Archive for the ‘One Thing’ Category

Pick one thing

oneImage by andrechinn

You can’t do ten things, and your homeschool won’t transform itself over night.

What you want and what creates momentum is a series of deliberate, prepared choices that lead to a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. You get there one thing at a time.

Pick the subject, practice, habit, or attitude you wish were more present in your home and “do it” or “have it” or “develop it.”

Identify the One Thing that is top of mind—that keeps coming back to you as the one thing you wish you were living.

Then follow the One Thing principles:

1. Prepare (ahead of time). Plan a date, purchase, make copies, organize, think about, read literature related to your one thing choice. Gather materials.

2. Execute (day of). Follow through with enough time to invest deeply without distraction. Turn off your phone, shut down your computer, don’t answer the door. Be fully present.

3. Enjoy (kids and you). Let yourself forget everything else but that experience/lesson. Be here now. Don’t do other things simultaneously, don’t think ahead to what you will do next. Engage.

4. Reminisce (later that day or the next or next week). Talk about what was fun, remember humor, honor connections, recollect what went well. Talk about when you might do it again.

I gave a podcast about this topic a few months ago. Check it out.

Podcast: One Thing Principle

One Thing Principle podcast
I’ve written about the One Thing Principle many times on the blog. Today, though, I wanted to share with you in more detail about how to get that fantasy homeschool you imagine into the real world of your routine family practice.

Noah shares about our family and what we did that he remembers and I am hoping that my comments will ease some of the frustration and doubt that get in the way of enjoying your time at home with your kids.

Listen to the Brave Writer Podcast

The One Thing Principle

The One Thing Principle

I haven’t posted about this for awhile, but it’s critical to good home education, good writing practice, good living! Before you read, take a deep breath. Take another. Maybe pour a second cup of tea.

Did you know that you are more likely to feel successful in homeschooling if you do one thing really well today (invest in it, spend energy on it)? If you let other things go and are fully present for one thing, you’ll feel like you got a lot done. Conversely, if you do a whole bunch of things in a hurry, covering all the material, you will feel discouraged like you didn’t get enough done.

Depth, not breadth, creates momentum in the homeschool. Here’s how you can shift gears to doing one thing at a time… well.

The discussion of how to create a flexible routine as well as how to create a home context conducive to nurturing relationships prompts me to revisit a plank of the Brave Writer philosophy: The One Thing Principle. Some of you already know it well. Others of you are new to Brave Writer so this will help you begin to shift the paradigm from which you teach and guide your kids.

Remember: we are home educators. We are not recreating school. One of the biggest advantages to being at home is the ability to go in-depth when studying or pursuing an interest. This is the key principle to help you do just that guilt free. Enjoy!

Brave Writer

When was the last time you really tasted the food you ate? If you’re like me and millions of moms, you wolf down your meals in an attempt to clean your plate before someone in the family needs seconds, needs a face-wiped, needs to be breastfed, needs you on the phone.

It’s easy to run through the homeschool day the same way – Everyone’s doing math. Good. In just ten minutes I’ll get the older two started on spelling. While they’re spelling, I’ll read with the eight-year-old and nurse the baby. Then I’ll make lunch and think about which creative project will go with the history novel.

As you race along, you might even have the strange feeling of not having done anything worthwhile, even though you are exhausted and have been pushing the family at breakneck speed. There’s a sense in which we “hover” above our lives rather than living right inside them when we’re filled with obligations, good ideas, lots of children and the endless demands of email and phone calls that intrude on our best plans.

We also feel pressure—pressure to complete assignments, books, courses, and projects, and worry that we won’t have done enough of any of it. So even a completed project or worksheet or novel is not relished because we think about all the things we haven’t done yet instead. What an awful trap!

To stop the madness, you have to change how you see the way you spend time. I like to tell Brave Writer moms to savor experiences and learning opportunities rather than rushing through them. As much as I have emphasized the need to slow down, moms continued to feel they weren’t doing enough. That’s when it dawned on me that we needed to refine what it means to “slow down.”

The solution? The “One Thing Principle.”

Ask yourself: What would happen if I only did ONE thing well tomorrow?

What if you focused all your energy and attention on one important idea/activity/project/math concept or novel? For instance, what if you set up the conditions to enjoy reading one Shakespeare story by Leon Garfield?

  • You could pick the story the night before.
  • You could look over the difficult to pronounce names and try saying them.
  • You could find a passage for copywork to be used later in the week.
  • You could google a few facts about the Bard and print them out to read over breakfast.
  • You might print out a story synopsis to help you answer questions if your kids get confused while you are reading.

Let’s look at what happens the next day if you really were to focus on One Thing.

