Let’s Educate Whole-Hearted Children {Giveaway}

WholeHeart WholeHeart6

I am just so inspired and encouraged as I read in the comments from Monday’s post about what kind of legacy you all want to leave your children.  Isn’t it so amazing to walk in community and unity in our goals?  Of course how that plays out will be unique as each family dynamic is different and we are all unique people.   Over and over again, you all said that you wanted to see the hearts and minds of your children turned towards Jesus!  I couldn’t agree more.

I’ve heard a lot over the years about ‘reaching your children’s hearts.’ In fact, in my early years of parenting, I would start asking for particulars.  What did that mean?  How did one go about doing that?  Most people seemed afraid to give any kind of practical guidance.   But I don’t just want to be inspired with renewed vision, I want some practical help as I go about living this out in my home.  And that is why I’m so excited to share with you another favorite resource in our home.

Educating the Whole Hearted Child.

This mammoth book is geared for homeschool families and is chock full of inspiration, help with honing a vision for discipling and educating your children and practical ideas to help live this out.  Clay and Sally Clarkson identify the crux of what so many parents are yearning for – raising whole-hearted children who love God deeply, delight in the adventure of learning and have rich relationships with the family.  While this book is certainly not prescriptive, it is full of principles that each family can take and weave into their home.

Educating the Whole-Hearted Child is not necessarily designed to be read from cover to cover, although you certainly could if you had the time and desire.  I love having it as a resource on my bookshelf.  I turn to it for inspiration on how to disciple my children.  I turn to it for a pick-me-up on what my mission is and why I’m homeschooling!  I turn to it for practical help and suggestions as I live out the beauty of creating a home where we learn instead of merely replicating school at home.  We get to focus on REAL books, REAL life and REAL relationships!

Tucked inside this book, you will discover how to:

  • Make your home and family the heart of your children’s education
  • Train your children to become creative, self-directed learners
  • Enrich life and education with living books
  • Identify and work with each child’s learning style
  • Help your children love to learn as naturally as they love to play
  • Gain confidence to teach with practical, commonsense methods

Their goal with this book is to give us a larger vision for what God can do in our homes and provide a model of home education that gives us the freedom to follow the Holy spirit for what our children need most.  Do I hear an amen? 

Each time I pick it up to read a section, I walk away encouraged and equipped, because I’m setting about the monumental task of raising Daniels.  I want to cultivate a home where the Spirit of God is present, invading our daily lives!  I want to cultivate a home where we read – alot and learn together as a family.   I want to cultivate a home where those character lessons are just as important as the academic ones. This beautiful book is seriously a gold-mine of information and inspiration that will bless anyone who reads it.  wholeheart2



The Clarkson’s have graciously offered to give a copy of this must-have book to one of you dear friends! I’m tickled pink.  You can find Sally blogging at I Take Joy.  She also runs a phenomenal site called Mom Heart | Coming Home to God’s Heart for Motherhood, and last but not least, you can find all of their books and updates on their ministry at their Whole-Heart site.  I encourage you to check out all three!

You can enter to win using Rafflecopter below.  Leave a blog comment and press the +1 button to unlock other options for more entries.  Giveaway ends right before midnight (AZ time) on Wednesday 03/20/13. The winner will be emailed and announced on the giveaway widget below. Winner will have 48 hours to respond to the email or a new winner will be selected. All entries must be documented within the Rafflecopter widget below. Giveaway is open to US residents only.

If you don’t want to wait and see if you win a copy, you can purchase it from Amazon, my usual default,  or buy it on sale at Christian Book.com.  Even with shipping charges, it still beats out Amazon’s price!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This giveaway is part of my ‘house-warming’ party!  We’ll have a few giveaways posted each week in March as I share about things my family loves!  Welcome to my new website!  Check out the opportunity to win:

Hidden Art/For the Children’s Sake bundle (through 3/15)

Arizona Homeschool Convention and Curriculum Fair pass giveaway (through 3/20)

Playsilks: Unleashing the Imagination (through 3/22)

Block Play: Building Up the WHOLE Child (through 3/27)

Linked to: Hip Homeschool Mom’s Giveaway Day.

