How to Train for Independence

How to Train for IndependenceWhen I started out on the parenting journey over 2o years ago, I didn’t realize that my goal would be to train my children for independence. Now that my oldest is about to get married, I’m a little sad that I did such a good job.

Why Train for Independence?

As a young mother desiring my children to learn independence seemed like the natural thing to do. I couldn’t do everything for them all the time, so to keep my sanity I began to teach them. I really didn’t realize at first what I was doing. I was just trying to survive. So, I taught my 4 year old how to operate the microwave, wash dishes, and carry laundry to the laundry room.  It seemed to work well… she was able to do far above what I expected from her and actually thought it was great fun to work like mommy. Boy, I had stumbled onto something!

Fast forward a few years, and jump into our homeschool life of learning with 6 children. It was hard for me to be there every minute trying to teach in the traditional style. (I learned real quick that didn’t work with 5 different grade levels.)  I had to once again teach my children to be independent in their approach to learning. It worked great. Many years ago I began to print out a weekly check sheet for each of my children. On the check sheet were all the things that were required of them each day. They simply had to do it, and check it off. No need for mom to holler, or get frustrated (unless they just ignored the check sheet – which happens sometimes!)

Each child had an individual set of assignments that they completed each day. Still today they have online lessons, but complete their other work independently unless they have questions about the material or particular problems. Independence!!

We are now in the process of building a house. With six children, there are alot of things that they can help with. Again, we come to the foundational idea of teaching them “how” to do something which in turn will enable to them to work independently now and in the future.

Give a Man a Fish, and You Feed Him for a Day. Teach a Man To Fish, and You Feed Him for a Lifetime. Chinese Proverb

How to Train for Independence

  1. Teach your child HOW to do the desired task.
  2. Expect more from them than you think they can do… and they’ll surprise you!
  3. Treat them with respect and encourage them to think and act independently.
  4. Make sure to give them plenty of love!!

Using Vocabulary to Homeschool

One of my favorite methods to teach is through the use of Vocabulary. Now, I admit this could go wrong… very wrong if not done in the proper manner. However, using vocabulary to teach other subjects besides building language skills and reading vocabulary is not a common choice. Yet, the research does support the use of vocabulary to enrich and solidify instruction in other subjects.

Dr. David Chard, a consultant with Houghton Mifflin Math says, “While young students learn how to “do” math, they must also learn how to articulate what they are learning. Children must learn to recognize and answer why questions in order to develop problem solving skills. And for teachers to accurately assess student progress, children must first need to acquire the means of explaining how they solve problems as well as what concepts might not be clear to them.”

You see using vocabulary instruction for other subjects simply enriches and increases a student’s understanding and ability to communicate within that subject. In fact, at the Vocabulary Spelling City website, you will see not just vocabulary to increase literacy skills, but also vocabulary to assist in learning science and even math vocabulary.  Yet, I hope you realize that that isn’t all you can use vocabulary with. I love using vocabulary to polish and build foreign language skills, study social studies, and develop geography skills. So, the next time you start developing a homeschool unit of study – make sure you add vocabulary to your instruction. You might be surprised at how quickly your student’s start putting it all together!

Teaching Tip #1 – Lesson Planning

When starting down this road called homeschooling, some things can seem like insurmountable mountains that we just can’t climb. I know that many of my “first time” homeschooler friends feel like they just can’t do it because they know nothing about teaching. Well, if it’s really scary there are ways to get around that. Homeschoolers have so many options today it is almost unthinkable. There are online options that have online teachers, there are video courses that have teachers, and even computer programs that make learning automated. All the scare has been taken out of homeschooling!

However, if you are more of a hands on type of person. You might just want to learn a few “teaching” basics. Yes, just because we are homeschooling doesn’t mean that we don’t use sound “teaching methods.” These methods aren’t scary, they aren’t intimidating, but they are useful. One of the first things that I teach my students in my college Introduction to Education course is the basics of lesson planning. For those homeschoolers who really want to be involved in teaching and learning with their children and aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty… this is for you!

Tips for making your own lesson plans…

Lesson plans are basically a way to focus instruction for maximum effect. It’s our bullseye – and we all know if we aim for nothing we will surely hit it!

1) To start at the very beginning, if you are planning a unit study you will need to begin with your overall BIG goal. What do you want to accomplish/learn for the study. Write your goal.

2) Determine how long you want the unit study to last. If it is a month. Then divide your study up into weeks and write goals for what you wish to accomplish each week.

