His Story: The Musical

Most people didn’t believe me when I told them my teenage daughter wrote, composed, and professionally produced a full-length musical. Now I tell them that as a young adult, she’s seen her music workshopped and produced in New York City by a Broadway Production Team.

This child was profoundly dyslexic as a little girl- we thought she might never be able to read

Overcoming Dyslexia and Pursuing Her Passions

How does a child with severe Dyslexia go on to write a musical? I need to rewind a bit and tell you about the life of Anna Miriam Brown. She is my second of 15 children. Even before I had children I knew would homeschool. Anna’s older brother started reading with ease at age three. I figured she would follow suit and teaching her to read would be quick and easy. Learning to read was anything but easy for her.

We tried reading program after reading program. Nothing stuck. One day in frustration Anna said she was never going to learn to read and she didn’t need to anyway. She wanted to be an artist and a mommy so she wouldn’t need to read much. We came to realize she had Dyslexia and would not learn in the same way as my oldest. I started to come up with a way to help her learn to read. I created art games for her that incorporated letters and basic reading. You can read more of the story in the article about Dyslexia Games. 

These games worked and my eight-year-old was able to read. My husband and I like to say that Anna was born dancing. She’s always loved music and watching musicals. Her primary focus in school has been music and she began composing songs at a young age. This passion for music has grown as Anna has become a young woman. (click here to read the story of His Story!)

Teen Boys: What’s a Homeschool Mom to Do?

(In this post, we’ll go back in time to a Facebook post from 2015 and look at the model we followed (and still do) for homeschooling our teens. Sometimes it helps to see what it “looks like”!)

People often ask me what I do with my teens for school.  Here is a question that must be answered to start going in the right direction:

If you knew what your child was going to be when he (or she) grows up what kind of education would you provide?

Public educators expect kids to choose a “minor and major” when they go to college.  I expect my kids to study specific “minors and a major” starting in elementary school, and getting very serious at age 13.  For their 13th birthday we have a themed party based on their “career dreams” at the time.  Isaac wanted to be a chef at age 13, Anna wanted to be a baker, Estera wanted to be a photographer.  So you can imagine their parties!

Isaac, age 14

This is what my 16 year old son is studying this year–everything is relevant to his life and goals:

#1 Creative Online Marketing

#2 Publishing

#3 Personal Money Management

#4 Project Management (He is building a Minecraft server for homeschoolers with a history and inventions theme. He has a couple nerds working for him.)

#5 Music & Video Production (click here to see a documentary video he created!)

#6 Cats – He wants to breed and sell show cats, and make coloring books, an online community and a website for cat lovers.

#7 Bible, Missions, Evangelism and Teaching Students

#8 History (This is his passion, he loves Uncle Eric Books)

#9 Family, Relationships – Preparation for being a dad and husband.  He jokes about how taking care of his cats is prep for parenting, and he does want to get married and have a family of his own, and he knows that he will need to provide for that family.

#10 Cooking – in the past he wanted to be a chef, so we spent a couple years to help him train, he had two jobs as a personal chef at age 14 and 15.  Now he isn’t as interested, but could easily get a job as a chef at any point, and has great references. We invested a lot of time and resources in his previous passion for cooking – now he doesn’t want to be a cook.  Was that a waste of investment?  NO!  His family will be thankful, and he has something to fall back on… and he’s only 16.  The boy has skills. 

#11 Voice Acting.. Why not? Someone has to do it!

As you can see he has no time for a typical learning plan. We don’t do any formal math just practical math.  I am not worried about higher education, credits, testing, college.  He isn’t going to need a diploma to get a job.  He will be an entrepreneur; he will be the one hiring.  I have talked to him about higher education and the things he would need to do to take that path in the future. He knows that if he wants to go to college later he can prepare for the testing on his own and do it. He has plenty of time for hobbies and is very good at sports.

I started allowing my children to choose majors and minor when Anna (my 1st dyslexic child) was seven. She couldn’t read and write, so art, gardening and cooking were everything for two years until I invented Dyslexia Games

When people ask me about homeschooling and what the kids are doing I might talk might sound like I am talking about a college student, not a 7 year old.

I am not at all worried about higher education, I start giving them a higher education at age 13.

What would each of your children like to major in this year if they had the choice?

If your child wants to be an artist and mommy – take her seriously! Help her to become the best artist and mommy ever! That’s what I wanted to be my whole life… and that is what I have become.

