Monday, March 30, 2015

Order in the Ranks - Part 2

"Rule Number One: Never Be Number Two."
"Second place is first loser."
"No guts, no story."

Cute phrases.
Funny taglines.
Motivational sayings.

For people who are leaders, born or made, these are valuable motivational tools.  They are quick reminders that we can draw on in our personal lives for our own counsel or for us to use to help those around us.  It's good to know yourself and your calling and gifts. Train yourself.  Train others.  

Many times I have said, "Always be training your replacement," assuming I'd get promoted and there would be a need to have someone ready to fill my shoes when I move on.  I always felt as a leader that I should produce more leaders rather than more followers.  It's also good to surround yourself with people who motivate or teach you and help prepare you for promotion and advancement, so I look among my peers for like-minded leader types with whom to associate. These are smart strategies.  Do whatever is right and good to fulfill your calling.  There's absolutely no problem with improving your leadership skills IF you're a leader.

We've taught these winning goals to our children and our society as though the only goal in the world is to be the leader, number one, top of the heap, KING OF THE HILL!  It seems like a good thing to teach and we have believed that by doing so we are awakening them to a better life of success and fulfillment.  To people who are not natural born leaders, people who are called to other things in life, people who are satisfied in their lives, who are dedicated workers, passionate servants, steady, dependable, everything else-- except leaders-- we have passed along the idea to them that they are, or that we see them as losers.  Rather than empowering them, it only serves to discourages and embitter them.

Leaders tend to be competitive, and we struggle, as anyone else does, to understand a mindset that doesn't work in the same way as our own.  I am a winner.  I don't lose.  I am ever in a contest to be better.  I will beat my old record.  I will improve my old results.  I will build a better mousetrap.  It's how I think and it's what makes me tick, however, not everyone thinks that way.  Whether I understand that or not, it's true.  Whether I'm comfortable with that or not, it's not wrong.  It's only different.
I believe many leaders have the notion that these other mindsets are wrong; they see them as lazy, undisciplined, dull, unenthusiastic, unimaginative, uninspired, etc...  Whether it's because of unrestrained, blind ambition, whether it's because we are simply unable to fathom the mindsets that others possess, or that we have been indoctrinated in our "everybody wins" generation to believe that leadership is the only legitimate goal, we as leaders have adopted these misconceptions as truth.  
Believe me when I say that people can tell when they are viewed in this way.  

Are all people leaders?  Absolutely not.  There have to be people for leaders to lead. Does that make them substandard? Lesser human beings?  Less desirable to have as part of your team, group, staff, congregation?  I like to quote Pastor Joe Cude who said to me once, "A leader with no followers is just going for a walk."   People need leaders, but leaders need people, too.

These are the under-valued people who are given a "C" rating at their yearly evaluation because the leaders don't understand the value of anything besides leadership potential and ambition.  They are constantly overlooked and go about their business day to day never being thought about by those in charge because they don't make a racket, for good or for bad.  

These people are the people who make leaders.  Without them leaders would become obsolete; leadership would be unnecessary.  These are the people leaders should be taking notice of, utilizing their gifts and from whom we should be gleaning valuable information.  As leaders, these are the ones we should be grateful for, caring for, and recognizing.  These are the people who would faithfully go on without us.  Leaders are important, but not as important as those they lead.

I don't believe in teaching people they should be leaders.  I understand, support and preach the absolute necessity of being excellent.  It is my goal in life.  I suggest we promote excellence and not hold up one position in life, or one gift, or one calling, as the only one to have without somehow coming up short or having a sub-standard life.  I suggest we stress integrity.  I suggest we stress personal best.  I suggest we teach personal responsibility and accountability again.  I suggest we go back to rewards for a job well done.  Stop handing out prizes for every mundane bit of effort.  Stress doing work that we'd be willing to sign our names to and on which we would willingly lay our reputations.

