7 Ways to Conquer Your Morning Routine

Last week Monica Cappelli shared a few links to some great resources. Continuing in the spirit of that, we found an awesome article with some great tips about how best to maximize your mornings.

To read the article, visit “Joyful Mothering” here: http://joyfulmothering.net/7-ways-to-conquer-your-morning-routine/

Time to Share Your Great Learning Resources and Ideas

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    By Monica Cappelli

Reading. Writing. Math. Grammar. Vocabulary. Logic. History. Foreign Languages. Geography. Art. Science. Life-skills. Drama. Sports.

Inhale.

Exhale.

Scream.

Science! Advanced math! Science! Advanced math with basket weaving?

Since you’re the “most” fun, active, patient, upbeat, confident, multi-talented, knowledgeable and energetic parent in the world you’ve probably never struggled or worried about teaching any of these subjects. Good for you! But since there can be only one “most awesome parent ever,” the rest of us . . . well, we need help!

Enter family games, online learning, co-op learning, apprenticeships/internships, field trips, travel, and community resources. It’s important to use these and any other opportunities you can find to insert variety, depth, experiential learning, and fun into your family’s learning journey. Burn-out, fatigue, frustration, boredom, resistance, and daydreaming can result from a dearth of variety. Beware: your children might begin to exhibit some of these symptoms, too. Hang in there!

Today I will scratch the surface of the world of digital enrichment opportunities. Following are a few of both the online and software resources I have found to be of tremendous help to my family.

MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courseware): Free college courses?! Yes! Moreover, they neither require matriculation nor discriminate based on age. MOOCs will issue certificates of completion, and some may offer limited fee based credit courses in the near future. These are great tools to supplement, enrich, or accelerate your student’s education, to sample college level work, or to “observe” and prepare before taking a similar for-credit college course. Another benefit is cultural enrichment, as students gain meaningful real-world insights by engaging in mandatory discussion forums with students from all over the world. I thoroughly enjoyed the classes I took last spring after learning about MOOCs from a homeschooled 8th grader in a local homeschool group – so parents, let’s go! These MOOC aggregator websites list and link to thousands of online class opportunities: http://www.mooc-list.com or http://www.class-central.com

Individual K-12 subjects, and even full curricula, are readily available online or on disc. Computers are supremely well suited for certain tasks. Typing instruction; flash card creation and review; computer programming (SCRATCH, and others); math drills (Reflex Math, IXL, or many free math websites); spelling/vocabulary exercises (Spelling City, Literacy Planet, Word Voyage [I LOVE Word Voyage!]); oral reading fluency (Reading Assistant, Fast ForWord and others); curriculum enrichment videos (Discovery Streaming, Brain Pop); and Theater (PBS online, and Digital Theater.com). These great tools can help alleviate concerns like eye-rolling boredom, “Am I covering all of the basics?” “How do I fill those aggravating gaps?” or, “Hey, I need a little help here!”

There are many on- and off-line resources available – please share your favorites in the comments section below. Go ahead and post your questions, too – I’m sure you’ve got a few!

Our blog readers look forward to sharing and learning about the great learning tools your family enjoys!

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Monica Cappelli is a wife and the mother of four wonderful children. Over the years her family has been blessed to experience home, public, private, and parochial schooling. This has given Monica an appreciation for the strengths and challenges of the educational choices available to families. A successful experience is possible in any of these situations with the support of community and prayerful, encouraging parents. Monica strongly believes that parental academic expectations and “leadership by example” in the areas of competence, autonomy, and service set the stage for a young person’s entrance into a successful, joyful, and productive adulthood.

You Might Be From The Garden School If…

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    By Elizabeth Veldboom

1) You know that “The Rock” is more than just an ex-wrestler turned lousy actor.

2) You have ever had nightmares about forgetting your lines.

3) You know that Latin is not a dead language. It should be, but somehow they keep reviving it.

4) The names “George Grant” or “Paul Johnson” have ever struck fear into your heart.