Today, our son is 23, married, finishing Bible College this May, and is a composer. He’s running a recording studio as well. He has been supporting himself for five years.

Our son Isaac and his beautiful wife, Margarita

Transitioning Toward Adult Life

Here are some books that are very important for my 12 to 15 year-olds.  At this age, we are transitioning them from mainly studying what they love, to requiring some things that we believe they really need to master, to do well in adult life.

They will study their preferred majors and minors most of the time, but at least once a week, they need to spend a couple hours with some of these books.

At ages 12 to 15 I want my children to study leadership, economics and grammar while I expose them to many options for a future calling or career.  If they already have chosen an occupation, we get specific. For example, you can’t just major in horses. You need to choose one or two horse-related career options to train in.  You can’t just focus on general photography. You need a specific market. You can’t just major in the Arts. You need to focus your skill building in one main area, maybe two…like producing a musical. You can’t just keep playing around with lots of different artistic mediums, you need to master the one you love the most.

By age 14, they need to make a serious choice about what calling or career they want to pursue so we can focus on training, gaining experience, skills, providing equipment, volunteering or internships in the area they choose.

From age 14 to 18 we will help them turn their dream into an income source, or help them get involved with others who are living out the calling they want to pursue. They will gain 4 years of practical experience in the field. I will also ONLY require them to learn the math specialized to their future occupation.  If they change careers, they will have something to fall back on. And, they might just have a source of passive income to help them take the next step.

How Your Child Thinks: Visual Thinkers (Part 2)

children who are visual or creative thinkers

My child has a totally different way of seeing the world! He thinks in 3D Pictures.

Stop for a moment and look up from your computer. All around you are things that were designed by someone. Even the webpage in front of you was designed. Your computer was designed. The room you are sitting in, and the clothing you are wearing? Everything was designed, and chances are they were designed by a person with the gift of being able to think visually.

Some people are able to imagine something in their minds that has not yet been created. They are able to envision a better way of doing things. They are able to envision an object and change the size, shape and color using the power of the 3D workstation called the imagination. The people who designed the objects all around you were often called bad students, day-dreamers and doodlers. They are the visual thinkers.

Creativity journal for artists, songwriters, poets, writers, dreamers, thinkers

What if your child is a visual thinker? Only 10% of the population has the power to think visually, rather than to think with words. The people with the most powerful of visual minds often have an imbalance when it comes to standardized learning situations. The visual mind swirls with colors, ideas, music, art, and creativity and drives the visual thinker into a state of constant creativity and movement. Standardized systems of learning try to conform the child and make efforts to normalize him through medication, punishment, and control so he will not be a disruption in the classroom.

The visual thinker learns differently, and if you ask me, I would tell you that they can not be taught, they must discover. They struggle with the lifelessness of flat pages, the discomfort of the desk, the buzz of the fluorescent lights, the dullness of flat words on a page, and concepts void of emotion, dimension and wonder. They will ponder the mysteries of measurement and time, but their minds go blank when sitting at a desk staring at repetitive lists of math facts. They create works of art and new inventions from items rescued from the trash can, but can’t hold a pencil correctly when asked to write down their spelling words. They can tell the most amazing stories and their words will take you to far off lands and fill the air with magic and mystery, but if asked to put a sentence on paper, they might just cry. They are brilliant, they are amazing, they are curious and brave… until they are forced to conform to a way of learning designed for children who have no dancing, no questions, no music and no colors in their minds.

The majority of students will be content to follow the instructions, fill in the blanks, and make their lists on paper, but the visual thinker was not created for desks, for charts, for lists, for textbooks, for flash cards, for teachers, or for chalkboards… they would dance on the desk, and challenge the teacher. They would add color to the chart, they would roll up the chart to make a telescope or a musical instrument, they would stack the text books and build houses for invisible people, they would turn the flashcards in to a magic trick and turn the chalkboard into a work of art that belongs in a museum. They are constantly in search of the third dimension, the music and the movement.

Find Part 1 of this series here: How Your Child Thinks (Part 1). Continue to How Your Child Thinks: Inventors (Part 3)

How Your Child Thinks (Part 1)

how your child thinks

You may have heard me, and some other moms of teens, joke about the “Brain Dead” Stage. Let me tell you what happens sometime between age 11 and 15…

YES, at our house we joke about the “Brain Dead” stage. It’s very real and happens even to the best behaved kids.

