When is Wear Brown Shoes Day?…

As a homeschool mother, I am constantly on the lookout for online teaching resources. I love teaching my children using the good old paper and pencil method, but technology is amazing and to get rave reviews from the kids… gotta have it. They would much rather have me incorporate some unbelievable websites into their daily lessons than to write a paper or do a worksheet. So, to keep the natives happy, I frequently try to find websites that correspond to our recent studies. In my search for “awesome” resources I often come across information that really stands out, and others that are interesting… but only ocassionally useful. On my most recent search, I found many websites that were definitely “keepers” and more than a few that ranked in the “interesting… but only ocasionally useful” zone. One of these was a website that told you all of the holdiays for each current date. For example, I learned that December 4th was Wear Brown Shoes Day. Interesting, but not highly useful. Yet, if I was searching for a really odd holiday (for some unknown reason) that sure would be the place to go.
My biggest question is how do we locate and find the really great websites that are truly useful? It is at times a difficult quest to complete. There are several websites that list good websites for educational purposes. This is a great place to start – someone else has already done some of the footwork for you. A few that I like to use are Homeschool.com’s top 100, Good Sites for Kids, Homeschool Top Sites, and even some blogs that review and suggest websites that are useful for homeschoolers. I hope this helps you add “awesome” technology to your homeschool day. Your kids will love you for it!

Giving thanks…

In this wonderful age of technology and speed – it is a nice change to take a moment and let it all slow down around you. Life is full of treasures and blessings – if we can only see them. Today, the children and I are writing down all of the wonderful things that make us thankful. Of course, they had many varied responses such as – my dolly, mommy and daddy, being able to homeschool, and even my hotwheels cars. I was so suprised when my daughter said she was thankful for her computer school. I never would have thought that the children would be thankful for “school.” But in reality, they should be. All I see and hear is the comlaining and grim faces. So, I am thrilled that I discovered a little secret about them – they do like school!

Take a minute this thanksgiving and ask your children what they are thankful for – you just may be suprised!

A few praise pointers…

In my days as a private school administrator, I cannot guess how many times I heard parents tell me that their child was gifted and they thought once enrolled, the child would simply need to be advanced a grade. It is funny, but most of those children were just good, healthy, “normal”, yet wonderful children. However, in the eyes of those parents they were so much more.
It is only natural for parents to feel that their proecious little one is a “child progeny.” I am personally thrilled when parents think their children are special (in a healthy way, of course). There are so many children who live life with no encouragement or praise from their parents. Parents who cherish their children and give them healthy praise are rare, and definitely give their children an edge by doing so. Many research studies support the fact that children who are encouraged are more confident and determined than other children who are not encouraged or praised.
Yet, praising children is more than just a pat on the back and the obligatory “Nice job!” Many child psychologists say we need to praise our children, but if it isn’t SPECIFIC praise then it may be harmful. That’s interesting isn’t it? So, praise and encourage your children, but identify the specific behavior that they are doing so well. It is the effort that matters most – not the innate gifts that we have such as intelligence, strength, or beauty. Isn’t it true for all of us, “It isn’t what we are given that matters, but what we do with what we have been given.” Give it a try – praise your children for the effort that they put forth, a good attitude that they displayed, or even good personal discipline that they exemplified, and that will encourage them to keep at it.
But wait – can there be too much of a good thing? These same psychologists seem to think so. I guess that would compare to chocolate… I love chocolate and could (probably) eat it all day long. Yet a complete diet of chocolate is not good for me. In the same sense praising a child too much can lead to serious problems. Research has shown that children who were excessively praised were less confident and less determined to face difficult challenges.
In our personal lives we are often very busy – yet we try to be as involved in our children’s lives and education as possible. This moment by moment influence is truly one of the core reasons why we homeschool. Yet, in the midst of all of that, it is common to lose sight of the “big picture.” Whether they are doing handwiriting, spelling, or even their online schoolwork there are always opportunites to encourage them, especially in areas that they have had struggles!
This little study into praise has made me more determined – and I encourage you – to be a proactive parent and to foster admirable qualities in my chidren. I plan on doing this by first, praising them and encouraging them; second, being there for them; third, spending quality time with them; and finally, by letting them know just how special they are to me!
online education
homeschooling

Where in the world is Tonga?

