Stressed out schooling?

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STRESS. BURN OUT. I’ve been there… Have you? Homeschooling can be so rewarding – but it can also require alot. Commitment. Time. Energy. Finances. Each of these facets of homeschooling can cause stress and eventually burnout. Most often I find the fact that my kids “just don’t get it” the most frustrating.  Sometimes it seems like we aren’t even speaking the same language as our children. We teach them, instruct them, help them, and it appears to be echoing off of their cute little heads. What is the key to getting it to “sink in?”

…Speaking their language…  Each person is created with their own unique way they learn.  Some are concrete learners, some are abstract learners, some are sequential learners, and some are random learners. If we try to educate our children in a form that they can’t understand… they just won’t get it.

…finding their “learning style”…The key to learning is for us to determine what type of learners our children are, and to accommodate their learning styles. We need to build on how they learn to get them to learn. Most children respond differently to each type of schooling (traditional, individualized, online, textbook, Charlotte Mason, etc)

There are multitudes of great resources out there, definitely something for every learning style.  From organized textbook learning, to online learning, learning games, and even online writing courses there is  no need for our children to be stressed about learning.  Learning can be fun, and exciting… we just need to find the miracle key that allows all of that knowledge to “sink in.”

10 Reasons Why Homeschooling is Exploding!

homeschoolAs a parent of six children, I truthfully cannot imagine our life without homeschooling. Yes, I know just from those few words I fit the “norm” of the weird – unsocialized- homeschool mom. For many that has been the big dividing line for homeschoolers – the opinion that others have of them. Which often these opinions aren’t based on any facts. Yet, in reality homeschooling is becoming more and more popular. People are turning to homeschooling by the hundreds, and the homeschool statistics are still rising. There are millions in America today that claim homeschooling as the method of educating their children, I believe that the following reasons have a direct correlation to this trend!

1) Desire for a safe school environment. (27% of homeschoolers cite this as their reason to homeschool)

2) Moral and religious reasons. The moral fabric of our nation is undoubtedly deteriorating and our children are the most susceptible.  The homeschool movement was greatly propelled by this reason to homeschool, and still to this day the statistics reveal that 78% of homeschool parents attend church regularly. (21%)

3)Dissatisfaction with academic instruction (19%)

4) People who move around alot, or who travel extensively –  this includes the military. I’ve been surprised to see just how many military families have chose homeschooling!

5) Health issues are often another motivating reason to homeschool.

6) Freedom to learn at one’s own pace- or to provide a non-traditional form of education. (5%)

7) Special education and the ability to educate without stigma. (5%)

8) Financial reasons

9) A desire to have more family time.

10) For all of the above reasons!

The Rising Tide of ADD/ADHD

growth of ADDHas it ever seemed odd to you that ADD and ADHD counts have risen dramatically over the past two decades? Can anyone explain why? We have known about ADD and ADHD for a long time, yet it has now become an epidemic. I personally see an issue in two areas.

1) ADD/ADHD is intrinsically becoming more prevalent due to the increased use of television and video games. Children are used to a constant stream of high interest information flying at them, and then when a lone teacher begins a discourse about homeschool science on the topic of  tree frogs… their mind can’t focus on the lesson let alone the vocabulary word. There aren’t any flashing lights or unbelievable sound effects when the teacher begins her lesson. Learning is competing against an unbeatable foe.

2) In 1991, the wording was changed in a bill allowing ADD/ADHD disabilities to be included in the funding for “special education” services. It was after this change that the rise in ADD/ADHD cases became overwhelming. Could it really be? Is it possible that we are labeling children incorrectly in order to receive more funding for our schools? Sadly, I would say it’s definitely possible, for some reason money speaks louder than anything. In fact, here is the article brief about those changes.

While I understand that there are truly children with these debilitating disabilities, I also believe that there are frequent  misdiagnoses. It is my heart’s desire to see our schools focus more on the needs of the individual instead of the overall budget. Don’t throw more money at these kids, give them more time/help!

