Saturday, October 05, 2002

As school is now in full swing again and the apple harvest season is upon us, I came upon this poem that our family enjoys and I thought you might enjoy it too!

The Apple Pie Alphabet
By Kate Greenaway

A is an apple pie;
B bit it;
C cut it;
D dealt it;
E got to eat it;
F fought for it;
G got it;
H had it;
I ignored it;
J jumped for it;
K kept it;
L lunched on it;
M munched on it;
O opened it;
P peeped in it;
Q quartered it;
R ran for it;
S sang for it;
T took it;
U,V,W,X,Y, and Z all had a larger slice and went off to bed.

Here's a helpful poem to learn:

Thirty days hath September,
April, June and November.
All the rest have thirty-one,
Except for February, which alone,
Has twenty-eight, until the time,
That leap year gives it twenty-nine.

Love in Jesus,
Cliff and Jenny Silliman, 931 S 7th, Sequim, WA 98382
Dan 20 Val 17 David 16 Mike 12 Josh 9 Stephen 5 Luke 2

Friday, October 04, 2002

What About College?

Yesterday I received a question about how a young adult could go to college if they had not schooled traditionally, used textbooks, or fulfilled government school requirements. We've been through this so I'm a good one to answer this question and I can at least share our experience.

You know you kind of would like to keep all your children tidy and safe, lined up on the sofa with their hands folded in their laps. This hasn't worked for this Mama. We had our best laid plans for our half a dozen men. Cliff and I thought we would make sure they each had a trade. We'd let them choose, of course. It was a groovy idea to have a plumber, an electrician, a carpenter, a butcher, a baker and a candlestick maker in the Silliman dynasty. When Daniel started an apprenticeship with a local Christian electrician friend we were delighted. He hated it.

I'll never forget the day I came to the realization that Daniel had another destiny. He had on a cassette tape from the library of speeches of great men. He had a stack of intellectual books, on a wide variety of subjects which he read all at once and somehow kept them all straight in his head. His brothers reported that he had discussions and debates in his sleep. At the time we lived way out in the country and Daniel and I crouched side by side at the fence of our garden pulling weeds. I spoke of pea vines and Daniel spoke of the thoughts and ideas of the greatest men of all time. Suddenly this sunbeam rested upon us and illuminated Daniel's upturned face--figuratively speaking of course.

With awe and incredulity I asked Daniel, "What in the world is God preparing you for?" We both looked question marks at each other. It obviously wasn't mowing lawns, twisting wires, butchering hogs or making candelsticks.

Ten months and two moves later, in January of Y2K, Daniel sat his parents down in the living room to discuss his future. He wanted to go to college. He wanted to become a journalist. (Yes, we know about World Magazine's journalism program). As soon as he said it we knew he was right. Our big ideas about trades were not mentioned and that's the way the cookie crumbled.

I sat and nursed 3 month old baby Luke and started crying. Our Danny boy was going to leave us sooner or later. Oh Danny boy I love you so! How could I let him go? Have you read "Charlotte's Web"? I sat there and suddenly flashed on the part where Wilbur is watching all of Charlotte's spider babies hatch out and float away on their silken strings and they called to Wilbur in high pitched voices, "Good bye! Good bye!" I envisioned all mine doing the same, following Daniel into the wild blue yonder, and then I really started to cry.

When something is God's will, He provides wisdom, knowledge, finances and the grace to accomplish each step along the path. Daniel and I started phone calling, asking questions and researching the college process. At age 17 1/2 he was capable of doing most of it on his own, but the two of us worked together on it and that worked well for us. We found out the GED was commonly viewed as a high school diploma for drop-outs and colleges didn't even ask to see a high school diploma. They wanted two things: high school grade point average and SAT (Standard Achievement Test) scores.

Talking to homeschooling mothers that had gone before us was extremely helpful. I was able to learn from their mistakes. I was advised not to be modest and go ahead and give Daniel a 4.0 grade point average for high school. As his teacher I had that right and so I did. The principal (Dad) signed the document (fresh out of our computer printer) and that, along with a homemade homeschool high school diploma, made a nice 18th birthday gift to Daniel.

We found out that the local junior college counselors showed favor and were helpful to highschool homeschoolers. Other colleges had folks on staff employed just to answer questions such as we had. Homeschooling is so common now that colleges were used to helping homeschoolers to fit into their boxes, fulfill their requirements and even had recommendations to get ready for the SAT.

One day I shopped at a thrift store and a sign caught my eye. "BOOKS HALF PRICE TODAY." I found a book on how to study to score well on the SAT--it only cost a quarter! It also had info on taking the test, not the actual SAT but a similar one, over the Internet. Daniel used the book and went to the library and took the preparatory test and they were quite helpful.

Daniel attended the junior college for his freshman year, worked on the school paper and moved up to editor after one semester. A motivated student is a joy to any professor and Daniel has had glowing reports from them--which is always music to parents' ears. The other students were quite often dull, bored, listless and "dumbed down" from 12 years of public schooling. The professor would say things like, "Can I hear from someone besides Daniel?" or "How did you know that, Daniel?" The depth and breadth of his knowledge astounded them. Daniel had gaps in the areas of math and science, but he was able to take the required courses and learn the subjects quickly.

