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.

Five Ways to Encourage a Fellow Homeschool Mom

Mom shaming is real.

I think it’s always been a thing, but the advent of the internet and social media have exacerbated mom shaming. Mothers (particularly homeschool mothers) feel quite free to proclaim “It’s MY way or the highway!”.

Your homeschool method is too relaxed. Your homeschool method is too strict. You are a secular homeschooler?

You let your children listen to secular music? You allow your children to watch PG-13 movies?

Your child has a phone? My child will NEVER have a phone until they can drive a car.

Harry Potter? Captain Underpants? Diary of a Wimpy Kid? (such twaddle!)

“I would NEVER allow my child to play Fortnite.” (never say never, my friends)

You have a glass of wine at the end of your homeschool day? (Curses.)

Five Ways to Encourage a Fellow #Homeschool Mom

These are just a FEW of the points we squabble over and just a few of the “specks” we tend to point out in our neighbor’s eye.

Sometimes criticisms are subtle, and sometimes they are blatant.

The effect, however, is always the same: mom shaming discourages and disheartens the very people who need the MOST encouragement.

I believe in strong moral values and rules for my children, but I also believe each family is different. Not one person will be converted to my way of thinking simply because of what I say. In fact, the most powerful influencers in my life are the people who say VERY LITTLE.

I want to propose a revolution of sorts. The next time you feel tempted to criticize another mother’s choices, how about speaking words of encouragement and life instead?

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.

~ Proverbs 18:21

I am learning so much from a Godly group of homeschooling women in my community. I am proud to call them friends and co-laborers in this endeavor of teaching our children at home. These women lift each other HIGH on a daily basis - and they don’t just lift each other, they lift all those they encounter.

I pray these five ways to encourage your fellow homeschool mom give you a starting point for how to speak life and love into your homeschool mom friends. We all need encouragement and support!

Ways to Encourage a Homeschool Mom

Share an Encouraging Read

I’ve done this on many occasions!

It doesn’t have to be a “homeschool” book - it can be something you’ve chosen because of your friend’s personality and interests. Recently, I loaned the book Harry’s Trees to a homeschool mom friend of mine who loves nature and magical stories. She LOVED the book. I know, too, that this book provided her a bit of an escape during a particularly tough time for her.

You might want to share your favorite children’s book with a young mom, or a book of poetry with a mom you are encouraging on her homeschool journey.

When you take the time to choose a book, write a note to go inside of it, and deliver it to your friend, you are telling them you are thinking about and value their friendship. You ENCOURAGE them because they know they matter. (You might even be giving them valuable insight and resources for their homeschool journey!)

Recently, these are some books I have shared:

Say It With Coffee!

(or whatever beverage your friend likes!)

Inviting a homeschool mom to coffee seems like such a little thing - but believe me - it can be HUGE.

Could you surprise a friend who needs encouragement by arranging for some childcare and then picking her up to go to a fun local coffee shop? Or, maybe you could get your friend’s favorite beverage and drop it off at their house with a note of encouragement. Or, write them a note of encouragement with a small Starbucks gift card and pop it in the mail.

I have a sweet friend whose husband travels a lot. She is a fabulous homeschooling mom, but when her husband is gone and it’s just she and her three young children at home, life can get lonely. Oh… how about when those three children are SICK and she can’t get out?

That’s the perfect time for a Starbucks delivery from a friend, with a special treat of cookies for the kiddos.

Many times we face our greatest discouragement when children are sick and our husbands are away. We feel isolated and alone.

Just being remembered can be such a gift to a homeschool mom!

Five Ways to Encourage a #homeschool Mom

Lavish Public Praise

Have you ever noticed the warmth you feel when someone praises you publicly?

Take time to praise a homeschool mom you admire. The next time you are with a group of friends, lift that person up publicly. “I love the way so and so is always so positive and fun with her children, don’t you?”

Leave a message on your friend’s FB wall praising them.

If you have a group text of mom friends, publicly praise them there.

Have enough faith and confidence in YOURSELF to praise someone else. The effects for them (and you) are beautiful.

There is never really an occasion for a homeschool mom to receive praise for her job. It a mom is homeschooling teenagers it can be an especially lonely time. Praise is free and effective. Use it liberally!

Practice Hospitality

I have a friend who is particularly good at this. Denise has that knack for opening her open and speaking life abundantly into everyone she encounters.

My first year of homeschooling she invited me over to look at her stash of old lapbooks. She had met me at a homeschool literature fair and saw I was new to homeschooling. From that moment she took me under her wing and taught me so many things.

I recall one morning when she called me (she knew I had just dropped a child off at CC) and asked me if I wanted to come over for coffee. We just sat and chatted. It was immensely encouraging to me. Sometimes we just need a FRIEND and we just need someone to let us know we matter outside of our roles as homeschooling mothers.

Even if you don’t think you are hospitable, just open your doors to your friends. Believe me, they don’t care about the state of your house. The state of our hearts is much more important!

Everyone’s kitchen table is a mess! Why not share the mess with others?!?!

5 Ways to Encourage a #Homeschool Mom

Actively LISTEN!

Truly listening is a gift not many people possess. It is a skill that must be honed and practiced.

The next time you are standing in a group of moms while the kids are on the playground, try simply LISTENING. Don’t speak, just listen and truly HEAR what the moms around you are saying.

Can you pick up on a struggle someone is having? Do you hear a prayer need?

Contact that person after your get together (whether by texting or calling them) and let them know you heard them and you are thinking about them. Better still, is there some way you can meet their need during that week?

I’d love to know how you have encouraged a fellow mom, or maybe been encouraged yourself.

Or, have you been mom-shamed? About what?

Share with us in the comments below!