Thoughtful Thursday Week 31 – Homeschool 101

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A new school year is upon us. So many more people are considering homeschooling these days. I see questions on homeschool support Facebook groups or Yahoo groups all the time. Where do I start? Which curriculum should I get? What do you recommend for my fifth grader? What do I DO?

If you are just starting out and not sure which questions to even ask, click here for a 10-step process to divide and conquer homeschooling.

Homeschooling 101

As we started our third year homeschooling, I felt my own tension and apprehension and let-us-get-it-done spirit take over. What adds to my trepidation is that I have to figure out how to do school with two now. They are only in second grade and kindergarten, which means they need me to hover over them as they learn. By middle school, I hope to work toward more independent work, but until then I have to be there to teach them the 3Rs.  Continue reading »

Not only is my second now officially a homeschooler, she also started piano and violin lessons, which adds to our daily calendar. I have vowed to myself that I will not pay for music lessons unless I am willing to enforce daily practice. Lessons without practice are useless. So here I go again, something else for me to do: motivate a five-year-old into practicing her violin and piano and keep her going.

Thankfully, she likes music and playing instruments, most of the time. She asked for the lessons in the first place. I would have been fine with starting her a bit later, but she has been sitting through a few too many lessons of her brother’s. She was ready to be taught herself. She has already made visible progress. In one month of violin lessons and practice, she learned Twinkle Twinkle, the Suzuki Method anthem song. She also learned Beautiful Skies, another beginner song.

I continue to be amazed by how much skill even five minutes a day of practice can give a child. But it has to be daily. Five minutes daily for a month and the child knows two songs already. Granted, on some days she practiced for more than five minutes, but on the average it has been less than 10 minutes.

The same goes for piano. One day, she sat down and worked through 16 pages in the Theory Book, with my help. I kept saying, “This is the last page” and she kept wanting more. No matter how much we practice songs, she always says, “Now I want to study from THAT book” and points to the Theory Book.

Again, only one month of piano lessons and practice and she knows she must curve her fingers, she knows the seven notes on the piano, and can play several songs by looking at the book. Shockingly efficient.

Sure, she has days when she is so engrossed in her play that I have to coax her into practicing. And it does happen that a day goes by and she only practices piano and not violin or viceversa or neither. On such days, I remind myself I should not insist. She is only five after all. She needs to play more than she needs to practice an instrument. So I let it go.

Many homeschoolers have learned the difference between a schedule and a routine. We have meals that must happen. We also have certain appointments outside the home. Then, we have skill subjects (math, reading, writing, spelling) and they, too, must happen every day before privileges (screen time) are earned. I wrote above about daily practice. We schedule that for the afternoons, around 3pm to be exact. Sometimes dinner time comes and we have not got around to it, but we still do it before going to bed. And then another day is over. History and science and art do not have to happen every day.

For more information, here are some tips about schedules, curricula and learning styles.


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!


Thoughtful Thursday Week 1 – Stop Learning

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Last year, I published a series of weekly devotional posts for homeschooling moms called Mom Monday. Fifty-two weeks later, it is time for a new series. A new series for a new year. Introducing Thoughtful Thursday, a collection of essays about homeschooling and how it forces everybody to think outside the box. In some cases, it forces people to think. Period.

It’s sad, I know, but some people go through life without thinking, simply accepting the status quo, just believing everything that is handed down to them by the previous generation, and feeling scared and challenged when someone comes along doing a new thing.

Thoughtful Thursday Week 1 - Stop learning

When I started this blog, I knew I was going to focus on homeschooling. I also knew that homeschooling touches so many aspects of our lives – because it is a lifestyle – that it inevitably brings about some basic questions about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Which is why a personal friend unfriended me on Facebook and declared herself “highly offended” by one of my posts on socialization, for instance. She chooses to put her children in public school and once told me, “I believe in public school.”  Continue reading »

Well, I believe in God. And when God called me to homeschool my kids, I listened. I wish I could say that I accepted the calling right away. As some of you may know, it was a struggle and I bothered quite a few homeschooling moms online with my questions. But, finally, the Holy Spirit prevailed and I surrendered.

Homeschooling brings about a revolution of ideas and concepts which people take for granted. Revolutions aren’t pretty. People get hurt.

Warren Buffet is quoted to say that “simple is not always easy.” While homeschooling is a simple concept to grasp – parents taking responsibility for their children’s education – it is not easy to accept and execute.

Which is why I love homeschooled kids doing TED talks, like Logan LaPlante or Jacob Barnett. They fly in the face of traditional school options and prove school psychologists wrong. Take, for instance, Jacob Barnett’s case. He was diagnosed with autism and his parents were told he would never speak or amount to much. A few years later, he taught himself advanced math in two weeks so he could sit in this one particular calculus class.

One day, when a particular theorem bothered him, he started working on it obsessively. His mom brought a Princeton professor to look at his calculations and try to prove him wrong. The professor told his mom, “Your son is right in everything he put forth.”

In a nutshell, his talk encourages us to do three things, in this order:

1. Stop learning

2. Start thinking

3. Start creating

We will look at these three steps for the first three weeks of Thoughtful Thursdays. This first week is an invitation to stop learning. That’s right. This home educator is asking you to stop learning.

Once thinking starts, the creative process starts. And once you create, you fulfill God’s desire for you, because He made you in His image and He is the Creator.

Unless you forget what you know, you will never be able to advance past the generation that just handed you the knowledge they have. Jacob Barnett gives poignant examples of geniuses like Newton and Einstein following the above three steps. And that’s how science was pushed further. No doubt, Jacob Barnett is a genius. All homeschool kids do not have to be like him or revolutionize science or be interviewed by Glenn Beck.

But there is something to be said about forgetting what we know and looking for a new path. A thoughtful path. A homeschooling path.

I invite you to stop learning, start thinking, and start creating this year. Forget what you know and open yourself up to new thoughts and ideas. Join me here on Thursdays for a thoughtful discussion about what education means.


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.