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Heading Off the Meddling Holiday Relations

By Heather Idoni

Added Monday, December 08, 2008

The Homeschooler's Notebook
Encouragement and Advice for Homeschool Families
Vol. 9 No 96 December 8, 2008
ISSN: 1536-2035
Copyright (c) 2008 - Heather Idoni, FamilyClassroom.net

Welcome to the Homeschooler's Notebook!

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Guest Article
-- Dealing with Relatives
Helpful Tip
-- December Skies
Resource Review
-- Structured Writing
Reader Question
-- Winter Cabin Fever Activities?
Additional Notes
-- Newsletter Archives
-- Sponsorship Information
-- Reprint Information
-- Subscriber Information

Guest Article

Dealing with Relatives
by Karen Lange


Have you ever had negative feedback from relatives about home-
schooling? These encounters can be stressful. Holidays bring
family out of the woodwork, and as they emerge, so do the
questions. Comments from well meaning relatives can throw you
off base. What's the best approach? This can be challenging,
and can call for creative action. My first thought would be to
simply move out of state to avoid any confrontations. But since
this is not usually feasible, nor the adult thing to do, there
must be other solutions. Here are a few thoughts that might help
navigate these waters.

Pray. Ask the Lord for favor when dealing with others, particularly
family. Psalm 5:12 says, “For You, Oh Lord, will bless the righteous,
with favor You will surround him as with a shield.” (NKJV) Favor -
what a wonderful thing! Wisdom, strength, and grace are promised to
us as well, so tap into His resources. This is not to say there won’t
be some ups and downs, but it’s nice to know we have heavenly support.

What’s your bottom line? Why are you homeschooling? Is it because
you feel that home is best for the kids? Whatever your reasons,
don’t let anyone try to convince you otherwise. Be kind and speak
in love, of course, but stick to your convictions. There is nothing
wrong with standing firm about something you believe in. Remind
yourself of this often, and stay true to what is best for your kids.

Set boundaries. If a well-meaning relative appears to overstep his
or her bounds, state your piece gently and quietly. You might even
have to go as far as saying something like, “You and I differ on
this, and I must ask that we not discuss this further. You have
your convictions and I have mine. This is what we feel is best
for our children.” Then if something comes up again, kindly remind
them that it is not open for discussion. This may sound harsh and
difficult to implement, but some people are very persistent, and
often something must be said to maintain peace in your home.
Debating with family is a battle that is rarely won, so why even
step out onto the battlefield? There may even be extreme cases
where you limit family visits if issues cause a lot of stress.
It is not worth the fight. Stand your ground, politely and respect-
fully, but stay firm. These relatives need to respect your beliefs
too, which includes backing off and treating you as they would
wish to be treated.

Rearrange your schedule if it helps take the heat off. A friend
recently had family come to visit, combining seeing the new baby
and Thanksgiving. She continued with school during this visit,
and soon found herself knee deep in comments, suggestions, and
questions from relatives about her curriculum, teaching methods,
her kids’ ability levels, and more. Talk about a stressful situa-
tion! Perhaps a vacation from school might help avoid some of the
stress. If this is not an option, maybe lighter school days or
focusing on educational games or field trips could be an alterna-
tive. I realize that we cannot go around burying our heads in the
sand or altering a lifestyle to avoid confrontations, but rethinking
our strategy could diffuse potentially difficult circumstances.

Don’t fret. If Grandma points out that Suzy doesn’t know her
alphabet yet, there’s nothing wrong with saying that you’re working
on it. And then change the subject! Of course Grandma is concerned,
but in light of your big educational picture, Suzy’s alphabet skills
are minor. Suzy will learn the alphabet in good time, and all will
be right with the world. Resist the temptation to debate or elaborate
on your educational philosophy with relatives. Most have their
preconceived theories that they will toss back at you. Nothing is
usually gained by debating like this. Remember how they tell us to
choose our battles with our kids? Well, choose them with relatives
too. A headache over an argument with Aunt Sadie simply isn’t worth
it. These relatives won’t be around forever, so, when possible, focus
on things like making memories instead.

I don’t profess to be an expert when it comes to dealing with sticky
relative situations. In some instances, I’ve stood firm, in others,
I could be classified as a confrontational chicken. When it comes
to doing what is right for our kids, however, I do know that it is
best to stand firm. Circumstances like these provide an opportunity
to strengthen and refine our character. God supplies our back up,
and sometimes we need to take creative and kind action. When we do,
it will ultimately lead to less stress and more pleasant visits with
family and friends.