Thinking OUTSIDE the School Desk

There is just something about 6 year old little boys, or at least my 6 year old little boys…  They have a high desire to practice their spelling and improve their reading skills, but very little desire to pick up that little pencil.  The desire is especially potent right now because my middle son wants to join his big brother in playing Ticket to Ride.  But his reading skills need to improve a bit more before he can play completely on his own without help…

So penmanship practice took place largely outdoors this summer – even in our intense summer heat.  ICE kept us cool for about 15 minutes before we meandered back indoors, leaving our words to quickly fade away.  Even the 8 year old begged to do his spelling words outside too afterwards!  The four year old lasted a couple of minutes before abandoning ice in favor of his stick horse and some far-off battle.  And of course Greta is pleased to be wherever we are and happily played next to us…

The beauty of homeschooling is that you don’t have to be tethered to a desk.  We can go outside, write with ice-cubes, spray messages with squirt bottles and take advantage of any and every location imaginable!

Have you taken your learning adventures into any new venues lately?

Oma’s Book Club

In continuing our discussion of books and reading, today I have a guest post from my mother, affectionately called “Oma” by her grands.  She is a gifted teacher.  Literature and discussing great books is one of her favorite things to do.  I feel so blessed that she is passing that love on to her grandchildren!


He knew how to read, loved being read to, read the easy readers, but had not yet discovered the great pleasure of solitary reading, especially reading longer and more complex books.

So Oma’s Book Club was launched.  I wanted to encourage him to devour and savor good books.  This would be more than just getting a reward for reading, we would discuss the books – and thus I would in a natural way teach him the concepts of literature which would cause the enjoyment of good books to soar.  Or at least that was the plan….

When I asked X-man, my 7 year old grandson, if he would like to be in a Book Club with me he excitedly said yes even before I explained it.  (I think his dad had let it slip there might be a treat involved.)

The Plan

 1.       Oma would pick a book to read.

2.       After both reading the book we would have a date to go out and discuss.

The Execution

 1.       The X-man is only 7 years old and I wanted the first book to be a success.  He was skeptical of his ability to read a “long” chapter book.  So we started with Five O’ClockCharlie by Marguerite Henry, a 40 page book.  While not a chapter book, this picture book is beautifully written with rich vocabulary, enchanting syntax, and a lovely story of love, life and grace to an older generation.  Definitely a great book for the beginning of our book club.

Twenty-eight year-old draft horse Charlie is retired by Mr. Spinks who is trying to do his horse a favor; but life is boring to Charlie, who misses the days when he and Mr. Spinks would head to the local pub at 5:00 PM sharp for Birdie’s fresh apple tarts. One day, Charlie jumps the fence and trots to the pub where he hopes the cheerful Birdie will give him his own juicy tart. Soon, this jaunt is an everyday routine.

2.       After X-man read the book (two or three times), we headed to the frozen yogurt shop for our treat and discussion.

This was to be a real discussion – definitely not a test, nor a lecture, nor a lesson.  But I did have things I wanted to talk about – quite a number of things.  Nevertheless I was also going to be responsive to him – ready to go on a bunny trail if he desired, ready to drop a line of discussion if he seemed lost or bored.  And ready to quit when it seemed natural, rather than when my “list” was completed.

There are many things to discuss about a book: Plot, characters, setting (including both geography & time), themes, vocabulary, literary devices, etc., etc.  You never want to cover everything with every book.  That would be tiresome and stilted. There are future opportunities with the next books.

I started with, “Who is your favorite character?”  And I was ready with the follow up questions of “Why did you like him/her? What was he like? Could you describe her to me?” if needed.  These questions were ready just to get him talking – I did not want him to think I was interrogating him!