Of course they are not brain dead, but they sure act like it. There is a phase where kids CAN NOT follow instructions, CAN NOT make plans, CAN NOT think logically, CAN NOT answer normal questions in a normal way, CAN NOT see how what they do now will impact the future. They can not manage time. They can not have a reasonable conversation. They can not answer the question, “WHY did you do that?” They can not answer “What do you want to do?” Sometimes they are like “Whatever!” and show some disrespect out of nowhere.

The may lose interest in the things they once loved, and seem aimless. They tend to really love music at this stage. It’s like the only thing that makes sense. They might just want to crawl in a hole with piles of novels, or get lost in Minecraft like they are never coming out.

There is usually one thing that they hang onto. They tend to get really good at one thing in this time. Sometimes they find their life passion or discover God in this time. It’s a time of disconnection and refocus. It lasts 2 months to 2 years. If they get addicted to anything during this time, they may just stay in the “Brain Dead” stage for much too long, and not come out of it until they have their own kids. My kids usually stay in this stage for about 4 months. I try to help them make use of the gift of time to find their passion in it.

There is science to all of this.  It’s a pruning process the brain goes through when kids lose the childhood brain connections and develop the grown-up ones.  The transition from childish thinking to adult thinking is not a process that happens slowly over time. It is rapid–but to get there they have to go through an intense period of brain pruning and the death of all the childish brain connections that are not needed for adulthood, and then all those adult thinking connections start to form. Tools like our newest journal, Lost & Found: Art & Logic Therapy Brain Games can help especially during this time.

Take heart! Pay attention to the process, provide support and guidance, tie a knot, and hang on! It’s going to be okay.

Continue to How Your Child Thinks: Visual Thinkers (Part 2).

Giving Your Children the Gift of Time

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These paintings are by my daughter Rachel, age 16. How did she get so good? How can you help your children develop their talents at a young age?

Give your children the gift of TIME, and invest in their passions.

One beautiful thing about being home with our families is the chance we have to let our children totally immerse in their passions. Embrace the unique opportunity of TODAY. Because of Covid-19 we are all living more home-centered lives. Let this extra time at home be a time in your family when talents bloom and grow.

1. Chill. Stop pushing them in the direction you want them to go in.  Let go of anything, including irrelevant schoolwork, that stresses your children, or brings contention between you and your children. Stop focusing on the child’s weaknesses and total invest in their gifts instead. Let your child focus on becoming who they want to become. Take your child’s hobbies and interests seriously.

2. Allow Boredom. We don’t need to entertain our children. We need to empower them. What an incredible opportunity we have to set aside all the clutter, business, non-essentials and immerse in our talents. Let your children become bored without immediately feeding their boredom with a screen, an activity, a plan, a game, or worksheets. Let them learn to muse, have ideas, become thinkers, inventors, artists, dreamers and creators.

3. Give. When your child shows interest in something, give them the time they need to explore that interest. If possible provide books, tutorials and supplies to help them learn more. Let them go beyond learning about it to actually DOING it themselves.

4. Leave them alone. When you see that your child is truly immerses in their passion, don’t interrupt them. To become great at anything a person needs to get into the FLOW. They need to lose themselves in their passion while they work on their project. It’s like they are in another world. They can focus deeply and pour their mind and imagination into learning and creating. When your child is in the FLOW and totally losing track of time, really focused, that’s when talent is taking over. Respect your child’s focus.

5. Celebrate their work. Don’t expect perfection to develop quickly. Praise progress, creativity, and focus. Display their work in the home and on social media. Show others how proud you are of your child’s efforts and talents.

In our normal rushed and busy life children are burdened with so many things they must do. Let it all fall away, and let them become who the were meant to be.

“Ready to Pop!”

(This series of blog posts is excerpted from Sarah’s book, Windows to Our World: Sarah’s Journal – Growing Up, Crossing Oceans, Finding Love & Giving Life to 10 Children)

“You look about ready to pop! When are you due?” a stranger asked me one day in the checkout aisle of the supermarket near our home in Fortville.

“Oh, last Saturday,” I said, smiling.

Her eyes got big, her mouth dropped open, and she didn’t know quite what to say. I could tell she was afraid that my water would break any second and the baby would drop out, right in front of her.