5) An “Opportunity” means more to you than an amazing chance coming your way. Rather, it is a strategic plot designed to get you to ponder an early demise.

6) You’ve ever had class at a Starbucks and/or Target.

7) The Morley knows all. Period.

8) You could make the Guinness World Records for the most khaki ever worn on a single person.

9) You have seen at least one thing blow up during a 40-hour presentation.

10) You have ever spontaneously burst out singing.

11) You compare every grandma you know to Nonny. Maybe even your own. Or really anyone.

12) You know who Nonny is.

Garden School teachers, parents, students, and grads–what did I miss?! What would you have put on this list? I’d love to hear what you come up with!

And for our readers from out of state: What out of this list caught your curiosity?! Let us know, and we’ll give you the story behind it!

Have fun, guys! I can’t wait to see what you come up with.

    ______________________

    Elizabeth Veldboom is a 2009 graduate from The Garden School, and a student in Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild. She has previously been published in places like Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Magic of Mothers and Daughters, and CBN.com. She has a huge heart for homeschooling families and would love connecting with you, so visit her blog anytime at http://www.thefearlist.wordpress.com

Come to the Quiet

    By Jennifer Marvin

It’s a noisy day in the neighborhood. Through the doors and windows, opened earlier to let in a rain-sweet breeze, the racket from landscape workers and their machines rattles my thoughts. Lawnmowers roar, weedeaters whine, leafblowers buzz, men shout and laugh, jackhammers clatter, engines clang…

I pace my apartment, sliding glass windows and doors shut, turning the outside volume down about 1/4. It’s not enough to let me think, and I begin to feel frantic. Maybe I should drive to the library? Should I complain to the management? Am I the only one in the building who feels assaulted by the sounds of lawn care?

The verse comes to mind “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10.) For about the thousandth time in my life, I wonder how to do that, how to be still. My parents taught me music, how to read, cook, do math in my head…they tried to teach me to be honest, to pay my debts, to respect the human dignity of each person…but I don’t remember them ever instructing me in how to be still. As far as that goes, did I teach my son how to be still? Like my parents before me, I taught my progeny to read – print and music – taught him basic piano, music theory, how to play a plethora of board and guessing games, how to cook; we read the Bible, prayed and sang and hiked and camped and dragged blankets out to the backyard at 2 a.m. to see meteor showers and identify constellations. But did we ever even talk about how to be still and know God? I asked him about this and, though he remembers doing yoga along with “Lilias” on educational TV, and “oming” along with the hippies at the Farm in Tennessee when he was eight, he assures me I didn’t talk to him about how those might help still the mind, and that until he learned to meditate from his own explorations of Buddhism and Tai Chi in his early 30’s, he lay awake till the wee hours with his mind racing.

As did I until my early 30’s.

The summer my son was nine he went to spend time with relatives in Wyoming, and I took time off from being mother and instructor to stay in a hut on the side of a mountain in a monastery where all kept a vow of silence. I discovered there that the constant barrage of aural stimuli from outside me was nothing compared to the noise between my own ears, where 17 radios of my mind, each tuned to a different station, muttered and nattered and waxed incoherent without let-up.

I learned a little bit that summer about quieting the internal racket. But I grieve that I imparted none of what I had learned to my son. Why did I not consider quieting the soul as important a skill as reading and making music? I had not yet heard John Michael Talbot’s soothing album of musical settings for many of the Psalms, “Come to the Quiet.” But I began reflecting on the Psalms. Psalm 4:4: “Meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still.” The word translated “still” there, Strong’s 1826, is translated in other places as rest (in Psa 37:7, “rest in the LORD”, cease, quieted (Psa 131:2 “Surely I have behaved and quieted myself/ my soul”), tarry, wait (Psalm 62:5, “My soul, wait thou only upon God”), forbear, and peace.

