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The Gift of Education

The Gift of Education

The Horse Barn

My daughter cleans stables on the weekends, and since her brother has gone off to college, I have been going along with her. It’s peaceful work. The stables are beautiful, the horses are award-winning and the work straightforward. We clean stalls, sweep the barn, and feed the creatures. The tack room smells of warm leather, the stables of fresh alfalfa, of horse and life.

I look at the barrows full of manure, raked from freshly cleaned stalls, re-supplied with fresh alfalfa, and think, this is life. Cleaning, feeding, sweeping up the debris from the living. We talk to whatever horses are still stalled, and some time to each other, but generally we work.

My daughter, the gardener that she is, gathers tubs of manure to take home to feed her compost beds. Content in the hard work she’s done and the money well earned, we both get in the car, sweaty and tired, smelling of horse and work and life. Her work ethic has been hard-earned, both in her education and life.

My grandparents had a fourth-grade education, yet they valued the gift of education.

Out of my four grandparents, none of them went past fourth grade in any formal type of school. They were, however, always learning. They were hungry for learning.  My Gram died a few years ago, 1-month shy of her one-hundredth birthday, still living in her own home near Medway Airport in Chicago. She died in a home that she’d literally lined with books and music and animals and life. She had magnifying glasses at all her sitting places so she could see to read: books, magazines, and papers. She taught my Momma-less, illiterate Mom to read at age eight, by reading Shakespeare out loud to her and rewarded her with Mother West Wind books from the Five & Dime.

My grandfather watched the stock market daily and took careful notes.  He studied the Bible with the same careful tenaciousness that he gave to everything else. He wasn’t’ “educated” by today’s standards, but he could talk to anyone about anything and made friends wherever he went. He was passionately curious about people and how they lived and was a good neighbor to all.

My grandparents relished the gift of education. They believed that learning was a beautiful privilege and one they were hungry for.

Crown & the Growth Mindset

Queen Elizabeth, as portrayed in the mini-series Crown, seeks a tutor at one point. She has all the privileges of royalty and wealth, is the most respected woman in the world, which she travels extensively, and yet she sees a need in her own life. A need filled only by education. She hires a personal tutor to fill the void that money and prestige can’t fill. She is dissatisfied with what she doesn’t know and finds a way to fill the gap that lack of education has left.

Her sister, wealthy dissatisfied jet setter, is portrayed as bored and jealous and goes after a man that won’t “work” for her circumstances. We see a person who believes that the only satisfaction they can expect in life is physical and so she drinks and smokes and philanders to excess. The demands of her life don’t lead her to seek the fulfillment of learning and knowing. Because she hasn’t developed the intellectual discipline that character and education require, she settles.

So what does this have to do with the gift of education?

So often, in the homeschooling world, I hear this idea: character is more important than the book. “Put the book down and focus on character training.” I find this odd because it assumes that character training and education are at odds with each other. Au contrair! There is so much character training to be found by educating one’s self or another!

Let’s face it, the cycle of learning can be difficult. When we first encounter something, especially something challenging, it feels overwhelming. I remember the first time I tried to teach First Form Latin. I didn’t understand the teacher’s manual. I didn’t understand the grammar vocabulary; terms like Declension, Imperfect, Pluperfect, Mood, Conjugation. It felt awkward and tough. Now, years later, I love The Forms. It takes difficult material and lays it out in all its parts- vocabulary, grammar, sayings, culture.

Learning often requires an overview and familiarity before we ever get to mastery. It takes perseverance, hard work, vision and character to grow past overview. Getting to mastery requires all sorts of soft skills, character, and strength! Education IS character building!

Education is not a given

For many people around the world, education is not a given. My grandparents received very little formal education. Kids in the third world often don’t’ have the gift of education. Even royals don’t get the education that they need. Education requires infrastructure, stable government, money, and the character and vision to pursue it. It’s a gift. Educational choice is an even bigger gift.

In my weekly Latin classes, I pray. I pray that we all appreciate the gift of Latin and Education and that we steward that gift well. Latin isn’t going to save the world, but students who learn to appreciate words and the Word that became flesh, are great instruments to lead people to the One who can!

Gratitude for a life full of education – 

Homeschooling is such a unique and beautiful gift in this day and age of fast food everything. We have the time and opportunity to train our kid’s character as we school them. It’s a both-and, not an either-or proposition. You can teach math AND character at the same time. In fact, I would say they often go hand in hand. And to have the time and opportunity to train our kids well-their minds as well as their character is a gift.

I often hear that homeschooling should be fun, and I wonder where that idea got started. I’m not saying it should feel like slavery or a grind, but often hard work requires just that- work. Not that you can’t have fun while you work, but often work doesn’t feel necessarily like fun. And even if our kids don’t feel like they are having fun, they should still be educated, and we should not cheat them of the opportunity to have that deep sense of satisfaction that comes from learning and academic accomplishment. We should teach our kids to be grateful for the gift of education, for the opportunity to homeschool. It’s not a right. It is a privilege.

And what’s all this have to do with a horse barn anyway?

