Substantive Education

July 31, 2008

Love These Books

Filed under: Book Recomendations,History — kbagdanov @ 1:08 am
Tags: , , , , ,

If you have children in your home, you need Genevieve Foster’s books on your shelves. These are some of my favourite history books. I just finished re-reading Augustus Caesar’s World and was reminded why I love them so much.

Foster has taken a unique approach to presenting history in reaction to her own children’s boredom with the subject in school. She chooses a central character…there are books on George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, John Smith, and Christopher Columbus…and weaves a story around them.

She doesn’t just tell the story about what is happening in their lives, but also what is happening in the world of music, art, science, inventions, religion and literature. She gives glimpses of historically significant events that are happening all around the world in that time frame. You truly get a picture of what the WORLD looked like during the lives of these extraordinary men.

In the book on Augustus she traces the seven major civilizations that existed at that time, Rome, Greece, Israel, Egypt, China, India, and Persia. You meet the poet, Virgil and find out why he wrote the Aeneid, you meet the historian Livy, the writer, Cicero, the mad King of the Jews, Herod. Piece by piece, each story builds a picture of the Ancient World and the people that inhabited it. It is impossible not to walk away from these books with a greater understanding of how the times these men lived in shaped them and how these men shaped the times they lived in. Fascinating…I can’t recommend them enough.


July 29, 2008

So Your Kids Want to Play Sports……

Filed under: Homeschooling — kbagdanov @ 11:37 pm
Tags: ,

There are some subjects that homeschoolers face with a certain amount of fear and trepidation. Maybe you struggle with teaching math or languages. Whatever it is, help is out there. The homeschooling movement has been around long enough now that curriculum’s have been developed and adapted to accommodate the parent teacher. There is one area, though, that is required and is easy to ignore, Physical Education. We are required by law to do 20 minutes of PE a day. There are many options out there..from video tapes to classes to playing in sports leagues. We are fortunate this year at Grace Prep that we will have Kim Smith offering some P.E. Classes. What I want to address here are the issues you face if you want your child to get involved in organized sports.

At the beginning of soccer and baseball season I generally get a few questions about what I think about putting kids into organized sports. Parents have legitimate concerns, from over-enthusiastic parents to out of control coaches.

In our family, we do sports. The boys have played in organized soccer, baseball, and basketball leagues. Steve has coached, managed, and served on boards, written coaching manuals…well, you get the idea. There are some important things you need to keep in mind if you want your child to benefit from participating in sports…and just about every other kids activity that involves competition.

GET A REALITY CHECK. More than likely your child is not going to be a professional athlete. Chances are they won’t even get a college scholarship. The expectation that a child should succeed to that level is pressure no five, eight or ten year old needs. Not to mention that at five, eight or ten years of age, you can’t pick out future major leaguers, so relax. (And even if you do have a truly gifted child, you still want them to love the game. Expectations can suck the joy right out of what should be a a great memory of childhood.)

BE INVOLVED. First, you need to know who your child’s coaches are and how they run things. Second, all the sports leagues are run by volunteers and they need help. If you sign your child up to play in one of the leagues (or go to 4H, CYT, or other youth activity) be prepared to volunteer some hours. It’s only fair.

BE POSITIVE. a) When you are on the sidelines keep all of your comments positive. If there is a bad call, leave it to the coach to handle. Besides being a positive role model for both your child and other parents, it makes no sense to get the umpire mad at your team. b) Be positive with your child. Praise their efforts. Believe me, they already know if they have blown a play. They don’t need you to point it out. c) Be positive with your child’s coach. Again, let me point out that these are busy people volunteering their time for your child’s benefit, often with very little thanks. They deserve your support.

