Teaching, Learning, and Growing Despite Current Events

The current news cycle has presented us with some very useful opportunities for teaching and learning this fall. There’s the election, of course, which offers a perfect opportunity to do a unit study on American government. Next, there is the tsunami of negative economic news. What a perfect time to read and discuss Richard Maybury’s books!

Finally, there’s the blessing of autumn itself. Here in Virginia, we’re just starting to see leaves shading from summer greens into the rosy reds, clear yellows. and warm oranges of fall. The dogwoods are sporting bright red berries, while the pyracantha is blanketed with a heavy crop of rich orange berries. Squirrels are bustling busily with winter preparations, cheeks full of acorns as they make innumerable trips up and down the trees.

I mention these three things together as a reminder that even in the face of political uncertainty, financial stress, and negative news, there are still the steady seasons and cycles of creation to appreciate. Children can be very sensitive to stress and bad news, so as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, it’s important to limit the inflow of negativity. This doesn’t mean mean ignoring important teaching opportunities; rather, using them in a limited and controlled way.

In an election cycle, for example, there’s no need to get caught up in the constant barrage of charges and counter-charges. Instead, study how the American political system works. Choose how you will learn about the candidates and issues, and do so in an organized fashion. A weekly magazine will adequately summarize the major points and leave out all the gossipy little unpleasantness that is not really a factor in the race. If you limit input to what is manageable and age-appropriate, your children can learn what they need to know without inappropriate stress, and you won’t be overwhelmed trying to keep up with everything.

The financial news offers different opportunities for different age groups. Again, you’ll want to place the incoming news into a historical context. I’d begin by reading through Richard Maybury’s Whatever Happened to Penny Candy? and “Uncle Eric” Talks About Personal, Career & Financial Security (both available, along with Maybury’s other books from most homeschool retailers). This will provide a useful foundation for further discussion.

Practical application of financial information can come through playing games such as Monopoly, the free online Stock Market Game, or Robert Kiyosaki’s Cash Flow Game, learning to manage money with You Need a Budget and Dave Ramsey’s baby step plan, or learning the fundamentals of entrepreneurship with a micro-business. All these things are constructive, and they will help students understand the reality of market conditions and cycles, which will place the current difficulties into historic context.

If you find yourself needing to cut back on expenditures, there are ways to do it without shaking your children’s essential security or your own. Read the delightful books, We Had Everything But Money and We Made Our Own Fun, by the publishers of Reminisce Magazine. These are packed with the personal stories of people who survived, and even thrived through tough times. You can probably find them at your library or through online sources.

Consider planning a garden for spring, practicing handcrafts, creating frugal menus, and learning to “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” Again, this offers historical perspective, as well as some great ideas for cutting costs and living frugally, and it’s much more constructive than listening to anxiety from the media.

Finally, take the time to be present in this beautiful autumn. I know it’s probably not the same if you live in Yuba City or Laredo, but there are ways to celebrate the season, and make the transition real for your family. This is a wonderful time to:

  • Work on nature notebooks
  • Plant daffodils and hyacinths and other bulbs for spring
  • Study the biology behind the color changes in the trees, and the migration of birds and butterflies
  • Pull out the crock pot and cook a hearty stew
  • Bake homemade bread
  • Change to warmer colors in your home and wardrobe accents
  • Get out the warm, fuzzy knitting, quilting, or crocheting project you put away at the beginning of summer
  • Gather around a backyard firepit (or barbeque) on a nippy evening and roast marshmallows
  • Play hide and seek in the early dusk
  • Bake gingerbread cookies and pecan pies
  • Read or listen to autumnal classics such as Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
  • Enjoy being home with your sweet family

Above all, remember that home is where life is lived, and make it serene and lovely for your family. It will be the backdrop for their memories of childhood, and what matters is how loved and secure they feel in it, not its location or size.

Chances are, if you’ve ever visited your childhood home, you were surprised to see how small it had gotten;-). I know that I was. I also never realized that our urban neighborhood was on a side of town that many people were afraid to visit. I lived there, and I was loved, so I loved in return. The goofy photo at left proves that you can have fun, even in a city backyard. I enjoyed hanging out on the garage roof, reading, thinking, and occasionally adding something to the homemade whirligig we had installed up there.

The bottom line is that it’s not the things you have (or don’t have), or the events and panics happening in the wider world, that matter. It’s what happens inside the four walls of your home that shape the lives your children will remember. Keep the cold winds of turmoil outside the doors, and there will be good memories.

Now, I’m going to get back to work on the American Literature level of Excellence in Literature. It will be coming soon;-). I welcome your comments on this post or any other.


I just discovered that Edith Wharton‘s lovely home, The Mount, is facing closure due to a budget crisis. This is one place I’ve always wanted to tour, as she’s one of my favorite authors, and the home and grounds look beautiful. The foundation that operates it has an offer of matching funds for any donation they receive by 10/31/08, so they are requesting help. If you’d like to read more or contribute, please visit www.edithwharton.org for more information. Enjoy the photos at this site!

The fall promotion at the Old Schoolhouse Magazine has been going well, but they are almost out of the Homeschooling with Heart tote bag that was included as a bonus with the offer. From my perspective, a subscription to The Old Schoolhouse Magazine is a great value (much cheaper than therapy;-)). Not only do the value of the free gifts exceed the subscription cost but the content of the magazine is priceless, with an endless supply of resources and ideas to inspire homeschoolers year round. Don’t wait to subscribe, as they’ll run out of those cute totest soon.

You may view the full details of the special bonuses, and subscribe online. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it!

3 Responses

  1. nancy white says:

    Thank you Janice for your sweet words in this last blog. Autumn is my favorite season, our anniversary was yesterday, and your words so smoothly and heartfelt, touched my heart. Thank you for the reminder that God is in control of all, and to watch our anxiety in these uncertain times. Best to take it to the throne then to internalize. God bless you, it is obvious He has in the writing arena, and thank you for taking time to send around. nancy

  2. VP says:

    Have enjoyed reading the e-mail on the website as my my e-mail comes with the contents only 1.5 inches wide. This is so much easier to read. It would also be nice to have the link in every e-amil.

  3. VP- If you’re seeing it too narrow in your e-mail program, you may want to switch to reading it in Gmail or another web-based program, as it turns out fine there. You may have an e-mail program that changes it somehow. I’ll ask my programmer son about making it turn out the same in any program. I’ll also put links in the e-mails for you.

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