Homeschool Housewives With Attitude?

arguingIt’s typically that time of year when many homeschoolers start rethinking and reviewing their homeschool experiences and begin planning the new homeschool year. I typically try to turn a critical eye on all that transpired in the last year. Sometimes it’s pretty and sometimes it isn’t. It seems like there is always something that needs to be changed with our curriculum, how we worked, or our schedule. …And that’s ok… this isn’t a bad thing – it’s actually pretty great. You’re wondering how making mistakes can be great? Well, it isn’t so much the mistakes as it is the correcting of (ahem) said mistakes. That is moving forward… getting better… learning from those mistakes.

Which brings me to my recent observation… there are many times that I meet a homeschooling mom and we begin the typical homeschool “chatter.” You know how it goes… you’ve been there. It’s all pleasantries at first, but then… the first blow is struck when one misguided mother degrades another because of what curriculum they use, or what schedule or method. It isn’t blatant… at least not usually. It’s kind of that… “Oh… you use that curriculum.” “Well, we use such and such. We think it’s the best.”

You’ve been there, and you have walked away wondering if you are a fit parent or why you ever started homeschooling in the first place!  Maybe I’m over sensitive, but those conversations used to really knock the wind out of me!  Why -when we are all aiming for the same common goal – can’t we congratulate and encourage each other? It isn’t difficult to say something positive to another parent when you see/hear that they are doing something very different than you. Isn’t that what homeschooling is all about? People who believe that they can make a difference? People who want to do things “differently?”

Let’s just remember how incredibly deep our words can pierce and take time to 1) encourage those homeschool families around us (you never know who is struggling today) 2) Don’t expect everyone to be just like you – different is GOOD! 3) Be yourself to others – don’t try to be perfect – sometimes the best thing that we can do to encourage ourselves and others is to talk about our own struggles 4) Pray for those who homeschool along side of you… we have so many things in common that our differences are often minute! 5) Always think about what you say before you say it. Run your words through the filter of God’s love!

Homeschool moms we have one of the greatest opportunities…we educate our own children. We can teach them about God’s love in the best way possible… through example. Together – if we stop being petty – we can have a huge impact on America for good! Yet, not without showing each other support and kindness… it really is that simple. Who can you make a difference with today?

Common Core – The Truth from a Homeschool Perspective

I recently read the article The Truth about Common Core in the Guardian. I loved the fact that they presented several different views of the common core. However, since I homeschool the one on homeschooling really seemed to stand out to me. What is your opinion about the Common Core?

The view from home-school

By Nicole Reuter, home-schooling parent in upstate New York ( quoted from the article The Truth about Common Core – in The Guardian.com)

One of the things that shapes the typical home-schooling parent’s mentality about education is the ability to teach my kids what I want, when I want – as well as the freedom to move at a pace that’s appropriate for each child and to teach them in a way that is best suited to their learning style.

My biggest concern about the Common Core State Standards is how long we’ll be able to maintain our freedom to educate our children in the way that works best for us. There are no federal home-schooling standards but, in New York State, we already agree to cover certain specific subjects, report grades to our school district, and track our children’s progress with standardized tests (like IOWA or CAT tests) or written end-of-year evaluations. National standards, both directly and indirectly, could be devastating to home-schoolers by forcing us to abandon the very reason many of us chose home-schooling in the first place: flexibility.

Even if we maintain the legal right to be free of Common Core, we might well still have to cope with its effects. Some educational companies that market to the home-school community have already begun altering their curriculum in alignment with Common Core. Worse yet, we are told that college entrance exams are likely to change to reflect the new Common Core standards, rather than being tests of general knowledge. If that happens, home-schooled students would be disadvantaged in their pursuit of higher education unless they adhere to the standards, regardless of what they actually know or what skill sets they posses.

I also worry that politicians could just decide that home-schooling parents need to comply with all of the picayune standards of Common Core, full stop. At that point, I would lose the freedom to decide on behalf of my children – my students – how to help them grasp certain concepts, and instead be beholden to teaching them certain things at certain times as determined by the government. How much does it matter if a student masters fractions in the fourth grade or the fifth grade?

