To Everything There is a Season

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    By Monica Cappelli

(Editor’s note: Please excuse us for the delay in posts. We’ve been having some technical difficulties and are working diligently to fix them. We’ll resume our regular posting as soon as possible.)

Autumn = Baking.

Muffins. Bread. Cake. Pies. When autumn days are crisp and a roaring fire warms the night, my circadian clock chimes the magic words, “Let’s bake!” My family agrees.

Autumn is a wonderful time to bring your kids into the kitchen. Yes, as a homeschooling mom and nerd, I appreciate the math lessons inherent in any baking project. As I parent two ten-year-olds, I love having a fun and delicious way of teaching basic homemaking skills such as planning a dessert to complement dinner (especially if you plan to eat dessert first), shopping for a recipe and, best of all, kitchen clean-up. Gifting baked goods is also a yummy opportunity to teach your child the Godly art of hospitality: Invite a friend for tea and scones; be a great guest and take along a treat when you’re invited to someone’s house for dinner, and give baked goods to home-bound or sickly people in the community. And nothing says “geography” like preparing desserts or meals from other times and cultures. Most importantly, though, I love the creativity my kids experience as they measure, mix, adjust, embellish, decorate, and anticipate eating their yummy confections.

Over the years, strangely enough, I’ve discovered a happy truth: even ugly baked goods are delicious! Trust me, I’ve received several unappetizing custom creations over the years, and I have never ever turned one down. Lopsided loaves, rubbery rolls, fallen cakes, terribly “crispy” cookies, sunken cupcakes, and even sad-looking pies (private joke, dear Renee), can be redeemed with laughter and a scoop of Ben & Jerry’s — or a serious whirl of whipped cream! Moreover, a sprinkle of cinnamon-sugar is like fairy dust to an ugly pie
crust! In other words, you’ll be able to survive with grace and encourage your child’s earliest forays into the world of baking. Know that friends, kind neighbors, aunts and uncles, grandparents and pastors (especially the last two) are willing recipients of even the most disastrous dessert gift when presented by your child with their very proudest grin.

Last week I posted some of the kids’ and my favorite bread recipes (yes, on Facebook! Yes, I spend too much time there. Yes, it’s a problem.) That post led to requests for gingerbread from friends. Those requests (slurping solicitations, really) led to this article. Which leads me to invite you all to post or link to kid-friendly recipes or some of your other autumn favorites!

P.S. Those ugly pie crusts? Yep. They’re mine. Somebody, help me, please. I could really use a good high altitude recipe!

    _____________

    Monica Blog PicMonica 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.

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Raising Our Children to be Like Jesus

    by Renee Miller

Image by Stephen C. Weber.

Image by Stephen C. Weber.

One aspect I love most about Classical and Christian Education is introducing our children to the greatest minds of history and the heroes of the faith. Jesus says in Luke 6:40: “A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.”

I believe this scripture is saying that no one is above Jesus, the ultimate teacher. It is my job as a parent and homeschooler to lead my children to be like Jesus.

The Bible instructs us to raise our children in the fear and admonition of the Lord as we stand up, sit down, and live our lives. This gives me great motivation to continue to grow and learn myself. But it also worries me that I might be limiting my children. So as a humble mother who lives in a small rural town, I try to connect my children with both mentors as well as men and women throughout history who have walked with God and, “it was counted unto them as righteousness.” I’m constantly on the lookout for other mentors who can help my children be more like Jesus.

I find it interesting that who is teaching our children is given so little thought in our current culture. In a study done by the Barna Group Research Institute, upwards of 75% of children will leave the faith of their parents as adults. Is there a connection between who mentors/teaches them throughout their childhood and whether or not they stay faithful? I think so.

I’ve known a number of parents who haven’t left their children with even a babysitter until they turn five. Then they leave their vulnerable child with an adult they don’t even know for 40 hours, five days a week for the next 13 years. Somehow our culture has convinced us this is normal–even desirable–and to question this puts you out of the norm. And, honestly, most kindergarten teachers I know are lovely people, so it seems so reasonable at first.

This leads me to reflecting on comments I heard recently in a lecture by Voddie Baucham. He recounts how people always ask the same questions when they realize he homeschools his children. First, there is always the socialization question. (My answer: “I’m not sending them to school to become a socialist.”) The next question: Is it legal or approved by the government? (“Of course it’s legal and who made it the government’s job to teach my children?”) What struck him was the sameness of the objections. I’ve experienced these questions, too.

When the majority have been schooled by the government, we really do think more the same than we realize. This is in stark contrast to my experience working with our children. They rarely ask the same questions about anything. In contrast to the 75% of children raised in Christian homes but who attend government schools, 95% of homeschooled children will remain in the faith. These are the children who have grown up in the fear and admonition of the Lord, steeped in Biblical wisdom, and nourished by the great men and women of history.