That simple gift of work that causes one to sweat a little and feel the good tired that comes from working hard; that’s what education often consists of. Real education – the kind that takes us beyond ourselves and transforms us, requires hard work, like the horse barn; vision, like my grandparents had; and a growth mindset like the Queen.

Gratitude reminds us of the above – that we are being given a great gift by being educated, and we are giving our children a great gift by handing them a personalized education, in the form of homeschooling.


Are you grateful for the gift of education? Do you understand the privilege that comes with the ability to homeschool? See why we love homeschooling and while we will forever be grateful for the ability to pass on the gift of education. #truenorthhomeschoolacademy #homeschooling #education #homeschool

Homeschooling 101 – Where to Begin

Homeschooling 101 – Where to Begin

Homeschooling 101 – The Basics

Homeschooling is a job many of us have taken on with little to no training. We weren’t versed in educational terminology, aren’t sure about what criteria to adhere to when choosing what to do or how to do it and have these kids who don’t fit neatly into any category.  Here we are, however, homeschooling.

How do we start homeschooling when we aren’t even sure where to begin?

Start simply. What are your goals for this year, this semester, month, or week? Here is a very basic break-down of what kids should be doing by age/stage:

For Preschoolers:

It should be simple- cut and paste, learning numbers and letters, skipping, exploring nature, reading good books together, listening to music, setting a routine, and forming good habits.

For Kindergarten through Third Grade:

In the early years, we can focus on reading, writing and number literacy, including the basics of phonics, art and nature exploration, the discovery of the world, more great books, field trips and the development of routines and habits.

For Third through Sixth Grade:

Now is the time to start math and literacy development, including all math function and ease in reading silently and out loud, writing fluency. Science, nature and history exploration, developing creative expression, PE, art, music, and of course, great books.

Seventh & Eighth Grade:

It is now that we should begin transitioning into more ownership of one’s education. Your students should be pursuing math or reading on their own. He should also be conducting more skilled science/ nature exploration, developing specific skills in various areas, logic, pre-algebra, and moving from concrete to abstract operations. It is also important to consider further development of routines and habits, especially those soft skills.

Ninth through Twelfth: 

Now our students must begin developing critical thinking skills in various areas, building skills in various types of writing, the ability to read fluently and critically, scientific inquiry and math exploration, developing and furthering one’s understanding of history from ancient through modern, developing specific skill areas depending on ability, resources and interests, branching out into the world of work, community service, perhaps college credits and career exploration. It is also a good time for further development of habits and routines.

Once you have a simple understanding of basic expectations by grade/ stage level you can begin to think about what you want each kid to learn at this point. For me, it’s most simple to think about “by year” as many curriculum suppliers organize their studies that way, but I know others like to consider by quarter or season. Start simple.

I have worked for 10 of the twenty-eight years we’ve homeschooled- some at the front end and most at the back-end, and when I say simple, I mean it. Working is a job. Homeschooling is a job. Managing a house is a job. Like you, I need things that work, are time and cost-effective, and don’t cause me to want to pull my hair out.

(Need more homeschool encouragement? Check out our post on what to do when homeschooling gets hard.)

What are my main homeschooling 101 tips?

  • Choose open and go curriculum that is not teacher intensive. This tip means you may have let go of the curriculum that you love because it takes to long to prep or get through.
  • Choose curriculum that YOU love and understand because if you don’t love it, you won’t use it.
  • Consider your kids learning styles but don’t cater to them. Capitalize on your kids’ strengths and shore up their areas of weakness. The research on learning styles suggests that teaching to the kids learning styles has no significant benefit in the long run.
  • Chose a curriculum that gets the job done. Know what you’ll be learning. Learn it. Know what you’ve learned.
  • Don’t shy away from complicated subject matter but choose a curriculum that makes the difficult subject matter accessible. I like Henle Latin, but it’s archaic, and other curriculum get the job done much more efficiently.
  • Don’t look at and consider everything- you don’t have the time or money for that.
  • Don’t worry so much about if your kids are having “Fun.” Education can be fun, but it can also be hard work. You don’t want to sacrifice the real sense of fulfillment that comes from hard mental work. Finding the balance between fun and educational sweat is a delicate task.
  • Choose overview programs for some learning and mastery for others. Some curriculum camp in overview and after the first go-around they are a waste of time and money.
  • Read, learn, and grow as an educator.
  • Choose a curriculum that works for multiple kids, if at all possible.
  • Utilize homeschool “helpers” – co-ops, class days, on-line classes, Audible, YouTube, Videos, computer games, Tutors, and more. There are so many fantastic resources to help you get to where you need to go.
  • Keep the end in mind- what are your kids going to do after high school? Vo-tech, internships, travel, entrepreneur, College- Ivy League, NCAA, Military, Military Academy? All of these options and paths will require a different plan, different courses, different extra-curricular, and test scores to get there.

So there you go, a crash course in Homeschooling 101. We’ll continue the discussion this month on Homeschooling Basics. Stay tuned for more great info!

Are you curious about starting to homeschool, but unsure where to begin? Look no further! Whether you are a seasoned homeschooler or a brand new momma starting out, we have some great info for you! Check out our Homeschooling 101 tips! #TrueNorthHomeschoolAcademy #homeschooltips #homeschoolmom #newhomeschooler