“Behold, I have stilled myself…” So this is not something that just happens, it’s something I can — must! — deliberately do, something that can be learned. I studied the Apostle Timothy’s counsel that women should “learn in silence 2271 with all subjection” and discovered that the Greek word translated “silence” there is not necessarily the same as “making no sound.” Another word — sigao 4601 — is used to mean “silence” in the sense of “holding peace” or making no sound. But 2271, hesuchia, is used to describe stillness, i.e. desisting from bustle and commotion. So it’s not that we should refrain from speaking in the congregation — it’s that we should refrain from being all stirred up, agitated, in the midst of worship, prayer, and the Word…

I discussed this recently with a homeschooling mom of 8 and 10-year-olds, and was excited to hear that she actually instructs them, explicitly, in quieting themselves. While reading Psalm 131 one morning, the youngest asked her “What does that mean?” After talking about being quiet within, as well as being noiseless, she put a 5-minute timer on, and invited her girls to be silent and “wait upon” God, with the expectation that when their own voices were stilled, their spirits would begin to be less “ruffled up” and they would hear God speaking to them. After the timer went off, her younger daughter reported that God had told her “Everything will be okay. You are God’s child and He will take care of you.”

Scientific studies have shown that just 5 to 10 minutes a day of meditation increases people’s happiness. Regardless of the specific faith in whose context the discipline of quieting the soul is practiced, a study in the journal Psychiatry Research suggests that meditating for just a few minutes a day for eight weeks can increase the density of gray matter in brain regions associated with memory, stress, happiness and empathy. This is an amazing idea: that we can do something that actually changes the structure of our brains and increases our capacity for compassion and happiness. “One thing I have asked of the Lord, that I will seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the delightfulness of Adonai, and to meditate in His temple.”

The paths we take in search of happiness often lead to frustration and suffering instead. We try to create outer conditions that we believe will make us happy. But it is the mind itself that translates outer conditions into happiness or suffering. This is why we can be deeply unhappy even though we “have it all”—wealth, power, health, a good family, etc.—and, conversely, we can remain strong and serene in the face of hardship.

Do you believe that happiness is a skill to be cultivated? Are you able to deliberately let go of agitation, to still your soul? Do you have a regular time of specifically teaching your children how to quiet their minds?

_____________

With a degree in Modern Languages and Bilingual Education, Jennifer has taught Spanish, Russian, Latin, and Bible, coordinated weekly chapel, and tutored Hebrew at The Garden School. She homeschooled her son before sending him to Sarasota Christian School, and is an avid advocate of home cooking, home remedies, home birth, and home death as well.

Procrastination

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    By Shilo Bartlett

The list hanging on my desk today has about 15 things on it that need to get done. It stares back at me like a menacing cat in the corner, saying, “I dare you to try and take me on.” Its black ink has a dark feel. This is not a good list day.

Have you had a day like that? Where the things to conquer outweigh the normal goings on of your household by 2-to-1? That is a not so great day, right?

I have a solution!

There is more than one way to overcome this obstacle.

The first is to tackle the “cat” head on – just try and pound it into submission, one item at a time. This will result in what I will call “list exhaustion,” and will leave you feeling like you have fought with a tiger and lost. Scratches, bruises, mental fatigue, and diet problems always follow this route.

The second way to deal with the list is to take a ’round about route – i.e., circle the “cat,” don’t let it know you are coming, then pounce like a mad beast and ride the crazy ride. Hold on for dear life as you try and make the swirling stop. Can’t you just see it? You, riding a wild cat? Yeah, that’s one crazy way to take on “The List.” You slowly put aside your daily things, knowing you must attempt the leap at any moment, and then you just one by one knock them off while blowing what’s left of the normalcy of your day into the wind like the whirling dervish you are! This ends with another bad side effect just like the method above: headaches, children who will wonder if their parent has gone mad, and general disorder in your household.

There is, however, one more method of dealing with The List: Procrastination.

