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How to Include Beauty in the Upper Grades of Homeschool

The buzz words (especially in the world of Classical Education) are truth, beauty, and goodness.

It all sounds lovely - idyllic, really.

When my children were younger it was easy to identify and include beautiful things and moments into our days. Nature walks were a delight, a piece of classical music was “amazing”, and a beautiful read aloud with a picnic was perfect.

Young children have such a sense of wonder and they inspire the same in their parents.

Wonder and awe with teenagers? Mmmm. Not so much.

The tendency is to just GIVE UP. They’re teens now - our job is done. We have to get that Latin assignment finished, that Chemistry lab report turned in. There are sports practices, lessons of all sorts, and a million things that tug at the lives of our teenagers.

First things first, right?

Beauty is a thing of the past. Big kids have a job to do, so let’s get it done!

Don’t fall into the trap! Now, more than ever, incorporating beauty in our homeschool is important.

How to Include Beauty in the Upper Grades of #Homeschool

We have to dig a bit deeper, invest more in relationships, and actively strive to include things of beauty in their everyday lives. We have to keep talking about the beauty in our own lives, even if they think it’s “dumb”. We have to model the quest for truth, beauty, and goodness in our own lives.

Don’t stop fighting for beauty, because it is important!

In my own life the appreciation of beauty brings me closest to God. It brings me the greatest joy and contentment.


Simple Ways to Incorporate Beauty with “Big” Kids

The same principles hold true for our big kids as they do with our little kids: read, play, explore. We just have to be creative with these principles.

Carving out time to incorporate beauty is important, too. I would argue that it is MORE important than accomplishing every academic task.

Stratford Caldecott pointed out in his marvelous book Beauty in the Word, that we are too busy educating our children for DOING rather than BEING. We are so focused on career and college preparation that we forget we are nurturing souls who can be content in God’s world.

We cannot overload our children with academics and activities to the point of neglecting time for the appreciation of beauty.

The Atmosphere of the Home

So much beauty can be simply incorporated into our homes… where our homeschoolers spend a large part of their time!

Keep fresh flowers on the kitchen table.

Play beautiful music.

Light a pretty candle.

Use your nicest china to eat dinner together - on a regular basis. Life is a beautiful thing that deserves to celebrated often!

Books & Music

I am convinced older children still enjoy read alouds.

Our read aloud time has changed over the years. I still have a time first thing in the morning where we have devotion and a read aloud. That is a non negotiable and it is just part of our day.

I also use the time we have in the car for audiobooks, music, and other things my teens might find interesting. I love to point out beautiful language, story lines, melodies, and anything that strike me as beautiful.

I’m amazed at how (even when they complain about being forced to listen) snippets from books and conversations come back around later in the day or even weeks later! When we share books and music it creates an inside language between us - a connection that no one else has. Our teens CRAVE this connection, whether they will admit it or not.

Some books we’ve been reading and listening to recently:


We also listen to an abundance of Classical Music.

Because of my curriculum development with SQUILT, this is just the default setting in our house - lots of music!

Year of Wonder is a book that allows you to learn about one piece of music each day. You can also access playlists for each month of the year that go along with the book. I am enjoying the pieces and sharing them with my children as we go - it’s a simple way to share beautiful music.

Go Outside

I recently spoke to a mom who said she felt like they didn’t appreciate God’s creation as much as they used to because they were stuck inside getting their work done with the older children.

Make the time to get outside.

Upper grades kids aren’t too old to go on a nature walk.

Find a local nature area, pack some school books, take a nature walk and then study for a bit. I usually manage to sneak in a gourmet coffee with them afterwards.

Spring is a particularly beautiful time to see God’s beauty in full display!

How to Include Beauty in Your Upper Grades #Homeschool

If you have children with younger friends, try to do this type of outing with them. It is good for our big kids to see the world through younger eyes!

We often take our dog to the park to get some exercise. It is good for everyone!

