Story of the World, Vol. 1, Chapter 10

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We studied Ancient China, chapter 10 of The Story of the World Volume 1 mostly in the car. I knew the Story of the World CDs would come in handy. The kids enjoyed the story of the silk worms. They had no idea about how silk is made. I feel so privileged – all over again – to be the one introducing them to such facts about the world.

They did their mapwork. My daughter colored the page with Chin and his dad, but my son put it off. Again, I do not insist on coloring if he does not want to.

We read some of the books recommended. My local library did not carry these particular titles, but they got them for us in about a week through the inter-library loan program. Meanwhile, the children’s librarian brought us similar books which they did have. One of them actually had the same title as the one recommended by Susan Wise Bauer, i.e. “Ancient China,” and it made it confusing later on as I was returning both titles.  Continue reading »

But we sorted it out and moved on from it. My librarians are very relaxed and if we make a mistake or they make a mistake, they take it all in stride. I appreciate such a working partner.

I chose not to make pictograms or Ming dynasty bowls. My kids have been playing with clay a bit too much lately on other projects and I am tired of cleaning up after art projects. It’s my classroom and my prerogative. I give you permission to do the same when you get tired of cleaning, in case you needed to get permission from somebody.

We are totally behind in our history curriculum. This is school week 15 for us and we should study at least chapter 15 in Story of the World Volume 1 this week. Oh well. This is a good challenge for me: figure out how to get history done. It’s all about priorities and planning, of course.

The temptation for any homeschool mom is to wonder if  kids finish things better in a classroom environment. Here’s the short answer: they don’t. And now, for the long answer…

I have recently spoken with a teacher who told me the older the kids get, the less they get done in class. “If you wait for 15 kids to get their math books out, you can spend 15 minutes… That’s why we give them homework. Because we can’t finish the lesson in the class.”

It was like a boost in the arm mid-year when I heard that. January and February can be dreary months for a homeschooling mom, you know. In fact, Susan Wise Bauer says that February is burnout month and we are a few days away from February. So I choose to relax, take each day as it comes, do my work and even if I don’t get everything done, I go to bed with a positive spirit.

Homeschooling feels like a privilege to me. When I look back on the time I get to spend with my children, nobody can take that away from me. And, if things get dreary in winter, I can always look forward to next year. I have already ordered some second grade curriculum for my son. I can’t believe I just typed that. My son, in the second grade? Yup! It will be here before I know it. No time to mope around!


How to Come Up with 4 Hours of Homeschooling Kindergarten

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Some states ask homeschoolers to perform four hours of instruction in each of the 180 days of school they must report at the end of the school year. Tennessee, where I live, is one of those states.

State officials do not ask for specifics on what we did each day during those four hours. However, for my own sake, I keep tabs on what we do daily and how long each activity took. I use a simple notebook on each child, even though my daughter is in preschool and, as such, her instruction is not “official.”

Now, let’s define instruction. Any time knowledge is imparted, instruction happens. Children do not receive instruction only if they are seatead at a desk with their textbooks opened at a specific page as directed by an adult licensed as a teacher, who is standing in front of a blackboard or white board or SMART interactive board.

Children learn all the time. It’s what children do. They learn. They haven’t been around much, so most of what they see around them is new and exciting. Our task as parents is to surround them with positive, age-appropriate sources of information, according to their learning styles.

My daughter, a preschooler, joins us for most activities, so I use plural when I describe what we do. Here’s how I come up with four hours of instruction for my son, who is in homeschool kindergarten.

 

First Hour

30 minutes – Bible. This represents both our morning and evening devotional times, during which we read stories from age-appropriate Bible curriculum, learn hymns and praise songs, memorize passages of Scripture, pray, and do crafts or activities that will solidify and make real the knowledge of God. This time also covers those precious moments throughout the day when we talk about God because they ask about life and I direct their minds to the truths of the Bible.

30 minutes – Home Ec. Think making the bed, taking dirty clothes to the hamper, putting toys and school supplies up at the end of the day, dusting, wiping the table after meals, doing laundry, setting the table, stirring the oatmeal I cook for breakfast, pouring flour from the measuring cup into the mixing bowl for pancakes, pushing buttons on the blender filled with yummy ingredients under my supervision, learning to mow with daddy, emptying the dishwasher… I could go on and on. Home ec. skills are life skills which establish habits that will make them great spouses and parents and responsible adults with healthy self-images. Instruction happens throughout the day in small bits. I have approximated this to be half an hour daily.

