Competition – Healthy or Harmful?

runMost of us are probably wondering the same thing… where does the idea of competition come from? and is it healthy for our children?

Competition is definitely not a contemporary idea. In fact, the downplay of competition in schools across America is rising. Many educators believe that competition is harmful and damaging to the young psyche. Let’s take a look at history…

As long as can be remembered competition has been a part of our society and our world. True competition in the historical sense is partnering with our competitors and pursuing excellence all while realizing that the experience gained in the pursuit is worth more than the outcome. This is where things get derailed. The importance of the “pursuit of excellence” is the key to competition. Not the base desire to just win. Take for example the Olympic Creed, “The most important thing in life is not the triumph, but the fight; the essential thing is not to have won, but to have fought well.”

Taking it back even further into history, the Word of God instructs us to “run the race”, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:” II Tim. 4:7, and Heb. 12:1 “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” The idea here is not to win, but to run with patience… to acquire the lessons and experience and goals that the race brings with it.

Even the Latin roots of the word competition show us this – petere means to strive and the prefix com  means with. Thus denoting the idea that competition is to strive along side WITH not against! This is the pure form of competition, and thus one that is healthy and contributes to growth in our children. However, after the fall of man sin corrupted everything and thus competition became corrupted and degraded to the singular goal of winning joined by arrogance and disrespect.

The corrupted version of competition is the reason why so many people have shied away from incorporating competition at all. However, the pure form of striving together with someone toward a goal – all while pursuing excellence is meaningful and definitely motivating. Remove competition completely and students stagnate… everyone wins a blue ribbon for art – why try harder? Everyone gets a reward for the foot race – why give my best?

Keeping competition pure – is key to using it as a healthy motivator. Philippians 1:27, “that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind, striving together for the faith of the gospel.”  This verse in Philippians is talking about staying true to the Lord, however the idea of striving together for a common goal is fundamental. Notice that the verse talks of one spirit and one mind – again this idea of healthy competition doesn’t accept degrading one another – nor being lifted up in pride but having the same mindset – and the same GOAL. True competition will enable us grow and learn from the journey!

I Cor. 14:12 “seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church”

Homeschool Curriculum Review – Vocabulary Spelling City

Learn spelling and vocabulary

I have been trying to slowly work through the curriculum options that we have tried throughout the years and make a public review of them. I know I haven’t gotten very far with this, but I hope to remedy that in the near future! So, without delay… today I will be reviewing the Vocabulary Spelling City website.

First let me tell you about VSC. Vocabulary Spelling City is a website that hosts your own specific lists as well as most well known curriculum spelling lists. That means that most of BJU press, Saxon, and ABEKA’s lists are already constructing and are just waiting for you to download them to your account. There are also other grade and subject specific lists such as a third grade science list that we really enjoyed!

PROS – VSC allows me to host all of my children’s spelling lists in one place. Prior to using VSC I was doing 5 different spelling lessons per week, using 5 different spelling books, and giving 5 spelling tests. It was definitely a picture of insanity. However, once I discovered VSC my whole world changed! I was able to simply choose and assign the lists that I wanted each of my children to complete. They were able to log in, follow their assignment, complete the practice games, and then take the spelling test. All I needed to do was check to make sure that they passed the test. If they did not, they repeated that week’s worth of assignments. All of the kids love most the practice games which include everything from writing assignments to hangman style games. Another aspect of VSC that I appreciate is the free printable handwriting worksheets. These offer a great way for you to get your kiddos working on their handwriting skills! As a lover of all things math related, I enjoy the fact that VSC has specific math vocabulary that I can use to make sure my children understand the math concepts that we are studying.

CONS – Though I love the ease of simply setting my kids loose on VSC, the time that it takes to create the assignments for each child is a bit extensive. Although, in all fairness it saves me so much time that I really don’t mind. Yet, I think if there could be a way to “bulk assign” the lists to kids with pre-made settings… that would make it awesome! There are a few of the practice games that my children really don’t like. They say they take too much time. However, the games that they dislike are very few, and there are more than twenty to choose from. All in all, the PROS definitely outweigh the CONS… making me a definite fan of VSC!

What is Your Favorite Method of Homeschooling?

Teaching History with Adventure!

summer historyYep… I make no bones about it… I love summer. Mostly because the daily boot camp that is my life on a typical school day is gone during those blissfully peaceful summer months. Yet, the teacher (and probably “Monk” tendencies) in me is concerned that my kids keep their brains active during the summer! So, I am constantly looking for ways to do this without making it seem like we are having a regular school day. This is where I love the idea of Adventure History!

During the summer we often try to brush up a bit on the history of our local areas. A great way to do this is to have a history adventure. Here are a few ways that I try to teach local history.

1) My all time fav… take a day to have a scavenger hunt! Find all of the historical landmark signs that scatter the streets of your neighborhood!

2) Visit your local Historical Society Chapter. Ours has a great website with lots of cool old pictures of our county seat. In fact, we are fortunate, our tiny little town (we are talking a post office and 3 buildings) even has their own book published!

3)Read a book together that is about history in your state. After you finish the book take a day trip to visit the setting of the story! There are some pretty neat things that you can do along those lines in our state. We live in Georgia so it’s a veritable hot bed of Civil War history! Here is a great FREEBEE site to find awesome homeschool literature!

4) Google – have an online day where you use all types of online resources… like this FREEBEE online state games! Then try to visit some of the sites that you learned about online!

I am participating in the Homeschool Friday Freebee Link up… So, buzz on over there and see what other awesome homeschool freebees are waiting for you!