3) Once your weekly goals are in place, you can make daily or lesson goals which we usually call objectives. These daily goals are more specific and should include “measurable” action words. Teachers will often start these goals off with “The learner will be able to…”

4) Now you’re ready for your lesson plan. Taking each of these daily objectives, you will need to determine how you’ll teach the lesson, which methods you will use and any materials or assessment that you want to include. When I teach teachers how to do this I encourage them to use this acrostic – GOMMA.  It’s something I was taught in graduate school and I feel it really helps keep things focused.

Homeschool lesson plan

5) I take the acrostic for each day and fill in exactly how I wish to teach the lesson along with any correlating tools. For example, if I am teaching a unit study on science then I might include in my daily assessment some second grade science worksheets. The assessment doesn’t have to be a test, it can be a time of Q&A, a worksheet, or even a drawing. It is simply a way for the student to show that they understood the lesson.

6) I usually keep my lesson plans and all accompanying materials in a three ring binder. That way they are all together and ready to use if I have to teach that subject again!

Homeschooling and the Chair of Cheer…10 Fun Homeschooling Resources

chair of cheer tips for homeschoolingThere is this mysterious disease that my children get every year right before Christmas. It ends up being so contagious that they all come down with it, and everyone in our house is affected. In fact, some days it is so bad… that we can barely do school! Have you guessed what I am referring to?

You got it… it’s that crazy “visions of sugar plums” dancing in their heads… the general-  fever inducing excitement over Christmas! I have to admit that it really drives me nuts at times. The kids are more wiggly, more talkative, more easily distracted… just more of everything! So, at our house it really isn’t the chair of cheer – but the chair of insanity that I reign in!

In any case, what do you do during the pre-Christmas insanity? There are days when I can get a regular work load out of my kids, but some days it’s all I can do to just to get them to play “games.” So, here is my list of favorite – crazy holiday – Chair of Cheer Games!

1) Vocabulary Games and Word Search Galore!!

2) All things Geography and Social Studies related!

3) Science games and videos for loads of learning and fun!

4) Cool math games and even more fun math learning!

5) We also use you tube to look up videos on things that we are studying in science and history and watch short videos! (Mom does this job!)

6) Story starters are fun ways to get your kids writing – and laughing!

7)Bible games to get their brains thinking!!

8) Input your own spelling lists and sit back and watch them have fun!

9) Art and music learning games!

10) Learn a new language with these free online language lessons!

Homeschooling High School Free Downloads

Homeschooling high school involves creativity, organization, details, and of course… paper work. Don’t you love it? Well, to be honest, not really. Paper work is something that I just don’t have time for. Which is why these few amazing downloads can really “tame the paper tiger” and allow you to do what you really need to be doing.

I typically start organizing my high schooler’s schedule with a calendar. Sometimes, I will use an online spreedsheat which I make in Google Docs, and  other times I will use a paper calendar. Here is a free downloadable version of a 2013-2014 homeschool calendar.

I find it very helpful to start recording our homeschooling high school courses and course descriptions on some type of transcript as soon as they start highschool. Here is a great free high school transcript template.

Another frequently needed document that I often used to organize my homeschooling highschool endeavors is that of the report card. Though many homeschoolers really don’t use the highschool report card that frequently, there are times that a report card can be helpful. They are often required as proof of good grades for insurance purposes.

As you homeschool your highschooler it’s always wise to keep track of everything they do during these years. When you finish up their records make sure that you’ve recorded all of their accomplishments both great and small. Everything from volunteering to course work should be included and used as a way to create a “big picture” of who your student is. Whether your highschooler goes to college, becomes an apprentice, or some other grand thing… they will need a picture of what they accomplished during their high school years. It’s our job to make sure that picture is recorded accurately.

If you have some other great ideas for organizing your highschool homeschool, please share them!

Homeschooling In Georgia

georgia homeschoolingSince this is a homeschool-online blog, and we are located in the state of Georgia… I thought that I would take just a second to review the laws that were passed regarding homeschooling this year. The laws that were passed went into effect for this school year, and make it even easier to homeschool your children in the state of Georgia.

1) Homeschoolers are no longer required to submit attendance records to their school superintendent. This makes it so much easier! Homeschoolers are still required to submit their intent to homeschool form, however, that can now be done online! Just click the link and you’re halfway there. This is definitely a load off of homeschoolers.

