The Law of the Farm

If you are feeling overwhelmed or that you aren't accomplishing enough in your homeschool day, this tool will give you a better perspective.Farmers have to plan for the long haul.  They plant in the spring, water and tend their crops all summer in hopes that, come fall, there will be a bountiful harvest.  Can you imagine a farmer foolish enough to think he could go out and plant in October and harvest in November?
The law of the farm applies to many areas of life.  Parenting is just one example. As parents we repeat ourselves, endlessly.  Teaching our children to say thank you, to wait their turn, to ‘use their words’ and to share takes persistence and fortitude.
Parenting isn’t for the impatient.  You can’t hurry up the maturing process, and you can’t ignore your kids for years and cram parenting right before they hit 18.

The same holds true for teaching. The law of the farm can provide homeschool parents with a balanced perspective that can serve as a guiding principle.

My boys, four of them, entered college ready to take on the next phase of learning. Their preparation happened gradually over the 18 years leading up to their departure.

I’d like to say they were college successes because of my amazing teaching skills, or because we spent the money to buy the perfect curriculum, or even better because they are geniuses. None of that is true. They found success due to daily habits and steady plodding over weeks, months, and years.
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Are parents really qualified to teach their children?

Research shows Homeschooling is a viable option despite parental education, income level, or race.

Good comparison of test results to back up homeschooling's claims.I understand if you have your doubts. We have been taught to think that we need a special credential to teach our children and that if we teach something in the wrong order our children will be permanently damaged. As you will see in a minute, the research suggests that not only are parents qualified, but that they do an awesome job.

The reasons should be obvious…who is more concerned and tuned in to a child than his parents? Who knows his/her strengths and weaknesses better? Who is more interested in seeing that child succeed? What school can offer the individualized help that a parent can offer? Just the one on one tutoring nature of homeschooling gives it many advantages over a classroom situation.

Added to the fact that parents have far smaller ‘classes’ to teach, curriculum writers have realized that homeschoolers are a big market and have written curriculums with the parent/educator in mind. You don’t need a credential to use these materials, most come with step by step instructions. Understanding that parents will be doing the teaching, curriculum writers have made their products family friendly. (more…)

Hate history?

Ditch the textbooks and make history come alive!

 

Ditch the textbooks and make history come alive for your children!

Do you hate History? Did you watch the clock tick off each minute as your teacher droned on? Did you suffer through dry readings, memorize meaningless dates, and answer pointless review questions? Do you dread subjecting your child to the same boring process?

If so, I’m sorry. Believe me, it doesn’t have to be that way!

While in college I have a vivid memory of sitting in the library studying with some friends  for an upcoming test for World Civilization. We were reviewing English history during the 1500’s.  My friends were struggling with dates, names and seemingly unrelated events.

I wasn’t struggling. The reason… in high school I had read a series of historical novels set in the courts of England. Nothing boring or dry there. There had been romance, court intrigue, religious conflicts, betrayal, heroes and villains. I’d cried for Queen Catherine as she watched her marriage and family crumble because she couldn’t produce a male heir, and was horrified as her daughter, Bloody Mary, turned her reign into one marked by revenge, fanaticism and bloodshed.

I wrestled with the issues that caused England to break from the Catholic church and was fascinated by the complex and fragile allegiances that were formed to consolidate power. The characters I met were complicated individuals who were forced to make decisions that would affect whole countries, individuals often beset with self-doubt and questions. I found myself caught up in their dilemmas wondering what I would do, what they should do…and rarely finding a satisfactory answer. (more…)

Mistake #5 of our series, 5 Homeschool mistakes you don’t know you’re making.

Why using rewards can sabotage your efforts.

Do you use rewards for learning, you could be sabotaging you effortsDo you have some sort of reward system in place for chores?  Do you reward yourself when you lose a certain amount of weight or work out every day for a week? Do you pay your kids for good grades, or take them for ice cream if they read a certain number of books? When my boys were playing baseball, I knew a parent who paid their kids if they hit a home run. Perhaps you give your child a treat if they finish their veggies, or a reward when they finish their math.