Here’s what you will do:

The next morning, toast some English muffins, serve with black tea, and set them on the kitchen table. While everyone is slurping their tea and putting in too many teaspoons of sugar, read the story aloud, sharing the gorgeous illustrations as you read. Then ask everyone to pronounce the names after you, and pause to laugh at Shakespeare’s sense of humor. Explain a few of his obscure word choices, and make a little diagram of how the characters are related to each other. At the end, read the interesting fact sheet about old Will and marvel at his accomplishments.

When you’re finished reading, savoring, drinking tea and eating muffins, when you have understood the story and have thought about who Shakespeare is, when each child has had a chance to talk about the story if he or she wants to, you close up shop and turn on the TV for a sitcom. Or perhaps you take a walk or play outside, or do some email while your kids jump on the couch like a trampoline.

Then a little later at lunch time, reminisce about the story and why it was so enjoyable. See what part of the story everyone thought was sad, or funny, or creative. Suggest ordering the film version on Netflix or acting out one scene or comparing this story (orally) to one of Shakespeare’s other plays you’ve read/seen before. Make the most of this rich experience before rushing off to the next one.

As a mother, take time to actually enjoy the story. It’s fine that you enjoy your children’s joy, but it’s even more important that you find yourself focused on the story, its language, the creativity of it, the timelessness of the ideas. You must discipline yourself to not think about the unpaid bills, the dinging bell of new email, the ring of the phone or the tug of unfolded laundry. You must not worry that math is not being studied or that your youngest still can’t read.

It is time for Shakespeare and that’s it. When you have enjoyed and relished Shakespeare, you may then go on to one more thing.

Follow the same process for another homeschool experience you want to have but put off or don’t enjoy or feel you’ve neglected.

Before hurrying off to the next one take time to:

1. Prepare (ahead of time). Plan a date, purchase, make copies, organize, think about.
2. Execute (day of). Follow through with enough time to invest deeply without distraction.
3. Enjoy (kids and you). Let yourself forget everything else but that experience/lesson. Be here now.
4. Reminisce (later that day or the next). Talk about what was fun, remember humor, honor connections.

If you build positive experiences around copywork, dictation, Shakespeare, poetry, writing, reading, observing, narrating, conversing, acting, nature, art and more, slowly, over time, one at a time, without feeling you are getting behind, you will naturally build momentum in your homeschool. You’ll discover that you do more things that nourish your family and will revisit the ones that are especially rewarding.

More importantly, your kids will learn to trust you. They’ll believe that you have rich experiences prepared for them that are worth doing. Think about that. Isn’t our biggest struggle “getting our kids to do what they should”? What if they knew that if you said, “Let’s do _______ today” their reaction would be: “That will be fun!” (or interesting or worth doing)? Wouldn’t that make a world of difference?

You can follow the one thing principle for any lesson, topic, activity or idea. Overlapping between subject matter happens naturally when you invest this way. Subjects you didn’t even intend to cover are a part of deep investment in any topic. Allow yourself to trust the process. Start with One Thing (the one thing you are dying to do with your kids but keep putting off).

Make your plan today!

The Homeschool Alliance

It’s the Little Things…

A reminder to do the little things that make for pleasantness in your home:

Have you….

    hugged your kids?
    surprised someone with a treat?
    tickled someone?
    made a joke?
    pointed out beauty to someone else?
    stopped to listen to laughter?
    looked out the window and saw, really saw, a bird?
    had an unhurried cup of tea?
    been thankful for good health?
    read something worth reading?
    jumped up and down to get your heart pumping?
    put on lipstick?
    read a poem?
    looked into your child’s eyes while she was telling you something?
    ate tasty food?
    gone for a walk?
    asked for a hug?
    admired a child’s good attitude?
    forgave yourself?
    wrote a few sentences?
    cleared the coffee table and put out something new to read or look at?
    lit a candle, put a flower in a vase, arranged the fruit in a bowl?
    inhaled deeply, exhaled slowly?

Hope so. Do any one of these and let your day unfold.

It’s the little things….

Finding a Rhythm

Finding a rhythm in your homeschool

The Brave Writer Lifestyle may be in danger of becoming a group of words that lose meaning. When I first chose the word “lifestyle” to express the kind of language arts and writing environment that I hope families can create, I did so because I wanted to undercut the negative associations with the word “curriculum.”

“Lifestyle” is a routine or habit of being that relishes good books, writing, poetry, language, talking, movie viewing, and listening. These habits of being will foster better spelling, deeper readings, insight into stories and plots, an appreciation for good writing, an ability to translate one’s thoughts into written expression, a sophisticated vocabulary, interest in languages, (especially one’s own), openness to all kinds of writing genres (including poetry, plays, fiction and non-fiction), and a general love for the language arts.

Because we use the term “lifestyle” so much around here, it might become just the third word in the trio that substitutes for what others might see as a curriculum.