It’s worth noting that the verse before Luke 6:40 reads, “[Jesus] told them this parable: ‘Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit?’” Great mentors and teachers are to be found everywhere: in Scripture, in classic literature, in your community, in your home. These teachers will encourage our children to not only “keep the faith,” but to lead our children to be like Jesus.

    _________________________

    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.

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!

_______________

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.

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.

Tell Us Your Story

talk-bubble_17-416124326[1]At this point, you know a lot about us. But we don’t know a whole lot about you.

So we decided to take a break from the usual this week to get to know you, our readers!

So tell us: what made you first decide an alternative education (such as The Garden School, homeschooling, etc.) fit the needs of your family? Was it a hard decision to make? What advice would you give to parents considering an alternative education for their children?

Guest Post: Feeding Good Behavior

fara_murata_307[1](For one of our first guest posts ever here at The Journal, we are pleased to present Fara Murata! Feel free to welcome her by leaving a comment or two, and make sure to read until the very end for a special bonus feature!)

    Feeding Good Behavior

      By Fara Murata

    We all know that eating right is important, but why is it so hard? When our children are infants we strive to give them the best–then life gets hectic.

    The day starts early and we’re rushed to get the children up and get breakfast. Who has time to make anything? Grabbing something from a box is easier and it can be eaten in the car. Let’s face it, quick food isn’t the healthiest, but it gets the job done. Look in your pantry and see how many things you serve out of a box. Every mom I talk to has good intentions. She buys the boxes that say “organic” or “no sugar added.” That’s good, right? Convenience food has become the norm of our society.

    What most people don’t understand is that what their children eat determines their moods and behaviors. Do they get protein, fruits, or vegetables for breakfast? What do they get for lunch? Are they irritable and fighting? When parents complain about afternoons being the worst time of day, they need to ask: when was the last time my child ate? And, what did she eat?

    Many children eat lunch around 11:00 a.m., so without a snack that means by 3:00 p.m. they will be driving you crazy. You might even feel irritable and crabby. You’ve been running all day, maybe forgot to eat lunch, you certainly didn’t have time for a snack, and now everyone is crabby. You’re all depleted–physically and emotionally. Adults should eat a little something every three to four hours and children every two to three hours.

    If you haven’t eaten in the last few hours your blood sugars are low and your brain is not being supported. Most of us know that food increases blood sugar levels that give us energy, but it also increases chemicals in the brain to support good mood.

    Serotonin is a feel good chemical that keeps us from being down; it also helps children have better behavior. Sugar and protein are foods that increase serotonin. Sugar, or simple carbohydrates, causes serotonin to increase quickly but it runs out quickly too. Protein sustains serotonin for a longer period of time. Sadly, we don’t eat enough protein and we certainly don’t choose it for snacks.

    Providing protein at every meal, and for snacks, is a great way to set your children up for success. Removing all sugary snacks and food is impossible, but decreasing them will help maintain the blood sugar and serotonin balance. Your children will have better behavior, will listen better, will be able to perform better on school tasks, and you will be happier. The extra time it takes will be worth it.

    Reading labels can be helpful in making good choices. Four grams of sugar equals one teaspoon, so if your cereal has 23 grams it is the same as putting six teaspoons of sugar on their food! The ingredients listed on the label are in order of how much is in the food, so if sugar or high fructose corn syrup is listed in the first five ingredients you’ll know that food is mostly sugar. Fruit, honey, and Agave will add to the sugar grams, but they are good sugars and won’t spike blood sugar levels, which can lead to poor behavior.

    Involving your children in preparing food for meals and snacks is fun and they will be more likely to eat what they help make. This can be a good way to transition your children into choosing better food. Some great snacks are breakfast burritos, egg muffins, cheese Quesadillas, and turkey rolled up with cheese. These are better choices for breakfast and snacks and children can help prepare them.

    Creating a snack drawer in the pantry and refrigerator with food that can be eaten without asking for permission will help create good habits for the whole family. Bagging your own snacks with nuts, fruit, and whole grain cereal are a must–the children will love it. Get out of the boxes and watch your children’s behavior improve. Are you willing to take the extra time and effort to improve your family’s health and mood? As parents, we can choose to feed good behavior with good food.

    Readers: Check out the “Freebies” tab up at the top of this page for a special Egg Muffin recipe from Fara!

      ________________

      Fara Murata is the mother of two and grandmother of three. She and her husband share a home with her disabled parents and often have the whole family of 20 over. Understanding and implementing nutrition in her family’s diet has been important to changing their health. Fara also uses nutrition counseling in her private practice as a Social Worker to help children and families make positive changes. Follow Fara Murata on Facebook or her website http://www.faramurata.com