Learning the Art of Discernment

Nike says, “Just do it.”  While spontaneous decisions work well at some points in life, there are other choices that require a depth of thought and consideration that won’t allow you to ‘just do it.’  Maybe something doesn’t feel right, or maybe it feels completely right…how will you know?  This is where discernment comes in to play.

To discern means to judge, evaluate, and distinguish.  Some people come by this naturally, while others must develop it, yet those who are gifted with discernment are often seen as judgmental, critical, and unloving.  However, we live in an age when ideas are spread globally within an amazingly short period of time, and discernment is the only way to cut through the noise and find the important, and correct, information.


A good discerner understands falsifiability and knows the difference between an argument and an assertion.  What should you know?

  • Argument – a claim supported by reason or logic
  • Assertion – an unsupported claim, often an opinion
  • Falsifiability – capacity for an argument or hypothesis to be proven wrong
  • Did you know – Facts can be both true AND false!!
  • Nice and charming do not equal honest.  Often when someone is accused of teaching something false, someone else will defend them by saying “But they are such a nice person.”

Decision-Making

In decision-making, the three steps of the discernment process are awareness, understanding and action.  All three are important — if you make a good decision, but fail to act, you’ve ultimately made a poor decision.  If you fail to apply consideration, and act hastily, you’ve not chosen well.  Therefore, it is important to go through the process completely.

Some decisions will be personal, such as where (or if) to attend college, where to move to, or whether to take that job.  Other decisions will be more general, yet no less important, such as who to vote for or how you feel about a particular issue of national / world importance.

Awareness

Know yourself.  This includes your hopes and dreams, likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses.  How do you perform under stress?  What is your ideal career / future plan / {insert decision here}?  How do others see you?

Start at the beginning.  What do you already know about the decision ahead of you?  What are the pros and cons, or the various factors?  What kind of support do you have?  Are there multiple perspectives involved?

Understanding

Give it time.  Not all decisions will have the luxury, but if you have the time to wait, do more investigating, and ruminate upon your decision, you may find that you do better.  No one is impervious to this process — folks familiar with scripture will remember that even Jesus agonized in the Garden of Gethsemane. 

Spend Time in Thought / Meditation / Prayer.  After making a decision, but before action, you should feel a sense of inner peace with your decision.  This is a feeling of tranquility about the next steps, and not just relief that you’ve finally made a decision.

Action

Get going.  Whether this means applying to college, putting a down payment on a house, accepting that job, going into the voting booth, advocating for a group or issue, or however else your decision manifests itself…now is the time to act.

Evaluate.  Every action has a reaction, a consequence.  There are both good and bad consequences, external and internal.  Internally, how do you feel now that you’ve acted?  Do you still have that peace?  How have others reacted to your decision?  Do you need to reevaluate and course correct?

It is worth remembering that you can’t please all of the people all of the time.  Ultimately, you are the one who has to live with yourself, and so it is important to focus on the internal response.  (Obviously, if your decision was to commit a felony, there will still be an external response you need to heed….)


Developing Discernment

Practice through Literature

These books can be difficult for students to plow through at times, but the online unit studies help break down their components, allowing students to practice predicting and analyzing, both of which lead to stronger discernment.

Parents can use these books to teach kids to ask meaningful questions, recognize bias, and stand up for themselves…


Learn about Worldviews

In a world that is constantly struggling for peace, having a better understanding of belief systems and values can help us to understand different people and cultures…which may lay the foundation for a thoughtful progression amid a multitude of complex cultures.  These courses provide that background.

Be a Detective

Develop Supportive Skills

Read (or Watch) the News

Remember to look at sources from both left-leaning and right-leaning media.  How do the stories compare in tone and coverage?  Try to find one topic and look at the stories on each side.

What Comes Next? Life Skills with Special Needs Homeschoolers

For some parents, having a special needs child is the impetus to homeschool. Many families are choosing to homeschool because their special needs children’s needs are not being met in the traditional classroom. For others, it’s just one more challenge they aren’t sure how to face. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, homeschooling a special needs child is an adventure!

Homeschooling allows the flexibility for students to go at their own pace.  You get the set the schedule.  You can change the curriculum if it isn’t working.  You can have one long work period, or several shorter work periods spaced out with transitional times.  With family-style schooling, older special needs students can school alongside younger siblings, at the same level, without them feeling as though they’re “behind.”

It can daunting to think about what post-graduation brings for the special needs student, but s/he is in a great position as a homeschooler!  In the upper grades years, homeschooling allows students the time to explore passions and career interests.  Take some time to examine your special needs student’s strengths, combining those and their interests to find a career exploration starting point.

