by Jessica Frierson, June 2021

Summer offers many opportunities for fun, educational experiences. While everyone may be ready for a break from the textbooks, the learning doesn’t have to go on vacation. In fact, it is a great time to cultivate the idea in your children’s hearts that education is an enjoyable lifelong pursuit. 

Hands-on science is always a win in our house. So to enhance our study of insects, we recently purchased a small mesh butterfly house and six painted lady caterpillars. As we read about the characteristics of Order Lepidoptera, which includes butterflies, moths, and skippers, we observed our new friends doing the work of caterpillars – eating and molting, eating and molting. Their final exoskeleton became their chrysalis, and we are eagerly awaiting their emergence in their beautiful new winged bodies. In the meantime, we are reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle and making our own collages using tissue paper painted by Eric Carle himself. 

Several nests built around our home and yard spurred some of my children on to some serious birding sprees. They have made use of an app from the Cornell Lab to identify birds they see and hear each day.  The well-worn pages of our field guides are a constant companion, and their nature sketchbooks are full of their newly discovered winged friends.

Summer is also the season of growing. Whether it be some herbs in a couple of flower pots on a window sill, a small section of your yard set aside for wildflowers, or a plot to grow some vegetables, children of all ages can enjoy the thrill of watching a tiny seed transform into something of beauty or the ingredients of a tasty meal. Nurturing a plant and discovering the conditions it needs to thrive not only gives a young person a chance to acquire a useful skill, it also touches something deep in their souls and reflects many spiritual principles about life.

Summer travel can become an enrichment opportunity as well. Here in North Carolina, we have many parks, mountains, and waterways that are teeming with varied species of both the flora and fauna types. We are also blessed with a rich historical heritage that can be explored at nearly any vacation area we can visit. Out-of-state travel opens even more doors of discovery. Balancing plenty of beach or pool days with side excursions to area forts, museums, lighthouses, or aquariums maximizes the time and money spent on vacation by being able to visit places you might not have during the traditional school year. Rainy days are often salvaged by finding a nearby museum or place of historical significance. Be sure to take along some blank sketchbooks and drawing pencils so everyone can record their favorite discoveries.

Even the weather patterns of the summer months or the constellations above can be the jump-off points for the culture of new interests. Letting your child take the lead while providing the tools they need to explore their ideas and enhance their skills is the key to empowering our children to become scholars wherever they go. Model for them the joy in diving beneath the surface of everyday events and unearthing treasures in ordinary places. The pleasure of relaxed education can be a vacation in itself.

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”  — John Lubbock

What percentage of your current working knowledge did you learn after school? Stop and think about it for a moment.

For me, it is almost all of it. We have all had to learn things related to work, home, and hobbies that we didn’t learn in school. Even most companies train employees after school for their particular jobs. A potentially shocking truth that we must recognize as we are educating our children is this:

We will not be able to teach all the knowledge our children will need for life before they leave our homes!

Okay, you probably already knew that. But does this reality actually influence your educational strategy? 

 We can help our children be prepared for life with these three critical skills:

  1. Research
  2. Critical Thinking
  3. Communication

Let me point out that while these skills are critical, they are not actually the most important way to prepare your children for life. I believe the most important way is to help our children grow in their spiritual life and character. We have other blog posts that discuss how to discipleyour children.

 

1. Research – You can teach your children how to learn on their own.

You can’t teach your child everything they need to know for life before they graduate, but you can teach them the skills for learning whatever they may need to know for life after they graduate. The wisdom and importance of gaining knowledge is emphasized in these proverbs from the Bible: “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame” (Proverbs 18:13) and “An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge” (Proverbs 18:15).

One of my sons wanted to learn about investing. However, this topic wasn’t covered in his high school curriculum and I didn’t really know much about it. Fortunately, that didn’t stop him. He began to do research and learned all about investing on his own. He has now invested some of his money and is already watching it grow! 

Most writing curriculum will include some great instructions for how to do research. Be sure you don’t skip those research assignments because your student (or you) feel overwhelmed by them. This is a critical skill for life! If you think your curriculum does not emphasize research enough, be sure to look for others that help your student with reading comprehension, finding sources, analyzing the value of sources, finding relevant information, and recording and organizing data effectively. For upper high school students, I recommend How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading by Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren.