A writing curriculum or a language arts program is geared toward mastering skills. They may, as a by-product, help you to deconstruct difficult grammar, discover a wonderful book or teach helpful writing techniques. Additionally, a program offers structure and a linear step-by-step measurement of movement forward. This is why curricula and programs will never completely fall out of fashion and have their place! But they are not a lifestyle.

Brave Writer offers a different vision. We have certain practices we recommend that have proven beneficial for grammar and spelling, for writing and narrating. But they are simply that: habits or practices. They can be used to advantage or skipped for a time while a child investigates some other aspect of language or writing. You can use programs and curricula to support you in a targeted area of language arts or writing instruction (like an online class, or programs like the Arrow or Boomerang). But these are supports to the lifestyle, not substitutes for it.

A lifestyle implies habit and fluidity, routine and flexibility. You get to decide what is working and what is not.

For those who are “‘tweens” – between curricula and the vision of a lifestyle – let me offer you a single suggestion for how to embrace the lifestyle as you reorient yourselves.

Start with ONE thing.

Finding a rhythm in your homeschoolPick one activity or habit or practice or idea that sounds fun to you and do that first. Do it well. Don’t add to it.

So if you want to read poetry with your kids, go to the library and find a good poetry book. Just get a poetry book. Don’t get sixteen other books to read.

Share the book with your kids. Leave it on the coffee table. Read it at bedtime or with tea or during dinner. Let your kids read and hold it. Mark your favorite poems with bookmarks and reread them. Memorize a poem. Write one each morning on the white board. Write a poem in a notecard and keep it in your pocket all day, then reread it in the morning, in the grocery line and before you make dinner.

Enjoy poetry.

Too often we rush through the ideas on our list of good ideas and then wonder why nothing is taking hold. Stop. Read the ONE book and see how much you can get out of it for a week.

Maybe you’ll illustrate poems, or copy them over, or read them at the dentist’s office, or memorize one to share with visiting relatives. Maybe you’ll want to write a poem yourself. Maybe your kids will. Maybe this book will lead you to another book of poems or to one single poet. Let it do its work. Don’t force it.

The point is that if you make poetry just one of the many things you must do this week to achieve the “Brave Writer Lifestyle,” you may not enjoy the poetry. You might find yourself thinking about how after you read the poetry book, you ought to be copying quotes into copy books. And what about freewriting? And will that subscription to the Arrow turn out to be worth it? Suddenly your mind is off of the poem and on “curriculum planning.”

Don’t fall for that trap.

Slow down. Start with one thing. You can build on one good experience. You’ll find that one positive language arts experience enriches the whole. Perhaps the poem you read will naturally lend itself to a discussion of theme (Gerard Manley Hopkins), or grammar (Lewis Carroll), or word choice (Jack Prelutsky), or even a historical moment that gives context to the poet’s writing (Langston Hughes).

When you have exhausted the poetry book, pick the next enticing idea. (Don’t pick the one you think you should pick – I give you permission to follow your enthusiasm.) Enjoy it. Live it.

Follow these steps:

  1. Prepare for the experience (get the book, buy the ingredients for a recipe for teatime, read ahead in the novel, order the film from Netflix – whatever the activity is).
  2. Set up the experience for success by picking a date and planning to execute it that day. Clear your day of other burdens. Focus.
  3. BE HERE NOW – while you are in the experience, don’t let your mind wander to math or orthodontist appointments or bills. Unplug the phone, turn the ringer off your cell, close the laptop. Enjoy what you are doing and do it fully, without guilt.
  4. Reminisce. When the experience ends, a few days later, talk about it. Remember what was enjoyable. Say it out loud, to your kids, to your friends. Write it up in a blog or email your mother. Be sure to validate the positive experience so that it becomes a memory to treasure and share.

You might notice that these steps work great for teatimes or trips to the art museum. What about something more philosophical like, listening attentively to your children? Start by thinking of all the ways you can be a better listener. Can you take one child out for coffee, another on a walk, swim with one at the Y, see a movie and then chat about it on the way home with yet another?

Do it! It counts. See where it leads.

Can you choose to sit on the couch for a minute today with one child? Might it work to put one child to bed and to lie on that bed for fifteen minutes to cuddle and converse? Do it! Plan it, set it up for success, be fully in the moment and then remember the good that came from it.

You can’t plan time for listening and then fill up your days with lots of busy work. Focus on listening and let that be the frame of reference for everything you do that week.

Allow this year to be the one where you taste-test all the great ideas. Some will stick. Some will bomb. The ones that energize you and your kids will become natural habits because they make you and your kids happy, and you see fruit in their lives.

After many months, you will find that you have a lifestyle all your own.

Images: boy drumming by Bev Sykes and library by Enokson (cc cropped, text added)