Homeschooling, Giant Marshmallows and a Phone Call from Africa

So many things we do in life require mechanical, rote repetition. From assembly line jobs to loading the dishwasher to indenting on paragraphs, all these depend on repetition, sameness, for success. As we teach our children to read, write, and obey, there are certain undeniable principles that must be followed to the letter and practiced over and over to ensure the lesson is being taught.

However, in our never-quite-finished pursuit of training our children, there must be a modicum of unpredictability to inspire our children to grow. If we allow textbooks (or  even more horrific, workbooks!) to be our only mode of disseminating information, we are only teaching them that homeschooling is boring; and it is quite the opposite—done correctly, it will be the most challenging fun you have ever had!

For example, the week of Halloween was anything but predictable. We hosted our church Fall Harvest Carnival where each family was responsible for a booth, race, or activity in which all the children could participate. We all had to think “out-of-the-box” to update some old-fashioned fun from a century ago. We did have bobbing for apples, sack races, needle in a haystack, counting “penny” candy in a jar, hot dogs over a campfire, and a hayride. But we also added new traditions of face-painting, fishing for prizes, a mummy dash with kids rolled up in toilet paper, glow stick tag, and, one of the biggest hits, the marshmallow on a string game, where children would bite at huge marshmallows hung by strings in trees. The parents who were in charge of the marshmallow game found HUGE marshmallows the size of baseballs—what a fun addition!

The afternoon of the carnival I had an interesting phone call which was very out of the ordinary. Our second oldest son and his wife are very involved in African missions and had the privilege of being asked to be the best man and matron of honor in two African’s wedding a few years ago. They have since had children (named  after my son and his wife) and are beginning the process of investigating homeschooling. The wife and mother, Rachel, had just finished reading my book, Go Fly A Kite, and she made a special call from her home in Africa to mine in Franklin, Tennessee, to tell me how much my book had encouraged her. She said it was not only reading my stories but also knowing my son that made her so excited about the possibility of beginning home education. This international call was such an expensive way of expressing her gratitude, but she felt like she needed to do that to encourage me. And I must say, her extra-ordinary call certainly did floor me and left me feeling very encouraged!

So today I encourage you to step out of the ordinary, hum-drumness of teaching to the text — or to the test. Do a study of nutrition and start a food fight … study pioneer history and go cold turkey from all things electronic for a weekend … study architecture and sleep in a homemade wigwam overnight … study economics and pay for all your day’s expenses in pennies.

In all the repetition throughout your homeschooling week, do something unpredictable, and you’ll find yourself and your kiddos having fun and enjoying your schooling time together by staying on your toes.