I suggest we recognize excellence in others whose callings are not at all like our own, whether we understand them or not.  Leaders are not placed over men to put a value on their lives, but to be wise and recognize their callings and to be skillful in utilizing them for the greatest benefit to the Kingdom of God.  In this there is fulfillment for everyone, humbleness, and honor to God.

Jesus brought out the best in people.  He helped them discover their potential and built them up in it.  He didn't coddle or pander, nor did He belittle or insult those who were given to Him.  He loved them.  He was always "moved with compassion" by those who came to Him.  He instructed, corrected, and eventually trusted them to carry on in His place.

He is Lord of all, Master, King of Kings, yet He came as a servant. He called us friends, and He treats us like friends.  He praised His servants for their faithfulness and gave them promotions and increase.  Is this how we treat those who are "under" us?  The only time He suggested that we were "under" Him was when He said He wished we'd let Him draw us "under" His wings.  Can we claim that this is our motivation?

Leaders: Let's stop acting like we are the only ones with purpose.  Let's stop believing that we are the only ones with smart ideas or who are capable of any real meaningful accomplishments.  Let's stop thinking of our position as a some sort of societal rank and start looking at it as a blessing entrusted to us by God for the benefit of His children.  Stop looking at accomplishments as personal victories and realize that without God we could never have done it and there'd be no need for us at all.  These people with their problems and difficulties and foibles are not stepping stones to greater advancement or notoriety among men.  They are God's favorites.  His.  He's given us a very humbling charge and an awesome ministry, not an opportunity to be a celebrity.  

Let's humble ourselves.  Real humility sees God's hand in it all.  He is filling needs and dispensing blessings through us.  Any real accomplishment is His.  Being in a position to be able to do what we do is His hands extending into our world.  It's our calling and a great blessing.  I'm thankful for it and in awe that He chose me to have any part in His marvelous plan.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Order in the Ranks: Part 1

Fairness.  Inclusion.  Tolerance.

Are we all good and sick of this stuff yet?  

Their goal, I believe, is this: Sameness

People all want to be viewed as the same.  I'm sorry.  We are not the same.  We were created uniquely and wonderfully, and should not strive to be the same at all!  We should be striving to be our personal best.

Sameness does not equal Equality.  It will not bring fairness or tolerance.  It can't.  We are all equal, but we are not all the same.

If we were not so insecure we would not be seeking to be like someone else.  If we knew who we were created to be we would be fulfilled in and by our diversity.  We would embrace others in their diversity.

No one can ever legislate it or force us to accept others.  We tend to rebel against such things, and even if we didn't, even if we tried to be tolerant and fair, we would always have an opposing force, an enemy to vent our frustration on.  They want no groups, and you can't be in their group unless you feel that way, too.  Hoo boy.

Strange... the same people love to revel in their uniqueness.  They wan't attention for their efforts because it makes them stand out from "The Same."  Hmmmm... see any conflict here?
Stay tuned.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Best Gift Ever!

Guess what we got this Christmas season? 

A bright, beautiful, perfect little grandbaby! 

Thane Gabriel Pence - December 8, 2014
7 lbs 3 oz.  20 inches long. 

An angel straight from God!!

   And we're all so totally, completely overwhelmed with love for him.  

Praise God!!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Hearing Hard Things

Truth may not be pleasant, but it's always the best thing, so why is it so hard to hear sometimes?

I will not debate the fools who say things about how maybe truth isn't always best, or there are circumstances in which... blah, blah, blah....  That's ridiculous.  Take your lukewarm, whiny, noncommittal,  ignorant, indecisive, weak little au courant self to a different blog post.  You could be offended here.

There actually is a right and a wrong, a true and a false, a yes and a no, a black and a white, and  (*GASP!*)  moral absolutes.  Not everything has an answer you are going to like, but it does have an answer.  The point is you must learn to know and accept the truth.

All of this bogus business about situation ethics and personal morality is crap.  This "my truth and your truth" is crap.  Logic is helpful, but don't confuse it with truth.  Science is impressive, but don't confuse it with truth.  People are persuasive, but don't be convinced that their words are the truth.  Educators are not "knowers" or  special because they teach, they are people with perspectives and ideologies of their own.  Do not accept everything they say as truth simply because they are paid to say things.

