Battling Spring Fever

It’s contagious!!! Have you got it yet? We sure do… I really can’t believe that it is that time of year again… It seems like it was just Christmas a few days ago. My children are loving the warm sunny weather, and are begging to be outside at every chance. I can’t blame them, but we still have tons of work to do before we meet our elementary home school curriculum goals. Our umbrella school requires that we meet our yearly goals by May. I’m facing a daily dilemma of trying to get the kids focused on work when they are really focused on the sunshine! I’ve tried a few simple tricks this week that did improve our concentration. Here’s what we did:

1)Start the day with a walk, jog, or run with your kids! We did that this morning. It was definitely invigorating… Enjoy the beautiful outdoors for a minute and then sit down to work. Our focus and attention was much higher.

2) Take your school outdoors. That’s the fun of homeschooling… make it fit your needs… take advantage of the freedom.

3) Incorporate out door study into your lessons… I’ve found this easy to do with science and history!

Considering Homeschooling?

Are you dissatisfied with the status quo of your child’s education? Are you thinking of homeschooling next year?

There are a lot of things to consider when making the transition from public education to homeschooling. A little book on “How to homeschool” would be awesome, and there probably are some of them out there, but the best way to learn is to dive into the information yourself. Of course, there will be a time of transition – where things will feel rather awkward… like you are missing something. Don’t worry, once you get into the swing of things you won’t miss anything!

Before you make the plunge, consider all your options. There are tons of great resources and supplies that make homeschooling a breeze. During the past decade, homeschooling has grown by leaps and bounds, and now there are so many great opportunities it can almost be dizzying. Take your time and explore those opportunities. Don’t be afraid to ask for free samples of the curriculum that you are interested in. Companies want you to consider them,and most of them will be glad to give you an opportunity to preview what they have to offer. Don’t forget to consider online education… there are some awesome learning opportunities there!

Once you have narrowed down your choices and know what you plan to use to teach your child, invest in some great teaching tools.  You might need a laptop/desktop computer, lots of pencils, notebooks, dictionaries, and a nice quiet place to study.  You’ll probably want to build a small library a little at a time… since reading is the BEST way to learn.

You’ll also want to check out the legal guidelines for homeschooling in your state. This is an absolute necessity. If you really want to homeschool, you have to school within the law. Most states are extremely supportive of homeschooling… since many of them have begun to see that it is a viable and proven method of schooling.

As you begin to get into a “groove” with your homeschooling there will be other things that your family will feel are necessities. You will also begin to see that homeschooling is the servant and you are the master. You can organize and arrange your day so that homeschooling fits YOUR lifestyle.

Once you see the multitude of blessings involved in homeschooling, you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner!

Relaxed Homeschool…

 

The homeschooler is often looked at as the odd – the abnormal – the different…  But homeschooling is really cool – and I don’t mean popular.  Homeschooling is a wonderful family based way to educate your children, and a great way to destress your life and return to a more simple existence.

Stress seems to be the order of the day -and children often pay the price for it.  Lives are full and so busy that often children are rushed here and there without the ample opportunities that they need to investigate, learn, and grow.  Homeschool can be a relaxed sort of “cool.” A lifestyle where your chidlren learn in a fun way – where they can’t wait to do their “schooling” for the day. We enjoy being home together  playing and learning and just being family. 

If you are tired of being rushed here and there and want to change to a more simple lifestyle – give homeschooling a try.  There is an option for every type of family and every homeschooling need in math, language arts, science, and social studies.  Take inventory – make a change… relax… you’ll never miss the stress.

Summer fun = summer forgetfulness??

 

To me, summer is the best time of the year. Lazy days, pretty flowers (especially magnolias), and beautiful southern sunsets. ( can you tell we live in the South?) OK, we won’t go into the humidity at 8 am., the chiggers, fire ants, and soaring afternoon temperatures – that’s just beside the point!  But seriously, summer is great especially at our house because we take a break from school!

Yet, lately I have been second guessing that decision. I am concerned about how much “knowledge” my children lose during those lazy days of summer. What about all of the multiplication tables I’ve been cramming into the heads of my 9 yr. old twins? I KNOW those will be the first to go!! In fact, according to the Ebbinhaus Theory- after 2 weeks you only remember 35% of what you were originally taught.

