Stressed and blessed?

Doesn’t it seem like those two words should  be considered antonyms?  I know when I am feeling stressed – I don’t feel very blessed… But sadly my stress is almost always – my fault.  I know – you are probably thinking – what in the world??  I have to admit, it isn’t the typical psychotherapeutic terminology.  But it really is true.   My children – each one – so different yet so wonderful, so intelligent, so special – – but in a heartbeat can turn me inside out.  They have demanded so much of us since the moment they arrived and naturally there is going to be a bit of stress involved with that.  I think we all know that having children is definitely hard work – I am not talking about that stress. I am talking about the unecessary stress that we put on ourselves through our perceptions or expectations.  The perceptions that I had about motherhood, being a wife, running a household, and even homeschooling  put alot of stress on myself.  I tried for a lot of years to live up to this standard of perfection that I had.  All the while making myself miserable.  Sound familiar?? Anyone else do this??  Now, I know having goals is a good thing even a necessary thing, but I had to get to the place that I saw those as just desires I had for my life – not the standard of my success or failure.  I think having six children made this a necessity – I came face to face with the fact that I could not do it all. 

I had to see where I was – stressed out with trying to be all that I “thought” I had to be – and to take a step back.  I had to do this in almost every area of my life. I wanted the “Better Homes and Gardens House”, the wonderful husband, the perfect marriage, behaved children, on and on it went.  Of course, the most important was my relationship with my family.  So, I made myself stop and examine what I was doing – to see how I was teaching them and training them.  At the beginning of our homeschooling journey, I had the idea that to be a success I had to teach them like I did in the classroom – spoon feed them EVERY tidbit of information that they would have gotten in a typical classroom.  There was just NO  WAY with six children, that  I could do that and do it successfully.  I had to realize that  “I” was stressing myself out. Who said I had to do it this way – who said that I would be a success if it all happened just as I “thought” it should?  I had to step back and see that not only was I stressed, but so were the children. They did not enjoy our days – they were bored and aggravated.  I really was so very blessed – God had given me a wonderful family – but I was the problem! 

There were many areas that I had to deal with this in –  but after I realized that our “stress” in the homeschool area was a product of my insane desire to be perfect…. 🙂  We were able to reevaluate what we were doing and change some things for the better.   We had always used the ABEKA curriculum, and to be honest that is what I had used throughout elementary and high school.  I understood it – I had taught it for 10 years – I believed it was the best for our family – but trying to teach it “classroom style” to 6 children was killing me … I had to make some changes. We took what we thought were  the most important elements of that curriculum, and then used some other types of curricula for reading – science and even history.  But then we added an “online program” to give the children some excitement.  I know every family is different, but in our house – if it has to do with the computer – it has to be fun!  This simple change – has been amazing!  But I didn’t stop there – I had to accept that my house was just not going to “beautiful” every moment (maybe not even clean most of the time).    BUT    I have 6 children – I am blessed!  I guess just applying the question – am I  making this stress?  Helped me to evaluate my life to see that there are so many beautiful, precious things in life  that merit our focus – not our misguided perceptions.

Do you have trouble with “stressing” your self out?  Take inventory – look at your life from a different perspective – it might make all the difference.

Part 2: Grade Equivalent Scores

Welcome to Part 2 of our Standardized Test Miniseries. We hope to explain Grade Equivalent Scores in an easy to understand – English speaking – plain word – way. In my experience as an Elementary School Administrator, the grade equivalent scores seemed to be the ones most misunderstood py parents. Our school was a private school that used the ABEKA curriculum. Typically schools using this and other similar curriculum across all grade levels have higher SAT scores than the average public schools. This is great for the child – they are challenged and seem to achieve by leaps and bounds. However, when the parents receive the score reports and automatically think because their fifth grade child scored a Grade Equivalent of 6.8 they should be advanced to sixth grade – – we have problems.

Having a grade equivalent score above the child’s actual grade is not uncommon. However, the grade equivalent score simply tells us how an average student would do on that fifth grade work. So, if your fifth grader made the score 6.8 (which means sixth grade eighth month) – that tells us that an average sixth grader in the eighth month of school would do just as well as your child did on that FIFTH grade test. The comparison criteria or reference here is the TEST that the child took.