PERFECT ISN’T PERFECT. Most parents think that the ideal would be to have their child placed on a great team that went through the season without a loss. Not necessarily. Let’s go back to square one…character. We want to develop character in our children. Most of the time character is developed in hard circumstances like loosing a game, striking out, dropping a fly ball or missing a goal. It’s in these circumstances that our children learn humility, how to receive instruction, and how to control their temper. An equally important lesson is when a teammate strikes out at a critical juncture of a game. Here our children have the opportunity to show empathy and offer a word of encouragement. This is where our children begin to learn what it is to be a part of a team. These are good lessons for future spouses and parents. For our part as parents, we need to walk the fine line between wanting our children to try hard and do their best, and accepting the inevitable failures that come with playing a sport. Be prepared to keep a lid on your emotions.

ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING. Lindsey Davenport was a world tennis champion. The really big news about her is that she has no entourage, no limo, and no attitude. In an interview she was asked if she ever had a tantrum on the court. She said, once when she was 11 or 12, she threw her racket down at a championship match. Her father took her rackets, locked them in the trunk of his car, and told her she was through with tennis. In spite of her obvious talent, he was more concerned with her attitude, her character. It paid off. After she and her mother convinced him to give her another chance, she never again behaved that way on the court. All our children should know the same thing. While we can’t always expect our children to make the right play, we can expect them to demonstrate the right attitude. When they don’t, we need to take immediate action. This is obviously more important than any game.

BE FLEXIBLE. All of our children need to be active, but they may not have a love for competitive sports. Try to find something that holds their interest, whether it be swimming, dance, karate of horseback riding. Don’t give up. The benefits of developing regular exercise into their lives will benefit them for the rest of their lives.

Lastly, on a side note, my sons have found that their ability to play soccer has been an invaluable tool on the mission field, both in Africa and Mexico. If you have a soccer ball…language is not a barrier. Food for Thought when choosing a sport.

July 28, 2008


Filed under: Education,Homeschooling — kbagdanov @ 5:18 pm
Tags: , , , ,

While I continue to work on the rest of my post on Teaching kids about God I thought I’d share these thoughts on environment.

I’ve become convinced that one of the most powerful tools that a homeschool parent has is environment. It’s also one of the things that can quickly work against you and negate much of what you are doing. The environment we surround our children with from birth will be absorbed by them before they are old enough to question whether or not they ‘want’ to accept our values.

When we welcome a new member into our families we take on an incredible responsibility. Most new parents want their offspring to have all of the best. We are determined to make all the right choices so that our children will have the strongest foundation possible and will be ready to move out and take their place in the world. Even if you have never clarified or written them out you probably have certain goals for your children. Some parents go about reaching those goals by making sure their children attend the ‘right’ schools, have the ‘right’ friends, read the ‘right’ books, and participate in the ‘right’ activities. And while none of those things are necessarily good or bad…if we neglect the environment our children live in day by day we pass by the most powerful tool we have to reach our goals.

(This is my eldest, Tim welcoming our youngest, Joe into the family.)

We had many specific goals for our boys. We wanted them to love God, His people, and His church. We wanted them to be concerned for the people beyond the borders of America. We wanted them to love books and ideas. We wanted them to demonstrate integrity, kindness, and grace.

We set out to raise them so that they would embrace our goals for them and make them their own, or as Steve puts it, we brainwashed them from birth. Let’s just look at one goal. We wanted them to love books and ideas. To that end we took them to the library and we read to them. We encouraged them to read when they were old enough. We certainly expressed to them that we wanted them to be readers and to love books. But this is not enough….

My nearly 3 year old nephew recently walked into my house, looked around and said, “It’s like the library, can I look at the books?” It’s hard to miss that I love books once you are in the door. There are bookshelves in every room, and books laying on most flat surfaces. My kids have grown up surrounded by books and by watching their Dad and I enjoy books. They have grown up listening to and participating in discussions of the ideas we’ve found in books. It would have taken a great deal of effort on their part to avoid books and live in our house.