Did you know that this week is Geography Awareness Week?

Well, I sure didn’t – at least not until I had to search for some geography facts for my children. This prompted me to think about how much (or how little) focus I put on geography education for my children.  In my search I saw that there are many statistics out there underlining America’s apparent neglect of geography, which obviously supports the need for a Geography Awareness Week.

Some of the blame for America’s shortcomings in this area is due to the fact that most people think geography consists of naming the continents, countries, oceans, rivers, capitals, etc. But that is just the “tip of theiceberg.” Here is a quote that I love from iGeo:

“Geography turns out to be much more significant than many of us realize. It is much more than knowing facts and figures. Geography is about spatial patterns and processes. It is about frontiers, centers and peripheries, about tourists, terrorists and refugees, about trade of food, clothes, drugs and digital data, about population growth, El Nino, tsunamis and earthquakes. It is the fascinating story of an ever-changing world. Without geography you get lost.”

Wow! from that description it makes me feel like I am not even scratching the surface with geography. Ok – this really got my attention.  So, I began to look for some online resources that might help us put some oomph back into our geography time.

First of all, online education literally puts the world at your fingertips. (I know – corny joke…:)) What more could you want when your subject is geography? Here’s a small sample of some of the “treasures” that I found:

  1. Use Google Earth to visit any place you are currently studying.
  2. Check out Geography Awareness Week at MyWonderfulWorld.
  3. Test geography knowledge here.
  4. Check out this really cool clearinghouse for all things geography.
  5.  Play geography games at Sheppard Software.
  6. How about an online textbook written just for kids about geography!
  7.  Check out the really cool Rader’s Geography4kids.

We had such a good time looking and “playing” with each of these sites… so take a minute or two or an hour and participate in Geography Awareness Week by spending some time learning about our wonderful world!

Oh, and by the way… in case you were really wondering where Tonga is – Tonga is located east of the Fiji Islands in the South Pacific. (I just learned that in my online travels!)

Keeping it between the lines…

As the leader of our local homeschool group, I have been asked several times recently how parents can keep up with where their child is “at” vs. where their child “should be.” Since there are so many different types of homeschooling, the method used to homeschool will directly influence where the child should be.  This is really a tricky question and one that I try to be careful in answering. Really it boils down to  … answering the question with a question… “According to whom?”
Homeschooling types range from the “unschoolers” or Charlote Mason styles all the way to the very structured classroom at home approaches. Obviously, the “unschoolers” would not be concerned as much about whether or not their child was meeting the “typical” or “normal” standards for their age. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a negative comment, I have seen this work! The unschooler is not concerned with the “increments” as much as he is with the overall picture of education. Often these children learn in chunks and will study a subject exhaustively, and then move on to another. The unschooled homeschooler usually not only meets the standards, but also EXCEEDS them.
Which makes me ask, “What is all the hype about standards for anyway?” It’s a take it or leave it situation. Some parents like to know that they are meeting or exceeding the “standardized guidelines”  – others could definitely leave it.  For those who want to take it – there are several reasons that they crave guidance. Some people like standards because they have difficulty judging the scope and sequence of their child’s education and therefore need the standards to act as a goal or bullseye. Some are just beginning their homeschooling journey and the standards or framework make them feel secure and confident that their child is getting what they need.
Either way, here are a few ways for you to keep track of where you child falls in regards to the “standards”: (definitely not an exhaustive resource on this subject.)

  1. Know the national standards for your child’s age/grade. This is kinda tough for the beginning homeschool parent. Most of the standards are in “high folutin'” language. There are some education sites that will summarize these for you.
  2.  Use a “graded” homeschool curriculum. This just means that the company that developed the curriculum used the national standards and based the levels of their curriculum on school grades. This will help those parents concerned with standards to have an easy solution to knowing where their children are “at” or what they “should be” doing.
  3.  Use a Standards based electronic, DVD or online curriculum. This method is really the simplest solution for beginning shomeschoolers and others who are deeply concerned about performing at level. the online curricula is typically not only standards based, but usually will have parent tracking features that help with grading and monitoring your student’s progress.
  4. Get them tested. If none of these ideas fit into your style of homeschooling, but you still want to know where your student is at, have them tested. Homeschool your student as you see fit, and then have them take a standardized achievement test. Most states require this from their homeschoolers at least every 3 years. A few of the more common standardized achievement tests are the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, the Stanford Achievement Test, and the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills. There are several more tests that you can read about here.