On days when the weather is nice my son loves hanging out in his Eno at home in our woods and reading. You can’t help but be awed by God’s world as you lay in your hammock in the woods.

Give your big kids the task of planting and tending a garden.

Eat lunch outside when the weather permits.


Support Beauty with Your Time & Money

When children are young we want to expose them to so many things. We take them to the museum, the symphony, the ballet, and a host of other events and places that will instill culture in their young minds.

We cannot neglect this as our children get older.

Take your teens to plays, symphonies, and concerts. Take advantage of interesting opportunities.

Is there a birding group in your area?

Are there guided nature walks at a state park?

Is a famous choir coming to sing at a local church? Is there an art festival you can attend?

It is rare that we will go to see a movie in the theaters, but I WILL spend money to take my kids to the symphony or museum.


Serve Others

We can see God at work when we help others.

So often our teens only focus on THEMSELVES; the biggest gift we can give them is the opportunity to serve.

Volunteer at a food bank.

Visit an elderly neighbor or church member. (You have a unique opportunity as a homeschooler to structure your time so that this can be a priority. I cannot tell you the joy my children brought to an elderly church member when we showed up to visit her in a rehab facility after she had been in a very serious car accident! I know it deeply impacted my kids, too!)

Local nursing homes always welcome young people to share musical talents or read to residents - or simply spend time just BEING with them.

My children have been deeply invested in the special needs ministry at our church. The beauty they have witnessed through their interactions with their special needs friends has been such a gift.

In Elisabeth Elliot’s book, Keep a Quiet Heart, she writes,

People with disabilities are God’s best visual aids to demonstrate who He really is. His power shows up best in weakness. And who by the worlds’ standards is weaker than the mentally or physically disabled? As the world watches, these people persevere. They live, love, trust and obey Him. Eventually the world is forced to say, “How great their God must be to inspire this kind of loyalty.?”


God didn’t intend for us to live alone, and he gives us such a beautiful chance to serve others through our homeschooling days!

Choose Curriculum Wisely

Aren’t we lucky to have an abundance of curriculum and schooling options?

Don’t neglect to look for beauty as you plan your child’s education.

We have loved the Challenge program because it emphasizes beauty in all things. There are many curricula that incorporate beauty. Do your research and make beauty a priority!

My son has been using Shormann Math

Shormann Math is built on a biblical and historical foundation that teaches math as the language of science; a tool used to better understand God and His creation.

Encourage your children to see beauty of God in each and every area of their lives - even Algebra!

Don’t neglect the arts when your children are in the upper grades, either. Give them time to take an art class, music, or dance lessons. Our children need the opportunity to create things of beauty.

How to Include Beauty in the Upper Grades of Homeschool

Model the Quest For and Appreciation of Beauty

We must model the importance of beauty in our OWN lives.

Do you take time to read good books? Listen to beautiful music? Get outside?

All the things I talked about above are for US, too!

What do you do with your free time? Do you recognize and call out beauty when you see it?

It is a beautiful thing to have one of my children sit down next to me in the evening with a book. I could be watching something like The Bachelor (I say this because I’ve done that, too - but not so much the older I’ve gotten) but there is so much more beauty in a lovely book.

Modeling this enjoyment is rubbing off on my children!

The quest for beauty doesn’t have to be such an elusive, ethereal concept. It is real and practical - and once you begin seeking and finding beauty you will find it is a bit of a compulsion!

Do you incorporate beauty into your homeschool days?

Let me know how in the comments below.

What We've Been Up To Lately: Life Skills & Culture

I think the high school years might just be my favorite of all the homeschooling years.

The lightbulbs that constantly went off when my children were little were certainly gratifying - and often times extremely cute - but watching my kids learn and achieve BIG things is exciting. Additionally, being able to learn WITH them and cultivate interests together is super fun.

The key to this age is understanding how to reach their hearts.

(Let’s just not talk about the fact that my oldest will be going to college in the fall, ok?)

