Archive for the 'Education' Category

Building Your Home Library

How do children become good readers? By reading and being read to! It is important to have a rich home library full of “living” books; that is, books that are so engaging that you and your child will not want to put them down. These are not textbooks which list dates and such, but whole books which tell the stories of real people and their real lives. Here “real” can also mean fictional characters such as Alice in Wonderland and Dorothy Gale. Living books are written by one primary author, and that person has such a passion for their subject that it can be seen in the way the book is written.

Here are some general guideline about book selection:

  • Look for books with godly characters and lessons being learned. Avoid “twaddle” or as Charlotte Mason would describe, books that have been dumb-downed to a “child’s level” and in the process all the good stuff taken out. Examples would include the “Great Children’s Classics” adaptation of classic novels. While these may be at a younger child’s reading level, usually the meat of the story or character has been removed.
  • Avoid book adaptations of children’s movies like Disney movies. Not to say that all these books are labeled “bad” but there are more worthy books out there so save your money. Go for the original Little Mermaid and Snow White stories rather than the Disney-fied version.
  • Look for books, chapter and picture, which bear the seals of awards like the Newbery (author) and Caldecott (illustrator) medals. Here is a website with lists of the various honored books.
  • Consider your children’s reading level and challenge it. Here is a good site with grade level lists of books. Consider also that children will absorb whatever is read to them, so you can read much higher “levels” to them and it will still be beneficial.
  • Ask your Grandma! If the books she enjoyed as a child are still in print, they’re probably worthwhile.

Here are some ideas for building up your home library. These may be difficult in countries other than the U.S., but f you are on furlough, this can be prime “library-building” time (as if you don’t have enough to do!). Please share your ideas in the comments!

  • Scour thrift stores- I love going to Goodwill or Value Village and perusing their book aisles. Usually there are buy 3 get 1 free type sales and frequently you may find a golden classical book at a deep discount.
  • Library book sales- These kinds of sales are awesome! At my local library these happen about twice a year, but that will vary at different libraries.
  • Doctor’s offices, etc- My kids’ pediatrician’s office has a book bin and they welcome patients to take a book. We have picked up several classics like the Little House series.
  • Summer programs- Half Price Books has a summer program to encourage reading and rewards children with $3 per week in Half Price Books credit. Last year I signed up my two girls, 5 and 3, and we read and recorded each week, and got $6 per week. We then used it to buy out of the clearance bin where books were priced at less than a dollar. It was a great way to build up our home library for free and my older daughter learned a bit about spending money wisely (getting six $0.50 books or one $3 book).
  • Trade with your friends or church- Instead of a clothing swap, have a book swap! Maybe you have two copies of something someone else wants, and vice versa.
  • Public school surplus sales- Usually each summer the school district has a sale of all damaged, unused, or otherwise classroom material. My local district’s was open for 4 days and when I went the 3rd day I was the only one and there were tons of books leftover. It was like Disneyland!

I love books! I’m hoping that my children will grow up loving books too.

Do you have any other ideas to share about how you choose what books are allowed to take up precious space in your suitcases?

(Post by: Addie)


Learning First, Before Teaching

Awhile back I went to a homeschooling meeting with some people from my church. We were there to hear from a local homeschooling veteran, advocate, and education counselor. I’m so glad I attended because this wise woman spoke truth, as if God were speaking to me right there in the basement apartment on a Tuesday night.She went around to each attendee and spoke to each of us regarding our children, and each piece of advice was different because each family is different. To the parents of a high schooler she counseled them in this way and that, and to the new homeschooling family she told them to take an extended summer. Regarding my three children ages 6, 3.5 and 12 months at the time, she told me, with tears in her eyes, “Enjoy your children, take them to the park at least twice a week, play with them, because before you know it they will be all grown up and you’ll be walking them down the aisle toward their husband.”By the end I was tearing up too.It was exactly what God needed to tell me. I can get very caught up in teaching the “right” thing and “doing school” enough times per week that I sometimes forget to let my kids run around outside or to play a game with them! I didn’t think I would be “that” kind of a mom, but when I have so many things to do inside my house (school, cleaning, naptime) I sometimes forget to venture out for the sake of my kids.The whole thing, speaking with this woman, was something I’d been realizing that I had needed for a few months. I had recently been shown (convicted is too strong a word) that, much to my dismay and surprise, I don’t know everything. Yet I had been spouting off advice left and right about what to do, blah, blah, blah, when really I should be learning more and experiencing more before I go and say what someone *should* do. This includes my kids. I need to be focusing on making my walk with Jesus straight while I’m trying to train my children.

