Getting “Out of the Box”

Education in America is compartmentalized, regulated, standardized, and even (I feel) dehumanized. When I hear the words public education, I almost cringe. In the context of public or government education it conjures up images in my mind of our teachers putting children into labeled boxes. Predetermining for them what they are and how they will succeed. Don’t get me wrong, I know there are some great teachers in the public school system… my own sister is one of them… but just because the teacher is good – doesn’t mean that the system is.

If American public education is packaging our children into tidy little boxes…then what is homeschooling doing? My thoughts are this… homeschooling is the banner cry for freedom within education circles. Children over the past few decades that have been homeschooled have gone on to prove this point. Homeschool statistics demonstrate that it works! Childhood learning – with all of its amazing intricacies – can be experienced to its fullest within the freedom of homeschooling. The opportunity to educate your child the way that you deem appropriate and according to your own personal beliefs and preferences is the epitome of freedom… this isn’t home school fiction… this is the real thing!

If your child just hasn’t fit into the box of government education… it just may be time to give homeschooling a try – and get “out of the box!!”

Summer Learning CAN equal FUN!

Summer… I look forward to it all year. I know, I am supposed to  be the mature one around here. Yet, I think I look forward to the more relaxed lifestyle that we lead during the summer than the kids do. It is just a much needed break that really renews and invigorates me. If it wasn’t for a bit of time off in the summer, homeschooling in the fall would be impossible.

Even though I like to take a break in the summer, I still try to keep the kids learning. Their little minds are so active and really are constantly learning in some way. Why not maximize on their cognitive interests? I try to organize several websites that I want the children to visit over the summer break to catch up on math or vocabulary. To make it as simple as possible, I add them to my favorites bar so all the kids have to do is click on each site I want them to visit.  These sites range in interest from vocabulary games to math and science fun. The kids usually have a great time playing and taking a break from the heat… while I sit back with a contented smile knowing that they really are learning through all that laughter!

Why do You Homeschool?

So, yeah… this post is a little personal. So, let’s just have a chat…

I hope that you, my blog friends, will respond and give me a glimpse into what your motivation is to homeschool your children. For me, it’s several things. First and foremost, the freedom to teach my children the way that I feel they should be taught. That does encompass the fact that we are a Christian family and do believe that our country was founded on Christian beliefs and those historical and Biblical beliefs should continue to be propagated. Thus, we are doing our part to teach the fundamental beliefs of the Christian faith as well as the historical foundations that our once great nation was founded upon. I believe that my children can be a part of changing our world and our nation for the better because we educate them in this manner.

Secondly, the fact that our American public schools are riddled with bullies, peer pressure, inferior academics, and substance abuse makes it repulsive to me to think of putting my precious children in such a place. I understand that there are still “grassy knolls” left out there. My own sister is a public school teacher and is free to teach “the old fashioned” way. Yet, those outstanding examples are few and far between.

Christian homeschoolers constitute a large portion of the general homeschooling population. In fact, Christians were historically the main population group to spearhead the homeschool movement. Today, we see a large movement toward homeschooling from all demographics and religions. Consequently, homeschooling is now the fastest growing form of education. Even the public schools are trying to monopolize on this trend through their online public school version of homeschooling.

It’s really quite amazing how homeschooling has grown and changed over the years… so back to my question… just why do you homeschool?

To test or not to test?

homeschool testingTesting is a controversial subject even within homeschooling circles. For many, testing is a means of scoring achievement in a mass produced way. If this is true, then homeschooled children who are watched and worked with daily by their mentors (parents) would have no need for testing. Unless, there had to be proof of achievement.

I believe this is where most homeschoolers agree. Testing is not a necessary aspect of education as long as a child is achieving and learning. A parent can use informal methods of assessment such as label the states on this map, or dissect this flower and tell me the names of each part.