2) Even though parents are not required to submit the attendance record, it is required to be in their homeschooled student’s file. Thus, parents are required to keep a comprehensive file on their homeschool students. These records should contain:

  • annual attendance record
  • annual assessment for reading, language arts, math, social studies, and science
  • standardized test results administered every 3 years starting in the third grade

3) Another change in the law simply verifies that parents have the right to create any document regarding their child’s homeschool study to verify that they are homeschooling. This includes constructing transcripts, progress reports, and report cards.  These documents can be used to verify:

  • attendance for DDS (driving) requirements for permits and licenses
  • work permits for employment
  • receipt of state or federal assistance
  • requirements for universities, colleges, and technical schools
  • and for any other reason that may require verification of compliance to state law regarding attendance and grades

The bottom line here is that the state will no longer generate compliance forms for homeschoolers. I believe these contractions of their governance on homeschoolers have been limited to alleviate personnel requirements and paperwork. For whatever reason, I am glad that parents are given more authority in this area.

4) Finally, ACCEL funds are available for unaccredited homeschoolers that are interested in Dual Enrollment. This is great! That means if your high schooler wants to participate in dual enrollment they no longer have to be enrolled in an accredited homeschool. However, there are some fees and books that may not be covered, but no exceptional homeschool requirements.

Writing for Early Learners

Middle School StudentEarly learners are an awesome age to teach. They are always so excited about everything. I enjoy working with this eagerness and, in fact, it makes teaching them so much more enjoyable. When I work with early learners (usually between preschool and first grade) I like to make learning as fun as possible and writing is no exception.

Just because they are young doesn’t mean that they can’t “write.” They usually can do a whole lot more than we give them credit for. I like to see how excited they get when they are able to write their own stories! Here are several fun activities that I enjoy using with early learners while we learn how to write.

1) For non-readers you can always do an LEA (Language Experience Approach) project. I like doing this in conjunction with a field trip or a fun outdoor exercise. Since it is fall right now a great adventure would be to take a nature walk and then return for this writing project. I like to use a large piece of paper and then I get them all excited about writing a story about our recent trip. They help me decide on a title, and then I ask them questions (prompts) from which they make a statement. I write each sentence they give me down on the piece of paper and as we work through what we did on our recent nature walk… we make a story. Once finished, I will read the story to them. They usually love it!

2) For beginning readers, I like to read a story or have an adventure, field trip, nature walk, or even a recent vacation. I’ll put several key words on a board (usually the most difficult words) and then we will work on writing a story together. Wording the statement and then help with writing down and sounding out the words that will make up the story. A fun finish is to draw a picture to illustrate the story.

3) For more accomplished readers, I like to base our story on some recent event just like I mentioned before. I typically start these writers out with a story prompt. It may be something silly or even totally pretend. I like this website for free story starter templates. If you just want to get them writing without an “experience” to base it on, there are alot of great creative writing helps. I really enjoy the books in the “Don’t forget to Write” series.

Preparing a child to write hinges on their phonetical foundation. Teaching a child to read by using phonics method, and building each letter and each sound allows the child to be able to work backward from that and “dissect” or “decode” words in order to write.  As I work with my young learners, I am amazed at how this process works. We typically start with letter sounds, building to consonant/vowel blends, consonant blends, syllables, special rules, and then begin with spelling words.  All of it builds in a spiral effect and hinges upon the mastery of the previous concept. As you teach your child how to read, be sure to include writing practice times as well. This gives them an opportunity to think critically about their reading. Using this method will definitely help alleviate the need for writing homework help, and give your child a sense of confidence in their reading and writing skills.

Best Homeschooling Apps

Well, in honor of the fact that this blog is “Online Education for Kids”, I thought that I would post about all my favorite techie things to use in our homeschool. I love using my ipad to teach my kiddos, and one of the most important aspect of that are the apps! The apps make it all happen, and so without further ado… here are our absolute favorites…

My pretty much all time favorite is the SHOW ME app. It’s free and it works like a white board and allows me to teach anything. I can even snap a picture of a worksheet and have my little guys fill in the worksheet via this app. I can even record a teaching session! How awesome is that?

I love McGraw-Hill learning apps. We have several of the math ones including multiplication and fractions. They work well and they thoroughly help the student drill and practice.

For all of you who struggle with homeschooling spelling curriculum. Your answer lies in the Vocabulary and Spelling City app. It works great, is easy to manage through your regular account and the kids love learning their spelling words this way!

My kiddos are all taking music lessons and love music games. We love the GRAND PIANO app because it is fun yet it encourages the kids to use the proper keyboard fingering as they learn various songs. This is very fun and interactive!!