Homeschooling? Is this normal or is it insanity?

homeschoolingAh… my homeschooling friends. There are days that we really need each other. Days that just being able to ask one another if my regular crazy is anything like yours? …and then the refreshing feeling when we are told just how crazy our fellow homeschoolers are. It’s great, and without it I know I would have been discouraged many years ago.

At our house we have a first grader, a third grader, two seventh graders, a tenth grader, and one in her first year of college. Days are full, busy, and always crazy. I do find that the older the children get the more independent they become. Which is quite a blessing. This allows a little more time for other things. Yet, my first and third grader require A LOT of my attention. So, until I get them functioning independently… I’ll be facing a big dose of crazy.

Most of my children have always preferred to do things on their own. However, there are a few of them that really have been dependent on me and have a difficult time breaking that. My twins, though in seventh grade, have been very dependent on me and up until this year had to have me in the room sitting there with them to work. This year, in order to help encourage more independence, I purchased them a video curriculum. This has definitely helped untie the apron strings.

My third grader is great, she can go in the school room and get out her books and get to it. She still needs review and help with certain problems, but she will work without my ever abiding presence. However, my youngest will only focus on school if I am sitting there beside her. This can make for difficult days especially since I work from home. So, most days I sit with my laptop right beside her desk while we work on numbers, letters, and 1st grade science curriculum. Some days I get alot done, and other days I get nothing but her schoolwork done. Seriously, nothing – not even a shower… and then dinner is something quick. So, there is the source of most of my crazy these days.  Sure, it’s a trade out… and it limits my personal freedom… but one day soon she will be grown and gone. My oldest had some of these issues and now she is in college doing her own thing. So, I know… it will be over soon… and I’m not sure if that’s a good thing.

So, there is my crazy for now… what’s yours?

Too much of a good thing?

The controversy about education continues to rage in our country. As we, in our complacency, continue to rank lower than most modernized countries around the globe. As a proponent of homeschooling, many would tell me to mind my own business. Yet, as a patriot of our great republic I want to see America’s children grow up to be global contributors. Yet, with all the money, dialogue, effort, laws, and standards that we are throwing at public education… it still continues to limp along.

Thomas Jefferson warned against too much government control of education. He realized that if education was completely controlled by government it would be badly managed. “The key to local school districts, according to Jefferson, is that they give parents direct and ultimate control over how their children are educated…Elementary education should be the concern of local communities under the supervision of parents; it should not be controlled by the Federal or State governments.” (See Thomas Jefferson on Education)

Talk about having prophetic vision. Thomas Jefferson truly could see the future. I am thankful that our founding fathers had enough insight to “build in” some safety features in the form of government checks and balances. Though over the past decades these limiting walls to our federal government’s extent of power have been crumbling. We are now looking at the CCSS (Common Core State Standards) as the future of education. The Federal government without directly requiring it, will bring the US States games into one arena. If unanimously adopted the CCSS will allow the government even more control. Simply put… it translates into more government control over education. Everyone answering to a common rule or standard. How can that work? The local communities, individuals, and parents are what make our nation great and what can once again bring education around.

Though there are a myriad of pros and cons of homeschooling, the easy thing to see here is that homeschool can play a huge part in bringing the level of education up in the US. I understand that many people feel it isn’t a big deal to lag behind these other countries. Why should it be when we are still a global leader in many areas? The issue is, we may not have that privilege forever. As a result of our complacency in this area we may quickly lose this privilege before we realize it.

What are your thoughts about education in America? What is the answer?

Guest Post: Homeschooling with Down Syndrome

Hello everyone… drum roll please… yay! We have our guest poster with us this week to share on a topic that is dear to her heart. Homeschooling with Down Syndrome. So, without further adieu… here’s Janet…

To say homeschooling with special needs is to cover a wide spectrum of diagnoses.   Even within the diagnosis of Down syndrome, there can be differences.  Each child is individually different.  I can share my experiences in homeschooling our daughter with Down syndrome, but it may vary for another child with Down syndrome.  Yet there is still the common factor of the diagnosis and the implications that carries, such as the fact that it takes our kids with Down syndrome longer to learn new concepts and new lessons. Our children with Down syndrome are visual learners. They learn through repetition and imitation, which is best taught if you homeschool Down syndrome.