 

2. Critical Thinking – You can teach your children how to think clearly and evaluate information and ideas. 

The Bible teaches Christians to think critically. We can see from these verses how important it is that we carefully evaluate the ideas we encounter.

  • “The simple believes everything, but the prudent gives thought to his steps” (Proverbs 14:15). 
  • “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him” (Proverbs 18:17).
  • “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor 10:5).

When I taught public speaking at Appalachian State University, I taught my students how to build a deductive argument. I would often use the example of the abortion issue. Arguments from both sides often look something like this:

Pro-Choice Argument

  • Major Premise: Women have a right to control their bodies and choose how many children to have. 
  • Minor Premise: Abortion is an exercise of that right to control and choose. 
  • Claim: We should protect abortion rights.

Pro-Life Argument 

  • Major Premise: Taking the life of another human is wrong. 
  • Minor Premise: Abortion is taking the life of a human. 
  • Claim: We should stop abortion.

When we teach our children critical thinking, they will be able to understand how arguments are built and evaluate them, including the ones with which they disagree. We want them to be able to look at the arguments and discern which statements are true or false and if the logical connections between the statements are valid or not. 

It’s okay if we don’t know how to teach these things. All we have to do is make sure our children have the opportunity to learn them. Be sure to include a logic course in your curriculum plan!

 

3. Communication – You can teach your children how to communicate effectively.  

As our students learn how to acquire the necessary information and intelligently critique the ideas they encounter, we also want them to be able to engage in meaningful communication with others. This at least includes discussion. Be sure to include time in your homeschool for meaningful discussion of ideas that arise from their studies in history, literature, Bible, philosophy, etc. 

Beyond discussion, we want our children to be able to write and speak effectively. Most parents do not neglect to emphasize the skill of writing. That is great! But parents often neglect the skill of public speaking. There are some ways of doing this in your home, but I would also encourage you to consider allowing your children to participate in a speech organization such as Gavel Club or the NCFCA Christian Speech and Debate League. These are wonderful opportunities to receive training and practice and compete with live audiences.

Conclusion

I am not encouraging you to ignore the important areas of knowledge we usually include in our homeschools. I am, however, urging you to recognize the difference between knowledge and skill and make sure you are preparing your children for life with these three critical skills.

Many families are trying out homeschooling for the first time. Some feel forced to do it because of difficult circumstances. Some are doing it temporarily, just until they can get back to school. Some are reluctantly doing it, feeling overwhelmed and inadequate. Some are finally fed up with the social influence and educational content of public schools.

The good news is that no matter why people begin, most people who try homeschooling end up loving it! Most parents who start keep going. Those of us who are convinced it is wonderful believe in homeschooling for many reasons. NCHE’s “I Believe in Homeschooling” video (below) is a wonderful reminder of those reasons. Here are a few of the things families love about homeschooling.

 

  • TIME together as a family, learning, playing, exploring, laughing, talking.
  • It is FUN! 
  • The ability to pursue INDIVIDUAL interests and needs.
  • Children get better PREPARED for the future.
  • It is more RELAXED; there is not as much pressure.
  • It WORKS! “I’m pretty smart.”
  • You can work at your own PACE
  • The FREEDOM to choose when, where, what, and how to learn.
  • FLEXIBILITY
  • The opportunity to ADVANCE in certain subjects
  • The opportunity to develop CHARACTER, maturity, independence, confidence, and self-management.
  • The opportunity to raise the next generation of Christ-centered, biblically anchored, WORLD-CHANGERS.
  • The freedom to teach Christian VALUES and truth in all subjects.
  • A chance to learn how to LEARN well.

A critical part of a successful homeschool journey is having a strong support system. One of the primary purposes of our annual Thrive! Homeschool Conference is to help you make the connections that will give you the support system you need to homeschool with confidence and joy. What a privilege we have to be a part of a strong, growing homeschool movement in NC!

Many parents say that one of the reasons they love the conference is because of the fellowship and encouragement that comes from being around so many other homeschool families. Rhonda says that “Thrive! is where I get a chance to be around other moms and families. It’s sort of like a vacation, sort of like a family reunion. I just love it!” Watch her video testimony.

Get Connected at the Conference

One way you can get connected at the conference is to attend our Regional Gatherings. We will have a gathering for each region of our 9 regions so that you can meet your regional liaison and others from your area. Look at this map to find out what region you are in. 