Background Information & Resources

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) covers thirteen specific disabilities, but its implementation varies widely from state to state when it comes to assisting homeschool families.  Learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, health disabilities, impairments (speech, visual, hearing, orthopedic, and emotional), intellectual disabilities, and traumatic brain injuries are all addressed by the act.  Check with your state department of education, and HSLDA, to see what your state will and won’t do for homeschooling students.  

A federal agency, the Rehabilitation Services Administration provides vocational rehabilitation and other services to individuals with disabilities to maximize their employment and independence after the high school years.  Each state has their own local agency to help work one-on-one with families.

SPED Homeschool and HSLDA are good general resources for any homeschooling family with special needs students.  These resources are primarily for the younger student, but are a good place to start.


Getting Started with SPED Homeschooling


Addressing Specific Needs


Life Skills for SPED Teens

Special Needs-Friendly Curriculum


Homeschooling Around Town – The Art of the Field Trip!

A big part of our school year is the field trips. Generally, we will study a topic ahead of time and then take the field trip – this helps them to fully understand the hands-on experiences. The kids have been to nearly every state, and experienced a wide range of of historical, scientific, and cultural activities that they wouldn’t have been able to do solely in our home state. Not every family is able to road school, but that doesn’t mean that field trips shouldn’t be a part of your school.

Field Trips in Town

  • Attend a library program
  • Local historic architecture
  • Air Shows
  • Historic Re-enactments
  • Climb rocks
  • Historic Museums (some are free)
  • Pick-Your-Own Farm Visit
  • Zoo (only free on certain days, or with a pass)
  • Local newspaper
  • Factory tours (some are free)
  • Visit the beach, lake, or riverbank
  • State Fairs have homeschool days
  • Visit the local airport
  • Work in a community garden
  • Shadow a business (teens)
  • Animal workshop at the pet shop

Field Trip Starters


Unique Field Trips


More Field Trip Ideas

  • Check out the Roadschooling Page to find unit studies and field trips built around your location.  There’s something for just about every state in the United States up there!
  • Finally, though these aren’t free, educational subscription boxes are a great way to bring the field trip into your home. Here are some of our favorites!
  • Use the world diversity book studies from Literary Adventures to travel the world from the comfort of your own home.  You can go anywhere!

Celebrating Your Homeschool! Beginning & End of Year Traditions

Some families choose a name, and even a mascot, for their homeschool.  Some have Not-Back-to-School parties with their local co-ops.  There are as many homeschool traditions as there are unique families!  What do you do?


Back to Homeschool

  • Kick off the new school year with cute shirts for everyone!  Get matching shirts and call them your family’s field trip uniform.  💖
  • Everyone is out buying back-to-school supplies….the neighborhood kids have cute, new clothes…and your kids are suddenly wondering why they aren’t having nearly as much fun going back to homeschool.  But there are many fun ways to celebrate going back-to-homeschool!
  • Download several different Responsibility Charts & Writing through the Holidays packet, along with dozens of other goodies, free at Homeschool On the Range’s Subscriber’s Library.
  • A good planner can work wonders for keeping you organized from the get-go.  This undated, reusable planner has you covered with daily plans, schoolwork, long-range planning, and meal organizers as well as chore charts and book lists!
  • It might seem daunting to create a unit study at first, but anyone is capable of creating a unit study in just a few easy steps.


Got Oxygen?

  • On the airplane, they tell you to put your oxygen mask on before putting your children’s on…because we’re not really useful to others if we’re passed out.  Or burnt out.  Remember to take some time this year to focus on self-care.
  • You may be one of those families that has been homeschooling for 9 years or so and now are on the home stretch, or you may be new to the journey and have gotten in over your head and wondered if this is the right choice. Any and all of us could use a Booster Shot at some point…


During the Year


End of the Year

  • Is your feed flooded with pictures of kids receiving various awards at their schools?  No need to feel left out.  Homeschool kids deserve awards too!  😎  And we’re homeschooling, so you know what that means…..personalized awards!!!

Save Your Sanity! Tips for the Homeschooling Mom


If you’re new to homeschooling, or still in the stage of considering having a go at it, the prospect can be daunting. You look around at other homeschooling families, and they seem to have it all together, but we all started at the same spot you’re in right now….

The first thing to keep in mind is that relationships are more important than academics. Your kids’ hearts are more important than their grades or achievements. You are the most qualified person to be in charge of your child’s education, because you love them more than anyone else and want the best for them. Be confident!

In addition to these tips, we’ve put together a packet of Homeschool Helps, including planners, graphic organizers, record logs, and templates to help you on your journey! 

Keep a record of all the books you read for school, not just the textbooks / curricula. This is especially important if you’re a Charlotte Mason or Unit Studies family.  Read aloud to your children…no matter their age. The snuggles are priceless, and the books will often lead to soul-searching conversations with teens. If you’re not sure where to start, check out The Read-Aloud Family.