So you see, the “Principal, I think my child needs moved up a grade…” mindset just won’t work – the child has not encountered sixth grade work on his Standardized test – besides the other ramifications of social maturity, etc., etc., must always be considered. Again, the importance of examining many aspects of a child’s achievement are important in assessing the child. Don’t over-rely on one test score.

Benefits of Blogging for Children… and adults!

Do your children struggle with creative writing? At our house, there is a constant on- going search for opportunities to motivate creative writing skills. About a year ago, I decided to try blogging as a creative writing MOTIVATOR. We started out by getting each of the two older girls (9,12) a blog on Homeschoolblogger.com. This is a nice starting point for children because there are restrictions in place that protect them. The two older girls responded beyond my wildest dreams. It became more than just an assignment from mom to get them writing – they loved it and it wasn’t long before they were hooked!
I watched this with interest – watching them learn not only writing skills but computer and techonolgy skills as well. It was absolutely thrilling to see them enjoy writing. My stab in the dark to motivate them to write really paid off this time! Whooohooo!
As I watched their eagerness over growing their own personal corner of internet, I began to think of joining them. I took my time though – I am typically not one to commit to something (blogging – among many other things :)) unless I know that I can do it right. I finally joined the blogging “masses” by taking a blog writing course this past fall. I am not sure what I expected from the course when I began, but I have to admit I was shocked at what I learned. In the course of 8 weeks I created a blog that I was proud of and had even built up a small audience. The teacher was wonderful and as students we had a great time encouraging one another and helping each other think through things. They are about to start another Blog Writing Course 101. They even offer a free blog Pre-Course  to whet your appetite for blogging!You may want to check it out – you never know just what you might walk away with!

Math woes… and helps!

With six children schooling at home, it never fails that I have some “issue” each week that I am researching out. I have spent over 10 years in college and still at times don’t have a single answer. Currently, I am trying to understand why children struggle with math even though they have a good foundation and seemingly fine mental acuity? What is the mystery here?

Well, I didn’t uncover any astounding new revelation, but did realize some important truths. There are so many areas that a child could find pitfalls… for math itself covers so much territory. However, most often when a child has a math struggle, it is not a struggle with everything that has to do with math, but a particular area within the subject of math. Math is also very interconnected with other subjects such as language arts – making for other possibilities for struggle. I have summarized a few of the most basic and common concerns that seem to plague the math sufferer. I have listed some of these below, but please understand that this is in no wise a complete nor comprehensive list. I am just trying to pass on a bit of what I learned this week!

The first thing that I did in my search was to ask myself some questions about my little learner. The following is based on that format and a few webites ( here’s another) that were a valuable help.  Does your child fall into any of these categories?

  1. If  your child struggles with:
  • recalling basic math facts
  • being slow in their recall of math facts
  • difficulty remembering previous math experiences
  • forgetfulness in the middle of a math problem

Then they may have a deficiency in fundamental concepts such as their addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division family facts. Each of these facts are foundation stones to build the rest of their math experiences on.

 

       2. If your child is:

  • easily distracted or unfocused while doing schoolwork
  • easily tired during math work

They may have a genuine attention problem.

        3. If your child has difficulty:

  • grasping abstract concepts
  • making connections between related math concepts

They may have a foundational math difficiency. Math skills need to be learned based on concrete (or real life – touch, taste, feel)  examples. Children who have difficulties in these areas are often missing this concrete foundation.

        4. If your child has trouble understanding math language or math vocabulary then thay may have an underlying language arts need. If a child has difficulty with lanuage arts (reading, comprehension, writing, spelling, etc.), it will be much more difficult for them to understand the rarely used math terms. 

        5. If your child has trouble with:

  • recopying problems correctly
  • reading the “hands” on a clock
  • ordering the steps on a multiple task problem
  • geometric shapes and translations
  • anxiety when given a large paper pencil assignment

They may have an underlying spatial difficulty. This will affect how they are able to order steps, and understand objects in space and depth.

Though I haven’t completely formulated my “plan of attack” on this week’s issue, these questions really helped me to see some areas that we do have weaknesses in.  I plan on sitting down and making a ordered plan on how we will address and hopefully improve our math skills deficiencies. Don’t despair – though you may have found yourself or your child in some of the descriptions above, you can work through it.  Once you pinpoint the area – and know what the underlying problem is – work on that problem. I hope that this may give some of you much needed hope that most math difficulties are able to be overcome!

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!

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!)

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.