PhD Dropout

download (1)For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a voracious reader. As a little girl, I curled up for hours with Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, and Agatha Christie mysteries. In all those blissful hours, it never occurred to me that I could one day write a book myself.

Throughout school, I excelled in my Literature classes and eventually majored in English at Mississippi College, with the plan of becoming an English professor. I took a couple of Creative Writing classes, but still never thought I could write a full-length book.

After earning my MA, I headed to Baylor University and started my PhD in English. One semester into the program, I dropped out. Not because I couldn’t handle the class work, because I loved my studies (though I did not love teaching college freshmen). I dropped out because I wanted children…and I wanted to stay home with them. So I worked full-time while my husband finished seminary, and we had our first child soon after he graduated.

Over the next years of raising babies and beginning the homeschool journey, I didn’t regret giving up school to stay home with the kids. (Okay, most of the time I didn’t regret it, though potty training, toddler tantrums, and spelling lessons nearly drove me crazy at times.) But I missed studying literary works and writing those essays everyone else in class hated, so I took a correspondence course on writing for children. Soon after completing the course, I wrote my first novels (both short and pretty bad), one a children’s mystery and the other a Christian romance.

It wasn’t until after my youngest graduated from diapers that I attended my first writers’ conference. I took a class on how to write how-to articles, went home, wrote an article, and sold it a month later. Since then, I’ve had published forty or so articles, short stories, and devotionals (and had nearly that many rejected).

A few years ago, I began my Levi Prince fantasy series about thirteen-year-old homeschooler Levi Prince. Later, I wrote the first book in my On the Brink YA suspense series about three homeschooled girls beginning college.

For more than a decade I’ve had the privilege of raising and teaching my kids while learning and working in the field I love. Just this past year, I had the joy of seeing my oldest child achieve publication for two of his own articles.

All in all, I’m glad to be a PhD dropout.

Ways to Avoid Five O’clock Madness

clock12_clip_art_16380The clock strikes five. Dirty dishes cover the counters; looks like pizza night again. Mt. Laundry avalanches, burying the baby in dirty clothes, just as you discover a crayon T-Rex on your toddler’s bedroom wall. Meanwhile, your second-grader stares at the math lesson he started two hours before. History was a disaster, and Latin looks impossible. Your fourth-grader’s grammar lesson has to wait until tomorrow (again) because you got caught up in a phone conversation with your best friend. At this rate, you’ll finish up this school year in September—just in time to start up for next year. You heave a massive sigh and wonder how to teach your children to be more disciplined with their schoolwork.

Wish you knew the secret to avoiding five o’clocks like this one? Teaching kids to stay on task actually begins well before school time. The trick actually begins with you.

  • Discipline yourself. Children can’t learn self-discipline until you learn it yourself. Employ proper self-care—shower, eat right, exercise, sleep enough, read a good book, relax. Set aside devotional time daily. Enjoy a few date nights with your husband. When you take care of your needs, you can better care for your family.
  • Get organized. Put your house in order. Chaos doesn’t breed smooth schooling. Set up a chore chart. Plan meals and use grocery lists. Train your family to put things in their proper places.
  • Make a schedule. Set a daily routine for school, chores, breaks, etc. Post a copy in the schoolroom and on the refrigerator. Then stick to the schedule. If it’s not working, you can always make changes. You don’t have to set specific times for every little thing, just plan the order (i.e., 1st-Math, 2nd-Reading, 3rd-Snack, etc.). Don’t forget to plan special times for your preschoolers.
  • Minimize distractions. Turn off the TV and computer. Turn on the answering machine. Give family and friends copies of your schedule so they’ll know when not to call. Pick quiet toys and activities that you only allow preschoolers during lesson times. Separate students so they won’t distract each other. Utilize the little ones’ nap times for more difficult subjects.
  • Vary your routine. Try altering your schedule every six weeks to stave off boredom. Change the way you teach a subject by going on a field trip or doing an experiment, making a lap book or painting a picture. Let a child record or type a report instead of handwriting it.
  • Make your child responsible. Give your child a checklist of subjects to mark off when completed. Reward her with something fun—like a sticker, a piece of candy, or extra play time—when she meets the requirements. Always have consequences for lack of diligence—missed play time, extra post-school chores, or additional practice in the subject done poorly.
  • Plan for the “squirmies.” It’s hard for kids to sit still, so try alternating between the “sitting” subjects and the “active” ones. If math is hard for your child, be sure you do something he enjoys, like art, right afterward. You may try sending a squirmy child into the next room to do ten jumping jacks, then have him come back to write his sentence or work his problem.
  • Know when to say when. Some days it’s just time to throw in the towel. When the kids (or you) are sick and no one is learning, it might be time to give it up for the day. Sometimes Mom the Teacher forgets to be Mom the Mommy; occasionally, you just need to play awhile and enjoy your kids.
  • Set attainable goals. Don’t set monumental tasks that you and your child can’t complete in a day. Set small, reachable goals. You’ll see results in the long run.

Learn to practice self-discipline and teach your kids discipline. Then five o’clock will mean playtime with Daddy because school’s completed, chores are done, and supper’s nearly ready.

Author, Homeschooler, Pastor's Wife

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