Stick to truth.  No one knows all the truth but if you will  stop running your mouth and stop letting your brain and your imagination do as it pleases, and stop indulging your ego, you can stick to the truth you have and try to increase it.  It's the difference between building strength into your life and soul or scattering it to the four winds.  Use your will!  Remember that thing?  Dust it off and use it.  One day you will wonder how you got in the position you are in in life, and when you do I don't want to hear one single "why me" or who's fault you think it is, who taught you wrongly, or all about your underling societal position.  The truth is available to one and all.  You will have no one to blame but yourself.

I can hear all of the deep, philosophical questions and all of the high pitched rants already, and I'll tell you right now, I'm not going to address them.  They are closed minded.  Isn't that a reversal of roles!  Truth is true.  Deal with that.

Truth may not be pleasant, but it's always the best, right thing.

Year 3: Livin' Large in Our Tiny Abode

I have to say that after three years of this lifestyle, heading into four, through all the cramped conditions, added in people, added in pets, added in junk, through everything that we left and perceived that we had lost, for all we rethought or replaced, I still like my tiny lifestyle.  I prefer it.  I cherish it.  I love it.  I might someday go larger-ER, but I'll forever live small.

Living small and close causes you to rethink almost everything in your life.  What's important in life becomes clearer, and what isn't does, too.  Living this way reveals things others might go a lifetime and miss out on.

Relationships develop differently than they would otherwise. They have to.  You change.  They change.  The important and unimportant relationship issues become clear.  The simple proximity issues have shined a light on us that has revealed wonderful, beautiful things.  These people we live with are amazing and intelligent and important and essential.  It's easy to think your own view of reality is the right one, the logical or practical, best one, but in a situation like this, if you truly purpose in your heart to make it work, you will begin to see life as a unit, not as an individual only.  You will learn that your small child with his keen mind is able to contribute, and even though he may not articulate it as clearly as you or your spouse or an older child, he is amazingly insightful and his blossoming life is happening right before your eyes! Gratefully, amazingly, you are there to see it.

It's that way with each person in the family.  All of your relationships become distinct even as they meld. It's very hard to explain how we can become such a unit and yet grow more defined as individuals.  I'm sure other people already understand some of these things, but this experience has caused me to know and appreciate who my family members are.  We were always close, I think. Now we are closer.  I appreciate them so very much.

Another thing that will change right away and forever is how you are with belongings: stuff.  It becomes a front burner issue immediately and requires some serious soul searching.  If you plan to live small you have to do two things right off:

1.) You will have to part with many, likely most of your possessions, even some you cherish.  You should seriously work on this ahead of time.  It's hard.  With some items, you might try putting them in storage and living without them for a while before you decide what to do with them, as sort of a trial run.  There are many things still in my storage that I thought I couldn't part with, but now I will be getting rid of many of them.  I just wasn't sure if I could do it.  There are a few things I'll keep forever: my baby's first outfits and blankets, my wedding memorabilia, my "good china."  There are probably things that I don't even remember being in storage that I'll see and be thrilled to still have, and those I'll keep, but I doubt there's much left in storage that we'll save aside from tools and the like.  We've made it this long without it.  I'm glad I stored it, though, because now I know that I can live without them and I won't suffer regret at the loss of something that I'd wished I'd kept.

2.)  You will have to break yourself of buying things on a whim, and you'll be surprised to learn what a whim actually is.  All purchases require space in your home.  A cute canister set (rationalized as practical) will take up maybe 1/3 of your available counter space.  If that's a trade off that's OK with your family (yes, you have to consider EVERYONE now) then, by all means, buy it.  Be sure.  Think it through.  It only takes a minute.  You will learn what you need.  Trust me.  The hollow sensation of lack from leaving things unbought is quickly outweighed by the wonderful lack of buyers remorse and the money saved from a few extra seconds, literally, of simple thought.

