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Extracurricular Homeschooling Tips from Three Moms

Smoking the bees.

Last week our youngest got her driver’s licence! We are all very excited.

Thinking about this enormous milestone in her life—and in ours—I realized that this is yet another example of vital non-academic learning. There are so many amazing opportunities in life and as homeschoolers we can really take advantage of them.

Recently Betsy, Tricia, and I discussed how we implement extracurricular homeschooling in our families. Each of us included an abundance of practical and inspiring links to our own blogs. It’s worth grabbing a cup of tea and taking a short professional development break to find encouragement and ideas for your homeschooling journey. Enjoy!

Betsy wrote about life-schooling, high school electives such as art, debate, and nature study, and her book Homeschooling High School with College in Mind.

Tricia and her family love drama, music, church ministry, entrepreneurism, and anything technical. Their extracurricular activities follow the philosophy of 10K to Talent: More Than Just a Hobby.

And here is what I wrote:

Here at The Curriculum Choice we usually talk about curriculum, but a huge part of homeschooling involves extracurricular activities. Of course it can be hard to distinguish between activities that are part of the curriculum and those that are not, so a homeschooler’s definition of ‘extracurricular’ may be somewhat nebulous. It can include sports, music, drama, art, nature, and clubs as well as co-ops, volunteer positions, part time jobs, student-directed, activities and more. But how can you make all this work?

When our children were little and each one had four full-time playmates, we did not participate in many formal activities, not even a co-op. Yet we found many ways to “Make the Extras Work in Your Homeschool”; even now, looking back, I am inspired just remembering.

As the children grew, they started volunteering; I just realized that Therapeutic Riding volunteering has been part of our family’s life for over a decade! Our teens developed their own intense interests (beekeeping, NaNoWriMo, Microsoft Answers Forum moderator, photography, horses, dairy cows, judo, cake decorating) and our little ones dabbled in one short project after another, like baking a lemon meringue pie.

If you have teens, it is important to keep track of their extracurricular learning and include it in their records. You can find tips and information in “Documenting Interest-Driven Learning as a High School Course” as well as in “Planning an Unusual High School Credit—A Horsey Example.” If you are having trouble determining grades for extracurricular learning, “High School Marks,” written years ago, may help. Alternatively, you may just wish to list such an activity as an extracurricular activity for the purpose of university admission, which can be very helpful.

Recently I was reminded that extracurricular activities can even take the place of all formal learning if necessary. When one of our teens needed to take a gap semester due to multiple concussions and chronic pain, someone on her medical team calmed my education worries by saying, “Surely, as a homeschooler you know that learning can happen in many ways!”   So, when your teen or child cannot focus, just deal with the issues at hand and let them have the gift of slow time as they heal. They will be able to explore the world in ways that book learning can never duplicate, and all the trouble could turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

To be inspired by Betsy and Tricia’s experiences, click on over to the Curriculum Choice’s October feature, “The Extracurricular Homeschool.

I pray that this discussion will help you encourage your children to develop their non-academic talents.

Tomatoes, Cabbages, and More

cauliflower soup ingredients from the garden

Parsley, leaf celery, lovage, and overgrown cauliflower for the season’s last cauliflower soup. It was delicious.

We are in full harvest mode. There are some cucumbers on a table in the verandah, along with the last of the fennel. Because our dear dog, who is terminally ill, now lives in the verandah, we cannot lay out the harvest on floor trays there as we usually do. Thus our living room is literally awash in tomatoes, cabbages, and peppers, and we have a lot of work to do.

Tomorrow we are making sauerkraut. This afternoon, when I’ve rested a bit more, I hope to make some naturally pickled hot peppers, relish, and salsa.* And I’ll freeze a lot of peppers and ripe tomatoes as well. We also need to pick some more apples.

Later on we will deal with the root vegetables, parsley, leeks, and any raspberries and apples that survive tonight’s frost.

In the meantime, we are enjoying fall in the way only gardeners can, in a mad rush of outdoor and indoor activities with almost everything else put on hold. We are so grateful to God for the harvest and the strength to both pick and preserve it!

*Learning to make these sorts of foods has literally changed our lives. I have written about this in several blog posts about Traditional Cooking School.

Harvest and Homeschooling Thoughts

Once again we are blessed with an abundance from the garden—everything from broccoli, tomatoes, and cabbage to melons, raspberries, and pears. Earlier we ate lettuce and cherries. Soon we will start picking squashes, kale, and leeks.

summer salad greens

We are so grateful for all this organic food and also for the strength and ability to tend our garden. Although there seems to be less energy for the harvesting, we are doing our best. Or, to be fair, with the children all having part time jobs on top of everything else, it’s mostly me trying to do my best.

Working mostly on my own represents a new season of life for me. I’m learning what is and is not possible now and what will be realistic in the very near future when the kids all have full time commitments outside the home. I had never really thought about it, but the rapidly approaching end of homeschooling also signals the end of family gardening.

I had been considering buying a few tons of mushroom compost this fall since we have not had adequate compost of our own for a few years, but that would involve a commitment to this huge garden which, without the kids’ help, may not be possible to maintain. These are things to think about.

But, leaving that for another time, we are noticing that this is an unusual year. We have the best melon crop we’ve ever had, and the second best pear crop. But the pears seemed to be late, and the fall raspberries are a full month late. Perhaps lateness was due to the very wet spring and the dry summer? It has also been fairly cool this summer and we’ve rarely needed to use air conditioning—but melons, which did so well, are usually a warm-weather crop. On the other hand, we’ve never had such puny squash plants or such a tiny squash crop, and squashes and melons are in the same plant family. Gardening always involves mysteries, and these are puzzling indeed.