On the flip side I have a friend who also says they want their young daughter to learn to read and love books. However, they keep all of the books up high and out of reach so that they won’t be ‘messed up’. She can only look at them when one of her parents sits with her and turns the pages for her. Another friend has told me that while she wants her child to be a good reader so that they can go to college and get a good job, she personally doesn’t have the time or inclination to read. There is not one bookshelf in her house and aside from a few magazines, no reading material. She is surprised neither of her sons reads much and has expressed how ‘lucky’ I am that my sons are ‘natural’ students.

Can you see how environment can work for you, or against? I used to wish we had space for a schoolroom so that all of the kids books and projects could be organized and in one place. Now I’m grateful I never lived in a house large enough to make that possible. Instead our dining room is lined with bookshelves and school books are scattered around the house. There is no ‘school’ area. There is just living spaces where we do everything and it is all jumbled together. For my kids learning isn’t delegated to a certain space, place, or time. My kids absorbed the environment they were in before they were old enough to even think about rejecting it. On the other hand, my friend’s children have also absorbed the environment they are in and even though their parents ‘expressed’ to them their desire to have them like books their environment gave another message.

Now I am certainly not saying that a child can’t become a fan of books in spite of parents who are not. What I am saying is that as parents we need to make use of the atmosphere of our homes to foster the goals that we have for our children.

M.F. Jerrold, in an article in the Parents’ Review, said that “There are many important aspects of home-life from a child’s first training to his highest education, but there is nothing in the way of direct teaching that will ever have so wide and lasting effect as the atmosphere of home.” Another educator, Charlotte Mason, believed that one-third of education is atmosphere.

What are your goals for your children? Does the atmosphere in your home reinforce the message you are giving with your words? You want your children to be kind…Is kindness a characteristic of your home? You want your children to love God…does your home life foster that? You want your children to value ideas…do you listen to them when they share their thoughts?

Our children, particularly the youngest of them, will absorb and learn without effort when we are intentional about the environment we put them in. Creating an inviting, open, and stimulating environment for children of any age will have positive results and that is what we should strive for.

July 25, 2008

Teaching About God Part 1

Filed under: Bible,Uncategorized — kbagdanov @ 8:04 pm
Tags: , , ,

I’m going to be doing this post in a couple of parts as I’m still working on it.

I’m often asked how we communicated to our boys our Christian beliefs. Did we have a particular Bible curriculum we used? Did we use all Christian textbooks? Did we have daily devotions?

In some ways our methods were very simple, but not necessarily easy. I will offer some suggestions here, but before you use these or go looking for curriculum, you need to do first things first. ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, then all these things will be added unto you.’

The first, and most important step is that you pray, seek God, and examine your own life and beliefs. Skipping over this foundational step, making sure your relationship with God is real and growing, undermines anything you might have to say to your children. Our children live with us. For better or worse, we are their first glimpse of a Heavenly Father. They know, even if others don’t, if the faith we profess is still in evidence behind closed doors. They will note, at first with confusion, and later with contempt if we make much ado about our faith in public and then are angry, judgmental and critical at home. Our children do not need to see us as perfect examples, then they wouldn’t know how to deal with the struggles and temptations that will inevitably come. But they do need to see us dealing with our lives with integrity, asking for forgiveness when we fail, and continuing our journey in faith. So as tempting as it is to want to jump ahead and buy that perfect curriculum that will instill all the right values in our children, or find the perfect church/youth group to see to it that they have only the best in Christian friends…none of that will have the influence on your child that watching you will. So determine now to look to your own spiritual well being and to live an authentic faith for your children.