 

Second Hour

1 hour – Romanian (mother tongue). I speak with them in Romanian 90% of the time I am with them. I also read to them in Romanian. It adds up to more than one hour a day, but I keep it simple for recording purposes.

 

Third Hour

30 minutes – Recess. Why not? If they count it as school time in public schools, we can, too.

30 minutes – Reading with mommy. I read picture books and various readers to them. We worked our way through “Before Five in a Row” and SimplyCharlotteMason.com reading lists. Now we are working through “Books Children Love.” Sometimes I have my son read a page or a whole reader, depending on how motivated he feels that morning.

Fourth Hour

30 minutes – P.E. Every day, as long as it is over 46F and dry, my children spend time outside on their bikes or doing various ball activities with me or with each other. Today we played a bit of tennis, for instance. Catching, throwing, rolling, and bouncing a ball are important large motor skills. Some days they bike the Gatlinburg trail. Daddy and I run alongside them. It is four miles both ways and we do it in 70 minutes, including a five-minute break when we turn around at Sugarlands Visitor Center. Great cardio workout. When it’s warm, we go to the pool. Every other month, they take swim lessons.

30 minutes – The 3Rs, i.e. formal instruction in reading, writing and arithmetic. Ten minutes per subject is plenty for a five-year-old. A child’s attention span is their age in minutes plus one. So a three-year-old can focus for about four minutes and a five-year-old for about six minutes. I make sure I don’t push my son beyond his limits. We might take a break and talk about something (he always has a story to share) before we go on to the next concept. We will probably do fifteen minutes per subject in the second semester; by then, my son will be six.

 

Fifth Hour

30 minutes – Reading with daddy. This is a nightly routine which happens after supper and just before bedtime.

10 minutes – Music. I play classical music for them throughout the day, during meals, or in the car. If they are interested, I tell them it is Telemann or Handel or Mozart etc.

10 minutes – Arts & Crafts. They make cards for different events and people on a regular basis. They draw, cut and paste in their lapbooks. They decorate their bedroom according to their fancy with old ribbons and scotch tape. They paint. They draw with chalk in the driveway.

10 minutes – Science. Once a month, they take a class at Ripley’s Aquarium. Nature walks or simply being in the yard provide an opportunity for spotting insects and animals. We melt ice. We make popsicles. We grow butterflies out of caterpillars we mail ordered. We write in our nature journals. We learn to cook and can and garden.

10 minutes – Foreign Languages. I tell them things in French and Spanish every day. Simple things. “Thank you” or “here you are” or “please” or whatever simple phrase I may use in Romanian, I repeat it in French. Or Spanish. Or English. I find myself saying the same thing in three or four different ways. Sometimes I make them repeat it, but other times, if we are hard at play, I just say it and we move on. We also repeat the days of the week and the months of the year in several languages for our calendar activities.

As you can see, I easily come up with more than five hours of “instruction” per day. Which means that I can leave out certain activities based on what we have on our schedule as a family that particular day. Activities can carry over for recording purposes, too. It works out well. I told you homeschooling was a flexible endeavor.


Learning Styles

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Children fall into two categories: those who like school and those who hate school. The reason why some children hate school is because traditional classroom environments do not cater to their learning style.

That is why Mark Twain wrote, “I’ve never let my schooling interfere with my education.”

A book I possess, treasure and refer to on a regular basis is Cathy Duffy’s “101 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum.” Here is a summary of chapter four, on learning styles.

As a homeschooling teacher, you will make your life easier when you grasp three concepts:

A. Learning modalities

B. Learning styles

C. Teaching styles

A. Learning modalities

There are three types of sensory input, or learning modalities:

  • auditory (hearing)
  • visual (seeing)
  • kinesthetic (feeling or experiencing with one’s body)

People lean toward one more heavily than the others. Modalities help, but they are a bit too simplistic, even if you realize your child is 75% kinesthetic and 25% auditory. That’s where learning styles come in.

 

B. Learning styles

A learning style is the way a person most easily learns and processes new information or skills. A preschooler does not have a learning style yet and a five-year-old might change his learning style by the time he is ten. Up on your toes you go!