Learn about the different homeschooling styles so that it’s easier to search for relevant tips. You can learn about different homeschooling styles here.  And if you don’t finish the full curriculum, don’t stress over it. There’s so much overlap in the grades that missing some lessons at the end of the year doesn’t really matter. What matters is finishing the year, taking time off to rest, and enjoying time with your children.

There is no one right or wrong curriculum. Take some time to decide what you want your children’s education to look like and find the curriculum that works for your family. And remember, there will be hard days — this is not an easy task, but it is totally worth it. {Fifty Reasons to be Thankful for Home School (on the Hard Days)}

Seek community. You are not on your own in this homeschooling journey! A helpful, inspiring homeschool community can do wonders for your morale. If you don’t belong to a homeschool community, there are many options available. You can join a local association, co-op, or even an encouraging online homeschool group.  At SchoolhouseTeachers, the Mama’s Corner has regular get-togethers to foster community!

Don’t be scared to change if something isn’t working. That’s one of the great things about homeschooling- you can change to suit you and your kids’ needs. You can change schedules, curriculum, topics, routines, anything…and it will all be just fine.  Remember your WHY.  Why did you start homeschooling?  What’s your ultimate goal here?  In A Parent’s Alphabet, we lay out several reasons, from A to Z, to help you refocus.

For high school students, follow your state’s graduation requirements. There are usually multiple tracks – one for college-bound students and one for general education – and it is of the utmost importance that you follow them if your child is college-bound. You can learn more about transcripts and requirements here.

A vision is so important and so grounding. I recommend mom finding a personal vision for school. The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease, Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hint, Teaching from Rest by Sarah MacKenzie, and certainly anything by Ruth Beechick.

Sometimes you just get a little bit down, or off-kilter.  When that happens, and it will, look to Words of Encouragement for New (or Weary) Moms.  You’ll find yourself bouncing back in no time!

Maybe you just have too many things going on at once.  We know…we’ve been there, too.  In Prioritizing Your Life, you’ll find a free downloadable e-book to help you sort things out, find more time in the day, and settle in a bit.

Every mom, homeschooling or otherwise, can use a bit of pampering in her life!  Like they say on the airplanes, if you don’t put your oxygen mask on, you can’t save someone else.  Or in this case…when mom’s burnt out and ready to give up, nothing is getting accomplished.  Find your zen in Pampering for the Homeschool Mom.

A schedule is your servant, not your master, but schedule is a wonderful tool to help you accomplish your homeschooling goals, and just because you have a plan for each day doesn’t mean each day will go according to schedule. You will have interruptions, accidents, spills, and people dropping in. But you can take control!  See how Flexible Scheduling Can Work for You.

The initial excitement of homeschooling is important. It helps plunge you into a whole new way of thinking and living. Over time, however, and as you progress, the excitement sometimes wanes and the demands of homeschooling can become overwhelming, exhausting, engulfing.  Remember to focus on Personal Wellness and Homeschooling for long-term success!

Homeschooling is a full time job. Act like it. Just because you don’t have to drive anywhere doesn’t mean you can’t have special school hours where nothing else gets scheduled. Guard your time you set aside, whenever that time is. All the other things can be scheduled around the few hours you need to get school time accomplished.  See how you can manage the Hardest Part of Homeschooling, when it’s not the kids.

You really can leave grade levels and school metrics behind, and build an interest-led, completely personalized homeschool experience for your children based in your unique family culture.  Finding a mentor, another homeschooling parent to talk to regularly, is a huge boost!  Need a hand up?  See 5 Homeschooling Mentors You Need to Follow.

When we fill our well up, we’re doing our family a favor. When we take care of ourselves, we have a better self to give. We are more present, we probably check our phones less often, and because our needs are met, we enjoy our time with our children. The time we give to ourselves matters and can help us to let go of any resentment and anger.  Pick up strategies for prioritizing at A Home School Mom’s Guide To Self-Care And Keeping Anger At Bay.

Whatever you are great at, whatever makes your heart happy, whatever your child/children do well with —do that first.  It may seem counterproductive to start with the one subject or thing that where you are actually on target or ahead when you feel like you are behind in everything else, but it usually results in more cooperative and happy kids.  See other things to try When Your Homeschool Moring Is Giving You The Blues.

Finally, don’t forget to fill up your tank!  Whether it’s with a cute shirt or kitschy homeschool gear, a treat that relaxes you and brings you joy, or simple inspiration, find something that speaks to you and remember the old adage — when mama ain’t happy, nobody’s happy!


You’ll definitely want to check out…

 homeschool coffee