Let’s Make a Memory…Over Books! by Cindy Rushton

Cindy2015Hummm…was it the giggles the whole way through adventures with Pooh? My constant sobbing through every page of The Little Preacher? Our total addiction to every single page of Pilgrim’s Progress? The giggles and strategy as the children would run off to “play” every single bit of Daniel Boone’s life—with stiff warnings from Mom that NO ONE really got the hair-cut! Peeking outside to see the hard, hard work as forts were raised and mud pies “baked” for our beloved “soldier.” Oh, the precious, precious memories! Precious memories that are OURS forever!

Why not make it a priority to curl up as a family over the pages of a great book each day? Get the water going…pull out some nice snacks…settle down for tea (or hot cocoa!!)…and dig into great books! Game? But have no idea where to begin?? Come home with our family and get a picture of how easy AND awesome building a memory—over a great book—can be!

Decide a Good Time for Read Alouds…

Over the years, I have found that even though I LOVE great literature and believe passionately in the power of a great book to inspire us toward greatness, teach those facts in a palitable manner, and feed our hungry minds with great ideas, there has still been a constant battle with distractions from our beloved typical family reading time. Constant phone calls…friends dropping by…never the same day to day family life because of constant interruptions…the list could go on and on! I found that we needed a more consistent time to read, study, and cuddle. A time that was just ours!

The best time for this was at the end of our busy day. Our family reading tradition began years ago when my husband worked as a State Trooper. We found ourselves up until very late hours. Those last few hours before he came in seemed perfect. They were not likely to be times for calls, errands, or drop-by guests. They were the easiest to preserve for our special time whether we were on the road traveling or cuddling on our sofa or snuggled in my bed for a nice, long read aloud! Those moments were the perfect ones for our family. Now, since the children are almost grown up, the schedule is more complex than ever, and dad is now retired and running the family business the ONE constant that we all cry out for in the midst of busy or chaotic or even the most hum-drum day is our evening family read aloud and pow-wow time!

So, the first things to decide–what time would work best for your family? Look at your schedule? What time of the day is the most constant…the most uninterrupted…the easiest to settle down? Set that time aside—you have a treasure house of memories coming your way!

Bit-By-Bit…

Perhaps a set time is not the problem. Perhaps the greatest need is dealing with the struggles that make read-alouds an utter impossibility. An ideal! Certainly not a reality! You know…settling down the children…containing the messes long enough to finish one small part of a story…getting their interest? The habit that becomes a treasured tradition begins bit-by-bit! Here are a few ideas that may help:

* Get to know YOUR family and their interests. Each and every family is completely unique. What we love to read as a family, your family may not like at all! Our children may be completely different ages as yours. Our family preferences may be completely different than yours. In fact, our choices for read-alouds now that our children are at these ages are very different from the choices we made in the early years. The key to a sizzling read aloud program rests with getting to know YOUR family and their interests and then basing your choices upon where you are.

* Use a reading list! Have no idea which books to begin with? TOTALLY confused with all of the options? We have a couple of recommendations. First, we recommend our book The Never-ending Rushton Reading List (soon to be re-released in ebook format after being TOTALLY revamped–working on that now!). It is very reasonable, compact, simple, and easy to begin using today. It includes suggestions that are perfect for teaching every subject with great books AND it has a basic list of recommended read alouds that EVERY (smile!) family should read through! As they get older, another recommendation that we have is our book Inspiring Our Children Toward Greatness Using Great Literature (also, out of print right now–look for it to be re-released in ebook format very soon too! One powerful book!) which has an extended list of recommendations for life-transforming literature and great books that you won’t want to miss. You can also find great recommendations in other books, catalogs, and at your local library.

* Make it FUN! Reading need not resemble the drudgery from our school days. Rather, it can be a great big family party! We have a daily “tea time” with our read alouds. When the children were little, I found very soon that our children were much more attentive if their bellies were full and their hands busy. Being a “tea-time addict,” it was almost the “given” thing to do! This may seem a bit artificial to your family. Find what works. Some families settle down with snacks like our family. Others entertain the children with play-doh to keep their hands busy while mommy reads. Other families give their children sketch books to “draw” what they imagine while mommy reads the book. Just make it a FUN family time! You will be amazed at how much the children will learn while making a memory!

