Originally Sent: 7/18/2013

HSLDA's Toddlers to Tweens Newsletter

July 18, 2013


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Heartache and Heartstrings

Vicki Bentley
Vicki Bentley helps HSLDA members homeschool children in preschool through 8th grade. She and her husband homeschooled 17 children and led a support group of over 250 families. Read more >>

Just last month, homeschooling pioneer Debbie Strayer—a friend, mentor, sister in faith, and co-laborer in the field of homeschooling—passed away suddenly. How fitting that she was at a statewide homeschool convention, sharing her passion, vision, knowledge, and encouragement with homeschooling parents.

When our family began homeschooling, one of the first tools upon which I relied for support was the magazine she co-founded, Homeschooling Today. Within a few years, our family was enjoying Learning Language Arts through Literature, the language arts material she authored. My girls found comfort in knowing they weren’t the only homeschooled kids when they read about Nate and Ashley (Strayer) in We Home School. And our state organization’s bookstore would have been incomplete without Debbie’s book of wisdom, Gaining Confidence to Teach.

I often recommend her curricular materials, from LLATL to Trail Guide to Learning, and I frequently pass along to my readers and Facebook friends her TOS “Homeschool Minute” blurbs, co-authored with her longtime mentor, Dr. Ruth Beechick.

In her many years—since 1988—as an author, publisher, curriculum developer, speaker, evaluator, leader, and consultant, Debbie asserted that her most important accomplishments were being the wife of Greg Strayer for over 35 years, the mother of homeschool graduates Nate and Ashley, and a homeschooling parent.

Yet she always went that extra mile to talk personally to a reader on the phone or to chat with a parent at a convention. She spoke and wrote about homeschooling topics with humor, honesty, and practical encouragement. And she continues to inspire and equip homeschooling parents through the legacy of the words she left behind for us.

This month, I hope you are heartened by one of my favorite “Debbie” columns from her blog at Heart of the Matter {Online} (see below). As I re-read it today, I can almost hear her cheering us on from the finish line.

—Vicki Bentley
HSLDA Toddlers to Tweens consultant www.hslda.org/toddlerstotweens

“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:1-2b, KJV)
• • •

The Heartstrings of Homeschooling

by Debbie Strayer

Peanut butter sandwiches cut into shapes with cookie cutters. Colored paper plates for lunch. Hot chocolate with marshmallows in the morning. Snuggling on the porch while it rained. Doing school on a blanket under the tree. These are small things in the big scheme of things, but in the end, maybe the things that mattered the most. Why so important? These are the events that painted the picture of the heartbeat of our homeschool.

Daily life in homeschooling isn’t like life in a school. There, days turn on the hinges of big events—tests, grades, programs, passing, failing—dramatic events that move the year forward. Our homeschool life moved more like the waves at the beach—consistent, comforting, friendly. Of course there were the occasional storms or unusual tides, but for the most part, our focus was on daily routines that were familiar and peaceful.

This came about because of something wonderful I observed from my mentor, Dr. Ruth Beechick. Her relationships with her grown sons reflected an understanding of caring and learning together that wasn’t at all schoolish. It was natural, like the beach, with the normal ebbs and flows of the demands of life, yet carried along by the current of care for one another and interest in what each one thought, which builds lifelong friendships.

This brings me back to the sandwiches, paper plates and marshmallows. Doing small things is the best way to show someone how much you treasure your time together. While doing school may be the reason for spending so much time with your children, it certainly doesn’t have to be the thing that they remember most. Learning together can certainly be memorable, but the most memorable thing about it won’t be the subject matter; it will be the thousands of minutes that tie each bit of work together.

The value of the best academic activity can be lost when hemmed in by impatience or that “let’s get on with it” sigh. Your children know when you care about how they feel and when you just want something done. Every day has its own demands, but not every demand has to be made a priority above the few extra minutes it takes to communicate care and concern.

When your children grow up, they may not remember all the academics you taught. But there is one thing they will remember, and that is their place in your day. Were they just a part of your to-do list? Did your schedule become the master of your day and attitude? Did you enjoy the time you had been given to get to know and appreciate these gifts from God?

Now that my children are grown, we talk about the special things we did when they were children and how much they appreciated them. As they become parents, I have some gifts in mind for them. The first will be a set of cookie cutters, tied together with what will look like ribbon. Upon closer inspection, they will find that those ribbons are really heartstrings.

Originally published at Heart of the Matter Online; used with permission. Visit Homeschooling Today.

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