One of the hardest things for Daniel was to play the school game. The other students knew how to do what the teacher wanted to get the grade. Daniel has the love of learning but was not used to jumping through hoops, studying what was assigned for the purpose of getting the right answer. He was not motivated by the reward of a good grade. However, because he wanted a good grade point average for journalism scholarships he quickly figured out the system.

He knew any job experience he could get for a resume was probably as important to having a college degree. Christmas break and summers he has worked at the Peninsula Daily News, which is our local daily paper here on the Olympic Peninsula of northern Washington state. This on-the-job experience confirmed his gifting and talent for the profession. He's had dozens of front pagers and did a fabulous interview on a 97 year old logger that recently built a log house for his new 50 year old bride. That piece was picked up on the AP (Associated Press) Wire and was published in Boston and Seattle papers.

Daniel transferred as a Sophomore, more than ready to expand his horizons, to Hillsdale College in Michigan and received the Dow Journalism scholarship and several other scholarships which almost cover his costs. He has a job as news editor of the weekly college paper and has flourished and thrived in the learning and social interaction of college life. He doesn't date and has found many Christians there are doing the same. His favorite thing is discussion. "As iron sharpens iron so one man sharpens another." He has discovered an interest and gifting in the field of philosophy and is quite a theologian as well--reminiscent of the late Dr. Francis Schaeffer.

Daniel calls us about twice a week and we take turns talking on the phone and we talk all about everything. (We thank God for our Costco calling card for 3 1/2 cents a minute calls!) Recently Daniel told me, "Mama, I have my nose to the grindstone, but I like the grindstone so much that I don't mind."

Love in Jesus,
Cliff and Jenny Silliman, 931 S 7th, Sequim, WA 98382
Dan 20 Val 17 David 16 Mike 12 Josh 9 Stephen 5 Luke 2
To subscribe to Jenny's Journal send a blank e-mail to:

Thursday, October 03, 2002

The Question of Textbooks

> Dear Jenny,
> I'm just taking a break from teaching my 4 year old how to read
> with "Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons" and I
> read your answer to Pamela's question. It hit home with me.
> I'm bashing him over the head with lesson 6 and getting nowhere.

>So, how do you teach your children
> to read if it's not from a textbook?
> How do you let them learn
> if they don't yet know how to read? I'm a first time
> homeschooler. I just don't quite know what to do.
> We start his lesson and he begins yawning, and it's
> only 10:00 a.m. Anyway, I know you're busy, but
> if you have time I'd love a reply. Your essays fill me
> with peace. Thanks for your journal.
> "Amy"

***Dear Amy,
I'm glad you said it not me. No more bashing, k? If you want to use 100 easy lessons, try just 5 minutes a day and do lots of other stuff. "Let's write your name with chalk on our sidewalk." or "Let's make a mud pie for Susie and write her name on it with a stick." or "Do you know what that sign says? STOP. Right! The sss ttt ooo ppp is sounded out to say STOP. Very smart!" "Let's make a pumpkin pie. ppp pumpkin ppp pie.""Let's write a thank you note to Grandma." Have him trace, with a colored pen, a couple sentences you've written out with pencil and then learn to mail a letter.

My husband and I would recommend the book "Better Late Than Early" by Dr. Raymond and Dorothy Moore.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Sit on the floor and ask your children, "What do you guys want to do today?"

Please HAVE FUN fun and play and learn together--especially since your boy is only 4 years old. More than likely he is not ready to read AT ALL. There are plenty of other things to have fun learning about. If you want to teach the love of reading, READ ALOUD. Children love it!

I would try not make my aim learning to read and instead aim at learning

Education is not the filling of a bucket, it is the lighting of a fire.

What is it that compells homeschooling mothers to make learning drudgery? Is it martyrdom? Bullydom? Has our 12 plus years of government schools discipled us to be teachers like them? Why are we so stuck on using textbooks? Let's take a good look at ourselves and reevaluate!

It is always encouraging to me to remember how my daughter struggled against her 3rd or 4th grade spelling textbook. She absolutely hated it. It was full of busy work like looking words up in the dictionary just so she would have an answer to fill in the blank. She worked so hard to learn to spell all her words and still got quite a few wrong on her spelling test on Fridays. Then I had a baby. We took a break. She continued to read and learn at her own pace through the summer so I think about four or five months went by. We started back in her dreaded spelling book. She knew every word to the end of the book!

You'd think I'd have learned my lesson. However, this has happened repeatedly in big and small ways through twenty years of homeschooling and somehow I still have a hard time believing children learn without the drudgery of daily textbook lessons. We still use Saxon Math, but I'm beginning to see a similar trend.

Here's my theory. You test it out yourself. If any of you have had this experience, let me know, ok? If you give a textbook to a child (beware of yawns!) at their level, they struggle through day by day. If you hold that textbook for a couple years and then give it to the child he breezes through it. Either way it will be boring.