Rewards are an odd thing. We’ve probably all used them at one time or another. You’ve probably read articles about using rewards to help establish new habits or change behavior.  The thing is, offering rewards can actually sabotage your efforts, and they should be used with caution and intention.

I’ve always been leery of rewards and have seen a great deal of negatives when rewards are overused. Let’s examine a few instances to see the danger.

The chore reward system, there are lots of these. In some kids put up stickers as they do their chores and earn a reward at the end of the week. In others, kids start out with a certain amount of money and if they don’t finish their chores, money is deducted from their ‘allowance’. In still others parents post jobs they want done with a dollar value attached and children can choose which chores they want to do to earn spending money. You can probably come up with many more.

In our house, every member of the family did some of the work, because we are a family. There were regular chores the boys did every morning and on the weekends there was yard work or cars to wash. I didn’t pay the boys for these things because they are part of the family and once they were old enough, they took on some of the responsibility and work to keep things going.

When I knew one of them was trying to save money for something (usually another musical instrument) I might offer to pay them for some work, but that wasn’t the norm.

I think I tried the pay system once or twice but abandoned the idea quickly because it led to an attitude of entitlement. It seemed that those systems quickly sent the message that they should be reimbursed for every contribution they made…and that wasn’t going to work for me. (more…)

Busting The Myth Of The Perfect Homeschool

And Embracing The Imperfect Journey That Will Nourish Your Child's Soul.

Great article about embracing the everyday, ordinary moments.I was scrolling through some past newsletters and came upon this paragraph. In the article I was talking about the value of going on field trips, I’ll let you read it before I go on.

Sure, the boys probably giggled at the naked statues at the art museum, chatted with their friends while a docent was talking, or mindlessly played with the science exhibits without reading the information. However, they also, with continued, regular exposure, came to appreciate fine art, love poetry, respect nature, and comprehend the scope of history. I feel sure that it was the routine exposure to the world beyond our door, that has contributed to their thoughtful, seeking attitudes as adults.

A key to successful homeschooling is realizing that not every day is going to be exceptional. Most days, your kids will fight, lose their book, or complain that they hate to read (or write, or do math, or all three). Chances are good that tomorrow your kids won’t suddenly morph into Super Homeschool Child who wants to do extra Saxon lessons, read Plato (in Greek) and act out a Shakespeare play. Most of the time, you’ll just plod along, doing what comes next and hoping to catch up with the laundry.

And that’s okay!!!!!

There will be those amazing moments (not whole days…but moments) when your child makes a key connection, finds a book they can’t put down, or ask a particularly insightful questions and you’ll think…’YES! We are getting somewhere.’ Those moments are sprinkled in and keep us going. But if you are expecting those special moments to be the norm, you are going to be disappointed and you are going to be stressed. (more…)

Mistake #4 In Our Series 5 Homeschooling Mistakes You Don’t Know You’re Making

Make The Paradigm Switch To Homeschooling, Not Doing School At Home

Mistake # 4 is not making the paradigm shift to homeschooling, and just creating a school at homeOne of the easiest mistakes to make when beginning the homeschooling journey is to model our homeschool after our local public schools. Each of us has our own reason for choosing to homeschool, most often that reason includes the thought that we want more for our kids than our local school offers, or we want something different than we experienced when we went to school.

Where we run into problems is that when we begin to think about homeschooling we go back to what is familiar. We think about desks, supplies, curricula, and how to set up a classroom in our home. We structure our days to resemble a typical school schedule, and for all practical purposes, we have just moved the location of our child’s schooling, but we haven’t really transformed their education into something new.

None of this is particularly bad, it’s just not what it could be. When we begin to homeschool we have the opportunity to transform our child’s education into something richer and deeper than what can be offered in a large group setting. Take advantage of the unique opportunities we have to do things differently.

