Do “perceptions” influence school achievement?

That is truly a debatable question… but I believe they do.  For most children their thoughts about something are influenced by their success or failure or even by their parent’s opinions.  Children will often think they can’t succeed in something simply because their parents didn’t.  Recently, I have been working with my son – trying to get him interested in reading for pleasure.  He reads… when he has to.  I asked him why he didn’t want to pick a favorite book and get comfy on the couch and read.  He just flat out responded with a “I hate reading.”  Wow… that broke this homeschool mom’s heart… so I asked him why.  What he told me next really made me think.

“Daddy doesn’t like to read because everytime he opens his book he falls asleep, and reading is for girls.”  Oh… my… goodness… I was shocked. I had no idea that he had been feeling this way. Yet, this proved that what he “thought” about reading affected his desire to read.  He saw my husband (really tired from working all day) fall asleep reading, and saw his sisters with their noses in books all day and assumed that reading was not for him.  We are currently working on changing this perception… but I do remember tutoring a little girl who hated math.  I asked her why she felt this way, and she told me that her mother did not like math and never did well in it, so she didn’t like it either.  After I worked with her for a while, she started enjoying much success in math.  The success brought her confidence and eventually she began to really enjoy math.  Her thoughts about math changed from hating it – to liking it.

So do our perceptions or thoughts about something affect how we achieve? What do you think??

Web Winks…

I thought that I would take a moment to post a few of our favorite homeschooling web sites.  We use many and hope that some of these may become your favorites as well.

Today we are participating in a online math contest with others from all over the world at www.worldmathsday.com.

We like to use this site for online learning games.

I enjoy this web site for articles and encouragement in homeschooling along the way.

For the big people at our house we use Academic Earth to take FREE courses on things we are interested in.

We like to use Librivox for online classics – you can listen while you work.

See stars with this great astronomy resource.

Use Whyville to play games and earn “clams” to purchase online incentives.

Great for beginner preschool phonics and letter recognition is Starfall and we also use Time4Learning Preschool.

For your teens that need writing and grammar helps Grammar Girl and Time4Writing are great tools!

For great spelling word help… try Spelling City.

Of course, these aren’t the only ones we use – maybe I will post more later –

Do you have a favorite homeschooling website?  Please share!!!

Do Homeschoolers include fine arts studies?

Do home school families have consistent fine arts studies?
Yes, we have fine arts (art, music, dance) class at least once a week
We have fine arts studies that are not consistent
No, we do not have fine arts(art, music, or dance) class

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I have to admit that I often will put aside the “extras” especially when we are in a particularly busy or stressfull season of life. I ( who used to be an art teacher) am especially embarassed to say that art is often “pre-empted.” I am trying in 2010 to put more emphasis on the fine arts ( especially music and art) in our home school. We are doing some art instruction together, and one of my daughters has just started an online art program which she absolutely adores. Do you regularly include fine arts instruction? Tell me what your home school does.

Can you write like a third grader?

Why does writing tend to be one of our most challenging subjects?  In our homeschool, other areas are typically covered with ease… maybe a few frantic moments with math…  uhmmm….  But most of our agravation stems from making an attempt at writing.  I have recently posted about my two older daughters and their current struggle with research papers.  Well, to update you on that – we are still in the notecard process.  It is going slowly, but going.   Today, I have been thinking about my two third graders… twins, of course,  and writing from their vantage point.   Well, I don’t know if that would be too good. Their vantage point would be the abolishment of any type of writing at all.  They have learned most of the parts of speech, and understand capitalization and punctuation, but still hate putting complete thoughts into print.  They especially hate putting several sentences together into paragraphs.  With this in mind – I decided I would check out what the writing standards for third grade consisted of.  (I don’t know, I guess I am a sucker for discouragement…)

Anyway, I have to admit that I was absolutely shocked at what the standards consisted of.  My third graders would cry and scream and scream and scream if I carried out the “write and rewrite and rewrite” advice.   I have to admit, I was a bit disapointed that my third graders seemed to be a bit behind the standards for their grade, however, it gave me a new goal!  You see, the standards are to be used as our “goals.” I have often said it is difficult for the homeschool parent to see all the cracks and gaps in our children’s education… but today I had a great opportunity.  The magnifying glass was held up – and I could see some BIG gaps. Check out this post about “gaps.” The positive side is that we have several months before third grade is finished, and I hope to use these standards as a guideline for improving our third grade writing skills. Maybe by May they will be writing several paragraph stories with examples and comparisons… whooohooo wouldn’t that be great!!!

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.

Spring will be here soon… and so will Standardized Testing!

In the next several weeks, I would like to start my own mini-series.  No, it won’t be as interesting as the ones you find on television –     I.     AM.   SURE.    But, hopefully it will be more helpful.  During the years I spent as an administrator, I was often suprised by the confusion and misunderstanding that surrounds standardized testing.  It is definitely an area that speaking “Plain English” would be useful.  Well, that’s my goal – to reveal the “secrets” of the standardized test …  wow  –  sounds really impressive.  I hope to throw in a few SAT prep pointers as well.  So, don’t go away – the mini – series is about to begin!