This week found us in the kitchen a lot (a good thing), and also filling our time with CULTURE.

Did I mention how much I like this stage of life with my kids?

What We’ve Been Up To Lately: Life Skills & Culture

Life Skills in Our Homeschool

Laundry

We can all agree that laundry is not glamorous or exciting - or cultural for that matter. It does, however, have to get done, and I’m NOT doing it for my kids anymore.

My oldest has been doing her laundry since middle school, and with the turn of the calendar year I decided to have my son take charge of his laundry, too. So far, so good.

I love that both of my children will leave this house knowing how to do their laundry.

And, my daughter has a great laundry hack: she uses an Expo marker to write on top of the washer what DOESN’T go into the dryer. Clever, huh? No more dress shrinking up to a shirt because it was put in the dryer accidentally!

Cooking

Because Anna’s schedule is lighter this LAST semester of high school we are using the time to hone in on some skills for LIFE.

She has been making a lot of meals for us - healthy meals in particular.

This week our favorite was One Pan Healthy Sausage and Roasted Veggies.

We served it with some quinoa & wild rice. Perfection.

Each week she also picks one recipe from a new cookbook I got for Christmas.

Chicken Fajita Pasta was a hit in our house - and I can’t wait to have her try more!

Part of me wants to have her stop cooking (because what will I do when she goes to college?!?!), but she enjoys this so much and it is such a practical, useful skill for her to have. In an age of fast food and anything EASY I feel like our kids aren’t learning the basics of how to cook a healthy meal.


Culture

Music

Because I write a music appreciation curriculum I try to go to as many performances as I can. This year my husband and I subscribed to a series of concerts with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.

Saturday night we heard an all Bernstein program, which was quite fitting because in SQUILT LIVE! this month I am teaching the students all about musicals.

Something I didn’t quite realize was what a great JAZZ composer Bernstein was. Listening to his Prelude, Fugue, and Riffs got me VERY excited for February in SQUILT LIVE! - Jump into Jazz! (You can join me at any time for live lessons - we have so much fun!)

We also enjoyed dinner out together - Lebanese food (yum!) - before the symphony.

When you have big kids it’s easy to go out for date night. Bonus.

Date Night at the Symphony

Books

I started reading The Lake House by Kate Morton this week. I love everything she writes.

Being in a local in-person book club has been a lot of fun for me. Last week three of us from the book club met to talk about our book goals for the year. I know that I want to read more non fiction this year, and in particular I would like to focus on more religious and education non fiction. (Did you see the most recent post I wrote about C.S. Lewis?)

I put the question to our private Facebook group, Equipping Homegrown Learners, about starting a book club on the page - with the first book being Beauty in the Word by Stratford Caldecott.

Come join our FB group, by the way - I think we have great discussions and encouragement.

I also really enjoyed the latest episode of What Should I Read Next? - and seriously wish I had a little one so we could do a 1,000 books challenge like the mom in this podcast!

Latin

My 14-year-old is odd.

He loves Latin.

I think it is the challenge of solving a big puzzle as you parse a sentence that intrigues him the most. As he is working through Henle Latin in Challenge B this year I am starting to think about adding a second language in high school next year.

The National Latin Exam is taken in March of each year and I coordinate the testing for our Challenge community. This morning I spoke to their class about the test and what we will do to prepare, and then I stayed for the hour of Latin they had afterwards.

They were talking about the quality and quantity of adjectives and the endings that go with them. It was at this point in my daughter’s Latin studies that I remember jumping ship; I think I might try to make it a bit further this year.

What We’ve Been Up To Lately: Latin

I love the discipline and precision the study of Latin brings to our homeschool. I love watching a room full of eighth graders seriously discuss how to approach translating a sentence from English into Latin.

It isn’t hard to learn Latin - it just requires commitment and patience.

That’s what we have been up to.

I’d love to know what YOU have been up to in your homeschool lately.

Leave a comment below!