Choose the BEST! Great Literature!

The still, quiet spirit of our home was only the first part of this special family tradition! Great books were musts! My children love to read. We have a library just for them filled with books that they can choose during their free time. They cover a wide-range of studies just by using whole, living books full of ideas and great information. For our read alouds, I did not want a repeat of those books. Instead, I wanted life-changing literature. Because of this heartbeat, I am extremely selective to choose the very BEST books for this special time.

I have a very simple test for discerning if the books are life-changing. I ask myself, “If these were the last moments that I had with my children, would this be the book that I would want to be the LAST ONE?? Would this be the memory that I want for them to carry with them?” “Is this book capable of teaching those life-lessons that they need to carry them through life?” This limits my choices to those books that are absolute MUSTS for my children. Those books that all well-educated children should dine upon. Those books that feed the spirit…challenge the soul…and encourage us to keep on persevering through it all!

I have been amazed at the way the Lord has led us by His Spirit to each book that He has wanted for us to read as a family. From The Hiding Place to Basket of Flowers to The Elsie Series to Hedge of Thorns to Passion and Purity to great poetry to Christmas stories to a multitude of biographies…God has had specific direction for us right when we needed to know His next choice!

Once I know which book we will read next, I usually hunt for a nice, large print edition, if at all possible. These are wonderful for helping us take turns. My son used to be so intimidated by small print in books. The large print editions are easier for him to read comfortably from. They also make great texts for copywork lessons. I saw the advantage to the large print as we read from Corrie Ten Boom’s The Hiding Place. There were so many wonderful quotes that I felt were important for the children to copy into their copybooks. While we read aloud, I simply marked them with a highlighter. On those mornings that the children were drawing blanks for copywork ideas, all they had to do was open that book to find a plethora of excellent choices! I found that to be helpful for my writing and speaking as well because I could easily find those great thoughts that had been planted in my mind while we read!

We usually take turns reading. This is the perfect way to help beginning readers ease into reading aloud for others. Their work can be so mundane if they practice with readers or insignificant reading lessons. A great book invites children to read with expression. When I would notice them tiring out, (you probably know that time because that is when they get REAL monotone…AKA boring!!) I would join in and read for a little while. That usually brightened up the pace so that when they would begin again, they would sound expressive and enthusiastic. Now, I absolutely LOVE to listen to them read aloud. It is neat to hear them stress those words that I would stress…or pause as I would pause! What a treasure!

Well, that is only part of the treasure! One thing that I love about this precious time with my children is that I find out just what they think, feel, and believe. We have tremendous discussions almost nightly about great ideas. I remember this being a goal for my children as they matured into adulthood. I never dreamed that I could have this blessing with little children! It is during these quaint moments of reading while sipping our tea, that I get a peek into their heart! I see their heart’s desires…their struggles in their character…the depths that God’s Word has worked in their lives…and their instant choices when faced with adversity (through the pages of the books). I can also help them trouble-shoot making decisions that may prevent them from irreparable errors later in their lives! Yes, those are the gifts that come with serving up great literature to our children.

Just This Easy…

Our daily read aloud time is just this easy. We don’t make it complicated by tests…by book reports…by written narrations on all we read. We are not even legalistic that our time be limited to books. We have been known to cuddle up with art prints JUST like we do our books. When we include art prints, we simply cuddle up to “listen” to the artist as he or she communicates through the canvas. My little ones have been known to sketch or paint the recent art print with their own style while I read a section from a great book. We also LOVE biographies, so we have enjoyed reading sketches about artists or the latest composer that we are getting to know! Each day, we use this time to also read through the Bible together as a family. This only takes minutes, yet the results have been overwhelming in our lives. Just a bit here and a bit there has helped to carry us into our world with a little bit more understanding about the worldviews of our culture! Not to mention, great art and music feed our minds with ideas that keep us growing into the vessels that God can really use in our culture!