So, after thinking about this for the last few weeks, I decided to have the children continue doing “modified” schoolwork throughout the summer. They will be using their online school curriculum. This isn’t so bad… and they haven’t said that I am a horrible monster… at least not yet!  Their online schoolwork is really quite fun, and they enjoy it almost as much as any computer game they have played. 

Well… I am looking forward to see how Fall goes… and the start of a new school year. Will it be easier for them since they have kept their brains going all summer?  Not sure, but we will see!

Highschool math blues…

Does your highschool child breeze through math?  or do they struggle and need help at every turn?  I have noticed recently that many highschoolers  seem to struggle with secondary math.  Even those who were very strong in math in elementary school, often find themselves in a quandry in high school.  This very same thing happened to me.

As a child I was strong in math during elementary school, I went to Jr. High school and seemed to get most of Pre-Algebra, but the cracks really were beginning then.  Ninth grade math found me with bigger cracks and by the mid term the cracks were so big I was falling through them.  I had a terrible Algebra I teacher – he would put a few problems on the board and then sit down and tell us to work quietly.  I got NOTHING from that class.  My parents transferred me to a private school before the new year. It was amazing, but the private school was using the same book and was in the same chapter that we were at the public school.  The difference soon became obvious that I had a TOTALLY different teacher.  My new teacher spent time with us.  Each child was asked if they understood the section, and time was taken to make sure that we were able to complete the assignments. It wasn’t long before my F became an A.

Same book – same chapter.  What was the difference?

Some may say it was all the teacher – and to some degree it was. Yet, I believe it was the approach the teacher took. She presented each new concept in a straightforward manner. She explained it in as few terms as possible.  In essence, she streamlined it!  Along with her making sure we understood through almost a mastery learning approach.  It completely changed my life.  If it wasn’t for that teacher – teaching that way – I would not be where I am today.  She taught me math so well, and made such a huge difference that even then I wanted to share that experience with others who may have had the same struggle. I loved math so much after her class, that I went on to complete a Calculus course in high school, and then to minor in math in college.  Today, that is what I do – every week I tutor students who are struggling in math. Who are in the same situation I was in at the public school… and I have the opportunity to do what my great math teacher did. I guess you could say, I am “paying it forward.” I love it  – and am reminded every day of what a priviledge it is to be able to help these students.   

My recomendation for – homeschooled, private schooled, or public schooled…. pay attention to your children. Notice when they seem to be struggling, and get them the help they need.  It may take a completely different school- or it may just take some extra help.  You may just be changing their lives forever. Mine sure was…

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!!!

Part 3 – Testing Series – College Entrance Exams

We had recently been reviewing the different types of scores that we find on standardized tests.  The two most common the percentile, and the grade equivalent were discussed in two previous posts.  There are other types of scores that are used on standardized tests, however, I feel that the two we discussed were the most common.

To finalize our series, I would like to bring a few thoughts about standardized tests themselves.  Of course, some of the most common grade school tests are the Stanford, Iowa Test of Basic Skills, and Wechsler’s series.  However, one of the most important tests that we take before going to college is the college entrance exam.  The two most common of these tests are the ACT and the SAT.  Depending on where you live you may only have testing centers for one of these tests.  The southeast region where we live, uses almost solely the SAT college entrance exam.  These tests are comprehensive tests designed to let prospective colleges now how and if you are prepared to begin formal study with them.

Sadly though, students today have developed great anxiety and fear associated with these tests. There’s really no reason for this.  The SAT and ACT can be retaken several times if the scores are not acceptable.  So many young people are given heavy expectations to perform a certain way, or to enter “ivy league” schools.  Having high goals is not wrong, but it is a sad day when we have teenagers dealing with huge amounts of stress because of them.  If you are in this situation now, take a moment to step back and see the big picture.  If it really is your heart’s desire to attend a college that requires very high scores on college entrance exams.  Just relax, and start preparing. 

There are many stress free ways that a student can prepare for these tests – but it takes time. You can begin by purchasing the test prep books from the test developers, you could hire a tutor, or find a few great online sites.  There are several that I use to help students who come to me for “test prep.”  I like  A Major tests for word lists and short practice tests, Time4Writing for essay prep, and many other sites to download and print out practice tests.  Start early, prepare thoroughly, and refuse to allow stress to hinder you from performing at your best!

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.