Secondly, since parents are in parenting mode, disciplining and training their children 24/7, it is often too easy to communicate that Christianity is ‘not doing this and not doing that’. If we want our children to be drawn into a personal relationship with God we need to have more to offer them than a rulebook. Christianity, as Christ lived it, is endlessly appealing. It offers a safe place to unload our burdens, to be real, to find healing and rest. There is joy, real solid joy, in the Christian life. There is laughter and fellowship and fun. Is this what your children think of when they think of living a Christian life? Or do they think of a list of rules…have they heard you say, (I pray not) ‘what will people at church think?’. Of course we teach our children how to behave, we have a spiritual and moral obligation to do so, but if we stop there we have only made half the journey. In a sense, we have stopped in the Old Testament only giving our children the law. The New Testament offers more, it offers Christ. It offers a way to deal with the law that brings peace, healing, and forgiveness. We now have the Spirit, and the fruit of the Spirit is…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control…these fruits will draw our children toward the heart of God. So be sure that in your home your children are seeing the joy and fun of living a life of faith.

Thirdly, God’s plan, sometimes a baffling plan I admit, has been to work through the church. From the beginning in Acts, God has shown that He planned to spread the Good News through His church. He has called the church His bride. Steve and I have felt involvement in church is a critical part of our children’s journey in faith. Church life, just like family life, is a mixed bag. Some parts of it are wonderful. Much of the fun and joy of the Christian life my children have experienced, has been either at church, or with other families from the church. Messages received there, from others, has reinforced what they have been learning at home. Opportunities to serve in Sunday School, VBS, or in their Youth Groups has given them places to find and use their gifts. Unfortunately churches are made up of people who have not been totally perfected in Christ yet, and not all church experiences are positive. My children (and Steve and I) have been hurt, sometimes deeply, by the words and actions of others at church. How we deal with that is also a powerful, pivotal learning moment for our children. Do they see us living with truth and integrity, not denying our hurt, but not holding onto and feeding it either? Do they see us forgiving, loving, and moving past? Do we withdraw from the church when times are tough….is that what Christ would have us do? These are real and sometimes painful questions and moments in everyones life, and how we deal with them will shape our children. For me, I want my children to be committed to church life. During the tough times I pray that their character and faith will be refined and strengthened, and during the good times I pray they find fellowship, fun, and lasting friendships, during all of it I pray they have a place to come worship, learn, and serve.

Free Homeschooling Seminar

Saturday, August 16 from 9:00 -3:30 we will be having a Homeschooling Seminar at Nuevo Community Church, 29735 Nuevo Rd. The first hour will be general information about homeschooling, the legalities etc. so if you have friends who want to come get information let them know. The seminar will be covering a lot of ground, how to choose curriculum, how to schedule, dealing with multiple children, how to approach different subjects, record keeping etc. This should provide a great overview along with practical help to get you off to a great start this year. I would really love for as many of you to come as possible as I will be recording the seminar to make available to new homeschoolers. I would love to have some interaction and questions etc. to make the tape more helpful.

July 23, 2008

Teacher Orientation at the Getty

Filed under: Field Trips — kbagdanov @ 10:41 pm
Tags: , ,

In order to attend our field trip to The Getty Villa several teachers from Grace are required to attend the Villa Teacher Orientation. The workshop is September 6th at 9 a.m to 1 p.m. During the workshop we will be introduced to the logistics of the Villa School Program and the Villa site, as well as the content and focus of the Villa’s collection of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman antiquities. The Villa is open until 5 and all participants are invited and encouraged to stay after the workshop to visit the galleries and gardens at their own pace.

Let me know if you are interested in attending.

July 21, 2008

Classes, Sports, Theatre….How Much is Too Much????

Filed under: Education — kbagdanov @ 6:38 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Every year, you as parents and teachers, are faced with an ever increasing number of options for your students. Curriculum, Friday classes, soccer, CYT, Youth Theatre, baseball etc. How do you decide?

First, recognize that you can’t do it all. Each of us has time limitations, money considerations, and other work, family, and church commitments to fit in. Be realistic. The addition of outside learning can be a fantastic addition to your homeschool day bringing you a break, both during the time of the class and in terms of preparing that subject…but too many outside commitments can compromise what you are trying to accomplish.