The woman at the meeting quoted Luke 6:40 “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.” Jesus is giving the Sermon on the Mount in this passage. If we as parents desire for our children to be lovers of God and doers of his Word, we first have to love God and do his Word. This had a profound effect on me regarding my roles in life and specifically my role as a homeschooler.

Practically it means I need to make time to meet with God and read the Bible and other supplemental books on godly living. I need to address issues and repair them. I need to meet with Godly women mentors and be discipled, not just disciple people.  If I want to make sure my kids have a strong relationship with God, I first need to have a strong relationship with Him. I feel the weight more heavily when I realize that my own study of the word and relationship with Christ affects not just me, but extends to my children as well. Yet it is not a burden. It gives freedom!

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” –Matthew 11:28-30

As you seek to teach your children, whether or not you are homeschooling, in what ways are you seeking to continue to be a learner yourself? Are there any ways that you feel you need to seek growth in order to better lead your children?
(Post by: Addie)

Schooling Overseas- Making the Decision (Final Post)

(Sorry,  no Tuesday topic today! I wanted to wrap up this series and then plan to put the blog on hold as we all take some time to reflect on Jesus , the cross, and His triumph over sin this Easter week.)

As we’ve discussed a bit over the past week, there are quite a number of options available for missionaries today to provide quality education for their children. We touched on the major ones, but even within each category there are a number of variations. I wanted to close this series by sharing some of the things that various experts and wise missionary moms had to share about how to make this important decision.

Choosing how to school your children:

-The number one piece of advice offered by all of the moms and Christian sources that I consulted to prepare this series emphasized the critical importance of prayer. The decision about schooling is one of the  things that will have the most profound influence on your child’s experience growing up. It will shape who they become in many ways. Our children have been given to us as our primary responsibility during this period of life and we must be certain that we are clearly following God and looking out for our children’s best interest in this decision.

-As you pray about this decision, ask God to help you determine your primary end goals and desires for your child’s education. It may be helpful to write down your personal education philosophy to come back to from time to time in order to make sure your child’s education is achieving for them what you feel to be most important. Having done this might also help you determine when a change might be necessary.

– The second most frequently offered piece of advice is to look at each child individually as you make this choice, and to re-evaluate each year (or more often if needed) to see if the option you have chosen is still working well. What works well for one child might not work well for another, even if they are in the same family. It is important to know our children well and to understand their strengths, weaknesses, personalities, learning styles, needs, and preferences, and to take these seriously into account. Also, what works well one year might not work well the next. Have frequent and open dialogue with your child about school, how they are feeling about it, and what is taking place at school (that is if school isn’t at home).

-When appropriate (as in the older years, especially with a change being made), make the decision with your child, weighing their feelings and preferences heavily and listening to them well.

– Don’t be afraid to try! If you think that and option might suit your child well but aren’t 100% sure, it might be worth trying out, as long as you hold onto the possibility that you might need to make a change down the road. Give it a good try though because the period off transition is always difficult.

-Study your options well. Do some research to learn about the various pros and cons of the option(s) that you consider, and try to find out about the benefits that the child will receive from this option as well as the struggles, both current and future, that they may encounter as a result. No option is perfect, so it is important to be well informed in order to make this decision.

-Don’t make your decision based on someone else’s. Resist the temptation to do what everyone else is doing if you know in your heart that it is not what is best for your particular family.

-If your child’s schooling option is in English and your host country speaks a different language, make sure that your child has the opportunity to learn the host language if you plan to be serving long-term in this location. This can happen both formally and informally, but often some formal instruction is needed at some point.

-If your children are schooled in a non-Christian environment especially, make sure you have open dialogue about the things that they are learning in school. Even the things that are counter-Christian can be good learning experiences if parents are talking openly with their children. These can be teaching moments where you share with your children how life with Christ is different than life apart from Him and how following God means not following the ways of the world. Also, having these discussions will help make sure you catch things that are simply unacceptable.