X-man told me about Charlie first.  When he described him he left out a few things – one of which I wanted to discuss.  The author described Charlie as having “sad brown eyes and shaggy feathers on his feet.”  I reread the line and we looked at the pictures.  I asked X-man if a horse has feathers on his feet.  He was confused and said, “I guess so.”  So I explained with a laugh that he knew birds have feathers, not horses. I explained that this is a metaphor – a description of an object –in this case the long fluffy hair on Charlie’s feet – that asserts it is, on some point of comparison, the same as another otherwise unrelated object- in this case feathers.

Then X-man wanted to talk about the second character whom he really liked: Birdie, the plump cook at the inn.  I laughed about the name Birdie and asked him if he could imagine anyone naming their child Birdie. He laughed, too, and quoted a line from the book, “She would bounce out of the inn like a cuckoo from a clock.”  I then mentioned that this is similar to the feathered feet of Charlie.  Birdie is not a bird – she is a lady, but she is like a bird.

Now he has not really learned similes and metaphors, but I have broached the subject naturally.  It will not seem as strange next time, and he is building an understanding which will undergird the formal learning he will receive much later.

After we finished talking about the characters – mostly directed by him – I read one particular paragraph out loud.

Quick as flies the people would come swarming.  There were teamsters and tailors, carpenters and cobblers, bankers and barristers, goldsmiths, silversmiths and blacksmiths.   

I did NOT discuss the simile with corresponding verb in the first sentence.  I was being careful not to rub his face in the educational aspect of our book club.  But we did talk about each of the professions.  This is pretty complex vocabulary.  He knew some of them, but not all.  Then I reread the sentence to see if he could hear the pattern.  And as I ready I emphasized:

Teamsters and Tailors, Carpenters and Cobblers, Bankers and Barristers

We talked about alliteration very briefly.  He knows about rhyming and I explained this was similar – and it made the sentence lyrical, or almost musical.  He seemed to understand and commented that it was fun to say out loud. He repeated the work al-lit-er-a-tion and the sentence. 

Of course we also talked about the plot.  I let that discussions just run conversationally at his direction and pace.  X-man also wanted to talk about the illustrations.  I had not planned on talking about them at all.  He had thought about them and shared his insights with me!

The theme of the story is that we all need meaningful work, that we need to treat everyone with respect, and that no one is too old to have a rich meaningful life.  If X-man brought it up we would follow his bunny trail.  But I knew going in that I would not chose to discuss it. 

Many times morals and themes are best caught by the story rather than taught by the teacher.  I did discuss it with his mother in case she has the opportunity to catch him exhibiting the positive character traits – then she can comment that he is behaving like Charlie or Birdie. 

Our first book discussion was a great success.  I spent a few hours tracking down the next book I wanted to read. 

My goals?  Good books – good both from a literary standpoint and morally.  A variety of genres and authors. Books that are increasingly challenging while not being overwhelming.  

My next choice?  TheBox Car Children.

Oma’s Book Club… to be continued…..

Colene Lewis
wife, mother, grandmother, speaker, curriculum writer (KONOS Russia curriculum) and currently working for Alliance Defending Freedom.
Related Posts on Literacy and Reading:

Of Pediatricians and Patriots

Of Pediatricians and Patriots: How a sensory and literature rich approach to education can make a difference.

We are knee deep in the middle of our nations fight for independence and the boys couldn’t be happier.  Last fall I picked up two pirate costumes at our PE groups clothing swap.  The red velvet jackets with gold braid are a favorite item being worn these days despite the temperatures approaching 100.  Our only two patriot ‘coats’ are a blue police jacket and my grandmother’s cardigan that has really cool engraved pewter buttons.  Buttons aside, the boys think it is a pretty boring stand-in.  But it has provided an opportunity for the them to realize the benefits of being a soldier of the king verses a patriot in a poor fledgling nation.

As we read about these men that made so many valiant sacrifices, they have also been drawn to the beautiful rhetoric.  Their ability to memorize, when motivated, never ceases to amaze me.