There are four learning styles:

  • Wiggly Willy (WW)
  • Perfect Paula (PP)
  • Competent Carl (CC)
  • Social Sue (SS)

Don’t worry about male/female names. Focus on characteristics. A girl can be a Wiggly Willy and a boy can be a Social Sue.

Wiggly Willy would rather play and have fun than work. He dislikes paperwork and record keeping. He leans toward the fine arts, physical education and activity-oriented classes. This student must be taught using hands-on activities, multi-sensory audio-visual aids, short, dynamic presentations and learning games. Variety is key.

Perfect Paula likes planning and following schedules. She is not very good at coming up with creative ideas. She gets upset easily when others don’t cooperate. PP is more comfortable with “cut and dry” subjects than those which require exploration with no clear answers. Best methods for this child: workbooks, consistent structure, lectures that follow an outline, drill and review, and time to prepare for any discussion (remember, she has a hard time with creativity).

Competent Carl likes to be in control. He thinks and acts logically and has trouble understanding others’ feelings and emotions. He prefers math and science rather than language arts. Methods to use with CC: independent work, logically organized lessons, clear sense of purpose for lessons, long-term projects, problem solving, brainstorming.

Sociable Sue worries about what other people think. She is idealistic and interested more in general concepts rather than details. Social Sue prefers language arts, social studies and fine arts. When teaching SS, use real books, unit studies, discussions, social interaction, public presentations and situations where she is personally recognized and valued. Sociable Sue needs repetition for detail and help with self-discipline.

 

C. Teaching styles

Think about how you like to learn. That’s also the way you like to teach. The above four learning styles apply to teachers as well. In His wisdom, God gives a Sociable Sue daughter to a Perfect Paula mother to help both of them develop their characters. Don’t you love it!

 

Winning Formula

Put learning modalities together with learning styles for a winning formula. An example should help. Your child might be a kinesthetic Sociable Sue. As such, she prefers more project-oriented learning. If you had an auditory Sociable Sue, she will lean toward sedentary, read-aloud activities.

So should we pamper our children by catering to their learning styles and modalities and never push them outside their comfort zone? Not at all. Use your knowledge of their particular learning style to introduce new and difficult subject matter. Once they have grasped a concept, use other more challenging methods. Case in point: a very active Wiggly Willy can learn math by using objects, without paper and pencil. Once he has mastered a concept, have him do a worksheet of review and practice.

Teach to their strength and review through their weakness, thus helping them grow not just academically, but in self-discipline as well.

Your next job is to match learning styles to curricula and fine tune the motivation process.

Finally, if you have tried everything and your child still does not “get” it, he might have a learning disability. Your local homeschool support group can recommend a professional in your area who will help you determine what is going on.

For extra credit, read Mariaemma Willis and Victoria Kindle Hodson’s book: “Discover Your Child’s Learning Style.”

Leave me a comment below about your experience with learning styles. Have you figured out your child’s learning style yet?


Homeschooling 101

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You have decided: you will homeschool. Now what?

Let me say this: if the “why” is big enough, the “how” will follow. In every aspect of life. Homeschooling is no exception.

Researching how to get started takes time. Don’t let it get you discouraged. Take it in stride.

Here is a checklist for you to follow, based on what I did:

1. Find out the deadline for registering in your school district. This determines how much time you have to do research and it will keep you focused. I had eighteen months, but a friend of mine said, “That first day of kindergarten will be here before you know it.” She was right.

2. Familiarize yourself with the law in your state. The HSLDA website should give you a great start to this process. There, you can locate your state’s homeschool organization and work with them directly. Whatever you do, don’t rely on word of mouth. Do you own research.

3. Plug into a support system – locally, there should be a homeschooling group you can call upon with questions. These families are usually generous with their time and knowledge, but you must remember that they will tell you what their experience has been. It may or may not apply to your family. Weigh the answers.

4. Gather up all the documentation needed to register. Depending on what you find in the previous steps, you might need a lot or a little. While you’re at it, get organized. Prepare a file strictly for the legalities of homeschooling and keep it where you can easily access it. Guess what? You would have to take this step even if you put your child in a traditional classroom.