We are so conditioned in our lifestyles to buy whatever we think we need within (or, sadly, NOT within) our budgets, simply because clever marketeers have convinced us we should.  We need it, we deserve it, etc...  I have learned to tune out ads and to comfortably walk right past things in the store without a second glance.  It's very liberating!

Eventually we will be on our property and we'll have a shed.  I'll have shelves in the shed for items I use, but just not every day.  For instance, I have quite a lot of cast iron cookware that I won't be parted from, but it is heavy and takes up a lot of space in a small home.  I'll keep it safely in my shed

There are a few more things you will have to change, as well.  You'll probably have to change some of your personal habits, because things get messy quickly. All I can say is, "Clean as you go.  Clean as you go.  Clean as you go.  Clean as you go."  Make yourself a schedule to rotate and re-organize every week or two at least.  Some things, such as pantries and shared closets and the like, will get shoved and pushed and crammed and you'll have to straighten them out every other time you get in it.  Teach it to your kids.  PRAY that your spouse will learn and help on that one.  It's constant and essential for keeping things livable.

Holidays and birthdays and the hiding of the presents is a MAJOR issue around here.  I shop early so that I have time to think about things and spend a little here and there instead of madly rushing last minute to try to find something suitable.  Internet shopping has been a real blessing for me because they can drop it at the recipient's house! Sometimes, however, I have to stash things here and keep them stashed for a period of time, and I can tell you, I've done some shuffling, reshuffling and micro-shuffling in order to make things fit.  In the process, other things get maneuvered out of their place and things begin to look a fright very soon.

You MUST have a place for everything and keep everything in it's place. Seriously, though, can't we all do with a bit more organization?  These are great lifetime habits to teach your kids, and "Old Dogs" really can learn new tricks.  Win/win.  I wish I had a wise word or a handier solution than that to share with you, but I do not.  I'm at a loss.  I suppose I'll have to thin out more things.  :)

I've also noticed that things get dirty quickly, so cleaning habits will probably change.  Maybe things only seem to get dirty faster in a small home, or perhaps it's just an RV because of the way it's made, I don't really know, but the crud will just stand up and wave at you if you don't dust and vacuum pretty regularly.  You have to treat it like any other home or else you will begin to view it as temporary, a lesser lifestyle, not "normal" and it would, doubtless, lead to failure.  Keep up on the cleaning.

Thankfully it's much faster to clean a small house. I can give it a once over, top to bottom in just an hour or so.  A really "good" cleaning can be done in an afternoon.

Also, things get lost more easily, somehow, in a small place.  Even though there's less space to lose them in, things seem harder to find, too.  I can't explain it.  It just happens.  I'm pretty sure this is a phenomenon that can only be explained by quantum physics.  You MUST have a place for everything and keep everything in it's place.  It's the best rule.

If you're planning on living small, whatever your reason or arrangements, my advice remains the same as always:  Don't discuss it with everyone you know.  People don't understand and have been taught contrary to what you have decided is the right thing to do.  They will discourage you, ridicule you, cut you out of their lives, and for what?  So you'd have your exciting moment where you told them your glorious plans?  There are only a few who care, for starters, and then there are only a handful of them who will understand.  There are only a precious few who support you while you make your changes and adjustments.  As for the rest of them, when you're celebrating your 3 year anniversary, if they give you a thought at all they'll be thinking, "Oh, you remember ol' crazy So-and-so?  They made it after all."  That's good enough.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Wear Your Weakness Like a Badge.

I am OH! so tired of everyone glorifying their bad behavior as though it were some sort of an attribute.  They make little banners for Facebook with cute pictures to evoke the proper emotion.  Let's post a little picture of rain in the blackness captioned, "No one can see my tears in the rain."   "There's no way out of my labyrinth of pain."  "I'm dead inside."  Puh-LEEZ!