Karen Lange homeschooled her three children in grades K-12. She is a
freelance writer and the creator of the Homeschool Online Writing
Co-op for teens. Visit her website at www.hswritingcoop.bravehost.com
or email her at mailto:writingcoop@yahoo.com


Do you have comments to share? Please do!
Send your emails to: mailto:heather@familyclassroom.net



Helpful Tip


"Subscribe to weekly e-newsletters here to see a sky map for
each week. You'll know exactly what the night sky will look
like in your area.

This is a secular website so you'll need to provide your own
commentary to let your kids know about Who really made those
gorgeous stars!" -- HomeschoolingBOYS.com member


Do you have an idea, experience, or tip to share? Please write!
Send to: mailto:HN-ideas@familyclassroom.net

Resource Review

Structured Writing
Author: Laura George
For more information or to order: www.structuredwriting.com

Structured Writing, by Laura George, is a thorough approach for
teaching the format for writing paragraphs, essays, and longer
papers. The unique concept of this curriculum is color-coding.
The topic sentence and the concluding sentence of each paragraph
are printed in black, and the supporting ideas are printed in
blue. If there are more details under the supporting ideas, they
are printed in green. Personal opinions are added in red. The
student is taught to underline the sentences in the appropriate
colors as he outlines and then writes his paragraph. The assign-
ments are divided into six sections. The first four sections
deal with writing paragraphs, and the fifth section teaches how
to write essays and longer papers. The last section, called
'Writing Backwards', shows how to evaluate a passage of writing
to find the main ideas.

This program comes with two books: a teacher's manual and a
student handbook. They are spiral-bound with durable covers.
The explanations of the lessons, including exactly what to say,
are in the teacher's manual, and the writing assignments are in
the student handbook. The student pages are not reproduced in
the teacher's manual, so the teacher must have a copy of both
books and look at them together. There is a lot of good informa-
tion in the teacher's manual that is not included in the student
manual. For instance, page 9 is a list of 'Do's and Don't in
the Writing Process'. This list is to be used by the teacher
for evaluating the students' papers, but it would be useful if
it was included in the student book, too. This curriculum is
geared more toward a Christian school setting where the teacher
gives a lecture to explain the lesson to the class. This can be
adapted to a student who works independently by giving him access
to the teacher's manual as well as the student handbook. This
curriculum would be easier to use if it were all printed in one
book so the teacher could see the student pages, and the student
would have all of the examples.

The author suggests that these books can be used for any age
students, but only a few of the lessons are applicable for
elementary students. She suggests teaching most of the lessons
to middle school students, and then teaching high schoolers all
of the lessons every year for four years. I would recommend
using this program only once or twice for older middle schoolers
or high schoolers and teaching all of the lessons in order. There
are a variety of suggested topics for each writing assignment,
but some of them are geared toward older students.

I was glad I found Structured Writing because I have been looking
for a good curriculum to teach essay writing to my children. The
teaching I had in high school on how to write essays was a great
help to me in college, so I think this is a valuable skill to
learn. I used this curriculum with my sons, who are 14 and 16
years old. They thought it was a little dry because it taught
mostly format and very little creative writing. They did, however,
learn to write a good outline and then use it to write a very
organized paragraph. We are taking a break from this book to do
some creative writing, but I am looking forward to working through
the section that teaches essay writing. This book is definitely
helping my sons become better writers as they prepare for college.

-- Reviewed by Celest Puls for www.HomeschoolingFromTheHeart.com

Last Issue's Reader Question

"With it being so cold outside, we tend to hibernate in the winter.
However, this causes the kids and I to get stir crazy.Besides
school and housework, what do you do to help pass the winter
without killing each other?My kids are older (ages 9, 13, and
16) so doing crafts is something we've grown out of.Also, with
Christmas upon us, there seems to be heightened excitement.Any
suggestions?" -- Noreen

Our Readers' Responses

"Since we live in South Florida, our stir crazy problem happens
in the summer when it's too hot to go outside, but we've recently
joined our local YMCA which has helped a lot. I have kids ages 2
and 6. The six-year-old can take sports classes and the two-year-
old can play in the supervised kids room. Our Y also has P. E.
classes in the mornings for home schooled kids and someone from
our homeschool co-op recently organized classes for home schoolers
and is using space at the Y to hold the classes in. I foresee us
spending a large amount of time in the future there. They also
have an indoor heated pool. Because of our income (or lack thereof)
we qualified for a scholarship and get a deep discount on monthly
membership and extra classes. They also have other events like
Breakfast with Santa. I don't know if it's the same at all YMCAs
across the country, but ours has been great so far - at a very
minimal cost. Bonus: I get to work out and get in shape too!"
-- Eve


"I live in New England and the winters can be long here. In pre-
paration for this, our homeschool group plans a 'winter coop'.
Each mom either teaches a class, assists with a class, or helps
with the toddler/baby room. The classes are whatever the moms
want to teach -- we've had public speaking, ecology, singing,
scrapbooking, robotics, crafts. We've had one of the grandfathers
come it to demonstrate some of the laws of physics (the boys loved
this!). We currently meet in a church basement 2 hours a week.
This year we plan to add a 'lunch/recess' time so the kids can
play board games or just hang out together. WHAT we did was never
as important at this co-op as the fact that we all got together
on a regular basis through the winter.

