system, he hated school, was always tired & homework time was a major frustration for both of us. He was severely frustrated & quickly heading to become yet another ADHD statistic.

Friday, February 28, 2014

What Is an “Inspired Homeschooler”?

Amelia Harper

Our new writing column is titled “The Inspired Homeschooler.” But what do we mean by “inspired”? When we speak of the “inspiration” of the Scriptures, we mean that God Himself led certain men to write documents that became part of the Biblical canon that we use today. The ancient Greeks believed that artists, writers, and musicians were “inspired” by nine demi-gods called “muses” who spurred them on to creative efforts. Today, when we use the term “to inspire,” we generally mean that someone influences a creative effort or motivates someone to creative excellence. This is exactly what Susan Spann and I wish to do in this “Inspired Homeschooler” column.

As I travel throughout the country meeting homeschooling families, many of them talk to me about their desire to write. Parents often come to me because they don’t know how to teach writing; others come because they simply want to motivate or “inspire” their children to write at all. Still others come because they are already inspired to write and have begun to create works of their own.

These “inspired” writers span a broad range of homeschoolers. Most are teens, both male and female, who are working on short stories, poems, or entire novels. However, many are adults who are homeschooling parents or former homeschooled students. Those who fall in this category are mainly interested in improving their craft or in learning how to submit works for publication. This really is an attainable goal, for I know of several homeschooled students who have already had books published.

Some people think of writing as simply a means to communicate, but in reality, writing has a much greater power. Thoughts expressed in speech are ephemeral: unless they are captured by audio or video, they disappear as quickly as they are spoken. Even an avid listener may have trouble later recalling the exact expression of the idea. However, written ideas live longer, whether in print or electronically, and become part of the greater archive of mankind’s accumulated creativity, wisdom, and knowledge.

The power of the written word can entertain, enlighten, or even change hearts and minds. Think of a book you have read that held that sway over you. Have you ever had a day made brighter by an encounter with the written word? Have you ever learned something new or have you seen the world through another’s eyes? Have you ever embraced an idea or philosophy (perhaps even homeschooling your family) because of the impact of the written ideas of another? Have you ever been inspired to write something of your own in response to that power?

Reading the work of another is one of the most common methods of “inspiration.” Have you ever read a story and thought: “But what if it didn’t happen this way? What if the circumstances or setting, or characters were changed? How would that affect the plot and outcome of the story?” If you can answer these questions within your own creative consciousness, you may be inspired to write a totally different story.

But inspiration does not only apply to creative projects. Perhaps you find yourself interested in a topic and begin to research it. As you do, you discover an approach to the topic that no one else has seen. You may be inspired to write a report, paper, or entire book that explains this subject in a whole new light. Or your own passion for an idea may inspire you to write persuasively in order to encourage others to accept this idea as well.

Inspiration can come in many forms. In the past, artists, musicians, and writers have been inspired by nature, by the plight of mortal man, by Scripture, by mythology, by their own joys and tragedies—even by their own dreams. But often, it is the written word of one author that inspires the writings of another.

That is what we hope to accomplish here. We hope to provide you with fodder for your own muse—whatever that muse might be. During the coming year, Susan and I plan to alternate writing concepts in order to help educate you concerning the written word in the current age. Susan, with her experience as an attorney who also speaks at writing conferences, plans to focus on the steps and strategies involved in bringing a creative work from idea to publication. In my columns, I plan to focus more on the wide range of genres available to the writer in modern society.

However, the goal of this column is far more than education about the written word. Our goal is to inspire you and your children to develop your creativity and achieve written excellence. All ideas have influence, but well-worded ideas possess an even greater power. Through this column, we hope that you will be inspired to develop and use that power for good.

Amelia Harper is a homeschooling mother of five and a pastor’s wife. She is also the author of Literary Lessons from the Lord of the Rings, a complete one-year literature curriculum designed for secondary-level homeschooled students. In addition, she is an English tutor and a freelance writer who contributes regularly to newspapers and magazines. For more information, go to
Copyright 2012, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the January 2012 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade magazine for homeschool families. Read the magazine free or read it on the go and download the free apps to read the magazine on your mobile devices.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Guidelines for Success

By Kay Camenisch

Do your children occasionally shock you with antics that are entirely outside their training? Most homeschool families take seriously the admonition to “train up a child in the way he should go.” When a child’s behaviour is outside acceptable boundaries, conscientious parents notice.

I experienced one such occasion when I took our youngest children to the mall. Daniel was almost 2 and Jonathan was barely 3 years old. My normally calm, obedient children squealed and chased each other around counters and wrapped themselves in hanging garments. They then played Hide and Seek among clothing racks. I was horrified and couldn’t shop because I was too busy correcting and corralling.

Finally, I realized that the boys had never been in a mall. To them the store was a stimulating playground. They weren’t going outside their boundaries—I’d never given them guidelines for behaviour in clothing stores.

I called them to me, squatted down to their level, and looked them in the eye. I told them I needed them to stay close to me, keep their voices quiet, keep their hands by their sides, and so forth. I then asked questions to check their understanding.