If you love learning about space and constellations. The SKY VIEW app is incredible. You simply take it outside and it shows you the planets and constellations that are in your sky right now. It highlights them through the camera view on your ipad! This app is sooo cool!

For those of you who are history buffs, the SMTHSONIAN app is for you. It has episodes of The Smithsonian shows that you can watch on your ipad. We love the science and animal videos!

Another of our all time favorites is the METEOR MATH. It encourages quick thinking of all mathematical operations. You can practice addition, multiplication, subtraction, and division. It continuously gives your child a challenge and allows the game to get harder with their increasing speed.

For our youngest MATH CAKES is a favorite for learning addition. She loves playing with cupcakes any day!!

Learning short vowels is easy with the SHORT VOWELS app. We haven’t downloaded the long vowels one yet, but plan to very soon!

The iLearn series is also very good. We like the CONTINENTS app to teach our kiddos about the continents of the world. We are studying this in our geography so it works great for us.

Last year we learned about the states and capitols and used several apps to teach this. STACK THE STATES, US STATES, and US PUZZLES were great to help us learn our states and capitols.

Brain Pop Jr. is also a really great app. However, this one requires a fee. It shows a weekly video that is educational and fun.

The NATIONAL PARKS app is pretty cool, might not be too useful at the moment… 🙂

The ENCYCLOPEDIA BRITANNICA is a very nice app that allows you to browse A-Z as well as read top articles  and even search.

I am sure that there are alot more that are great and useful for homeschoolers… can you share your favorites with us?

How to Homeschool Elementary Science

homeschool scienceFirst of all, science is not simply a “subject” out of textbook. Life learning is the key to a successful science study. Sure, I love using interesting science texts but science learning is not all about the book.

1) Use life, specifically nature to study the world around you. My children take every opportunity to do this even if it “interrupts” what they were doing. For example, a battle against a rather large spider was waged in our schoolroom the other day.  My children, being the victors, proceeded to dissect their spoils. They discovered how hairy the specimen was, and how the legs connected to the body. All very interesting, and all pure science!

2) Remember that your children are just that – children. As I’ve mentioned before in many of my posts about learning… children learn through play. Their play is learning, and their learning (to be most advantageous should be) play! Encourage scientific pursuits while the children are playing… ie… the spider dissection.

3) Let learning flow naturally from their inquisitive minds. Scientific method stems from “questioning.” How natural is it for our children to question the world around them? Don’t we often tire of hearing the word “Why?” Sure, but that is natural scientific investigation that your kiddos are hardwired to do… all we have to do is fan that flame!

4)I suggest investing in many “guide books.” These can be anything and everything from guide books to books that show how things work. Here are a few that we have: Look inside the Human Body, The Kingfisher I Wonder Why Encyclopedia, Birds of Georgia, The Usbourne Science Encyclopedia, and Stephen Biesty’s Inicredible Cross Sections. All of these are super books which encourage that natural investigator in your child.

5) Use a text book or online science program as your guideline if you feel like you need it. Really most of  science in elementary could be done without one. However, many people want to be sure they cover all the topics that prepare children for a more formal science study in Middle School.

Making the Most of Your Homeschool Days

homeschool disciplineI enjoy being at home with my children, yet there are days that I feel more like a referee than a mother. Do you ever feel like that? I really hate feeling that way, and have recently been trying to find ways to keep my children from fighting and focused on their homeschooling and other positive things. Trying to get kids to think positively instead of negatively at every turn is a real feat. I have come to realize that my correction must be consistent and thorough to keep them on the right path.

This week I have determined that I PERSONALLY am going to be consistent with correction whenever they argue and are disobedient. Many times out of my sheer frustration or possibly laziness I’ll pass that responsibility on to my husband or even a later date. Yet, in reality that does nothing but provoke the issue, because the perpetrators are getting away with it! So, whether it is convenient for me or not… this week we are all going to be toeing the line. Not only kiddos, but parents as well!

Our homeschool is quite eclectic this year. Blended with everything from first grade homeschool curriculum to middle school writing we are using workbooks, videos, online curriculum and everything in between. Maybe the broad mixture is keeping it interesting… because all of them seem to really be “into it!”

I’ve also noted that for our family – a good routine works wonders. I have changed my organizational pattern this year to reflect more independent study. I am sad they are growing up, but it is my duty to teach them those skills that will make them successful without my help. So, independent study skills…here we come. I’ve noticed this week that all of my kids have responded very well to this and have actually seemed to enjoy getting down to business each morning.