My husband was a public high school teacher at the time we chose to home-school our oldest two children, so he’s seen the educational system from both sides and knew this would be a good choice for us. Common Core standards want to make cookie-cutter students that get a one-size-fits-all kind of education. I know that’s not what’s best for my children, and I don’t think it’s what’s really best for any child.

 

The ADD/ADHD Epidemic

Photo: It's time to #wakeup

One of my friends posted this graphic on facebook this morning. While I know we see these things all the time, something about it really triggered my thinking. Could it be true? and if it was that would mean – yet again – that money speaks louder than anything else. Sad… very sad…

As my brain was running through these wild and depressing thoughts, I began to click on a new tab and google it. (Well, isn’t that the answer for anything we don’t know these days?  ) What I found was that apparently it is true. In 1991 legislation was passed that included ADD/ADHD in the funding for special education. Of course, the more special education children you have in your school the more special funding your school receives, in addition to any grant money. Though, from what I understand over the years the government has become more particular about what that money is spent on. I believe that it has to be spent on the special education department, so at least the money stays in the correct department. (I’m not sure if that is any consolation, though.) Anyway, this occurred in 1991, the numbers for ADD/ADHD rose dramatically since then. We aren’t talking hundred of thousands, we are talking millions! So, of course, I began to google to find out just how high the cases of ADD/ADHD have risen since this legislation was passed. …And for your viewing convenience here is a neat little graphic that sums it all up!

Jamie Turner Gaddy's photo.

So, yes… I would say that the numbers have drastically risen since that legislation was passed. So, the evidence is in… however, I have to admit I don’t think it is all “filthy lucre’s” fault in this case. You see, I believe that there are two issues at play here. Yes, the misdiagnosis of many children across the U.S., but also the rise in use of technology. Don’t get me wrong… I love technology (as I sit here on my laptop with my ipad and phone beside me…) I just believe that our children are suffering the effects of sitting too long in front of the television and playing too long with video games. Teachers just can’t compete with the amazing graphics, interesting plots, and super sound that comes with all that technology. So, in all honesty I believe that there are two evils at play here.

1) Money – I think every American would admit that most American public schools are often more concerned with the budget than with the individual child.

2) Abuse of technology – I believe that there is a right way to use technology. That is for educational purposes and as tools for productivity. Letting television and video games babysit our children is a big mistake and we (our children) our beginning to pay for it!

Making the Most of a Busy Time

photo (6)I must apologize… it has been quite awhile since I’ve posted some good material! It’s been pretty crazy around here for the last couple  months. My grandfather passed away from a stroke back in March, and my grandmother has been having some issues. Grandpa was 84 and grandma is 82, and both were/are amazing people! Anyway, I’ve flown/driven back and forth from Ohio three times now in the last few months. Needless to say, we’ve been doing the best we can with homeschooling. Sometimes life is just like that. God’s grace is sufficient, even in these times.  I must say, I’m so proud of my kids. They really did much better than I thought they would on their schoolwork while I was gone.

There are still some gaps in the big picture and some things that need a bit more work in order for them to be where they need to be – but all in all – we are getting there. We will probably do a bit of summer school focusing on the subjects that they just didn’t get this year, and of course – having some summer fun with a new pool. AND… maybe a mix of the two!

When life throws curve balls… what do you do?

Proverbs 3:5-6

        Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

Homeschool History How-to

homeschooling historyHistory is definitely one of those subjects that I love to teach. In fact, we love it so much in our homeschool that we usually do a family trip around what we study for history. I believe history is a subject that shows forth the amazing grace of God throughout the ages. To me history is just that… HIS story! Even though we see man fail, triumph, win, and lose… throughout it all we can see God’s hand.

As we look at learning history in the homeschool, however, there are many great ways to teach this subject and instill a love of history into your children. Here are just a few methods that work great for teaching homeschool history.

1) Literature study – this method involves getting as many good books as you can on the subject that you are studying and read this books together, or separately if your student is in highschool

2) Time Line – this method is great if you are wanting to study the history of the world since the beginning. Using a master time line – one that you can put up around your school room or your child’s room is very effective!