After our chat, the boys became perfect little shopping companions. They did exactly what I had asked. We all enjoyed the excursion, and I found what I was looking for. As we walked to another store, a little hop-skip in Daniel’s step mirrored the joy in my heart.

I thought about my impatience in the past. In how many of those instances had I been the problem because I failed to set boundaries or tell my children what kind of behaviour would be appropriate? Because other responsibilities demand attention, it’s easy to overlook preparing children for what lies ahead. How can they succeed if they don’t know what is expected of them?

Children Need Guidelines

Even in everyday activities, children need to know what is acceptable behaviour. For example, do your children know what you want from them when:

· They have a question or important need while you’re talking with someone?

· They are asked by a peer to do something they know won’t please you—or God?

· They have to wait for you in a public gathering, like after church?

· They are overwhelmed by a task or a situation?

If our children don’t know what is expected, their disruptions lead to frustration, misunderstandings, wasted time, and possibly missed goals. Even in familiar settings, such as church, we’ll get better cooperation if we explain what we expect during the service and why, rather than constantly whispering, “Shhhh!” and “Be still!”

In new situations, it’s even more important. How could Jonathan and Daniel have known how to act in a mall when they had never been to one? If it is something that is unusual to us—like end-of-the-year testing—we’re likely to prepare them. However, what about things that are familiar to us, but not to them?

Knowing what is expected will help children succeed in strange situations, such as these:

· A visit to the doctor

· An encounter with strangers or a relative they tend to pull back from

· A trip to a nursing home, a museum, or a field trip

· A first birthday party when the other child gets all the presents


When possible, we need to make time to tell our sons and daughters what to expect, how to act, or what to say in a new situation. When appropriate, we can build internal character by explaining whys of an expectation. It takes very little time and can save embarrassment, conflict, and/or lost time later.

Social grace is a learned skill. For the shy child—or the hyper one—it’s especially helpful to have a strategy ahead of time. They will learn more quickly if we teach them how to be polite and appropriate rather than expect them to know intuitively or to absorb training by osmosis.

We home educate our children because we want them to adopt our faith and values as well as succeed in life. Taking time to give specific guidelines builds toward that goal. If a child doesn’t follow instructions, there’s an additional benefit.

An Added Bonus

We tend to confront disobedience with reprimand or ask, “Why did you do that?” Either approach immediately puts a child on the defensive. However, if we’ve given instructions, we can say, “What did I ask you to do?” Answers to that simple question can reveal lack of understanding.

A friend, Paul, had bedtime prayers with his young daughter. One night after Susannah prayed, he instructed her to begin her prayers with thanksgiving instead of making requests. The next day, he went on a trip. When he returned, just as in the past, she began with, “Dear God, bless Mommy, and Daddy, and . . .”

He said, “Susannah, how did I ask you to start your prayers?”

“Oh, yeah,” she said. “Ummm. Was it with Halloween?”

Susannah heard her father’s request, but she didn’t know “thanksgiving” was an expression of gratitude. She thought it was a vacation!

The question “What did I ask you to do?” gave opportunity to hear her lack of understanding.

Further Bonuses

If a child understands but does not obey, rather than reprimand, ask, “Can you help me understand why you didn’t do what I asked?” The question puts responsibility for obedience on the child without placing blame.

The question gives opportunity to learn if there is a legitimate reason for noncompliance. If your spouse had told him to do something different, it is good to have shown trust, rather than having blamed. However, if the child is guilty of wilful disobedience, he/she will indict him/herself if answers show noncompliance without a reason.

If we constantly correct our children and rein them in, we focus on negative behaviour and tend to address only external actions. It instils negative self-image and doesn’t build character or relationship. In time, the child will resist.

On the other hand, if day by day we take time to prepare our children for things they face, it will build confidence to embrace life. If we correct them without judgment and blame, they will not be as quick to resist us. If we consistently communicate a desire to help them succeed, they’ll learn to welcome our input, and it will also build our relationship with them.

Train Up Your Child

One of the definitions for train in Proverbs 22:6 is “to initiate.” As we train our children, we initiate them for life. It is quicker, easier, and more productive to initiate correct performance than to change unacceptable behaviour. Instruction and guidelines help children start on the right path—thus helping them succeed in the situation at hand and in the life ahead of them. The initial investment of time and attention is well worth the reward.

As we communicate expectations, we join our children in anticipation of coming events. It helps them be successful in new or difficult situations, thus preparing them for success in life.

When we seek activities to teach Godly character, we tend to get complicated and think of a planned activity or program. However, we can encourage character and relationship if we simply look from our children’s perspective and give guidelines to help them be successful in daily situations.

Kay Camenisch, a pastor’s wife, has four children and eleven grandchildren. She began to homeschool in 1989. Besides articles and dramas, she also writes devotions for Her search to help couples find freedom from anger led to the publication of Uprooting Anger: Destroying the Monster Within, a transformational Bible study that addresses the roots of anger (

Copyright 2012, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the November 2012 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine. Read the magazine free at or read it on the go and download the free apps at to read the magazine on your mobile devices.