Well, why not put on a little Classical Music in the background. Warm some water…EVEN if you prefer to use it for hot chocolate with fluffy marshmallows! 🙂 Dust off those poetry books or that book you keep putting off for another day. Curl up with your little ones…there is NOTHING quite like the memory that can be made over a great book!!

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The Importance of Routine by Cindy Rushton

 

Good morning dearies! I just got an email from Mary Beth asking me to share this article. She remembered reading it before, but couldn’t remember where to find it. She asked if I could post it here. YES! Hope all of you enjoy! This is an oldie. Fun to read now that my crew are grown and graduated. I could not recommend better tips today. This one is timeless. Enjoy….

Homeschools come packaged in all sorts and types.  Homes all have their own atmosphere…their own discipline…and their own life.  What will make for happy homeschool days?  My vote goes to routine!

As we look at different homes, we find that many people use many instruments to establish discipline.  In our home, we have used primarily two tools–instruction and routine!  You can probably see the need and benefits for instruction but why routine?  Routine is the means by which we lay down the tracks of discipline.  In our family routines, we take away much of the pain of who does what, when they are to do whatever, and how much they are to do.  It has become part of our character to do all that we do with excellence…diligence…and of course, speed!  So, what are some ideas for bringing routine into the home?  The following thoughts are a hodgepodge of my thoughts on routine and form that I have jotted down as I studied this month…

•    When planning routines, priority is given to the most important things. The most important thing is the spirit of the person!  We all need our time with God primarily.  If nothing else is done each day, why not the quiet times?  However, often I myself find the struggle is more for the to-do’s than for my relationship with God OR with the children.  If we value the person the most, we find that our priority becomes that time to talk, read, relax, and even work together.  Yes, there is always more work to do than there is time to do it.  We must accept that reality while planning the time that we devote to that work around time with God and each other!

•    Use lessons to establish habit and discipline. Lessons are the perfect means to establish habit and discipline in the child. Lessons are perfect time to lay the lines of good habits and correct the harmful habits.  Through their lessons, they learn skills, practice godly character, learn that there are “musts” in life, and learn to use all of the faculties of their minds.

•    Feel free to alter any given routine! As we go through life, we find that life is so short.  The sunny moments simply must be snatched along the way.  Even in Charlotte Mason’s schools, she would ring a bell on nice days and set off for an all day expedition!  Can we be this spontaneous?  Yes, duty calls and responsibilities should be accepted habitually.  BUT, all the duty and responsibility is out of balance without the liberty to enjoy life and its spontaneity!

•    Remember that it is not essential to have a developmental program for the child. Instead of trying to teach each child on his/her own grade level, we all share in life together.  We all learn from life together as fellow students.  We are constantly establishing good habits, good priorities, and good routines!  We use REAL LIFE as the curriculum!  Because of this, we can relax knowing that real life is the perfect teacher.  It will be as we go along the way that we will teach the most to our children.  If we base what we teach on “grade level,” then we find that our children simply do not thrive and learning becomes artificial!  Instead, let’s look at what life can teach us.  An example from our life was just this past week.  We were in Mississippi for our Homeschooling Seminar.  Almost all of our family lives in Mississippi.  As we were getting ready to leave from the Rushton’s home to go visit my Daddy, my son was only listening to a conversation between his great-grandmother and I when God brought forth a natural lesson from life.  She was commenting on Matthew’s new book Fearless Warriors, when I shared with her that his next book was to be on the Great Men and Women of the Civil War including our family.  As she said, “Well, you know that both my grandfathers were in the War!”  Matthew darted across the room to sit at her feet and glean from her stories of long ago!  He was able to jot down two more stories for his book…and where did it come from?  LIFE!  It is not essential or even recommended to limit your child to what is learned at their grade level!  Let your time with them be your curriculum!  You will find that the results will influence their routines, priorities in life, and habits for all of life! You will find that they will be able to learn MORE than is possible following a typical scope and sequence!  You will find your homeschool more fulfilling while you are juggling less!!