Looking back over a decade and a half of gardening with the children, I am grateful for the time we were able to work together. Each of the children has learned a lot and they have benefited in many ways, including financially, from that knowledge. One of them even had a gardening business one summer. Another one attributes her stamina during a Mediterranean archeological dig to the time spend digging in the dirt in our garden. And working with my children outside, participating with God in growing food, has given memories I will always treasure despite the occasional grumpiness and complaining.

We have grown a lot of food over the years but we have also harvested a lot more, and I am grateful.

May God bless all the planting and weeding and tending we do as homeschooling moms—and as gardeners—and may he give a good harvest.

Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,

and establish the work of our hands upon us;

yes, establish the work of our hands! (Psalm 90: 17)

For, as Psalm 127 points out, without God’s blessing all we do is useless.


Review: Whose Waves These Are by Amanda Dykes

For years Annie Bliss and her great uncle GrandBob had been sending each other messages via the boat section of the classifieds. But now something was wrong with GrandBob and Annie raced to Ansel-by-the-Sea. It had been twenty years since she spend that summer there, that hardest summer of her life, and GrandBob had taken her in. This time she needed to be there for him.

Now, as an adult, she was welcomed back into the community of GrandBob’s friends. True to her profession, she found stories of family history, love, tragedy, and hope.  She learned who GrandBob actually was and Whom he relied on. Together with the handsome but confusing postman Jeremy, Annie discovered that, years ago, GrandBob had been right—each wave did have a story and these stories were somehow related to the old boxes and boxes of rocks they discovered.

This is a heartwarming, poetic novel of two brothers, their families, and a devastating war. It is also an intentional reminder that the God who can keep the tides going ‘can walk us through this life. Did it at the Red Sea. Does it for us now. One step at a time.’ And Annie, who was comfortable with the idea of God being only a distant creator, watching from far, was unsettled by his closeness and power.

Amanda Dykes has woven together a complicated but seamless novel of an endearing young woman coming to terms with the past and discovering its impact on the present. I highly recommend it to everyone.

If you enjoyed this review, you might want to connect with me on GoodReads where I eventually share what I read, or friend me on Facebook where I occasionally show up. 

Disclosure: This book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. and is available at your favorite bookseller from Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

This may be linked to Saturday Reviews, Booknificent Thursdays, 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge, Literacy Musings Monday, and The Book Nook  as well as to Inspire Me Monday, Raising Homemakers, Friendship Friday, Make My Saturday Sweet.

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math in the Homeschool

If your science and math programs need a bit of a boost, you will find many exciting options in “The STEM Homeschool,” an article at the Curriculum Choice. My contribution is in italics below, and then I will tell you about some of Heather’s and Tricia’s great suggestions.

As you will be able to tell, I am excited about this article. Even after homeschooling for over two decades, I have found helpful resources and ideas in it. “The STEM Homeschool” would be a great beginning to a very productive homeschool PD day—and don’t we all need a few of those? It could well change your children’s lives. So, read on, explore the links, and enjoy!

As a scientist, I have written a lot about homeschooling and studying the world around us in the past decade. Here are a few of my fundamental posts.

First of all, why do we study science? And how do we do nature study? These are important things to think about. It is just as important to have a place to store all our treasures—we call it our ‘museum’ and it is based on the seasonal nature tables that Dutch families sometimes have.

Of course, textbooks are also important. For younger children we have enjoyed Jeannie Fulbright’s books. Here is what I wrote about Miss 10’s year studying botany.

Years ago I wrote “Because of the Apologia science texts, homeschooled high school students have access to better quality science education than most students in public or private schools, even if their parents do not know science.” I reviewed that series*  many years ago and have also written in detail about Advanced Chemistry in Creation. There are sometimes questions about these books: Are they grade 11, grade 12, or AP level? And, practically, how can you tweak them for grade 12?

Finally it is important to do more than just study textbooks or do experiments, even if those experiments are fascinating like this one about measuring the speed of light with chocolate. We have found it crucial to read books about math and science, books like biographies, histories, fact books, or discussions. These inspire our children and help them to see why the topics in their textbooks are important. Here are links to some of the math and science reading we have chosen over the years.

Very few topics in science are as divisive as the discussion of origins. Here are two helpful resources from a creationist point of view. Busting Myths gives mini-biographies of current creationist scientists and No Christian Silence on Science discusses some of the scientific problems of evolution theory as well as related matters.

The above paragraphs were my contribution; two other veteran homeschoolers contributed their best STEM ideas, many of them hands-on, to inspire and equip you as you teach your children.

Heather wrote about microscopes, robotics, Lego, investing in equipment, and STEM activities for all ages. Her resources are practical and full of helpful links like printable nature journaling calendars, great science projects for little ones and teens, and more. If you are looking for STEM ideas and how to implement them, you will want to check out her suggestions.

Tricia is a big fan of Apologia science texts, just as I am. She also talks about various resources including online courses at all levels, an intriguing YouTube channel, and a great board game that I now want to buy. I am especially interested in 10K to Talent: More than Just a Hobby which she recommends to homeschoolers.

I hope your family will benefit from some of these ideas!

*Note Apologia has published a third edition of Exploring Creation with Chemistry that is not written by Dr. Jay Wile, the author of the first two editions, and it has received some seriously negative reviews;  the second edition is excellent, however, and I highly recommend it.

If you enjoyed this article, you might want to follow me on Facebook where I occasionally show up or connect with me on GoodReads where I eventually share what I read. 

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