Recently, I took Treyton in for his 4 year old well-check.  This new pediatrician is especially thorough and started asking me all kinds of questions about his development.  As she started to ask about his knowledge of the 1,2,3’s and A,B,C’s I realized that I had come to the point, where I hadn’t really thought about it.  I nodded, indicating that he knew most of what she was asking about, but than explained a bit of my philosophy.

Skills like this come surprisingly easily in a home where there is a lot of interaction.  As I dole out a snack, he learned pretty quick how important it was to count.  Counting wasn’t merely something he memorized to please someone.  There was a lot riding on his understanding of 1-to-1 correspondence.  He could immediately spot that he only received 10 blueberries while his brothers had each snagged 20.

And don’t get me started on the ABC’s.  I mean really, what academic advantage does a child have if he can sing the ABC song?  Until he is ready to start alphabetizing, not much.  Now phonemic SOUNDS…  That is a whole different story.

As I sat there in my pediatricians office, I started to share with her the value in learning ABOUT things instead of merely memorizing and acquiring skills.  One of my goals in the early years is to nurture that natural curiosity and insatiable desire to explore the world around them.  Stoking the fire of inborn curiosity and protecting that natural love of learning is so crucial at this age.

For some reason our culture seems fixated on skill acquisition as if memorizing numbers from 1 to 20 (or 50 or 100) somehow indicates ‘giftedness’.  So much time is spent on trying to get kids reading or counting that could be utilized in far more effective and enjoyable ways.

I’m not sure how convinced she was, until I mentioned our current study of the Revolutionary War and how fascinated he is by it all.  He may or may not be able to recite his ABC’s in the correct order {I’ve never communicated that learning that was important}, but this kid of mine is soaking up so much.

I relayed how I was dialoging with my bigger boys, asking them which famous statesman from Virginia spoke these famous words,

“Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?
Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take,
but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!” 

Treyton was trotting by {in costume, of course} and before the boys had a chance to respond, he glibly responded, “Patrick Henwy”.

The pediatrician just sat staring.

Then I told her that he was currently really into the life of Paul Revere and the events surrounding the battle of Lexington/Concord.  At this point, Treyton piped up and told her about Captain John Parker and his courageous words to the militia on the Lexington Green that day.

Rest assured, while she might think us a bit odd {and I’m totally ok with that}, I don’t think she is worried about his academic development.

Skills will come.  In fact, he’s acquiring them without even realizing it.  More important is that his love of learning -that God has placed in each young child, is alive and well.

After re-enacting the battle at Lexington and the ‘shot heard round the world,’ Treyton wanted me to record the battle for his cousins and grandparents. He is incredibly proud of his make-shift bayonet (a bamboo skewer) and the boys are loving their ‘gun smoke’ that they’ve created by filling their popguns with dirt. After reviewing this clip however, I’ve realized that we need to work on explaining the reality of guns that fire only one shot before needing to be carefully reloaded…

Want to get a few key costume pieces or book ideas for your study of the American Revolution?  Check out my gift guide.

Gifts that Spark a Love of Learning about the Revolutionary War

Planning for the Unplanned

Delighting in the adventures of the day. Recognizing their value and promise.

Yes, there are days I feel overwhelmed, under prepared and ill-equipped.

But I serve a God who is all-powerful, all-knowing and never gives us more than we can handle. Learning happens all the time. Education is an atmosphere. Training opportunities are at every twist and turn of life’s journey.

Sometimes, these opportunities don’t fit in the neat and tidy box that we like to call ‘SCHOOL’. But they are very real and of far greater value than the sit at a desk with a text book.

Sometimes it is chasing butterflies outside. Sometimes it is learning how to get along with siblings.

Sometimes it is learning responsibility and how to properly do chores.

All are blessings. All are rich with opportunity and promise. We just need eyes to see it.

“Today is a gift that is why it is called ‘The Present!’”

