Homeschooling in Perpetual Motion:
That's My Boy!

by Tamara Eaton

[In honor of Mother's Day, I'd like to share about one of my most precious and rewarding challenges as a mother--my son Joel! ]

My seven year old son is perpetual motion and does math problems while hanging upside down or thumping his leg against the furniture. He's relatively still when he reads to himself and to me now, but when he first learned to read, he would bounce around so much he would sometimes lose his place.

When he was younger, he had the following conversation with a new librarian (the older ones already knew we homeschooled):

Librarian: How old are you?

Joel: 5 1/2, and I'll be 6, Jan.4th!

Librarian: How nice! You'll be able to go to school next year, won't you?

Joel: I'm not going to go to school. I have better things to do!

And homeschooling has definitely proven to be a better thing for him to do! After observing Joel's learning style and unique personality, I appreciate even more the benefits of homeschooling--with individual attention he has been able to progress at his own rate of maturity and not be limited to a single grade level. We have been free to "work with the wiggle" (as one famous homeschool curriculum advertises). I can't imagine a classroom teacher allowing him to sit in her lap while learning to read or snuggling up with a good book or doing advanced math problems while hanging upside down! ("I can think better this way, Mama!")

From birth he's had an enormous amount of curiosity, energy and determination! Often it was exhausting to keep up with him and to be consistent in discipling and training him, but it was well worth it. What a blessing it is to see his energies channeled in positive directions instead of negative. Although it was tempting at times to just want a break from him--what worked best in the long run was to stay right with him and train him consistently, in love. Now we are reaping the benefits, although he still keeps us on our toes! He has always been very intense; when he gets interested in a topic, he doesn't let go.

I could go on and on-- for the last seven years, he has filled our lives with such joy and excitement. He was the reason we had to install high locks on all the doors to the outside. He was the one who took things apart to see how they worked and swallowed a screw. He was the child who never walked when he could run, never whispered when he could yell and liked to sing "Jesus Loves Me" at the top of his lungs in the grocery store. He also has never met a stranger. (Which has made life more challenging!) It's just been in the past year that we no longer have to ask every five minutes, "Has anyone seen Joel?"

By God's grace and with His strength and wisdom, we're going to fill our precious young son up with God's Word and teach him His ways and watch out world--he is going to be an intense, committed, yielded vessel for the Lord to use for His glory!

JOEL'S HOMESCHOOLING METHOD

The key to successful homeschooling with Joel has been to challenge him and take advantage of his own curiosity and interests in different areas. We don't do much "seatwork"--just when he's in the mood and we keep lessons short. Now, this may sound to some like he's not learning much. Nothing could be further from the truth!

When he's in the mood for math (which he loves but doesn't do a text every day), he's likely to cover four or five lessons in one sitting. He is quick to pick up on new concepts and enjoys the challenge and doesn't need as much drill work as some of my other children. Probably because he "thinks in numbers" and constantly relates everyday experiences and thoughts to math problems. We played fun math games together when he was little, too, and he has always liked math software programs.

Because he had a good foundation in basic math using simple manipulatives found around the house (cheerios, legos, etc.), it took him almost no time to complete the first levels of BJU math so he jumped into Saxon 54 and is doing well. He doesn't need all the drill so I don't make him do all the problems on each page--just a few of each type unless it's something he already knows so well--then he skips it. Most of the time, I sit beside him and write down the answers as he does the work orally--he amazes me with his ability to do it all in his head. Sometimes he has to grab the notebook and figure it out on paper, but often it's not necessary.

Writing has been difficult for him, but I see no reason to limit his experiences in math, composing stories, letters, etc. until he matures in this area, so many times he dictates to me or an older sibling. (Although he has been motivated lately to improve his writing skills.) He loves to type up emails so he is writing and improving his spelling that way, too. He also has started a typing program.