-It is often a temptation for missionaries to fear that their children are not receiving the best education possible. Though we must make sure that they acquire what knowledge is necessary to function in life and to have the opportunity for further education, we also must remember the incredible things that our children have the blessing of learning and experiencing just in every day life! Life in another culture provides an education that cannot be acquired apart from experience, and our children will have the blessing of a broader worldview among many other things as a result of their lifestyle.

What other pieces of advice do you have to share with your fellow moms about how to make decisions about school, whether for the first year or in the process of re-evaluation throughout the years? Do you have any other questions to ask one another?

Again, THANK YOU SO MUCH to all of the moms who filled out surveys to help me prepare these posts. You each taught me so much and I know you blessed others as well!

(Other resources used for this post:  Campus Crusade for Christ’s 2006 X-track education options resource handbook; Third Culture Kids by David C. Pollock and Ruth E. Van Reken)

Schooling Overseas- Boarding Schools

Boarding schools are one of the longest standing schooling options for missionary kids. Though they have become less popular in recent years with the increase in education options that keep kids at home with their parents, there are still some instances when families decide together that this schooling option is the best for all members involved, and many of these kids have a very positive experience.

Pros: high quality of education, quality facilities and education resources, extracurricular activities, strong and often long-lasting peer friendships, may keep kids closer in proximity to their parents (if the only other option would be for them to stay back in the home country), children learn responsibility and how to live well with others, parents can continue in a ministry environment that is either unsafe or ill-equipped for missionary family life, children often learn and experience more aspects of their own home culture, the staff are devoted to serving God and the students who attend are their mission field

Cons: separation from parents, children may feel abandonment either during their schooling experience of later in their adult life (this was mentioned as being especially true for children who attended boarding schools beginning at an early age, such as 1st grade), parents can’t completely know what is happening in day-to-day life and children may hide certain things to keep from hurting their parents, children may appear to be thriving on the outside but could be hurting internally if families don’t have very open and honest communication and a pre-existing strong family bond, it can cause more damage to a family already struggling, without conscious effort children who board especially in remote areas may become overly sheltered and thus be shocked at the realities of the world when they enter college or otherwise re-enter general society

Considerations for missionaries considering boarding schools:

-There is an excellent article “Boarding School Readiness and Transition” that is available on the website of the well known Christian boarding school, Black Forest Academy. It is very objective, and even though it is on the website promoting the option of boarding school and expresses many of the benefits, it is very truthful about the various factors that will make for both a good and bad boarding experience. It does not say that children living apart from their parents is ever an easy decision or transition, but it gives some helpful information to help decide if it is perhaps a good option for a family.

-Children who are a part of the decision making process and who choose the option for themselves rather than being “sent off to boarding school” by their families without feeling that they have a choice fare much better in boarding schools than those who feel that they had no choice. It has been advised in several articles to talk with your child and hear their feelings first before expressing the reasons that you think it would be good for them. Listen well to your children. It has been advised not to send a child to boarding school if they do not want to go.

-The Black Forest Academy article heavily emphasized the necessity of healthy pre-existing family relationships and good and open lines of communication. The article stated that they have rarely seen a wounded family see any healing by sending a child to boarding school and have seen those students struggle, and in contrast, the children who thrive are usually those from families who clearly communicate that their children are of utmost importance to them and who maintain strong family bonds.

-Several places mentioned that this should be considered a last option, but one of the surveys mentioned how if this is the option that God leads you to, He will be faithful to provide the strength  and wisdom to make it work.

Have your kids attended are they currently attending a boarding school? What else would you have to share about this option? If you are looking into boarding school as an option, what questions do you have? (Those with experience, please feel free to respond to the questions asked!)

Thank you so much to  Nancy and Keri, who helped with this post by sharing about their personal experiences with boarding schools!

(Other resources used for this post: “Boarding School Readiness and Transition” Black Forest Academy,  “Boarding School for MKs, Boon or Bane” MK Planet, “Schooling Options for Missionary Kids” video on, Third Culture Kids by David C. Pollock and Ruth E. Van Reken)

Schooling Overseas- Homeschooling

Homeschooling seems to be one of the most popular schooling options among missionary families as it is in many ways compatible with the missionary lifestyle with its flexibility, ability to be tailored to the specific needs and desires of each unique family, the natural blessing of extra time for mom and child to spend together, among other things.