Today I record those unconventional learning moments in my lesson plans.  While they were not ‘my plan’, they happened.  Those lessons had value.

In those moments when I wonder what we are doing, what they have learned, I look back and read through what I’ve recorded in our ‘Spontaneous Explorations’ category.

Today it was learning conflict resolution and the ‘give and take’ necessary in making {sibling} friendships work.

Today was learning the why’s and how-to’s of washing the barf bucket.

Today, it was a discussion of Hagar and Ishmael and how it relates to the Arab-Israeli conflicts that continues to this day. Gotta love having a reader who now asks questions about news headlines.

And I need to remember these moments.

Because they count too.

Facing the Giant…

I’m back!  Rested, relaxed and with renewed focus.  Sometimes, it is so helpful to refocus and take a break from the norm.  But I’m thankful to return and I have so much that I’m eager to write about…

I set out to battle my personal giant – ‘the black hole that is the internet’, as my sister aptly describes it.  I enjoyed going computer-free for three days a week and plan to continue this habit for the month of March.    

The boys don’t have issues with screen time, because I am ever so vigilant to limit it for them.  {Funny how I can be so good about setting limits for them and let slide the same limitations for myself…} Instead, in our focus on the character trait of COURAGE, we literally came face to face with Goliath.

Adding a hands-on element to our lessons goes a long way to solidify learning and increase retention.  How many times do children hear the story of David and Goliath?  I’d venture to guess it is pretty frequent.  As we read the Biblical account this time, I decided to help make it a little more ‘real’ for them.  So I challenged them to make a life-size drawing of Goliath.  We were all in awe at his size when it was made toweringly visible.  Seriously, he’s big, really big.  Albeit, our version was on the skinny side.  As wonderful as a roll of butcher paper is, I guess it does still have limitations.

I try as often as possible to give minimal directions and back-off to see where they will go with it.  They learn so much more when they have to figure things out for themselves.

Armed with a roll of butcher paper and the knowledge of Goliath’s gargantuan 9 feet of height the boys grabbed daddy’s tape measure to get started.

The {almost} four year old is convinced that he will need armor for this upcoming battle…  hmmm, maybe we should re-read the story again. 🙂
Mommy did have to step in to hold a discussion on body proportions as their initial estimates were six feet of legs with three feet remaining for torso and head.  They adjusted this a bit before drawing their outline.
Afterwards, we set out to paint 5 little stones for their ‘David’ role playing that was to come.  We are grateful for non-toxic paint as the {nearly} four year old swiped a painted, stale marshmallow while I wasn’t looking.  One was enough and he didn’t attempt any more.

We recited this poem to correspond to the colors of our ‘stones.’


Five Little Stones by Ronda Duvall

Red, Blue, Yellow, Orange, and Green,
These five little stones remind me of many things.

Red means stop and pray for courage.
With God on my side never be discouraged.

Blue means it’s okay to feel sad.
But, with the right amount of courage, I don’t need to get

Yellow reminds me to slow down and pray.
Thank God for His blessings every day.

Orange, this stone is very bright.
God is with me, there’s no need to feel fright.

Green means for me to get up and go,
God shows me that He loves me so.

Slingshot and {marshmallow} stones in hand, they stepped up to the challenge of taking him on.  We have a new-found respect for David and the courage that God gave him to face this giant. Sadly, our marshmallow stones did not stand up well to the rigors of being squeezed in our traditional slingshot.  Large pom poms stepped in as default ‘stones’.  {While I like to think of myself as a ‘fun’ mom, I draw the line at anything that could damage windows, lamps, etc…}

This handy little verse card seen below can be found on Danielle’s Place.
God is bigger in our eyes now and there is a calm assurance that He will fill us with courage to do incredible things!

Exploring the World of Walt Disney

Learning about Walt Disney in preparation for a trip to Disney World!

I can’t help myself…

Life is full of learning opportunities and with grandparents taking us to Disney World for a Christmas gift this year, I took advantage of the opportunity to help prepare them.