Hopefully these few ideas will answer the questions.  Whatever your homeschool style, wherever you are, you are doing an admirable thing. You are making a difference in the life of your child!

Have you visited your home planet lately???

Have you ever wondered where your children are when they have that glazed-over blank daydreamy stare? Everytime I see that look – which is often – I wish I could go where they are and invite them politely back to our world. In our family, we lovingly refer to this place as our “own planet.”

I have one particular child that visits her own planet many times a day. She is a sweet little thing that loves art, crafts and being creative. But, whoa, when we pull out the science book or history text…. off she goes – back to her own planet. I was really beginning to get a complex about my teaching skills! I kept asking myself – what can I do?? Besides standing on my head, I was out of ideas.

         I must admit, I went about finding my answers in a formal way. I actually sat down and “researched” what I needed to do for her. I guess I have been going to school for too long – that is the only way I know how to find answers! Anyway, I cam up with a myriad of possibilities to try for her. But most important, I figured through what I knew about her – she was probably a “right brain” learner. She had to have that strong visual stimulation to keep her on task. She needed pictures, examples, hands on activities, just MORE visual stimulation.

        So, I began to adapt what we did and how I taught her. We switched to a very hands on method for learning. We incorporated the use of lap books, and journaling. All of this seemed to really help. Yet, there were still many times that I would catch her on her “own planet” again!

         I know some of you may be thinking – what is wrong with little daydreaming – we all do it! Yes, I agree wholeheartedly… look at my earlier post. But the difference here is that her cognitive processes completely shut off when she daydreams. My personal daydreaming experience did not do that to me – I was still able to know and understand what was going on around me. She has no recollection of what was said or who said it, etc.  Because of this,  I still felt I needed more visual stimulation to keep her from that state – at least while she was trying to learn.

       My revelation finally came one day when I noticed that she had spent over an hour consistently interested in an educational computer game. This was it!! A type of high interest activity that caused learning at the samet ime. We purchased several really great pieces of educational software and finally saw a means of learning for her that kept her interest peaked. We saw much progress for her during this time.

        This was a breakthrough for us, but there were still some gaps. We were concerned that what she was learning might not be meeting all the suggested standards for her age and grade level. Also parent reports were difficult to develop. We eventually subscribed to an online program of learning to consistently move her forward. We felt this would also help us know where she was at for her grade level and age. Since, changing to the online method of education – we are reassured that she is interested and learning in a way that she enjoys. Definitely a “no tears” alternative! This move has been a jump in the right direction, and a great move toward keeping our little girl right here on earth…well, at least while she is trying to learn!!!!

If you have a child that has similar tendencies, check out this page for more information and answers regarding right brain learners.

Homeschooling….Mainstream?

Have you ever felt alone on your homeschooling journey? Well, I sure do. There are days that I feel like normal is no where around. Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to encourage a homeschool martyr syndrome. Yet, the feeling of being alone can be very real. Even family can alienate you,  and after 5 years of home educating some members of our family still think we are pretty “out there.” All that aside, I used to try to defend our position, but recently I have decided that it really isn’t worth the trouble. We believe it is the right thing for our family, and trust that in time people will see the difference in our children.

That is why I was so encouraged when I read an article this week by Dr. Ray from the National Home Education Research Institute. Dr. Ray says that homeschoolers total almost 2 million in the United States alone. Can you believe it? I was so suprised. He also said,

“Homeschooling – that is, parent led home based education – is an age old educational practice that a decade ago appeared to be cutting edge and “alternative” but is now bordering on “mainstream” in the United States. It may be the fastest growing form of education in the United States.”