3) Using a pre-made history curriculum. You can find these in a variety of methods. This is often the easiest to begin with. You can use this to “get your feet wet” and then jump into your own ideas as you feel more confident.

4) Notebooking is probably my very favorite method to teach/learn history. We use this in conjunction with other methods, but it is very effective in helping the student remember what they have learned!

5) Unit Study is a great way to learn about history while incorporating all your favorite learning methods into one. You can use literature study in your unit study while you base it all on a notebooking approach. The unit study simply means that you are studying one section of history in depth for a set amount of time.

There are, in fact, a few really great free homeschool history curriculum offerings out there. One I just recently found is the Guesthollow American History. If you have older students, there are several great free history curriculum offerings for High Schoolers.

US History – free textbook online

A Biography of America – free online at Annenburg Media

Hippocampus Selection of History Courses for Free – online

FREE MIT History Courses

Below is a graphic categorizing some really great homeschool history curriculum. All of these courses can be purchased through various homeschool book retailers.

homeschool history

Make Homeschool Science More Fun Than Play!

scienctific method printable

At our house, the kids are always up for a little playtime.  I’m always amazed at how much they learn even while they are playing. With that in mind, it has been my goal over the years to find ways to teach the kids while having a lot of fun. It really isn’t that difficult, and it give amazing results. I’ve noticed that when my kids are doing a learning experience that is hugely fun, they REMEMBER all of it. Here’s a few of my favorite ways to make Homeschool Science more fun than playing!

1) Make sure that your homeschool science curriculum is one that can easily lend itself to fun experiments and hands on learning. We’ve used a couple over the years and the two that really stand out to me is the Apologia science series, and Science4Us. Apologia has alot of accompanying experiments and activities that can be so much fun, while Science4Us is an online based program they have amazing science songs and even an online log/journal.

2) Keep it fresh and stay ahead of the game. Yes, it does take a bit of forethought to engage your kids in fun elementary homeschool science. However, this forethought is so worth it in the end. If you can organize your science time each week to include at least one hands on project that you spend one day to initiate and the rest of the week to review… your kids will enjoy science so much! For example, we are studying birds for science this semester. We are using the Apologia science text Flying Creatures. We created a bird watching journal and decorated it with every bird on the first day. Then for the rest of the week/semester we are watching for birds in our yard and using bird watching guides. We go on walks and try to find new birds each time.

3) Pass on an excitement for science by being truly excited yourself!! Your kids can see right through you. If you  hate science and hate doing science with them, they will know! Even if we don’t really love science as parents, finding super fun science experiments to do with your children can be a TON of fun!! It’s not the rote memory of facts or the bland reading of textbooks – it can be making slime or experimenting with which item freezes the quickest. It’s investigating off the page.

4) Don’t use boring worksheets – I know – I know… some kids just love worksheets. I get that – I’m one of those strange people. Yet, you can make it exciting by using or making out of the box and off the page printables. Try this free download of a  scientific method printable that I made.

5) Not sure how to teach the information/science behind the experiment or project that you had a blast doing? That’s easy to fix… you can google the idea, read it to your kids out of a science book, watch a youtube science video, or find a website with loads of science  information.

Get the FREE scientific method printable here!

Don’t forget to check out our other articles on science – Simple Tips for Teaching Science

3 Homeschool Tips for Vocabulary Learning

vocabulary learningSure, I know learning vocabulary is almost like a tradition in America. We’ve been writing our spelling and vocabulary words for decades. We’ve also been finding those science and history bold faced terms that sound like Greek, and trying to look them up. Vocabulary is everywhere… it’s in our math, our language arts, our science, our history, even in art and music. So, are we missing it by requiring students to mundanely write out vocabulary definitions that are longer than my arm? Can it be done another way?

For the most part vocabulary instruction in America has been based on a written or oral learning process. Yet, we know that learning vocabulary works best when the new words are connected to old meanings. That simply means that the new knowledge is taught via connections to the knowledge the student has already (aka schemata.) These connections to meaning are like routes on a map, and they enable understanding.  Proverbs 14:6 says, “…knowledge is easy unto him that understandeth.” It is the connections that make the understanding, and it is these connections in learning that I have based my teaching methods on for over 20 years. If you want a child to learn something – connect it to what he already knows!