So while I was speeding my way through The Unofficial Guide to Disney World with Kids (which I highly recommend), the boys were learning about the man behind the kingdom

I just love how there are opportunities to learn, discover and enrich our lives, especially when it comes to special trips!  They learned about Disney’s creativity, entrepreneurship and of course his art.  We had a geography review as we mapped out our trip (heading to St. Louis first and then Orlando).

Knowledge enriches life.  It adds a layer of enjoyment and it is a delight to cultivate the habit of discovery and exploration in my children.  And of course it is fun for Rich and I as well!

It was so cool to hear their squeals of delight every time they found a photograph or statue of Mr. Walt Disney this last week.

Speaking of learning enriching our lives, Treyton was so excited to see a ‘real’ portcullis as we passed through the castle. Sure we got some strange looks as he kept shrieking “Portcullis, mommy. There’s a portcullis.” But as I thought back to our time learning about that last year when he was only two years old, I couldn’t help but smile and thank God for the opportunity we have to learn as a family!
Although I was sick all week, we had a fun time.  I’m super proud that we made it through without losing any children.  And the sling totally made the trip so much more fun.   Greta was able to nap as we hopped on and off rides! And having grandparents there also meant extra hands so we were able to pass her around for some of the more ‘exciting’ rides!

Getting to see their eyes open on wonder and their imaginations run wild was a real treat!

Today was a mountain of laundry, restocking the fridge and getting Greta back on track.  Tomorrow {hopefully} finds us resuming our normal routine!

While Disney World was fun, I must say I’m enjoying the peace and {semi} quiet.

Homeschooling –> Family Learning

One of my favorite perks of homeschooling is that learning becomes a family adventure!  I remember as a girl my mom getting giddy about understanding something we were studying in a fresh way. She would always tell people that she loved homeschooling because of the great education she was getting.

As an adult, who received a fabulous education growing up, I can still vouch for that. While there is certainly a lot of me imparting instruction and training to them, much of it is a joint learning venture. And as I’ve learned with even the giving instruction and discipling process, there are still lessons for me.

Nothing quite brought this home recently like our study of the military a few months ago. I grew up in a home of three little girls. When it came time to study the military, we had no interest. I’m kicking myself now, especially since my Opa and his father were both career Army and my dad’s father served briefly in the Navy. But no, that didn’t appeal to little girls…

Times have changed and with three little boys, there were great whoops of excitement when this topic was introduced. We did boot camp, drills, awoke to reveille. They marched, learned how to make their beds military style, thanks to my hubby, an expert bedmaker.  I’d probably be discharged for poor bed-making skills alone…  One of their favorite parts was learning to properly salute from my Opa.

We learned details about how the military is structured and its various branches. I finally have a fairly good understanding of ranking now. Although the boys were too young for some of the information, I still found myself reading some of the ‘older’ kids books and gleaning information that I could then pass on to them. This was most definitely a JOINT venture.

The end of our unit perfectly coincided with an airshow that happens only every two years at Luke Air Force Base. {providence} We were all primed and ready…

Homeschooling -> A Family Learning Adventure
The boys sat in the cockpit of a helicopter…
…and I genuinely marvelled at the controls!
Homeschooling -> A Family Learning Adventure
The boys and I were all giddy and could tell the difference between an Apache and a Black Hawk helicopter. My husband has an amazing knowledge of military aircraft. He was able to fill us in on even more during this particular adventure!
Homeschooling -> A Family Learning Adventure
Little guys practiced their salutes!
Homeschooling -> A Family Learning Adventure
We talked to air force pilots…
Homeschooling -> A Family Learning Adventure
Homeschooling -> A Family Learning Adventure
Homeschooling -> A Family Learning Adventure
And of course watched the show…
Homeschooling -> A Family Learning Adventure
Oh the joys of homeschooling!!!
It provides the time, opportunity and adventure of on-going learning – as a family!
So what have YOU discovered lately in your learning adventures?