There are entire genres of books to discuss and glorify our "pain," entire lines of prescription drugs, and even hand outs to make your friends, co-workers and family "aware."  AWARENESS!  Gag me with a spoon!  It's rather like a prenuptial agreement in principle.  You know you're going to fail, so much so that you're planning it ahead and making preparations now to cover yourself later.  That way you don't have to A.) be responsible for making a good decision you can stick with, or B.) try too hard to make it work out in case it gets uncomfortable or hard, and you can still be hurt and play victim later.

"You must understand, I'm an introvert."
Or, "I can't just get over it. I'm depressed."
Or, "I'm sensitive, be careful around me."
"I'm under a lot of stress.  You'll have to bear with me."

Every day?  Every single, solitary day?  Really?

I'm not saying we shouldn't be kind or sensitive or whatever, but how about this, "Hey, you're a human.  Adapt and overcome."
Even more so if you're Christian.  Being Christian gives you not only the tools to get the victory, but the commandment to do so!  So take out your finger, and point it at your soul, and say, "Why are you cast down, O my soul? and why are you disquieted within me?  hope you in God: for I shall yet praise Him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God." ~Psalm 42:4.  According to Isaiah 61, Jesus was sent "to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He might be glorified."

It is self indulgent, lazy and, may I say, unscriptural to wallow in your chosen malady.  I know that saying that is not going to make me very popular because fawning attention is so wonderful and all, no matter the cost, I suppose, but find me a scripture that says to cope or to form a support group to "manage" it, and I'll back off.

I knew a guy who every time he had a reaction to anything, good or bad, it came off as angry.  He was strong and determined, but harsh and loud, and his children and his wife bore the burden of his weakness.

I knew a girl who cried at the drop of a hat and everyone tippy-toed around her, careful not to set her off.  She was sweet and delicate and gentle but volatile, and her husband and her children bore the burden of her weakness.

I knew a woman who was painfully depressed, whose answer to everything was to dull the pain.  Whether by drugs or alcohol, spending or eating frenzies, or some other method of pacification, she was totally consumed with her own state of mind, and her children and her husband bore the burden of her weakness.

If someone's weak point was sex or violence, perhaps we wouldn't be quite so fast to excuse it and let it go with a wink and a little understanding, because it has more immediate consequences and we find it more distasteful.

"You can't say that!  Bipolar (or depression, stress, PMS, whatever) is real!  It's an illness, diagnosed by my doctor!" Even if I believed all that (which I rarely do) so is cancer, but it doesn't give you license to behave badly and then expect accommodation from everyone around you for the ensuing chaos, whether it is immediate or shows up down the line in others that were effected by you and your lack of self discipline.

I know a girl who had cancer.  It struck her very suddenly in her mid teens, at the start of her beautiful life,  She was forced by strangers in the medical field to receive the standard treatment, treatment she would have rejected for alternative methods had she been only a few years older; treatment which caused her great pain and discomfort, and, no doubt, MUCH apprehension.  She, a happy girl from a large and loving family with dreams and ambitions that any other young woman has, was told she may never be able to have children because of the treatment.  She was in REAL pain, she was terribly sick, she lost all her lovely hair, which to a teenage girl must be quite a sacrifice, and she faced down all the ugly possibilities that cancer presents, which is more than most of us will ever have to do, and she was BRAVE and STRONG, and KIND, and FAITHFUL!  She was human, but she was not selfish.  Not selfish.  Not selfish.  She was what I want to be.

So I ask, why are we so willing to excuse and even pamper these others? It's the little foxes, the sneaking little daily issues that go nearly undetected, the little foxes that spoil the vines, said Solomon.  Either we don't see the consequences quickly enough for them to register as a direct result of the behavior, or else it's because we have chosen a particular type of bad behavior over another because it offends or frightens us less.  Maybe we are worn down over time by it.  Whichever is the case, it's time to rethink it.  It's all part of the same untrained beast.  It hurts all the people around you, it isn't helping anything, and it's unbecoming of a human being to behave in such a way.  Reign 'er in!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Homeschool is Revving Up for the New Season

OK, my work area isn't quite this bad, but my mind might be. ;)
(photo credit)

I thought maybe someone would be interested in how and why we homeschool, and how and why I create and prepare my plans for the season.  If you want to skip all the blah, blah, blah, go about half way down and I get into how I do my units.  Nothing special.  Just the way I do things.

