Tag Archives: education

Homeschool – First Week In The Books

We survived the first week of homeschooling.  I deserve some chocolate. Good chocolate.  Like Ghirardelli. Like Ghirardelli I don’t have to share with anyone else.  Yummmm . . .  Oh, yeah, what was I saying?  Homeschooling.  Yeah, we made it through the first week.

And we didn’t just survive the first week; we had a great week!  Sure, we had our moments — this one hates handwriting, that one hates algebra, this one wants to play computer games instead of reading a book, and that one misses his friends in school.  They acted crazy during our Bible lesson, and I yelled (you know, nothing promotes a love of studying scripture like a crazy, screaming mother).  But, in spite of the yelling during Bible lessons, I’m calling the first week a success!

Since my first child started kindergarten eight years ago, I have been an on-again, off-again homeschooler.  But this is the first time I’ve homeschooled all SIX of them at once.  Though there’s still some tweaking to do, I think we’ve found a daily schedule that works for us.  And as long as I can maintain the self-discipline to stick to the schedule and my daily lesson plans, I think we’ll be golden.

I’ve learned that there are advantages and disadvantages to homeschooling and advantages and disadvantages to having my kids in a school.  But I had sort of forgotten some of the things I absolutely love about homeschooling.  This week, it has been fun to rediscover the things I love.

I love doing The Story of the World history together as a family.

I love that my children are becoming each other’s best friends again.  Would you look at those two brothers?!  LOVE that!

Even though I’m not a math person,  AT ALL,  I love doing algebra with this teenager.  I love having her around all day – and not just because she vacuums the dining room and makes chocolate chip muffins for a mid-morning snack.

I love getting hugs from this second grader in the middle of math and letting him play computer games when he finishes his schoolwork.

I had forgotten how many hours of enjoyment cardboard boxes bring to children!  Textbooks come in cardboard boxes.  We had A LOT of cardboard boxes.  I have loved watching this kindergarten boy cut and draw and tape, making houses for stuffed animals and boats for pirates.  I love that he labeled one box for a naughty stuffed pig – “EVUL PIG,” spelling it all on his own.

I love spontaneous games of Monopoly after they finish their bookwork.  I love that they can wear whatever they want — pajamas, costumes, the jeans I won’t let them wear in public, whatever.  I love that they work at their own pace; and when they finish a subject, they can go on to the next one or play Monopoly or Boggle.  Have I mentioned that I love how my children are rediscovering their friendship with each other?

I love that we don’t have homework consuming our evenings.  I love that I sit around the table sipping coffee with my daughters discussing To Kill A Mockingbird.  I love that I am teaching my kindergarten son how to read, that I get the joy of watching his face light up when he gets everything on his math worksheet correct.  I love that my second grader will remember that Momma taught him how to write in cursive.  I love that I chose the textbooks and curriculum that I thought suits each child well.

It’s very likely we will enroll our children in school again, maybe, probably even next year.  But for now, I am enjoying all the blessings of homeschooling.

Even when it’s a little bit messy and chaotic.

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Got Your Grammar Geek On?

Ever wonder if you’re a little bit too obsessed with good grammar?

As I was reviewing subjects and predicates with my third grader today and feeling especially giddy, the following thought meandered across my brain, “It’s probably not normal to be this ecstatic that your child is picking out the nouns and verbs so easily.”

With that in mind, I’ve created this helpful little checklist.

The Top Five Signs You Are A Little Too Geeky About Grammar

5.  You mentally correct the grammatical errors of everybody with whom you have a conversation.  Yes, I know it’s completely wrong to judge when a friend tells me her son did “real good” in his soccer game, but my brain cringes when I hear it.

4.  It takes a great effort of self-control to keep from pulling out a red pen and editing the mistakes in church bulletins, play programs, and, especially, letters from teachers.

3.  Approximately 596,438 times a day you say, “‘Brang’ is not a word.”  You actually say that sentence so often, you begin to fear that is the only thing your children will remember coming from your lips.  Well, they’ll also remember, “You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.”  This is why I have to write a blog, so my grandchildren and great-grandchildren will have proof that I really, truly had other thoughts besides the conjugation of the word “bring” and the concept of contentment.