We’ve been teaching our daughter at home since Kindergarten.  We also homeschool our two older children.  It takes much discipline and consistency to teach our daughter with DS.  We need to cover a topic or concept for several weeks or months before it becomes concrete. And even then, we still need to review a few weeks later to make sure it’s not forgotten. You know the term ‘out of sight, out of mind’? Well, that’s very true with Sam.  It could take years to learn a concept that may take a typical child months or weeks to learn. At times it can be a challenge to continually teach something when it may seem like it may never become concrete.  Teaching our daughter Sam has been more challenging than teaching our other two children, but it has also been the most rewarding.  Not to say that teaching our other children is not rewarding.  Let me explain. When we’ve been working for so long to teach her to tell time, for example, and I can see that she’s trying and she wants to succeed, but she just cannot understand how a clock works, it can be discouraging.  With a typical child we can say, “Oh, they’re not ready for this.  We’ll revisit this in a few months.”  We cannot do that with our daughter.  Though it seems like she’s not ready, we need to persevere.

In our culture today, clocks are rare. We’ve got digital clocks on our oven, our microwave, our watches and our cell phones. Yet it’s still important that she not only learn to tell time, but that she learns to add time and subtract time. And this is easier to do on an analog clock. If you have to be somewhere in two hours, what time will it be? This involves problem solving and analytical thinking, which is difficult for a child with cognitive challenges or with Down syndrome. We need to consistently practice telling time, and adding and subtracting time every day until we see that glimmer of understanding.  At this point, if we miss a few days, it could mean backtracking and starting from the beginning.  For fun daily practice we use educational videos and educational games and activities until we know it’s concrete. That means that we’ve missed a couple of days or more and come back to it, and she still remembers it. That’s when we say, “It’s worth it!” It’s worth the discipline and time it takes. It’s worth the extra time of research for new ways to teach a concept.  It’s worth the tears…mom’s tears.  Of course it’s worth it. And it’s rewarding. You see, I always tell her, “Yes, it’s hard and it’s going to take some time, but you CAN do it.” So it’s rewarding when she’s been trying for so long and I finally see that big smile when she realizes she CAN do it, and she squeals, “I did it!”

Middle School Homeschooling Tips

This is my month to focus on Middle Schoolers. Yes, I have TWO this year that are in seventh grade. I am blown away by how fast this is going. Seems like I was just starting to homeschool them just the other day! I’m not old enough to have all these college, high school, and middle schoolers….

1) The first place that I always start when planning my homeschooler’s year is their “passions.” What are they really interested in? I want to make sure that I include this in the classes and plans that I make for them each year. Yes, even if they LOVE science… they still have to do English too! I just don’t want to expect perfection from them if they aren’t gifted in that area.

2) Plan to include fun things. My kids really love art. Yet, if I get busy I’ll put this on the back burner. Yet, when I do – I notice that all of us get worn down and begin to just function in the rut. Remember… all work and no play? That’s exactly where this is going. They need to do fun things to learn. That’s another reason why I love using make a word search to use words that we are studying in both  homeschool science, history, math and LA.

3) Try to teach them to be more independent. For some of my children this has been an easy task, for others…..insane! Remember your goal…they need to eventually be able to work and go on to college WITHOUT you. Independence is difficult for the mom… sometimes… 🙂 It means your child can work alone, figure out problems, and continue on with their homeschool day even if you aren’t there. This also means that you aren’t needed as much as you were when they were little. I know, it’s hard but it’s a good thing.

4) Number 3 really hinges on this… teach them organizational/study skills. This is the key to getting them to be independent. If they can self organize and study on their own… they obviously will be become more and more independent.

5)Find a curriculum that meets their particular learning styles. My twins are very different from my other children. My older kids liked workbooks and writing, while the twins prefer something more engaging. Listening skills aren’t exactly their forte either, so finding something that keeps their attention and keeps them busy is a challenge for me.

Homeschool Sports and Special Needs

homeschool sportsAs homeschoolers, we often forgo aspects of learning for our children that we just can’t find solutions for. For many of us those things include sports, special education opportunities, and even fine arts. Yet, with a little intensive search those things can be readily available for most homeschoolers.