Here are a few thoughts to challenge you. You don’t need to change everything at once, jumping into homeschooling can be challenging enough without leaving everything that is familiar behind. But small changes add up, and as you gain confidence in your ability to nurture your child’s mind, you can continue on the journey to truly transforming your approach to education.

So here are three simple things you can do to make the most of the uniqueness of homeschooling. (more…)

Frustration Busting Secret

Make a school box and enact a few simple rules to avoid hours of frustration

On a typical homeschool morning it was a major accomplishment to have all the kids up, dressed, fed, and chores done.  Then we need to start school, which often went something like this. Math first, except child # 2 can’t find his book and child #4 broke his pencil. After 10 minutes of searching everyone has a book and working writing instrument. 5 minutes later child #1 needs colored pencils, which we can’t find. Child #3 thinks they are in his room and runs off.  And so the morning progresses with stops, starts, hunts, and frustration.

Often being a Mom of 4 boys felt like wrangling monkeys in a home filled with black holes.

In order to save my sanity, I hit upon a method that eliminated a few of those black holes. So often the best solutions are the simplest, that is definitely true of this tip.

At the beginning of one school year I got each of the boys a box with a lid large enough to hold all of their school books and supplies. It worked so well I did it every year until they were in High School. (In high school, they were responsible for their own supplies.)

The system was super simple, and only effective if the rules are followed without exception. When the school day started each boy pulled out their own box and everything they needed was right there. At the end of school everything was returned to each box, the lid popped on, and there was no opening it back up until the next school day.

This solved the obvious issue of having to hunt for books, pencils and other miscellaneous items, which was a huge help in keeping frustration to a minimum, but the school box solved a few other things I hadn’t foreseen. (more…)

Mistake #3 in our Series, 5 Homeschooling Mistakes You Don’t Know You’re Making

Bear the burden of reading with your child to keep their love of books alive.

Mistake #3 in our series, 5 Homeschooled Mistakes You Don't Know You're MakingIn our last post we discussed the importance of allowing children to read books that are too easy for them. If you missed it, you can check it out here. Today, we are going to explore another mistake we make when it comes to our child’s reading level.

The oldest of my sons was slow to read. He was also highly intelligent, had an expansive vocabulary, and loved learning. When he was in early elementary school I began checking out options for history and science. Mind you, this was before Homeschooling had really taken off, so my options were limited. A friend suggested I check out a popular Christian Textbook publisher. I was VERY disappointed in the material.

The history text was stories about community helpers; firemen, postal workers and police. It was cute and boring, so boring. The reason…the book was written for a 6 year old’s reading ability, and so the content had to be “dumbed down.” I couldn’t see my bright son being even slightly interested in the book.

My solution was to work on his reading everyday for about 20 minutes…and the rest of the time, I read to him. We explored all sorts of interesting people, concepts, places, and art. With me, standing in the gap, he was able to pursue information about anything that interested him. At the time the Ninja Turtles were huge, and so he poured over Art books about Michaelangelo, Donatello, Raphael, and DaVinci.

Tim was a sponge. He could sit for long periods with books, even when he couldn’t read them. He would come to me with questions that illustrations had sparked and ask me to read sections.

During these years of struggle with reading, I was determined to keep his love of learning and books alive. While he may have made halting progress with phonics, in every other subject he was leaping ahead. When his reading skills eventually caught up I knew he would have a strong foundation and mastery of words and concepts to build on.

At the beginning of his 3rd grade year he was still sounding out most words, and reading quite slowly. Then, seemingly overnight (although it had been years of steady work) it clicked. Boy, did it click. By the end of 3rd grade he was reading at a 9th grade level.  When his reading skills synced up with all of the other learning he’d been doing he was capable of reading and understanding just about everything he picked up.