Let's be clear up front.  I have long detested the public school system, and the further I got from it the more I realized it wasn't just the curriculum or the bureaucracy, but it was everything about it. The structure, the "mass" mindedness, the rank and file march toward mediocrity and "normalness."  Forget it.  There are NO redeeming qualities to public-so-called-education in this country.  From the government inflicted curriculum to the oh! so important socialization, they are nothing but very thinly veiled indoctrination centers designed to remake your precious charges, your babies, into good, silent, obedient little statists, and I'm out.  Like a fat kid in dodge ball, I'm out!

My views on public school are already well established within my immediate circle of friends, but for the visitors, lurkers and strays, here is my official declaration, stowed over in my facebook notes page.

I've homeschooled for many years and tried many different methods.  I've felt the biting constraints of too may rules, schedules, and too much paperwork, and I've felt the untidy, uncomfortable remains of a badly executed attempt at freestyle learning.  I think I finally struck a chord where the tension is right.  For quite a few years now I have leaned heavily toward unschooling.  Contrary to popular belief, unschooling isn't some oogy-boo thing where children get to decide what they feel like doing.  There are some fringe unschooling families who have, unfortunately, gained much attention, who go to extremes and let their kids do anything they want and swear it's "school," but in what arena in life do we not find those sorts of people that give good things a black eye?  All it is, as I understand and practice it, is a self paced, interest led method of learning.  If a child is interested he will learn.  My job is to aid in the directing and to cultivate interest.

I decided to try to do it on my own with as little monetary investment as possible.  It was necessary at first to conserve because of our budget, but eventually I came to believe that education-- learning-- shouldn't have to be a big, expensive undertaking.  With the internet available and all it's free resources, I discovered I could create my own interesting, comprehensive, top quality units, still covering scope and sequence and all the other nebulous ideals that most homeschool parents tremble with fear about missing or messing up.

Somehow, to a lot of people who knew me, I came off looking like some homeschool goddess.  It made me seem like I knew what I was doing, when in reality, for a long time I only knew what I WASN'T doing.  I WASN'T going to be like the public school!  I'd like to be able to take a bow and whatnot, but this goddess' scepter is just a pencil, my main realm is the internet, and the power behind the throne is simply determination to teach my children what they must know, to teach them to love to learn, to transform them into happy, successful, contributing adults, to be good citizens, and to be just good ol' decent people.  I want to give them a chance at a life outside the collective.

There were times when messed up so badly on things.  I have created some terrible units.  I have made things that didn't have enough substance, so we came up short, or that had so much material we couldn't have done it all in a year.  Over time, however, if I have not perfected the art, at least I have eased into a comfortable and competent way of dealing with our basic educational needs.

The needs vary from child to child, home to home, and day to day.  If you style things yourself, there is plenty of wiggle room for busy days, sick kids... surprises.  The main goal is simple here at our house: Teach them a love of learning.  Curriculum, units and everything else is secondary.

OK, anyway, in case anyone interested, with a few variations here and there, this is generally what I do:

I get an idea of what I need to cover this year and do some internet searches on the main topic(s) just to get the ol' concentration kicked in.  Once I land on something I think will be a good basic starting point, I search that subject and look at LOTS of links, lots of other people's ideas concerning the subject.
I find many interesting links such as (but CERTAINLY not limited to) this one:

Learning Through History

*PLEASE UNDERSTAND* This is JUST AN EXAMPLE link!  It was a random choice.  These may be great resources and they seem to be reasonably priced, and I'm not knocking them nor am I endorsing them. I'm just using them for an example for now.  Sometimes I will combine information and ideas from several sites.