Pros: Education can be customized to the specific needs of the individual child and family, flexibility of schedule that works well with ministry and travel, the added stability of extra time together as a family which can be very beneficial with a transient missionary lifestyle, a safe and wholesome environment for learning and growth, children may progress more quickly than children attending schools away from home, homeschool co-ops provide regular social opportunities while still in an environment designed by the parents, co-ops spread the work between participating families and have many of the advantages of homeschool while perhaps taking less work and also providing the parents some time with the children away from home, inexpensive

Cons: children may feel isolated or separated from the culture if the parents are not intentional to provide social and cultural opportunities, learning of a foreign language is difficult if children do not spend significant time immersed in it, mom will have less freedom during her days for other things which could be a con for some who would desire to have more personal ministry opportunities without children in tow (though many homeschooling moms have shared how much of a blessing it is to be able to have their homeschooling children participate in ministry with them!), extracurricular activities may be lacking depending on location, may be tiring for mom to not have a break, it may be difficult to find adequate resources

Considerations for missionaries considering homeschooling:

-Do your research on curriculums as there are many to choose from with various unique benefits! (Homeschooling moms, do you have any recommendations?)

-It will take much initiative, creativity, and effort to help your child engage in the culture and to learn the host language. Many people have recommended having either a language tutor or sending your child to language lessons for this, as well as being involved in other activities within the culture. Language learning is not likely to come naturally without effort.

– Consider options for social interaction. This is not a difficult need to meet, but it takes planning.

– Consider the resources available to you. A couple of the moms, specifically in the African bush, who shared about their experiences shared that the lack of available resources was a major prohibitor for homeschooling.  Make sure to consider what materials you will need, and how you will get them.

-Develop an educational purpose statement to guide you toward your primary goals. This will help you stay on track throughout your homeschooling experience.

-Homeschool co-ops are often a great option where there are multiple homschooling families in the same area. Subjects can be divided among the  parents, and the parents not only get the opportunity to teach their own kids, but also get some time with their kids away from home so they can spend time doing other things. It is also a great optionfor many to co-op on certain subjects or activities rather than for all subjects.

– It was mentioned a couple of times by moms that filled out the schooling options survey nevere to say “I could never homeschool!” or to consider yourself unqualified. It was encouraging to hear how God leads and helps moms called to homeschool to succeed in their experience, even with differing personalities and strengths.  There are many resources to make homeschooling very doable for almost anyone.

-This can be a great option for kids with learning disabilities who might not have adequate help in other school systems on the field.

Have you homeschooled or are you currently homeschooling? What else would you have to share about this option? If you are looking into homeschooling as an option, what questions do you have? (Those with experience, please feel free to respond to the questions asked!)

Thank you so much to  Karen, Phyllis, Gina, E.B., Richelle,  Andrea, Nancy, Kara, Tammy, who helped with this post by sharing about their personal experiences with homechooling!

(Other resources used for this post: “Keys to Successful Homeschooling” by: Janna Gilbert,  “Home-schooling Cooperative Style- A New Option in MK Education” by Diane Morris, Third Culture Kids by David C. Pollock and Ruth E. Van Reken)

Schooling Overseas: International Schools and Missionary Schools

International schools, or private schools for the international population, and missionary schools are a great option for many and have the advantages of often a high caliber of education, of many times being taught in English, and having many social and extra-curricular opportunities, not to mention a Christ centered focus if the school is a Christian school, among other things.

Pros: Social interaction with different children, Mom can be “just mom” when kids get home rather than needing to play both the role of teacher and mom as in homeschooling, children in international schools with classmates from other countries gain a broad understanding of different cultures and religions which can help ground a child in what they believe and why, extra-curricular activities and honors programs, quality facilities and equipment, often a high standard of education that can be good preparation for re-entry in home country’s school system

Cons: For secular international schools often there are non-Christian teachers who may teach values and beliefs that are counter-Christian, although it can be seen as a plus as children learn how to interact with non-believers as well as believers; foul language and other less wholesome influences especially in non-Christian schools,  often expensive,  may naturally place children into a specific sub-culture separate from the majority culture (their group of close friends may be primarily other English speakers, and if in a missionary school, primarily Christians, and it could be difficult for them to engage in the culture and to identify with peers within their community)

Some considerations for missionaries considering intl. schools and missionary schools:

-It may take advance financial planning and saving and additional support raising in order to plan well to fund the education of your children in these options.