5. Read up on homeschooling approaches, curriculum choices and learning styles. Get used to the lingo. Don’t get intimidated. It’s not as complicated as it sounds. This friend of mine told me about her first days of homeschooling: “I kept asking myself, ‘What do I do?'” She had the jitters. She also had a master’s degree in education and several years of classroom teaching experience. It is normal to feel nervous, but don’t let nervousness stop you from enjoying this exciting time.

Even if you are short on time, read the first few chapters of Cathy Duffy’s “101 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum.” Do you have to read all the reviews? No, you don’t. Thank God. That’s the beauty of this book. Do your homework in the beginning of the book and then you will only have a handful curriculum choices to review.

6. Get curriculum, either new or used. Get school supplies. Don’t shop till you drop. Newbies usually get too much. Rainbow Resource Center, Amazon and homeschoolclassifieds.com are great places. Your local bookstore might have a homeschooling section. Visit the bookstore to hold the book in your hand before you order it online. Used curriculum fairs happen regularly in your area. Check with your local support group.

7. Plan your school year or, at the very least, the first month of teaching. Donna Young will help you there with free planners, lesson plans, nature journals, notebooking pages and any other type of form you can think of. Did I mention they are free? Notebooking Pages might be of interest, as well.

8. Sign up for newsletters and magazines. These resources can get overwhelming. I signed up for three magazines, for instance, and realized I only read two of them. Also, if you find they do not fit your homeschool, unsubscribe. Look for a better fit. Homeschooling happens in so many ways. You will eventually find your style and your clan in the beautiful world of homeschooling.

9. Register.

10. Relax. You are home free.


How to Homeschool

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Homeschooling is different for every family, but there are six basic approaches or methods:

1. Classical – A child’s brain development naturally sets the stage for the trivium: primary school, or the grammar stage, during which learning is based on concrete tasks and memorizing facts; middle school or the logic stage, during which learning tackles abstract concepts and reasoning from cause to effect; and high school or the rhetoric stage, when learning focuses more on expressing what has already been acquired. This is the method I lean toward heavily.

2. Charlotte Mason – A British educator of the nineteenth century, Ms. Mason is more relevant today than ever, in my opinion. Her emphasis on living books, i.e. regular books (as opposed to textbooks/workbooks), narration, and nature study would bring life into any educational pursuit. I like this approach very much and use it to balance my natural propensity toward rote memorization. Get more information about Charlotte here. Want a free curriculum with a Charlotte Mason approach? Get it here.

3. Unit Studies – The method which took me the most to understand and appreciate, even though I studied under one of its biggest proponents. The Prussian educational method of separating knowledge into subjects, which was used in my public school, had indoctrinated, errr…. trained me well. Once I got unit studies though, I used Before Five in a Row and came to a new level of freedom in my mind about home education. The mother of all unit study curricula is Konos. I find I am not brave enough for it, but it obviously works for a great number of homeschoolers. In conclusion, I use this method sparingly.

4. Traditional – Most of us learned like this in a public school somewhere around the world. Textbooks provide the theory, which you apply while filling out workbooks. Homeschoolers tend to call this method dry and boring, but some children thrive on this. I have a three-year old who asks for worksheets almost every day. Rod and Staff, Abeka and Bob Jones are examples of traditional curricula. Personally, I use Rod and Staff and anything I can find online. There is a vast array of worksheets online. Don’t get overwhelmed.

5. Unschooling – Also known as relaxed homeschooling or delight-based or child-led. I could not be an unschooler, but I like the emphasis on the child’s desire to look into a certain topic. I recognize that the highest point of learning is when a child asks a question. I capitalize on those teaching moments throughout the day. However, I need the structure of a schedule and a carefully laid out curriculum to feel sane.

6. Eclectic – People like me, who pick and choose at least two different methods, curricula and approaches to tailor the education of their children, are called eclectic homeschoolers.

I am leaving out Montessori, Waldorf, independent study, umbrella/charter/online schools and other methods. The best book I have found, which I think any homeschooler should have on their reference shelf, is Cathy Duffy’s “101 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum“. The first few chapters explain methods and learning styles. You will walk away with a clearer picture of what your homeschool should be like.

Special note on The Moore Formula

For a balanced education, i.e. one which trains the hand, the heart and the head, taking into consideration a child’s readiness level for formal education, I always keep in mind The Moore Foundation’s philosophy. In fact, it is the overarching method I keep in mind before making any decision in my homeschool.