WOW… Could it be possible? Homeschooling bordering on the mainstream? I sure would like to let a few people in on that one! But for now, I am thrilled to know that homeschooling is growing fast. That means there are alot of others out there just like me! That helps dispell the loneliness, but sometimes we need interaction on a more personal level.  I know there are the tried and true methods of homeschool support groups -but  ours is pretty small and we don’t do too many activities. So for me, I have looked into online alternatives. There are online support groups and even homeschool forums. I have been getting involved in some of these, and it has helped me to see the “big picture.” There are so many wonderful home schooling families out there. If you are feeling “alone” in the home education world – try one of these.  You’ll soon begin to see that homeschooling may be “bordering on mainstream” after all.

Interested in a homeschool forum? Try this parent forum.

Dear Children…

On a personal note, this week has been a bit frustrating. My son has been very reluctant to do his online work on Time4Learning.com. He is a typical 8 year old boy – would rather be outside playing cowboys and Indians. We have several children doing Time4Learning and so they have to share the 3 computers that we have. Dear son uses this as an excuse to avoid doing it at all.
Monday – he avoided the issue and snuck through the cracks…. I determined then that I would personally make sure that he did what I had asked him to. This eventually led to me sitting beside him while he did his online courses. By the time it was done, he was laughing and having a good time! WHY does he drag his feet? The only thing that I could come up with was that: one, he doesn’t usually like trying new things, and two, he is a perfectionist and really hates it when he misses questions.
I was able to show him that he could go back and do the quizzes and and other things that he was not happy with over again. This definitely seemed to brighten his countenance and make him more relaxed.
I have 5 daughters, so my one and only “boy” is new territory in so many of these learning areas. Girls and boys think, feel, and respond so differently. Boys are new for me, but it is always so exciting and challenging seeing his amazing differences at work! All part of that exciting learning “adventure” that we are on!!!

Why Online Education?

I think that every parent desires the best education possible for their child. In my world, it is keeping them at home and taking responsibility for their education myself. However, I still have “standards” or goals of my own that I desire to help them reach.
At the beginning of our own homeschool education journey, we traveled down many roads. From DVD courses to computer based programs, we tried many different things. All with the hopes to meet each child’s individual needs, to keep them very interested, and to challenge them to reach beyond themselves. With all of the wonderful curriculum out there for homeschoolers, I had difficulty finding something that would meet my own personal “standards”.
That was when I began thinking of online education for my children. (Back to those elementary school daydreams of children working at their own pace!) I knew that I wanted something that would meet all my criteria, help me plan, and track their progress. Most online educational programs are very individual oriented, are engaging, and have some type of parent tracking. I began searching for the one that seemed to fit our needs the best…
Five of my children began using an online education program this year. Some of my blogs will be about their success and struggles as we work through this exciting adventure of online education!

My First Thoughts for a “Different” Education

I guess I’d like to start at the beginning and explain what prompted me to take the path of individualized education. Well, the begining was a very very long time ago! 🙂 I can clearly remember sitting in the first grade listening to my teacher go on about things that I already had learned. I was very bored… so I daydreamed. Sound familiar? Anyway – one of my favorite daydreams was how we could fix this problem by making little individual cubicles where “kids” could learn on their own. I thought about this alot! I¬†had even¬†planned out what the cubicles would look like… and on and on. That was a seriously bored first grader!
As I got older I determined that I was going to have a part making a difference in education. I would make sure that little first graders didn’t have to DREAM of learning! I have been involved in elementary education for about 14 years. Though I didn’t make little individualized cubicles for my students, I tried my best to make learning interesting and fun, and to reach EACH child in my class!
After I graduated with my Master’s Degree, I became involved with distance learning at the college level. I enjoyed developing courses that would keep the interest of a student, even if they were learing at home – again no cubicles involved.;)
Now, our own children have come along, and each day is dedicated to making sure that education is interesting, fun, challenging, and ongoing! I enjoy teaching them myself, but I also enjoy how excited they get when they use online programs such as Time4Learning. Each lesson seems to coincide with my overriding goal of keeping it interesting yet challenging. They look forward to finishing their written work each day so that they can “have fun” on Time4Learning (that is pretty sneaky… they think they are having fun – but really they are learning…. how cool is that????)
I am so thankful each day for the adventure of exploring education with my children…what a journey!!!