Assessment is useful, but paper pencil testing isn’t always necessary. For example, when learning how to write – a paper pencil test isn’t the best measurement. However, actually writing and using the skills for authentic assessment is more applicable.  In fact, if I can teach my child how to write an essay to describe a particular learning experience, then the student will have to use many levels of thought instead of just answering rote memory questions on a test. It is so much better, to somehow get the student to internalize the knowledge instead of just memorize it.  I personally believe that once my child enters high school testing becomes a necessary evil. If the student plans on going to college a transition to typically formal testing must be made.

However, for homeschoolers the state will often make this decision for us. If the state that you live in requires that you test either formally at home, or by using a standardized test you must submit to that standard.

What is your take on testing? Do you test your children with paper pencil tests? Or do you use informal testing?

My Last Nerve is Gone…

We’ve heard that old saying, “You’re on my last nerve!” so many times. In fact, in our house it’s a pretty regular saying… but right now I have to admit that my last nerve has already come and gone. I feel at my wit’s end and really don’t want to be here. Ever feel that way?

It’s been pretty rainy at our house all week and I have had a to-do list a mile and a half long. I’ve been working on it for three days, and still I’m not finished. You know, crazy stuff like wait on hold with AT&T FOR EVER while they get a tech specialist to help me. Things like that that seem to rob the joy out of my day and keep me from really homeschooling as my heart desires.  So, for the last two days my dear children have been on their own.

After I get over my own little pity party and guilt trip… I see that they have completed their regular school tasks and finished their math and English practice worksheets. (Suprise!) Two out of three of them did their online lessons (not too bad), and one of them has been working on an art project all afternoon.

You know, sometimes I let all of my preconceived ideas of having to follow our schedule and do it by the book every day direct me… and I miss the fact that my kids are pretty responsible and even dare I say it… dependable when left to their own.  I know that once they start homeschool middle school things will be tougher and require even more responsibility… but, for now I’m thankful that when my last nerve is gone… sometimes my kids can really make my day!

Making Time for Art at Home

I know… you are already saying…”Oh, please, not art!” I understand, most homeschooling families look at art as something that can be done IF there is enough time left in the day. Even then, art is usually a crafty type of project. Art and a true art education is a good thing, and shouldn’t cause parents to quake in their boots. 🙂 There are a few simple things to keep in mind when preparing an art curriculum, and if you include them and take it easy… you should have a great time! Here are a few pointers:

1) Make sure that you teach art appreciation. This should begin early. When your child is small encourage them to appreciate things of beauty. You can point out beautiful sunsets, gardens, flowers, photos, and even works of art. As the child grows you can more formally encourage this appreciation by visiting art museums and exhibitions.  Even asking questions such as, “What do you like about this painting?” can lead to deeper appreciation.

2) Don’t forget about art history. Teaching art history doesn’t have to be boring. When we study art we usually put this together with the art appreciation. If there is an exhibit at the art museum on impressionism go see the art and then discuss the artists that did those works. Putting it together makes it more fun and more meaningful.

3) Of course, you can’t forget about actually doing art! This is the most fun of all… as you study famous works of art, the artists that painted them, you can then try to mimic their style yourself! I love to teach art this way… it really is alot of fun. Yet, I would suggest that when you first begin, use an introductory teacher resource course such as Mona Brookes “Drawing with Children.” This is a great way to get kids thinking “art” without being the least bit painful. I also enjoy the online art curriculum put out by Time4Learning. The only temptation here is that we may just let the kids go through the information without actually getting our hands dirty! Getting dirty is the best part of getting an art education!

Last but not least… remember that art is an outward expression of your inward self. Get involved with your children and try this… you may find a budding inner artist there. There is no BAD art… be open and accepting…

Turning a negative into a positive

Nope… I’m not talking about some algebraic principle or homeschool fiction here… I’m talking about how to deal with negativity.  Everyone is different, and personalities range from bubbly to solemn… but negativity is different. It’s a step beyond your basic personality where the person makes a choice to think, act, and speak in a negative way.

At our house, most of us have pretty balanced personalities…oh we have our bad days though for sure! However, my husband and my 2nd daughter tend to be more introspective, and often tend towards negativity. Sometimes, I just want to avoid my daughter when she gets in a mood… but that just isn’t the way to go about making things better.