I take all of the sub-headings out of this plan and use them for my initial list:

1. Tribes of the American Plains
2. The Italian Renaissance
3. The Rise of Nazi Germany
4. The Dutch Golden Age
5. The Roaring Twenties
6. The Late Middle Ages

I use it like an outline, add anything else I may want, and take away whatever we may have already covered. For instance, we've done all of our Nazi Germany stuff and our American Tribes, so I can knock those out and add in something else, or just teach the other four.

I begin adding in the main points to cover.  If I have trouble fleshing out the outline, I may Google up some other units on that subject until I get something I'm happy with.  THEN the fun begins.  I go in search of reading materials to go along with each topic.  ALL kinds of reading material are fair game: fiction, resource materials, comics, art for the period, music, etc... then I arrange them into usable units.  I try to keep myself under control so that I don't run more than 2-3 weeks per section.

I use art and music a couple of days, resources (aka "study" materials) 2-3 days, fiction or anecdotal reading daily, and maybe throw in a podcast or a video or two on the subject for good measure. I mix them up to break up the monotony, and if I find anything else interesting I can work into it we'll use that as well.  We use period recipes, 3D models, period clothing or weapons, take field trips to museums: whatever enhances learning.  Don't be stiff!  It's SUPPOSED to be fun.

A typical unit would look *something* like this:
Week 1

Study on major changes to society during period.
Who were major influences in politics? Music? Art? Lit?
Choose a book to accompany unit.
Research period architecture, who, what, where...

Read from chosen book (fiction set in the time or by an author from the time.  Ex: "The Three Musketeers" is set in Renaissance Italy.
Research the Kings of renaissance Italy.
Who were most important?  What did they accomplish?  Good?  Evil?

Watch example- "Rosencranz and Guildernstern are Dead."
What can you get from this movie that pertains to daily life, socially, ethically, etc.. in Renaissance Italy?

Read from the book chosen for the unit.

Who were major art/music influences?  Cover a multitude, but single out some of the major ones for study over the next week.
Read from book.

See how it goes? The next week we build on the info gathered in the first week with some reading every day. Some may carry over 3 or 4 weeks.  Big studies can go on and on.  We can do more than one at a time

I pick all of our vocab and spelling from the reading material.  Maps and geography, obviously, go along with  and incorporate nicely into it.  Then, I end with a written report/summary of the unit to be sure there was plenty of good comprehension and retention. This also helps me keep up on his writing, grammar, spelling skills and whatnot.  Sometimes I let him write a short story from the perspective of someone in the time period or even make a role playing game of it.  It's a very creative process, and as long as he comes away with a working knowledge of the subject and I am satisfied that he has, I don't care how we get there.  ;)

An alternate way to build a unit is in starting from the point of literature.  I started with historical time periods, but if I'd decided to go through a few great books by some of the masters, I could have taken the historical, scientific, social, architectural info from the context of the book and worked backwards.  You could conceivably use anything your child is interested in and dissect it into a unit, hence the idea that it is child driven.  It's really interest driven, and I cultivate the interest.

There are always those subjects that we not particularly strong in.  Personally, I'm not great at math, and therefore not confident that I can incorporate math into our units, especially now that my student is older.  I bow before the book sellers on that one.  I'd rather make him sweat through it old style than to trust myself on it.  I was never great at math and I want him to get what he needs.  A little rigid discipline is a lesson of it's own, so I only struggle with a tiny bit of guilt about it.  ;)

It's really easier than it may seem written out long like this.  I can knock out a years worth of studies in just a few dedicated evenings.  I think the process is enjoyable.  It insures that I am on top of what he's studying, and I don't have to hurry and study up on anything if he has questions or isn't grasping the concepts.  Even if I don't get many units completed early on, if I start now I can have a decent jump on it, then as he's doing a unit I can put more together.  I usually get more done than we can use!  It gets easier as you do it, too, and becomes second nature.  Then everything is a lesson.  ;)

PLEASE try it, especially on a subject your child doesn't really show a lot of interest in.  It makes things much easier on them and opens up so many new possibilities.

P.S.  If anyone has suggestions on incorporating math into units, please feel free to share. I would really like to try it, but don't feel that I could give him what he needs at this point.  I know it can be done.