2.  You actually post this as your Facebook status,

Conversation from my home— R: “We did good on our reports.” Me: “‘Good’ is an adjective; ‘Well’ is an adverb. So, you did well on your reports.” R: “Oh, yeah. We just had a test on that in English! And I even did good on that test!” Umm, I give up. 🙂

And the number 1 way you know you are a little too grammatically geeky,

Your 9-year-old is bopping his younger brother on the head with one of those foam swimming pool noodles, and the 4-year old screams, “You hurt me badly!”  If your immediate reaction is great joy that your preschooler used an adverb correctly, then you may need a grammar-geek-intervention.

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So That’s What Learning Differences Are!

Some people have strong opinions about the terms learning difference and learning disability. I can certainly understand why some parents and students prefer one term over the other.  I also understand that disabilities get IEPs and school funding and that this particular label can often bring the hope of finally getting some much-needed help.  But often those students who are learning disabled can learn and do learn all sorts of things when they operate under a learning system or style different than the ones commonly used in schools.

I spent a great deal of time last year trying to figure out my son Caleb’s brain.  He was not succeeding in school.  He was struggling to read, struggling to spell, struggling even in math -which he was naturally gifted in!  It was obvious, though, that Caleb was very smart.  Nobody doubted that.  So it seemed that he was not giving school his best effort.

He was not cooperating.  He was a bit lazy.  He needed more discipline.  He didn’t listen well.  He didn’t follow instructions.  He acted silly to get the other students to laugh.  He just hadn’t been taught phonics well enough when he was 5 and 6, so he needed more review of phonics and that would surely solve all the problems. –These are the things we were told about Caleb.

But I knew that it was not as simple as giving more strict discipline and punishment.  I knew we could review phonics the way we had done it before and it wouldn’t make any difference.  I knew he wanted to follow instructions, but there was just some sort of block there.  I knew that even when he listened, he didn’t always get what was being said.  And, even more, I knew that every bit of his self-confidence was peeling away and he was beginning to think he was stupid, a horrible student, unable to learn, and not made for school.  This smart, curious, imaginative boy actually asked if he could just drop out of school and never have to learn to read — because he thought he would never be able to learn to read.

I was calling and emailing friends, Googling facts about learning differences and learning disabilities, reading books and articles, and calling neurologists and educational psychologists and developmental specialists and the local public school department of student assessment.

After a couple visits with a behavioral and developmental specialist whose solution was to label him ADHD and OCD and medicate him, I finally found an educational psychologist who wanted to help us figure out how Caleb learns so we could help him succeed.  He spent several hours in her office on several different days talking to her and doing written assessments and oral assessments. At the end of the process, she mailed me a 12-page summary of Caleb’s assessment results, her observations, and her suggestions for ways to help.

Armed with that information, I spent more time researching and studying and learning ways to help my son succeed in school.  Woven throughout all of this was the information I was learning about strengths development.  And so with my arsenal of ideas and information, Caleb and I began homeschooling last August.

Caleb’s weakest learning style, or I should say the learning style least effective for Caleb, is auditory learning.  He struggles to process auditorily.  He cannot easily break words down into individual sounds.  He just doesn’t hear those individual sounds like I do (and probably like you do).  So all that time we spent instructing him to sound out the words meant absolutely nothing to him.  That’s why spelling is so difficult for him.  If I speak to him a list of three or four things to do, Caleb will have a horrible time remembering everything I said to do.  If you present information to him verbally without including some other senses, chances are he is not learning it.  He is also not a natural visual learner.  He does better with this than he does with verbal instruction, but it is still not a great strength for Caleb.

Most teachers naturally present information verbally and visually.  If a child, like Caleb, struggles to process information verbally and visually, he is at a disadvantage in the classroom.  You could even say he is disabled in a classroom where the standard teaching styles are auditory and visual.

But Caleb’s learning strength is kinesthetic learning.  He is also relatively strong in interpersonal and social learning.  So if Caleb can learn by doing or somehow involve bodily movements in his learning, he will learn far better than if he simply hears a lesson or reviews information aloud or in written form.  If he understands how the information he is learning applies to him and is meaningful to his life, he will learn better.  And if he can work with someone else, as part of a team, he will have a greater chance of success.

I have tried to keep this in mind as I’ve taught Caleb this year (or as we’ve learned together).  We have formed spelling words out of beans and clay.  We’ve done jumping jacks while reciting math facts.  We’ve used LEGOS to practice multiplication and division.  We’ve tossed a ball while answering questions and reviewing facts.  He’s built book reports and fashioned his own graphs and charts for social studies and science.  He’s making a bug book and a chart of the Olympic medal count.  And he has learned some basic spelling guidelines that he understands will help him type a word closely enough to the correct spelling so that SpellCheck can figure it out.