•    Use home as the atmosphere for teaching! Our homes are a perfect “growing ground” for children.  As mothers, we can view our children as our little plants that will have to be nurtured in our homes.  We will have to pour into them.  We will have to devote ourselves to their constant care.  We will have to be the ones to snatch up those weeds (harmful habits, attitudes, and ideas) that will quickly grow to hinder or possibly cut off their growth.  We are their caretakers.  In being their caretakers, we have to devote all to instructing them at all times.  It may mean that for a season, we just stay home and pour into them… but the results are worth it.  We will find our homes bearing great fruit through our children!

•    Accept that we are never perfect or there! It is often so hard to accept our own weaknesses, needs, or limitations.  We want to be perfect BEFORE we start teaching our children, yet God’s plan entails walking alongside of one another as fellow students in HIS classroom of life!  In our routines, we must operate with what IS possible.  We are not perfect, but also our feelings or the circumstances all around us do not sweep us along! We are free to grow and learn together throughout all of life!

A Typical Day at the Rushton’s…

So, wondering what our routines look like? Would you like a peek into our typical day? Join me as we wake up at the Rushton’s….

Wake up…Quiet times.
No one is allowed to interrupt quiet times. Matthew studies on his own in several of his favorite study guides. (Plants Grown Up by Doorposts, Christian Manhood By Gary Maldaner), Elisabeth listens to the Bible on audio-cassette, and I spend time in study and prayer. SOMETIMES I take my prayer walk if the weather permits…judging by my weight  this time, you can tell it has been sweltering hot lately!)

Chores… The Children have to do the majority of the housework…kitchen, bathrooms, laundry, feeding animals, cleaning their rooms… This is done EVERY day. We usually can get most under control pretty quickly so we can settle down for our table time. This helps get us going for the day while helping to keep our concentration on our skills not the undone work around the house!

Table time… This is our formal study time for our skills. It is a given” for every day. It is not altered because we use our table time to establish our routine in our home. The children work on their Bible Study (right now we are studying through the Old Testament with our Greenleaf resources), Copywork (they select their own selections to copy into their notebooks), Math (we are working through Making Math Meaningful on each of their grade levels), and Language (Alphaphonics for Elisabeth. She is still struggling with her reading, BUT getting better every day…it is finally clicking! Greek for Matthew. He is still working on his Greek Alphabet which is typical for his age, 11.)

Time with Dad… My husband works 2nd shift, so he wakes up around the time that the children have finished their table time. We schedule our day like this for a reason: Dad is TOO much fun! He used to distract the children from the time he woke up because they much more preferred to be listening to Dad…or  helping him with his projects around the house. So, I try to finish their disciplined time by the time he wakes up so they can have the next few hours with him! They may work on building something (garage right now), or fixing something (the story of our life!), or going somewhere (they love to ride with him on his motorcycle…yes, we are Gold Wing people!), or just talking with him! Harold has this time to pour into them just “who” he is. He does not teach them Language or even Algebra…he teaches what is most needful…about himself!

Productive Free Time…We usually all do our own thing in the afternoon after Harold goes to work. This is the time that I work on any writing projects…or paper work…or return any calls…or prepare our next meals.  The children spend this time on pursuits that they enjoy. It may be playing, observing nature, reading, working on projects of their own, practicing their instruments, writing, working on the computer…so on. We try to limit what is available in our home to only educational pursuits. Actually, even their playtime is narrating what they are learning in their history read alouds!

Dinner…Baths…More Productive Free Time

Bedtime…Read Alouds… This is our best time to read from the Bible, or our school Read Alouds. We are currently reading through the Bible in a year. This time is spent in prayer, narrating from the previous day’s reading, reading our new selection, and praying again for each other’s requests. We choose our read alouds from a variety of subjects. It may be a classic in literature or a biography or a mission story or a living science book…we swap up so that we read different books together as a family

Well, this is a look at our routine…how is yours?  Is there a routine to your day?  Is there enough margin in each day to allow for ministry as it comes up?  To allow for spontaneity?  Is there enough time that is unorganized by you so that the children can learn on their own?  My prayer is that this issue will encourage you to develop a routine in your home that will give you the peace and fruit that comes only by walking each day in God’s plan for your homeschool!  Happy Homeschooling!