In years past, we have met at the local Girls Inc. and our children
had classes offered by the staff; we've met in the local Boys and
Girls Club for an hour of swim and an hour of open gym. You might
checkout the local bowling alley, ice or roller skate rink, even
the library where you can meet with other 'winter-bound' homeschool
families." -- Tricia


"Winter can be fun, but there is always a lot to do (my kids range
from 12-17).

Walk the dog
Shovel (if snow)
Build a snowman/fort/etc.
Build an ice-rink and skate
Take a hike
Have some hot cocoa or tea
Use a magnifier to look at ice crystals on the window
Make our own ice crystals
We still do crafts – build a potato cannon, make a new bookshelf
for a room, make gifts for cousins, etc.
Read a good book
Bake something they like
Try a new recipe

Your kids are similar ages to mine – have each do their own meal
planning days/shopping

If the kids start wrestling in the house, just remind them they
need to go outside.

Make their own board game – plan to play as a family
Decorate their rooms for Christmas
Volunteer at a food shelf/toy drive/food/toy distribution
Help a neighbor with clear their drive, clean garage, etc.

If the kids cometo me with 'I’m bored', usually, I have plenty of
cleaning that can be done –- I haven’t heard 'I’m bored' in about
4 years!

Is there a subject they want to learn more about? Let them!

We also have farm animals, so there are always pens to visit/clean."
-- L.S.M.


"How about bundling up and going outside anyway? You'll warm
up by moving and will really appreciate the warm house when you
return. Winter hikes are fun and so are campfires. If you have
maple trees, it will soon be time to tap for sap to make maple
syrup. If it snows, try looking for animal tracks and identifying
them. Making bird houses and feeders and observing your feathered
visitors is fun and educational. If roads are clear, you can go
on a family bike ride. Sledding and building snowmen are always
a hit for all ages. Your kids may prefer snowball fights! As
long as you are warmly dressed, there are many outdoor activities
you can do. For inside, how about a video with popcorn and hot
chocolate. Libraries have lots of free ones, both educational
and entertaining. You could make it an evening ritual. You could
have a daily individual silent reading hour. This would give
everyone some quiet time for themselves. If you are not already
reading the Bible together, try starting. Read aloud to your kids
or take turns reading the Word to each other, then discuss what
you've read and how you can apply it to your lives. Are your kids
lacking any life skills, such as knowing how to cook, clean, manage
money, etc? Is there something they are interested in learning
about? How about reaching out to others? Adopt an elderly person
to visit, or volunteer as a family at a nursing home or soup
kitchen. Churches and other groups who minister to the needy
are typically in need of volunteers and would welcome your
family's involvement. Have fun!" -- Christy


"Your kids are a great age to ring bells for the Salvation Army
this Christmas season. How about shoveling snow for people in
your neighborhood? We like to look for the houses where the
sidewalk is still snowy after most of the others are cleared --
may be an elderly person, or someone who works long hours, or a
single mom -- our criteria is just that it is someone who needs
the help. Then, for future snowstorms, we already know where to
spend our extra snow clearing time. Or perhaps you could deliver
meals to the elderly. Our local Meals on Wheels program is always
looking for more drivers, and it only takes an hour or so. (It is
also great practice in map reading.) There are probably other
volunteer opportunities in your area too.

