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
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
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.
- At age two, he wanted to know more than just that the light
switches turned the lights on and off, he wanted to know HOW it happened
so we talked about electricity. He even wanted us to take the wall down so
he could see the wiring, but we made do with a book on it instead.
- When at age three, he understood that Jesus died for his sins,
and asked the Lord for His forgiveness and to be His Lord and Savior, he
wanted to also know the answers to deep theological issues: What was the
difference in his relationship with the Lord when he was a baby and now?
HOW could God manifest Himself eternally as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?
- When he was four, I'd just finished reading to him about Jesus
turning water into wine when I discovered him standing on a chair in front
of the kitchen sink, water running full force, filling up a cup. What was
he doing? "I'm going to ask Jesus to turn this water into wine!"
- At five, he wrote his first book-- a book of manners as a special
gift for his teen brother. This was his own idea (I suppose he thought it
was needed!) and he spent two whole days working on it. At first he tried
to do all the writing himself and asked me to spell the words for him, but
after a while he got tired and dictated the rest to an older sibling.
- He pleaded with me to teach him something from the high school English
grammar text his older siblings were using--I said, "Ok, let's talk
about nouns. Nouns are persons, places, or things." Joel looked
puzzled and quickly responded, "But, Mama, I thought hounds were
- At six, he wanted to know how to carry numbers using addition, so
I showed him and told him he could make up his own example--he wrote down
a problem like 1,237,000 plus 1,999,999.
- He created his own math "workbook" by making up problems and
solving them. He also tried to invent some "short cut" methods
to get answers because he noticed a particular pattern in a couple of
problems. Unfortunately, it wasn't consistent so we had to explain that he
needed to test his theories using more than two examples!
- When people asked him where he lived, it wasn't enough to tell them the
town, he added the continent and threw in stories about the differences
between the climate in North America and South America!
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
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
Psalm 105:4 "Seek the LORD, and his strength: seek his face
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
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:
- A series of books by Mark Taylor about Henry the
Explorer was the basis of some interesting little unit studies when he
was five or six years old. Henry explores mountains and nature trails,
leaving little flags behind him everywhere he travels.
- Five-in-a-Row unit studies by Jane Lambert (We used
these off and on when he was four and five years old. For more
information, visit the Lamberts' website at http://www.fiveinarow.com
- Baseball, Trains, Homes, and other unit studies by
Amanda Bennett. (For more information, visit Amanda's website at
- Math-it (Available from many homeschool catalogs.)
- The Beginner's Bible
- Encyclopedia Brown books by Donald Sobol
- The Boxcar Children mysteries by Gertrude Warner
- Carolyn Haywood books (Especially the Eddie series)
- Laura Ingalls Wilder books
- Homer Price by Robert McCloskey
[Note: Most of these books are available from the online chfweb.com
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
"And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord;
and great shall be the peace of thy children."