Yes, that is the method. This type of coping mechanism is one that has been proven throughout the ages as the most effective form of dealing with problems in your life that cannot be dealt with. This method requires nothing more from you than no effort at all. Yes! You look at that list waiting for you… staring at you… cowering like the cat in the corner… and what do you do? You don’t do any of it! You walk away and leave that cat to its own sad devices, and move on to living blissfully unaware of any problems, cares, or concerns of things left to be done. You move on with your life in great happiness that you have no worries, no chores, and no responsibilities. This method is the greatest yet to be applied by mankind.

Seriously though?

Procrastination is definitely not the method we should use in our lives with our responsibilities. I just like to amuse you with the ideas of what you could do with “The List” that all of us have in our lives. Sometimes it’s a daily list, other times it may be a list that you have had for years. Things that you would like to do with your life, things you know you should do for your children. “The List” can mean many things.

In my own experience, I have found that this List is like a mountain-a kind of challenge for myself. I have discovered, too, that there is a way to conquer every mountain or mole hill in a very successful way. You know the saying “Rome wasn’t built in a day”? Well, Mt. Everest is definitely not climbed in one day, to say the least. Climbing Mt. Everest is a practiced art they perfect to achieve the goal of conquering that mountain. They train, and train some more, and acclimate, and gain muscle, and build confidence on smaller mountains before they tackle the big one.

There is a key in that method which I believe will help in achieving the various goals and lists each of us have in our lives. Small victories-small chips away at small things-always lead to bigger successes. That list? It can be finished! How? Small, even, realistic steps. Once you have conquered that small hill, and stand on top of it? The bigger mountain looks smaller, right? Yes – it looks achievable. Then you take on the larger things.

If there is a “List” or “Mountain” in your life, maybe we can try going at it like the mountain climbers taking on Everest, and not like the cat wrangler above.

Happy Mountain Climbing!

    ___________________

    Shilo Bartlett is a super organized, over reaching, strong-willed mother of three. She loves having the hands-on time with her kids that homeschooling and The Garden School have allowed her. She grew up in the Colorado River Valley, and went to public school until 6th grade. Her mother homeschooled her and her three siblings through high school, and then she attended CMC graduating with a degree in Applied Science in the Veterinary Field. She has always read voraciously, and written throughout her life for many publications. Her family is her passion. Her driving motivation is to encourage a love of learning.

Foundations for Learning

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    By Dave Miller

[Dave’s note: What follows is a personal essay for a college application from a graduate of The Garden School. I hope it will encourage parents who have chosen private or homeschool education to “stay the course.”]

I’ve been blessed to be born into a wonderful family (in both the nuclear and extended sense) and to attend a quite extraordinary school from a very young age. My family has always cultivated my education and supported my quest for knowledge, but it was at The Garden School that I eventually understood what learning truly is. The Garden School is a classical Christian private school that students attend twice a week. The students work at home the other three days, following the instructors’ guidelines. The school is based on the idea that there is a Grammar stage, a Logic stage, and a Rhetoric stage. You learn facts, then you learn causes and meaning, and are finally able to communicate your ideas. The Garden School’s foundational principle is teaching students how to think, not what to think. And I thrived in this environment.

At The Garden School, I learned Philosophy from Plato, Chemistry from Lavoisier, Humor from Cervantes, and Poetry from Homer. I learned how science and music and art and government are intricately connected and cannot be separated without losing meaning. I learned to look at the stars and see Pegasus, to look at a snowy field and hear the poetry of Frost, to read a news story and recall a similar event our modern times have all but forgotten. I learned to love knowledge. I found I could dig deeper and understand, follow a path of logic and find a mistake, speak and have my opinions heard. The Garden School instilled in me a deep and passionate longing to know and understand.

[The essay goes on to talk about the writer’s decision to attend Colorado Mountain College to earn an Associate of Arts Degree as well as her desire to transfer to a four-year university. I hope you’ll agree that for this student, the years spent at The Garden School as well as the freedom of homeschooling provided a strong foundation for furthering her education.]