He loves to read, although he didn't become fluent until January, which was also the month he turned 7. He had been able to read some words and knew how to sound out words for a couple of years, but he would get frustrated and give up. He has always been the type of child who wanted to know how to do something instantly--and well. (We're working on that!) I never pressured him to read because I wanted him to enjoy it, so I just read aloud often to him and encouraged him to read a few words or sentences every now and then. Finally, it all came together for him and he took off!

His major motivating factors were wanting to read computer instructions easily and to be able to do more computer educational software games (he adored SimFarm but had to ask for help sometimes in reading the text) and he really wanted to be able to read exciting books on his own. After he read his first book by himself, he was still tempted to grow weary of all the work involved so we decided to offer a small "prize" for each book he finished reading. (Prizes included new books, notebooks, crayons, pens, etc.)

We made a chart for his room and wrote down each book that he'd read. Within a short time, it was difficult to keep up with writing them all down and he began to read chapter books. He also realized the truth of what we'd been saying all along--the more he practiced, the easier it got and it didn't take long before he didn't have to sound out all the words.

Now he delights in being able to read fluently and no longer needs any incentive but the pleasure of reading and learning. When he chooses a book to read, he first looks at the copyright date and determines the age of the book, then wants to know what was going on in the world at that time. Finally, he digs into the book, often reading the especially interesting or funny parts out loud to me so I can enjoy it, too. He also likes to read highlights to the rest of the family, so he gets plenty of practice. Now that he's reading well, he's allowed the privilege of staying up an extra hour before bedtime to read in bed just like the older members of his family.

I've continued to read aloud to him often, too--both non-fiction and fiction books and this is the way we cover many subjects. He's fascinated with books, maps, people, animals, places, science, space, the wild west, history, computers, sports, music and life in general. He has many interests in so many areas that it's difficult to keep up with him at times.

William and I try to answer his questions, help him with any research, read aloud to him daily, equip him with the tools he needs to learn, be sensitive to his needs, continue to train him in the areas of obedience, respect and responsibility, teach him the Word of God and Christian ethics, demonstrate the love of the Father to him, and treasure and enjoy each moment with him. He truly is a precious gift from the Lord!

Although I've been a mother for many years now, the last seven years with Joel have been a journey through often previously uncharted territory--a joyous, exciting, exhausting adventure which has thus far given me nerves of steel, an increased measure of patience and perseverance, a few grey hairs, and far more affection, love and devotion than I could possibly have imagined. His joy and zest for living overflows and has a profound effect upon our whole family and homeschooling.

If you have a child who stretches you in many areas, look to the Lord Jesus Christ for WISDOM...

Colossians 2:3 "In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge."

STRENGTH...

Psalm 105:4 "Seek the LORD, and his strength: seek his face evermore.

Psalm 138:3 "In the day when I cried thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul."

Proverbs 10:29 "The way of the LORD is strength to the upright..."

and GRACE...

2 Corinthians 9:8 "And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work..."

He will never fail us!

Some of Joel's favorite books and resources:

[Note: Most of these books are available from the online chfweb.com bookstore!]

Computer Software: Oregon Trail, SimFarm, Word Rescue, Math Rescue, Bible Baseball, Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune, Family Feud (He plays these educational trivia games with his older siblings and learns so much!)

Copyright Tamara Eaton 1994-2001, all rights reserved.

Permission is given to reprint any of Tamara's articles in non-profit publications as long as the article is reprinted in full and contains the copyright information and website address. Please send a copy of the publication to :Deeper Life Family Ministries, P.O. Box 909, Killen, AL 35645.

We have always homeschooled our six children (elementary through high school and beyond!) and enjoy encouraging other families in their homeschooling, parenting and in the Lord! For more help and information, please join us on the Christian Homeschool Fellowship Message Board.

[ Please don't forget to include your email address within the body of your message--we've had some of our responses returned due to insufficient email addresses! ]


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"And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord;
and great shall be the peace of thy children."

Isaiah 54:13