How Can I Compete with Santa? How to Get Reading in Your Homeschool!

christmas literatureReally?  How in the world can I compete with Santa, the Grinch, Christmas Carols, Christmas presents, Christmas programs, and Christmas movies… it’s nearly impossible! Everywhere we look Christmas is here… and truthfully…the fact that “It’s Beginning to Look alot Like Christmas…” really isn’t my problem.  It’s the fact that I have to get and keep my children’s attention when all they can think of is what is actually under that wrapping paper on those gifts under the tree! Getting their attention during December is just… well nigh impossible!

Yet, in my experience I have a better chance getting their attention when we do something “out of the norm!”  Sure, the old routine isn’t bad… in fact… it’s been working pretty well. Yet, I have to get their attention and keep it during Christmas – that requires every tool in my arsenal! So, bring out the big guns and change the whole thing up for maximum effect! It will definitely get their attention! An easy way to do this and keep with the train of thought that they are thinking right now… is to incorporate a themed reading unit for December. STOP… don’t walk away with panic in your eyes! It’s easy…

First, just choose a book or several books with a Christmas theme. Here is a post I wrote recently about Christmas themed books to help you out!

Second, give your readers a reading response journal. This can be a spiral bound notebook, and they simply write their feelings or opinion to each days reading from their themed books.

Third, incorporate the theme into your science, history, and math by reviewing the books  and finding parts, settings, or aspects of the book that may pertain to these other subjects. For example, if your Christmas themed books are set in a historical setting have your child do a little extra research about that particular time period. Use the internet and find out more information. They could also look up information on how much things cost in that time period. I really love giving them a Christmas math assignment of having to find appropriate and interesting gifts for their siblings within a set budget. This teaches them on so many different levels!

Finally, have a big themed party night once you’ve finished all your books! We love doing things that we found in the books, and even making and eating food from our book! The most fun we’ve had was finding the movie that went along with the books we were reading… we watched it together with popcorn and snuggly blankets! Talk about a fun finale!

So, don’t let Christmas stress you out… go with it! Allow your kids to have a learning experience based on the Christmas theme and have a little fun with it!

Transform Homeschool History from Dusty to Awesome…

Yes, we’ve struggled with history time being a boring subject that the kids asked to skip every day. I love history, and that really drove me crazy. Last year,  I finally sat down and made it a point to find a  curriculum and method that would change that way of thinking.

First, I realized that I had to model good behavior and show my kids that history was and really could be fun. I began by thinking of ways that I could add field trips to our history lessons to bring them to life. I also began using a curriculum that was based on projects. This was a huge success with the kids, because they enjoyed the practical side of making relevant things from history.

Second, I realized that I had to find a fun and engaging way to help them practice their history facts. I started using online history games as well as online geography games. Both of these are pretty fun and enabled the kids to stay interested while learning.

Since we have instituted these new methods of learning history… It has been a whole new ball game! My son even asks to do history!

Check out those Creepy Crawlers…

Spring is here and with it comes great opportunities to study the world around us. One of our favorites is to study bugs or other little humble creatures that we often take for granted. They are small, but God created them with great purpose…One of these is the lowly worm…

Have you ever really looked at worms? These slimy, wriggly, creatures are our friends. They process rotting materials and aerate our soil. Maybe they deserve a closer look? To get a closer look at these interesting creatures try this…

Locate an area of dirt that was recently under a log or dig up a patch of grass. Take two long 12-18 inch sticks and pound one into the dirt about 3 inches and use the other to rub the first stick back and forth. After a few minutes you’ll se these amazing wigglers come crawling to the surface. Carefully check them out… use a magnifying glass for a closer look! Just remember to put them back into the soil after you’ve finished checking them out!

Memory vs. Experience

Alot of education is based on memory. I’m sure you remember memorizing the planets, the periodic table, math formulas, history dates, on and on it goes… Yet, relying on our memory to store dissasociated facts and retrieve them on demand can be much like looking for a needle in a haystack. Research tells us that the information that we learn through memorization is contained in one small portion of our brain.

However, the information obtained from performing a task is stored in several interconnecting locations. This storage produces something like a 3 dimensional hologram within our minds. The experience or performance memory creates a larger footprint on the brain allowing it to be retrieved easier as well. Remember the chemistry labs… the projects, the field trips…

Although memorizing is important, and does serve us well…augmenting that memory with an experience can make it more vivid. In teacher talk, we call this a concrete experience. Using concrete experiences as your foundation is important, because you can then build on that “vivid 3D hologram” with memorization!

The Power of Performance

Children are absolutely amazing! Have you ever just looked at a little on and realized how much they have learned to do in the short time that they have been here? Children have the amazing ability to learn in almost any way at almost every given moment. They are like little sponges with their minds wide open waiting to soak everything up.

Yet, children really learn best while doing. As we mentioned before they learn while playing… as the child gets older the same is still true. Though, they wouldn’t want you to call it play… Still as we homeschool our older children, its best to remember whatever we teach our children should be able to be “performed.”The child can sit and read or listen all day, but what difference does it make if they haven’t been able to assimilate the knowledge? Performance brings it all together. If a child is taught about electricity and how batteries work… he will forever remember the lesson if he has to hook up a simple circuit to a battery. Making time to have our children “perform” what they have learned can make all the difference.

My favorite method of assessment is just that… “performance assessment.”  Performance is simply the application and demonstration of what has been learned.  Instead of just slapping a paper and pencil in front of your child to test their ability, have them perform what they have been learning.

Performance is glue for the memory!