Second, evaluate your goals for your child. What are trying to accomplish? Will this activity aid you in that journey? How old is your child? My suggestion would be the younger they are the more carefully you consider the number of outside activities you involve them in. A seven year old should not have a schedule that rivals an overworked middle-aged executive. They should have hours of free play time to build cities in the mud and curl up with books. Children need time, time to be loved, time to explore, time to play. A hectic schedule robs them of some of these most precious years. There will be plenty of time later on to involve them in outside activities, they don’t need to ‘do it all’ in kindergarten.

Every family is going to look different, you all have different commitments and different needs. For us the boys were always heavily involved in family, not just our immediate family, but we have a large extended family that we spent a lot of time with. They were always involved with church, in Sunday School, mid week activities, and special events. To us, these were the center, other things would have to fit around these two. As they got older we added some sports, then music lessons. They still had plenty of free time during the day.

By high school things had changed. High school students are beginning to become independent, they want to try things outside of home, spend time with friends. My boys love having a packed schedule and knowing that they will be jumping from one activity to the next. (You still need to keep from going overboard…but things change.) Time with family and at church remained constant, but they were eager to expand their horizons. I found it healthy for them to develop varied interests and to keep their minds and bodies productively occupied.

I had a couple of criteria I would look at before deciding if we should participate in an activity. I’ve listed them in no particular order.

Criteria One: Is this something my child will miss out on by not being in school. There are things that happen at school that you cannot duplicate at home with just you and your children…like competitive sports. My boys wanted to play sports so we found ways to add those into our school year. Figure out what things YOUR child might miss by not being in school, evaluate if that is a good thing or not, and then look for other ways to provide that experience.

Criteria Two: Is this something I’m not qualified to teach? I am not musical, all my children are…so I paid for music lessons. It was worth it. We try in our Friday classes to provide those subjects that parents might not want to do on their own, like Latin, Art History or Biology. For me, it was worth it to have someone else help out with those subjects I was tentative about. (Please note that I truly believe that with all of the curriculum choices available to homeschool parents now, if you are willing to put in the time and effort you can teach any subject you want on your own. You need to evaluate whether or not the trade off in having someone else do it is worth it.)

Criteria Three: Is this a subject that is better learned in a group setting? Over the years I’ve been doing the Friday classes I’ve discovered several things. First, some classes like Shakespeare, are just more fun to do in a group where you can act out the plays. Second, I’ve found that in classes like Chemistry or Latin that are especially challenging, students benefit from having others to commiserate (grumble) with. It seems to make the struggle more bearable.

Criteria Four: Will participation in this class/activity provide my children with healthy socialization, a chance to make friends and create positive feelings about homeschooling? While I believe that the non-homeschooling world is far too concerned about the socialization of homeschooled students, (research has shown repeatedly that homeschool children have enhanced social skills) we still want our children to have places to interact with age-mates and make friends. In particular, children who are transferring from a traditional school setting to homeschool are concerned about when they will be able to see friends. Knowing that each week they will be in classes, sports, and activities where they will see other children makes them less resistant to the change, and provides times each week to look forward too. (Conveniently, it also provides an answer to those relatives who are concerned about your child’s lack of ‘socialization’.)

Criteria Five: Does this activity move me toward my goals for my child, or way from them? Does this activity reinforce what we are trying to accomplish? I had written intentional goals for each of my sons and when it came to choosing between activities we always tried to choose those activities that reinforced what we were teaching them ourselves. With such a variety of good choices in front of us you need a way to weed through all the good and find the best. The ‘best’ for your child and your family will probably not be what is ‘best’ for someone else.

To sum it up, we found that adding outside activities was a crucial and fun part of our homeschooling experience adding a depth and breadth to our years that we would have missed without them. We also found that saying ‘yes’ to everything quickly led to frustration and stress. So while we wish to present you with many choices for the coming school year, and we hope you participate in many of those choices so that you have a rich, productive year…keep in mind that each day only has 24 hours and you don’t need to (and shouldn’t) fill each and every one of them.

Blog at