Fall! Don’t Miss Nature Studies! by Cindy Rushton

Fall is here!

Anybody else having “fall fever?” Ready to get outside to soak up the beauty and fresh air? Oh! I LOVE the fall! This is the perfect time to make up any excuse to get outside. But, what if we call it “school” as we enjoy this gorgeous fall?

Yep! It is fall and time for fall themed nature studies. Yep! Time for that weekly nature walk! Time to pull out those nature notebooks and begin a fresh new study. NO pressure. Just with atmosphere of fun and delight!

Want some ideas that are EASY? How about some of our favorites? Let’s dig in…

Trees…

  • Take a nature walk to collect fall leaves. Classify leaves by color and form. Press for nature notebook. Jot down date, name, and where found.
  • Select and draw a leaf for your nature notebook. Include date, name, and where found.
  • Collect, describe or draw the fruit or seeds from your tree.
  • Record the date that the first leaves begin to fall.
  • Cut a chosen leaf out of similar colored paper.
  • Make cards with pressed leaves and special poetry or Scripture.
  • Sketch your tree in watercolor or crayon for your nature notebook.
  • Sketch a tree and label the parts.
  • Write a description of the roots of the tree.
  • Hunt for fall poetry about trees. Copy into your nature notebook.
  • Look up Scripture verses about trees. Copy into your nature notebook.

Flowers…

  • Each week take a walk to collect new fall wildflowers around your neighborhood. Press into a scrapbook/nature notebook.
  • Sketch and label flower parts.
  • Hunt for poetry about the flowers that are blooming each week.
  • Find Scripture verses to copy into your nature notebook about all flowers.
  • Plant some flowers outside in your yard.

Birds…

  • Time for bird migration. Read about it with the children. Go to any area that birds gather—observe!
  • Take in any feeders for migratory birds.
  • Don’t forget to feed any birds that stay around your home. Put one right outside of a big window so the children can watch the birds up close.
  • Look for bird feathers. Keep in your nature notebook. Be sure to note where found, what kind of bird, and the date found.

Insects…

  • Work on your bug collection.
  • Hunt for insect homes—under rocks and fallen logs…in the bark of a tree…in corners of your home…anthills…under leaves…on plants…so on.
  • Watch for flying ants.
  • Go to a pond to collect water insects.
  • Look for masses of ladybugs. They hibernate in large groups, nestled in the roots of grass.

Animals…

  • Keep an amphibian or reptile overnight.
  • Make a home for a new pet! Study all about what they eat and how they live most comfortably.
  • Preserve a spider web. (see Ideas Section of Nature Study the Easy Way for details)

Plants…

  • Experiment with seeds…hitchhiking seeds, germination, growth rate…so on!
  • Collect wildflower seeds.
  • Make a seed chart.
  • Research to find which plants in your area have edible roots. Dig up some and give it a try.
  • Hunt for fall mushrooms.
  • Go gather pecans. Make a pecan pie.
  • Go pick apples at an orchard. Make homemade applesauce or apple pies.

Astronomy…

  • Keep a chart of the moon phases for a month—try October!
  • Take an evening to spend stargazing.
  • Watch a fall sunset.

Weather…

  • Keep weather chart for the first two weeks of the season—begin October.

Collections…

  • Take a day for each of your collections to maintain! (Rocks… shells… feathers… so on.)

Seasonal Table Ideas…

  • Pumpkins
  • Indian corn
  • String of apple rings
  • Mums
  • Nut people
  • Spatter leaf prints
  • Autumn lanterns
  • Autumn wreath
  • Apples
  • Colors: warm autumn golds/muted reds/orange/earthy greens