For elementary and high school aged children sports is often an important aspect of learning. Through sports children can learn how to function within a team, how to deal with tough spots, and how to understand that winning isn’t everything. Yet, in many cases homeschoolers have difficulty finding ways to get their kids involved in quality sports teams. Like special education, there are programs out there just for homeschoolers that can have lasting benefits. The only problem is that most of us have no idea where to look for these special programs for our homeschooled children.

Good news, I have recently found a site that is all things homeschool sports. In fact, it even has a great team locator that you can use to find a team offering organized homeschool sports in your local area. They even have homeschool sports news, newsletters, and information about college sports.

For special education needs, there are many informational sites out there are great resources. There are also some special curriculum offerings that make for superior learning opportunities for our special needs learning children.

Like most things that I have found in homeschooling, there is usually a solution to most of the issues that I’ve come across. Sometimes, I just have to look hard to find what I need. So, as you homeschool your dear ones, don’t give up when you come to a cross roads. Just take time to find a solution. It always makes the learning and experience that much more special.

Fixing the Gaps

Can you believe that it is already the middle of March. Time just seems to be flying, but our school learning doesn’t always fly at the same pace. For those of you who are wanting to finish up for summer break, you may be staring at a bit of a gap. I know there are a few subjects at our house that have just slipped through the cracks. Most of the time, it is because they are just not our favorites. That is sometimes my fault and sometimes the kid’s fault. Either way, I think it is good character training to make sure that our children finish as well as they start. I didn’t say that was easy – for any of us… just good practice.

1)      The first thing that I do is usually try to find the issue. Why are they not liking this subject? What makes it difficult? Is it the curriculum? Is it how I’m teaching it? Find the issue, and eliminate it if possible.

2)      If the curriculum was the problem, then find another one that better meets your needs. There are so many free offerings online – that if you can’t afford another one at this late stage – don’t sweat it… just “google” it!

3)      Find a motivation for them. You know your children. What motivates them? What are they passionate about? If you can incorporate this into the subject matter –  your kids will be overflowing with  motivation. This worked well for us with our third grade curriculum online – our kids are techie and love to use the computer…. pure motivation!

4)      Bring it back down… your child got discouraged somewhere… reteaching what you’ve been studying just below their mastery level will enable them to succeed and rebuild the confidence that they lost.

5)      Have a good time… learning never has to be dull! You can incorporate games, educational songs,  contests, and incentives to really put some punch into your lessons!

Getting Your Kids to Write

writing helpAt our house, I have children who love to write and children who hate to write. The ones who love to write are easily motivated and find writing an enjoyable experience. However, those who don’t… well, let’s just say, “It ain’t pretty!”

I have tried lots of different methods to get them writing… from tutors, to online tutoring in writing. These have all given them a good foundation, but to make it a part of their real daily life I have to get them writing every day. This daily writing experience can prove to be quite “vexing” for the parent. In fact, some days I almost would rather let them grow up into non writing adulthood. Yet, sadly my conscience prevents me.

I recently started what I call a minute of silliness. I have my kids write about various silly writing prompts (anything from crazy questions to sound alikes) and encourage them to pretend that it is a cartoon in which anything can happen. For example, one morning they wrote about… “If you could change around some of your body parts what would they be and where would they go?”

The silly factor got them interested… yet, I have to say that their imaginations lacked a bit. It took us a while to warm up to the subject and actually feel free enough to write whatever we could imagine. For some reason, they constantly felt confined to reality.

When they were able to get their imaginations working, business began to pick up. We wrote stories that were happy, sad, dramatic, imaginative. Finding ways to encourage your children to tap that inner imagination is the key to creative writing. Over this past year, we have used several resources to help us do just that. Here is an example of the texts we used to inspire us, “Don’t Forget to Write”, and “Rip the page.” Both of them encourage free and creative thinking. We also love the online writing tutor that enabled us to get a firm foundation in the writing process.

Wherever your child lands on the “motivational” scale of writing… it is so vitally important to their development to take time daily to write… and release that creative monster within!