As a homeschool parent, what kinds of things do you do to help your child build a solid foundation for life-long learning?

    ___________________

    A professional educator since earning his teaching credentials at San Diego State in 1985, Dave’s 26-year teaching career has been both challenging and rewarding, often in the same day. He and wife Renee have lived and taught in San Diego, Germany, and Colorado, traveled to dozens of countries and are still raising six great kids. Along with his role as Guidance Counselor at The Garden School, Dave has been reinventing himself as a work-at-home dad and recently promoted to Vice President at Lightyear Wireless. Now he gets to teach people how to live the life of their dreams.

On Being in Community

Diversity

“Diversity”

    By Renee Miller

Over the years many unique and interesting families have been a part of our community: Christian, non-Christian, gifted children, special needs children, above average children, below average children, families with means, families who sacrifice to pay tuition–the list goes on. With so much diversity, how do we handle so many people as they come into our communities? How do we even create community? For those of us who feel passionately called to Christian education–both at home and in the private school setting–one of the most difficult areas in which to find balance is between family and community.

Where is the healthy balance? After many years of homeschooling and private schooling, I can assure you that I do not have the answer. However, I think a continuing dialogue is important.

As we cast about for a vision of Christian community and Christian education, it will likely emphasize rebuilding paradigms around healthy families, raising abysmally low educational standards, and promoting Christian ideals in dress, courtship, and basic civility. Creating this kind of culture is a full-scale battle. So how are families approaching this community-building?

On one extreme, I’ve observed families who focus entirely on their own children’s gifts and talents, and see the community as a threat to raising Godly progeny. These families can be quite critical of the areas where community falls short. Somehow, the community never measures up theologically, behaviorally, socially or otherwise. They tend to have unreachable and naïve expectations of what can be accomplished with a group of sinful, fallen people awash in the sewage of our generation. Jesus can transform us all in amazing ways, but it is hard work on everyone’s part.

In the other extreme, parents rely on and continually seek other people to do the job for them. These families hope that the parenting thing will not be too costly or time-consuming. They are often more consumer-oriented, on board as long as it is working well for their children. Their commitment can be short and fun, and like our general consumer culture they move quickly on to the next bigger or better thing. They’re glad to benefit from other people’s hard work and investment yet very reluctant to sacrifice for someone else.

All families need people who will come alongside them and help create safe havens of community where they can be challenged and nurtured. Families need for us to not simply say we don’t have the expertise, money, or experience to deal with their difficult situations. We are keenly aware of the millstone around the neck story and the incredible challenge to bless children and not irrevocably harm them. So we need to be careful to not whisk by in our minivans with fish on the back and leave families lying bruised by the roadside.

Working with people and being in community is hard but rewarding. It is the very practical side of learning to work with people we can’t stand, who are merely reflections back to us of all the miserable things we don’t like about ourselves. It is about modeling for our children how to resolve conflict and develop the discernment to know what is of eternal significance.

Fortunately, we are mercifully in possession of God’s Word, which has the wisdom to help us navigate the rocky roads of relationships creatively–and sometimes miraculously! It’s in the Word that we can find solutions to the problems that come to us.

Our triune God exists in community. He calls us into community. He calls us into families. When we get it right, however fleeting the moment, it reflects the character of God to the world in a way that few other things can.

You are Invited to Respond: What’s a situation you’ve been in where you’ve seen a true community at work?

    ____________________

    Renee is the founder and director of The Garden School and Cornerstone Classical School (as well as “The Miller Family School”). Though trained in the public school model–she has taught everything from first grade to junior high science–Renee’s first foray away from this system resulted in The Garden School. Renee holds a Master’s Degree in Teaching and Learning from Point Loma Nazarene College. She is a strong advocate for classical Christian education and an accomplished public speaker. The Millers currently live in a busy multi-generational household immersed in classical and Christian ideals and a whole lot of love.