What types of hobbies do your children enjoy? This would be a
good time to work on a larger woodworking project, redecorate
a room -- figuring the amount of paint and other supplies needed
is good 'real world' math, too. Make a quilt, try mosaics (either
with tiles or small pieces of colored paper); choose a play (or
write one) and perform it, host a game afternoon where everyone
brings a favorite board game and/or snack. You can add some
excitement to this if you set up a number of games, and have
people rotate from one game to the next at pre-set intervals.
(Set it up so there is a new mix of people playing each game after
each rotation.) See if there is a homeschool gym class in your
area -- or start one. Check with your local YMCA, Boys and Girls
Club, or gym. Homeschoolers in our area have found a favorable
reception at each of these places. Go ice skating or cross country
skiing. Teach your kids to cook -- and let them plan the menu one
day/week, including shopping within the budget you provide. If
all else fails, curl up under a blanket with a good book and wait
for Spring!" -- Laurie


"Dear Noreen -- You might find that structure will help. Plan a
schedule for the day so that the children have a sense of direction.
Idle time can cause a lot of problems.Schedule the children to
spend time alone, time with each of the other two, and time with
all three together on tasks that are suitable for each combination.
For example, the 9 and 13-year-olds can bake cookies while the 16-
year-old cleans his room; then the 9 and 16-year-olds fold laundry
while the 13-year-old cleans, etc. Much of their academic work can
be arranged in the same way. Try to alternate physical activity
with quieter things -- such as sweep the floor, then do math;
decorate the tree, then read an assignment. Give them free time,
but require that it be productive, such as practicing an instrument
or addressing Christmas cards; no TV or computer. You could also
let them earn their free time; for each hour that passes without
trouble, they get 15 minutes free. (Or, your could put them outside
and let them have 15 minutes in the house for each hour of peace --
just kidding!) Put each child in charge of at least one important
household task each day. Sometimes responsibility is a good anti-
dote for immature behavior." -- Mary Beth


"During the winter, when we are all cooped up, we use that time to
finish projects we have left behind at some point. Even if you are
out of the 'craft' age, you can still have fun learning a new skill.
You can scrapbook with your family pictures and talk about the
adventures you have had. You can learn to sew, crochet, or knit
and make gifts. You can have a family game or movie night each
week. You can choose a book for each month and a date on which to
hold a discussion group. Find a new recipe you want to try and go
for it! There are so many things to keep busy in winter!"
-- Aadel in Kansas


"Hi, Noreen! We live in Wisconsin and I understand the frustra-
tion of being cooped up in the winter.We are expecting our 6th
child (our oldest is 10) and often feel frustrated by the idea of
packing everyone up in snowsuits to be outside for just a few
minutes -- before someone has to go potty!

I am trying to appreciate winter as a time to turn inward and
focus on the home. I have set some goals for this winter that
may benefit others as well. I am currently re-working the organi-
zation of my entire home (including the basement). We are pretty
organized, but this time of year is great for washing drapes,
dusting blinds, washing down the cupboard shelves, organizing
closets, basement or storage areas, etc.

This is also a great time of year to think about food preservation.
Freezing, canning and dehydrating keep the house warm and help
us to be prepared for nights when we don't want to cook.

This is also a good time of the year to learn a new craft or skill.
I am teaching my daughters how to knit washcloths. They can be
completed rather quickly and I won't mind if there is a slipped
stitch here or there. Sewing, carpentry, cooking and other
practical skills are fun to learn and enjoyable, too.

Finally, this time of year is wonderful to stretch out under warm
blankets with a warm drink and READ.We read more in the winter
than at any other time of the year. We read individually and to
each other. We share and discuss what we are reading and enjoy
it so much. For example, last winter we read four accounts from
the 'Dear America' series on slavery. The books had the perspec-
tive of: a slave, a southern plantation owner, a northern soldier
and a girl whose parents where on the verge of divorce because of
differing views on slavery. These books were each delightful in
themselves, but combined, we had a very well-rounded education of
the Civil War.My daughters (age 9 and 7 at the time) were very
capable of holding intelligent conversation with most adults on
the topic -- because we found the 'winter time' to read, read,
read!" -- Kayla in Milwaukee


"When we moved from Florida northward, I invested in a small
exercise trampoline. It is good way for the kids (mine are now
6, 8 and 10) to get out some extra energy without destroying the
house. I bought it from a used sporting goods store for under
$75, but I would bet you could find one on your local Craigslist
possibly, depending on where you live. We do lots of crafts
during the winter, too. I'm teaching my kids how to hand sew
(even my boy); my oldest daughter just taught herself how to
crochet. I hate winter with a passion, so sometimes I do take a
couple of weeks off of school in January or February to go see a
relative or a friend further south or east. Even just a short
trip can help with a change of scenery. Even though I hate winter,
I do try to make myself and my kids get out in the fresh air and
sun, when it's shining. I'm looking forward to people's responses
to this question, too!" -- Jill T.

Answer our NEW Question

"I am looking for a U.S. government/Constitution curriculum to use
with middle school and high school grades. What have you used
that has been successful in your home school?" -- Luanne in MO


Do you have a suggestion/recommendation for Luanne?

Please send your answer to: mailto:HN-answers@familyclassroom.net

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