“Don’t worry,” I replied. “My last three were over a week late.”

“Uhhh, how many more do you have?” she asked, her eyes still big.

“This will be number six.”

“So . . . and then are you done?” she asked.

I smiled. “On no, we are just getting started!” I joked.

She laughed, but a concerned look remained on her face.

“How many do you want?” she asked, as if I were collecting snakes. It’s funny the things complete strangers want to know right there in the grocery store.

“We’d like to have as many as we can get,” I replied, as if I were collecting treasures.

“Goodness! I have two, and they drive me crazy!” she said. “Two is enough for me!”

“The first two were a challenge for me, too,” I agreed. “With the first couple, you are getting all your practice. You are learning to be a parent, and every phase is new. But just like anything else, the more experience you have the easier it gets. I think it’s sad that so many people stop at one or two. I’ve been able to enjoy my last three so much. I have all the joy of parenting, and not as much of the stress. And now that my oldest children are big, I’ve got some wonderful helpers. I think that many people imagine that having six kids is like having six two-year-olds all at once.”

“You look too young to have so many,” she said.

“Well they keep me in shape. I don’t have time to sit around eating Twinkies and watching soaps,” I said.

“So how old are they?” she asked.

“My oldest, Isaac, is seven. Anna is six. Estera is five. Rachel is three, and Naomi is one and a half,” I told her, as if rehearsing a poem.

“I bet you are hoping for a boy this time!” she said, keeping a tally of girls versus boys.

“Isaac would love to have a little brother, but I don’t mind having a house full of little girls! So I’ll be happy no matter what I get.”

“Just wait until they are teenagers!” she said.

“I’m really looking forward to that!” I told her. And once again, her eyes got big, her mouth dropped open, and she didn’t know quite what to say.

“I had wonderful teenage years!” I continued. “I think my kids will too. Those were the most fun years of my childhood— camping with my family, learning to sew, starting a business, making Thanksgiving dinner, falling in love with my husband . . .”

“Teens are so troubled and sassy these days!” she said. “I guess there’s not much you can do about that.” (click here to continue reading)

Fun-Schooling for High School Credit

Parents often feel overwhelmed homeschooling high school and assigning credits. Remember, homeschoolers have a lot of flexibility. You don’t have to “school at home.” Your teen is preparing to launch into the world and doesn’t need to sit in a classroom with boring textbooks to thrive! Below is guidance on credits and some options for planning the high school years.

Remember-

Each country and state has different legal requirements. These suggestions should meet the requirements of most places. Please verify requirements where you live.

The HSLDA or your local homeschool support organization are good resources. Check to see if your area requires detailed record-keeping, transcripts, portfolios, testing, evaluation by a certified teacher, or any other records. Some states require in-depth and detailed transcripts while others are very laid back.

HIGH SCHOOL CREDITS

Most states require 15-25 credits for High School Graduation. For example:

Language Arts/English: 4 credits
Math: 3 credits
Science: 3 credits
Social Studies (U..S History): 1 credit
Social Studies (Any other Social Studies): 1 credit
Electives (physical education, home economics, foreign language, music, etc): 9 credits

Total: 21 credits

College-bound students will need a more specific record of courses based on their desired University requirements. The University admissions department will provide those details.

For example, specific science credits needed might be: Biology, Chemistry, Physics, & a Science Elective.
Social Studies might be: U.S. History, World History, American Government .5/Economics .5, Social Studies elective.

College-bound students will also need grades assigned to each completed credit.
Some areas require a more detailed description of courses taken. This can be anything from a short sentence to an entire portfolio of completed work. This is why it’s important to understand your regional laws.

How much work equals one credit?

In most places is 120 hours = 1 credit.
This is time working on journals as well as projects, field trips, interviews, etc. An easy way to track time is for your teen to write the start and end times when they work in a journal. This will also give you an idea of how much time is spent on that subject.

If you don’t have to track time, Fun-Schoolers usually give shorter single-subject journals ½ credit, longer single-subject journals 1 credit, and completed core journals 3-5 credits depending on their size. (click Page 2 to learn about selecting journals and assigning credits with Fun-Schooling)

“Ruined” Kids or Thriving Kids?