Secondly, learning is easy when we can see the process. Just like doubting Thomas in the Bible. He didn’t believe that Jesus had risen from the dead until he saw His wounds and touched them. Who knows… maybe Thomas was a visual/tactile learner and just really couldn’t “get it” without seeing and touching. so many children are just like that. Allow them to use more than just their ears, and they have understanding for life.

Third, if we can get the student to apply this knowledge or internalize it through use they will be able to solidify it in their thinking. We’ve heard so many times, if we do something more than 14 times it becomes a habit. Similiar is true here, if the student can use the vocabulary word (or other new knowledge) in a real life situation it begins to become part of his/her daily life.

Several popular vocabulary instruction strategies that incorporate these three key ideas include:

1) Pre teaching words prior to reading

2) Using the context of words within a story to understand their meaning.

3) Word walls

4 ) Shades of meaning – using paint cards with hues of a color – give students words that are varying intensities of the same idea. The student organizes them according to what they believe is the most intense (darker hue) to the least intense (lighter hue).

5)Root word analysis – use picture cards of the root word – and then add prefix and suffixes.

6)Vocabulary Bingo

7) Charades with vocabulary words

8) Synonym lists for vocabulary words – finding synonyms that they already know is enabling them to make connections!

Check out my other article on 5 Ways to Build Vocabulary

5 Ways to Build Your Vocabulary

build your vocabularyEveryone knows that the fundamental skill of learning is the ability to read and comprehend. Along with that is the concept of vocabulary building. When read and learn new words, our knowledge and skills increase. All this by simply understanding more vocabulary. To top it off… this learning shouldn’t stop when you graduate from high school or even college. Sure, even us “adults” need to continue to build our vocabulary. As a dear friend of mine said recently, “Learning new things keeps my brain young!” This is definitely the case with vocabulary skill building. Here are 5 tips to help you learn and keep learning throughout life!

1) Get into the habit of looking up any words that you come across that you don’t understand. If you do this every time – you will assimilate hundreds of new words each year!

2) Make a point to use those new words in a sentence the day that you learn about them. This immediately puts the words into your schema and gives you a reference for future use. Put those new words on sticky notes around your house. This will help you remember to use them in a sentence. Throw them away once you’ve put them into practice.

3) Become a voracious reader. READ. READ. READ. This is by far the most important thing. Reading builds your vocabulary as well as your knowledge! Read and you will go far!

4) Read through the dictionary. Sure I know this sounds boring. Yet, you can quickly scan through the pages and highlight any words that you don’t know. You’ll be surprised  at the sheer quantity of words that you ALREADY know!

5) Read literary works that challenge you.  The classics are a great place to start. There is GOOD reason as to why these books have remained favorites over the years and even centuries. Most often their themes transcend time and will envelope you in their story before you know it! Reading books that were written centuries ago will increase your vocabulary with classic words. This practice will not just build your vocabulary, but will enrich it!

 

Christmas Break Boredom Busters

Yes, it’s that time… all of the busy -ness of Christmas is nearing an end. The presents have been wrapped and are under the tree… and the kids are on Christmas break. Even for homeschoolers, that spells “boredom.” My kids are already beginning to complain of that diabolical disease. It drives me crazy. Just a few days ago they had too much to do, and were telling me how desperately they needed a break. Well, if that isn’t just like life… the grass is always greener…

So, as we are awaiting the “big day” and have finally spent out the tireless series of Christmas parties… things are beginning to settle down and the kids are now claiming “boredom.” To counteract this cry… here is a quick reference list for homeschool boredom busters!

1) Try your hand at making your own Christmas cards or try this Christmas coloring book

2) Make your own Christmas ornaments

3) Make some Christmas placements for Christmas dinner

4) Listen to some great old time radio Christmas stories!

5) Read aloud some of the christmas classics!

6) Watch a few of the good old Christmas movies – some of our favorites are White Christmas, Holiday Inn, Miracle on 34th St., and The Christmas Carol.

7) Try these fun Christmas printables

8) Make some Christmas cookies

9) Make your own Christmas word search

10) Listen to the Christmas story together!