-There are often just one or a few such options, if any, in any given area. If you are moving to the field and are planning on having your children attend an international  school, the location of your home might be dependent on the location of the school and its accessibility.

-This is often a great option for missionaries who go for shorter long-term assignments, as in up to a few years. This way children don’t have the pressure of struggling through education in a new language that they will use only for a short time, and they can continue in a schooling option similar to what they left and/or that is similar to what they will enter into when they move back home.

-There are many great ways to help children engage in the culture even if attending a school for foreigners. This will take planning and intentionality on the part of the parents though as it might not come naturally. Some such options are involvement at church, participation in sports or other activities, language classes, being intentional to build friendships in your neighborhood and community, involving your kids in ministry, etc.

Are your kids or have your kids attend an international or missionary school? What else would you have to share about these options? If you are looking into either option, what questions do you have? (Those with experience, please feel free to respond to the questions asked!)

Thank you so much to Tammy, Keri, E.B., and Richelle who helped with this post by sharing about their personal experiences with international and missionary schools!

(Other resources used for this post:  Campus Crusade for Christ’s 2006 X-track education options resource handbook; Third Culture Kids by David C. Pollock and Ruth E. Van Reken)

Schooling Overseas-National Schools

National schools, or local public schools in the host culture, are a great option for many families serving overseas, especially in the way of cultural immersion and cross-cultural relationship building.

Pros: immersion in the culture, building of strong cross-cultural relationships, children quickly acquire the language, low in cost, often causes the people in the community to identify you as “on of them,” provides an easy and natural way to build relationships in your community, often a high standard of education depending on the location

Cons: religious or philosophical differences, loss of identification with the home culture, potential for teasing or rejection by other kids, less choice in which school you attend (you may be assigned a school), the schedule may be hard to mesh with ministry travel, there may be high expectations for parents to participate in various aspects of the school which may or may not work easily with your schedule, the standard of education may be too low and not adequately prepare the child for further education in the US.

Some Considerations for missionaries who choose national schools:

-Consider how to foster the cultural identity you desire your children to have. Children who continue in this option often identify more closely with the host culture rather than with their home culture. Think of how you will foster their identity with their home culture.

-Make sure you are aware of how they discipline within the schools as well as that you check for general safety. Some countries discipline much differently than we do in the US, and some forms of discipline are not healthy. There may be different safety standards as well.

-Even within the same system, there can be a large difference between individual schools. It is always good to visit the specific school that you think your child will attend to make sure you like that particular school. Also, building relationships with the teachers and administrators goes a long way to ensuring a good experience!

-Consider when and how you make sure your child learns how to read and write well in English, as well as when and how they will learn about American culture and history, etc. According to missionary moms who filled out surveys on this option, this is very doable either by adding a little bit of extra home-schooling time after school, or by focusing on these things throughout the summer and on furloughs. Nobody said that this was a burden, but it was mentioned as something to plan for.

-A number of experts advise starting your child in national schools at a young age for the sake of ease of transition. It is more difficult for a child to adjust to a new language and system when the subject matter becomes more difficult, and as in any school situation, it is more difficult to enter into social groups late than it would be if a child begins when everyone else does.

Are your kids or have your kids attend national schools? What else would you have to share about this option? If you are looking into this option, what questions do you have?

Thank you so much to Kara, E.B., and Richelle who helped with this post by sharing about their personal experiences with national schools!

(Other resources used for this post: “A Parent’s Perspective on National Schools” by Kelly Butts, “Factors in Considering a National/Public School” by Cynthia Storrs with S.H.A.R.E, “National Schools and a Child’s Self-Esteem,” Interact- Fall 2002,  Third Culture Kids by David C. Pollock and Ruth E. Van Reken)

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