When you have kids who have symptoms of Dyslexia, ADHD, Autism, all kinds of Dyscalculia or neuro-divergent kids, they are not going to thrive in the box. We can’t put them in the box. You are all Fun-Schooling either because you didn’t want to put your kid in the box, or maybe your kid was in the box, and you were the awesome mom who pulled them out of it and took responsibility for their education.

Now, it’s really scary to be in charge of the education of another human being. We can think, “What if I ruin my kids?”  My well-meaning relatives were right there, encouraging me to think those thoughts. They had me thinking, “I am probably destroying my kids”. Let me tell you where my 4 homeschool graduates are right now.

Isaac is currently going to school in Pennsylvania, while continuing to work in music, film and publishing with his wife, Rita. Together they published several bestselling Thinking Tree books with us. They are enjoying a passive income from their work. The titles include: All About Money, which is one of our most popular books, American History, Camera Quest, Gardening and almost all of the Minecraft books.He and his wife are living the life that they want to live, and have been traveling a lot and doing adventures and look forward to raising children someday.

I have a daughter who is going to New York City because she wrote a musical which is being produced by a Broadway team. They are workshopping her musical on Time Square this spring. It’s pretty exciting stuff! She and our daughter Rachel are a team and they’ve been working together with the director who produced Newsies, Grease, High School Musical, and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers on Broadway. Pretty cool stuff my girls are doing.  Also Rachel works at a macaron shop in Texas and paints paintings that are pretty amazing.

Our daughter Esther lives in Honolulu, supporting herself, and she has a booming photography business. She’ll work 4-5 months, save up money, and then go traveling. And then repeat!

Our daughter Naomi has a dog accessories business and she keeps buying horses. She’s living the dream. The cool thing about our kids and how we Fun-School is they are already living the dream right now. Life isn’t something that happens when they graduate. Life is going on right now and they are planning their days, what they want to do, what they are going to be, what they want to pursue. Our kids have businesses and incomes and are making all the money they need to do all the stuff kids want to do. I’ve had 5 kids turn 18 or 19 and move out, and I don’t support them anymore. They support themselves.

I’d say they are thriving.

Discover Your Child’s Secret Learning Language with Legos!

Your child doesn’t learn like other kids. He has to be on the go. She is always creating something new. He just wants to play… ALL THE TIME. She’s not interested in textbooks, but she likes computers. He is in his own world. She loves field trips and hates sitting still. She can’t stop talking. He daydreams. She doodles. She is perfect. He is perfect. They just have a different way of learning.

You may feel like your child is failing in school, when in reality he or she can’t learn well in the traditional educational environment! Some kids have to learn through creating, exploring, asking questions and by investigating. They can’t just sit still and learn quietly in a desk, in a classroom, or with a teacher! You may not know how to discover your child’s optimal learning environment. You may not understand your child’s learning style, but figuring out how your child learns is easier than you think! Just watch him or her PLAY! By watching your child plays with Legos you can discover a lot about your child’s learning style and learning language!

I’ve found that most kids have a dominant learning language. There are five types of learners. You can understand what your child’s learning language is by the way he or she plays with, cares for, and uses his or her Legos.

The FIVE Learning Languages (or Personalities) include: Followers, Friends, Explorers, Detectives and Creators

You can’t really learn about your child’s learning language by the way they approach school work, because most schoolwork is geared toward one type of learner, the Follower. I have found that Legos give kids freedom to be who they were meant to be, so you should be able to really see their true colors shine when they play with them, sort them, collect them and build with them.

Typical education methods usually push kids into a mold that wants to make them into a Follower. Many kids fight with these learning methods because they can’t understand or enjoy such a style of learning. Once you understand how your child naturally relates to learning, you can give them the right tools, the right education, and the most efficient help.

I will explain each of the learning languages that I have observed in homeschooled children, because I have ten children of my own, and have worked with thousands of homeschoolers who are gifted or have learning challenges over the past 10 years. If your child is in school, or your homeschooling methods have been used to make the child into a Follower, you may need to remember what they were like when they were 3 to 5 years old. It’s not a bad thing to be a Follower, if you are a Follower in your heart. Followers actually enjoy school, but if your child resists normal schoolwork, he might speak one of the other 4 learning languages.

I call it a learning language, because we often only understand our own language, or the one we grew up with. We are all parenting unique children with unique needs, and we need to seek to understand how each child learns best. Once we learn their language we can change the way we teach them and we will be able to see and appreciate their amazing abilities. (Click Page 2 below to continue reading)