Another way to get connected is to attend our Special Gatherings. You may want to meet others who are homeschooling in similar circumstances as you. The special gatherings you can join at the conference include:

  • Parents of preschoolers
  • Parents of gifted children
  • Homeschooling with a chronic illness
  • Multicultural homeschoolers
  • Homeschooling with a home business
  • Adoptive parents
  • New homeschoolers
  • Homeschooling special needs children
  • Military families
  • Homeschooling as a single parent

Visit the Thrive! Conference page to learn more about the conference. Although preregistration has ended, you can register onsite when the conference begins.

Are you seeing all the news about the upcoming Thrive! Homeschool Conference (May 27-29, 2021) and wondering if your family can afford to attend? Here are some tips that might help you find a way to work it into your budget.

The first place to save money is registration itself. Thrive! offers a limited number of scholarships for single parents with an application deadline of March 31 (something to think about for next year). First-time attendees whose oldest child doesn’t turn five before September can attend for free. (You can indicate this on the registration form). If you are willing to give up some of your time to volunteer at the conference, you can also earn free admission. If none of these fit your situation, you can still save money by making sure to preregister before the May 20th deadline. 

Next, you need to decide if it will be more cost effective to stay in one of the onsite hotels or one offsite. There are several factors to consider about your choice of lodging location. The onsite facilities may cost more, starting at $125 per night while a short drive can find a place for as low as $61 per night. One other option that families who own an RV or camper may enjoy is the Winston-Salem fairground where water and electrical hook-up is offered for $30 per night. 

To figure out the best place for your family to stay, you also need to consider the two main issues that contribute to the overall cost: parking and meals. There is free parking available on a first come, first served basis behind the Benton Center, but be warned that it fills quickly. You can expect to pay $9-$10 per day in the other parking lots. The Thrive! webpage lists various parking options and even has a map you can download.

Other than the cost of lodging itself, providing meals for your family can be the greatest expense. For those staying at one of the onsite hotels, meals can be easier to manage. One trick my own family has employed when staying at the Embassy is to start our day with the provided breakfast, bring healthy snacks for a mid-day boost, schedule an afternoon break around the complimentary reception the hotel offers, and have sandwich supplies on hand in our room fridge for dinner. Many attendees bring a Crock-pot to use to have a quick and easy meal ready at the end of a long day of conference sessions and shopping. 

By figuring out these expenses, you can get an idea of how much money you will have to SPEND in order to attend the homeschool conference. But don’t stop there! Now you need to consider how attending will SAVE you money. That’s where we enter the vendor hall. There are three main ways you can save money by visiting the vendor hall. Don’t you love ordering your curriculum each year, hitting the checkout button, and then getting broadsided by the shipping costs? No? Neither do I, which is why I love the chance to purchase our materials for the upcoming year in the Thrive! vendor hall where I can walk away with everything I need without having to pay one cent for shipping. In addition, many vendors offer conference specials that can save you EVEN MORE money! 

Not sure what materials you want to use yet? This is where our third way to save money in the vendor hall comes in. It is always a frustration when you have purchased a curriculum only to find that it is a bad fit for your child when it comes time to use it. For those of us on a tight budget, it can feel devastating to have spent our allotted amount on material that doesn’t meet our expectations or needs. The opportunity to compare the various materials first-hand, to flip through the pages of the books, and to gauge your child’s reaction to the approach the publisher takes is an invaluable asset that can only be gained at the conference. 

My husband and I use our cellphones to take pictures of items that catch our eye on our first walk through the hall. Later that night, we compare notes and decide what we will go back to purchase the following day. This spares our carefully-planned budget from the danger of impulse buying and helps us remember that really cool science gadget we may have seen. Besides our school materials, we never leave the vendor hall without at least a few Christmas gifts in our shopping bags. 

I also bring home a flyer or business card from any vendor that had an item that I may not need (or can afford) at the moment but will refer back to later when the time is right. For example, two years ago I was intrigued with an art program that I learned about at the vendor hall but was not able to sign up for at that time. Months later, when tax refund time came, I pulled out the information I had saved and set it up.

Whether you are a penny pincher by nature (like me) or run a tight financial ship due to circumstances (also me!), attending a homeschool conference such as the upcoming Thrive! Conference can be a worthy expenditure for your family.  There is no price that can be placed on the value of the encouragement, insight, and knowledge you will gain from the experience. I hope that you will be able to join us there in a few weeks.

– Jessica Frierson, May 20021