Typically, there is a reason that she is in that mood. That doesn’t guarantee that the reason is a good one, but it is a reason nonetheless. To deal with a negative attitude, it’s best to genuinely try to help them with whatever is bothering them. Listen to what they have to say, and try to positively give them solutions or encouragement.

It just isn’t easy to deal with a negative person… just sayin’! The easiest thing is to return negativity with negativity… but that doesn’t help anyone. I try to encourage my other children to HUSH… when someone else is being negative. The best way to counteract a bad attitude is to respond with a good attitude, and it works like a wet blanket on a fire…every time.

Consequently, I can see in my own home that my attitude sets the tenor for everything that happens here. If I have a problem or a negative attitude… everyone seems to catch it. When that happens our whole day usually stinks! I find that I am the one who needs to model the correct behavior so that my children can learn appropriately. No, that is never easy… and I can’t say that I manage it every time. Yet, as the parent and the teacher in this home it falls to me to teach them that negativity just isn’t healthy. Truly, it is like a cancer, and if we let it go it simply festers and gets worse.

Negativity can affect your child’s life and even their future. Who wants to hire an unhappy and negative employee? Encouraging a positive attitude in ourselves and our children will contribute to a healthy and happy environment that is conducive to learning. Isn’t that what homeschooling is all about?

Free Resources for Language Arts

Well, we’ve been back to school now for a few weeks. Things are beginning to fall into a routine. The children are doing great with their new schedule, and their new books. We did a major change this year, and started using a whole different curriculum for math and Language arts. So far, we like it! Yet, the kids are getting finished a whole lot quicker than they ever have before. I am not sure about why, maybe it’s just the first few weeks and review. In any case, I’ve been finding some free resources on the web to supplement and augment what they are doing in their texts. Here are a few great links that we’ve found really useful!

Free Worksheets

Root word games

Phonics Games

Vocabulary Games

and just because I love math…

Cool Math Games

So, how have your first weeks of school gone?

Homeschooling in the Bumps of Life!

I really enjoy having everything in order, and being on schedule… that fits my personality…but sometimes it just doesn’t work.

This past week was a perfect example. I was ready to start school, had all my curriculum, supplies, and even a schedule… but then I got sick. I don’t usually get sick, so when I do it typically wipes me out for at least a week. Once again, that was the case. My great plans for starting school were totally blown out of the water. At first, I really let it get to me. After all, I had entered dates into the spreadsheets that I made for tracking my children’s progress.

As I lay there thinking, ( and believe me I had a lot of time to think) I realized I was being so foolish. I was worrying myself over nothing. This was WHY we homeschool… to enjoy the freedom to rearrange our schedule and to accommodate for real life. I was letting outside expectations alter my personal expectations. I had to step back, and refocus. We have a whole year ahead of us, plenty of time to get all of our lessons in.  So, in the mean time – I asked the kids to do some review lessons and some fraction games to get their minds headed in the right direction.

This little life incident helped me see that so often I put “what is expected” ahead of what we really need. If I’m not breaking any laws, who cares what people think. We home school for the best interests of our family… we home school for us!

Great Homeschool Options

As a homeschool mother, I am always on the look out for great homeschool options. There is something new and innovative popping up all the time. I try to keep my eyes open to catch them… here are a few things that I recently found that really make homeschooling on a shoestring much more possible!!

1) Khan Academy – I can’t believe this site. It has videos on almost every difficult high school subject. Indispensable tool!

2) IPad apps – there are so many awesome tools out there to make an ipad truly an educational tool.  The only thing that would make me feel better about this would be a great internet filter for the ipad. I have yet to find one… if you know of one… please share!

3) Education videos can be found all over the internet. These can be used for a multitude of purposes, and can really help you teach!

4) Aleks math – this is a great math tool for homeschoolers. I just recently found out that if you sign up for an additional program you can get these courses to count for college credit…how cool is that?

5) Use an online spelling list… This web site is offering a 33% discount off of membership through 8/15/2012