I stopped trying to break words down into individual sounds and started teaching him general principles.  This particular sound is made by these combinations of letters; and if you have to guess one, guess this one. I’ve chosen books that interest him, and he has learned to enjoy reading.  As you would imagine, his reading skills have skyrocketed.  I haven’t done an official grade-level assessment in a long time, but from what I hear when the other third and fourth graders read in his Sunday School (which I am teaching), he seems to be right on-track.

As Caleb began to experience little successes in schoolwork, his confidence began to grow.  As his confidence grew, he experienced more success.  He does not cry at the thought of a book report any more.  I don’t remember the last time I heard him say he was not cut out for school or that he wants to quit.  And the first time he typed an English assignment on the computer and was able to print it with no spelling errors, I thought the boy would burst with pride.

This child wants to learn.  It was my responsibility to figure out how he learns.  Now that we’ve found the key, the world of education is unlocked for Caleb.  It’s not always easy.  He still has to work very hard at some things.  But where he was disabled, he has now become enabled.  All we had to do was figure out his strengths and focus on those rather than spending all our time trying to fix his weaknesses.

I’ll leave you with another quote from Jenifer Fox’s book Your Child’s Strengths

The label disability has as much to do with the setting and the requirements of the setting as it does with the person.  The setting most responsible for the proliferation of the term learning disability is the traditional school. . . . Therefore, schools most willing to depart from the traditional methods used to teach and assess performance will do the greatest service in addressing the issue of learning disabilities.

How do you learn best?  Was your learning style in sync with your teacher’s teaching styles?  What about your children?  Do you have children who do not best learn visually or verbally?  How are they doing in school?  What do you think about this quote from Jenifer Fox?  How much time should be spent on “fixing weaknesses” and how much time should be spent on “nurturing strengths”?  And how does all of this play out at home or in a classroom?

It’s your turn.  I’ve typed enough.

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Strengths

Many months ago, my sister-in-law suggested I buy a book called Strengthsfinder 2.0.  So I did.  I bought the book; I took the online strengths assessment; and thus began my fascination with identifying and nurturing strengths in myself and in my children.

A few weeks ago, I bought a book by Jenifer Fox called Your Child’s Strengths.  I’m reading it slowly, highlighting and stopping to think along the way.  I also find myself talking about strengths to anybody who will listen.

I was reading this book in the back of the theater at my daughter’s play rehearsal last week.  A man, the musical director with wild gray hair, was walking around chatting with different parents.  He approached me and asked what I was reading, so I showed him the cover of the book.  “Oh!” he said, “That sounds like a thinking book.  Why are you reading it?  What’s it about?”

After a couple of minutes, I’m sure he regretted asking.  I told him the general idea of the book, and I was enthusiastically explaining the idea of identifying and developing strengths in our children when I saw him begin to rock from one foot to the other and look around the auditorium with a “How can I get away from this lady?” look on his face.  So I finished off with a quick, “It’s a really good book.”  And I let him escape to a person who can make normal small-talk with strangers.

So rather than holding complete strangers captive to discuss this book, I’d love to talk with y’all about it over the next few days.  I can sip my coffee and type some thoughts here, and you can grab a cup of coffee or hot cocoa and read and comment.  And if you want to buy the book and read along and discuss, that’d be even better!

Ok, for today, I’ll just leave you with a quote from the book —

In some respects, what we label as weakness in children is not a weakness at all — it is simply that the child doesn’t come into the classroom sharing the talent, passion, and learning style of the teacher.  The teacher’s job is certainly made easier if the student comes in already loving the subject and is able to learn it as easily as the teacher did.  This, however, does not make a great teacher.  . . . True teaching talent reveals itself when the teacher struggles to engage students in the process, not giving up until he finds a way to bring about understanding and competence in the student.  I think everyone should read that last sentence a few times.  It says every child can and wants to learn and that it is the teacher’s and the parents’ responsibility to discover how to make that happen.”

What do you think about that?  Do you have a child who has been labeled with a weakness?  How can we discover the key to helping our children learn?

I have some ideas, but I’d love to hear what y’all think.  And I’ll devote another post to the story of my experience with my boys.

Ok, now it’s your turn — comment. 🙂


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