Give up textbooks? Radical!

Heavenly Father, I may be wrong but I have strong suspicions that this traditional method of education is not the way to go. Please help us to help our children learn and to love learning all about Your world. We know You have the answers. Please give us wisdom as homeschooling mothers. We want to do a good job! Thank You, Lord Jesus for Your help and Your peace in our hearts. We need You so much.
In the mighty name of Jesus I pray,

Love in Jesus,
Cliff and Jenny Silliman, 931 S 7th, Sequim, WA 98382
Dan 20 Val 17 David 16 Mike 12 Josh 9 Stephen 5 Luke 2
To subscribe to Jenny's Journal send a blank e-mail to
The Homeschooling Mother Quote

"Housework, sewing, customers: how, when you have your work always in your hands, do you keep four children from straying?…She kept us on the long leash of an endless rope of language, looping and knotting us as firmly to her as ever she stitched edge to edge in a seam…. Like a conjurer she kept us busy, kept us interested, kept us occupied, kept us fascinated, winding us in endless strings of reciprocal talk, ropes of argument, singing necklaces, bracelets of laughter, looping us with garments of language, bejewelling us with glittering sentences, bubbling and streaming ideas and thoughts and discussion and exhortations and moralizings. Sometimes, when we briefly slipped the spell, we'd hear an anxious crying of our names up and down the block, or a stern motherly shout or two.

…even as a child you knew you were being led, and as you grew older you sometimes suspected you were being taken, but who could resist? Who wanted to miss anything? You knew she was building a glittering web to contain you but you knew you were always at its centre…and she might be controlling you but she was also completely at your service, helping you learn to work the controls that would take you farther…"

--Adele Wiseman, b. 1928, from “Old Woman at Play”

Wednesday, October 02, 2002

New Template

I have shed the confining blogskin that I outgrew. Ahhh... Room to stretch out and enjoy my verbosity.

Monday, September 30, 2002

Love Immeasurable

I always ask my children if they know how much I love them. They know the answer to the question. "You love me oceans and oceans full."

When Valerie and I came home from the Above Rubies retreat there was much hugging and kissing like we had been gone for weeks instead of two nights. Stephen asked, "Do you know how much I love you, Mama?" I didn't know. He told me. "I love you even when you are gone."
Teach the Love of Learning

Dear Jenny,
Hello. I have been wondering something. How did you have time to teach your daughter to quilt. I read in something you sent about that. How do you teach things like that and book work? We want our children to have abundant living skills. We live on a farm. They know much about raising animals and caring for them. Our son who is 9 is able to do " man's" work in alot of areas. Our daughters are learning and helping some in the kitchen. Honestly and sad to say a lot of it is stressed though because I feel so presured to get everything done. This year I want to begin teaching sewing and piano but I don't know when. How do you get away from being so book presured? What book work really matters? I know this is long. I just wondered what you would say.

In Jesus

Dear Pamela,
I include my children in what I'm doing. When I sew Valerie sews--if she is interested. (Or used to when she was little and didn't have a million things going on her own!) Just do a little bit each day. Or get into it and just have a day of sewing or a day of music. Loosen up and HAVE FUN.

We don't do much book work. We do a little reading, a little writing and a lesson of math from about 9 or 10 to 12 noon. I read aloud and the children draw. Textbooks and curriculum are usually SO boring. We LOVE books and have shelves lining the walls of our home.

We try to teach our children the love of learning and then they are launched for a life of learning. I like the saying, "Education is not the filling of a bucket, it is the lighting of a fire."

Also, we stay home. We don't worry about what anybody else is doing. A lot of pressure comes from trying to live up to what others think we should be doing. Scripture says nothing of grade levels, finishing textbooks or other gov. school trappings. It is a failure of a system. Why do we persist in copying them?

At college Daniel's professors ask him about the breadth and depth of his accumulation of knowlege. He always says the same thing. "I read about it."

Our third born, David, is not into reading much. So what? He is amazing with his hands and with drawing/perspective. He'd be an awesome architect. He is remodeling a restaurant and working in construction part time. I ask him and his boss asks him, "How did you know how to do that?" He doesn't know. He has a gift and it is from God. It is like his hands know what to do.

It is wonderful to watch your children's interests, gifts and talents bloom and grow. I try not to squelch them with boring, repetitive
textbooks chock full of BUSY work. They need plenty of time in the afternoons to pursue their own interests. If they are bored, then I try to pull some activity out for them to get busy with.

Have you ever listened to Debbie Pearl's tape on Homeschooling Tips? She is terrific. She says (with her wonderful southern accent) "Don't be a bully Mama." She recommends first and foremost, and I heartily agree--HAVE FUN LEARNING WITH YOUR CHILDREN.

Love in Jesus,
Cliff and Jenny Silliman, 931 S 7th, Sequim, WA 98382
Dan 20 Val 17 David 16 Mike 12 Josh 9 Stephen 5 Luke 2