Even if your child is a whiz at reading, more than likely, in the early years, their comprehension will be greater than their reading ability. Don’t limit their science books to only those they can read on their own. Don’t limit their enjoyment of literature to graded readers with limited vocabulary. Read to your children all sorts of books! Their busy minds will love being fed a steady supply of fresh ideas, and their love of learning and books will continue to grow. They will want to become better readers because they will know, through you, the magic that books contain.

I had another student who was severally dyslexic. After years of testing and work, the conclusion was he was always going to struggle. You might think this limited him educationally, but it absolutely didn’t. His mother, and a younger sister read him all of his books. In High School I taught him Shakespeare, Chemistry, Biology, and History. He did great in each course.

He was able to enjoy the language and beauty of Shakespeare through others standing in the gap for him. (And he built me an amazing reproduction of the Globe Theater) He excelled in the sciences. He had the science series in an audio format and would work ahead so that he could do the experiments, work out all the kinks and do them in class for the rest of us. It was awesome.

I was so proud of him when he graduated. He hadn’t ‘just’ made it through high school, he’d thrived. With his family’s help, he’d received an excellent, well-rounded education, because his mom hadn’t let his inability in one area determine what he could study in other areas. She played up to his strengths and stood in the gap to help him in his weak area.

The point I’m trying to make is that, all children will probably experience a time when not all of their skills will sync together, growing in perfect harmony.  This does not mean they cannot continue to excel and grow in every other area of their education. With you, helping to bear the burden, they can continue to progress while you work on their weaker areas.

I’ve witnessed far too many students who have difficulty with reading, or a learning disability become stalled in every other area of their studies. Not being able to read well meant they did poorly with history, literature, and science. Not being able to read, could stall our student. They could be limited to remain at their reading level…but they don’t have to be.

No, we don’t want to do the work for our child, but there are certainly times where we can bear the burden with our child, and stand in the gaps so that they can continue to grow and enjoy their school years.

This doesn’t just make academic sense, it makes emotional sense.

A child who is slow to read can experience severe damage to their sense of self. They can feel stupid and less than their peers. I know adults who have never recovered from being in the ‘slow’ reading group in elementary school. At a young age they internalized the message that they are not intelligent, not good at school.

For most kids, that’s a lie. The problem is we expect children to all develop at an arbitrary rate, to learn in a steady progression upwards. For a percentage of kids that works, but for most they learn in a stop, start, 2 steps back, 1 leap forward individual pattern.  Each child has their own strengths, their own areas of intelligence and giftedness, it’s our job to nurture those areas, and work steadily where they struggle.

So, be aware of where your child struggles, get them assessed and helped if they need it. But also, don’t allow those areas to limit their education. Stand in the gap with them to be the bridge to the information they need while they develop the tools to build that bridge for themselves.

Oh, by the way, my son Tim graduated from college with an English degree and is now a High School English teacher.

If you’d like to check out the other posts in this series, here are the links.

Mistake #1

Mistake #2

Mistake #4

Mistake #5

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Mistake #2 in the Series: 5 Homeschooling Mistakes that you don’t know you are making.

How to encourage reading

How to raise a reader.

We all want our children to be good readers. We want them to love books!  A child who loves to read has a huge advantage in life.

But there is one common mistake parents make that can quickly turn your child off to reading. That mistake, pushing them to read harder and harder books.

I see this all of the time in bookstores and at the library. A mom is standing with her 8-10 year old child and the child has picked a book. The mom looks at it and says, “No, this is too easy for you, go pick another one.” Or the parent picks a book and shows it to the child who says, “No, there are too many words on the page.” Sound familiar???

It seems obvious that if we want our children to get better at reading, we should push them a bit to read harder and harder books. Let me explain why this backfires.

In order for your child to enjoy reading, they have to be able to follow the story. I’m hoping you have all had the experience of becoming lost in a book. The world around you fades away, and you are living in the story. This is a wonderful experience, and it’s addicting, in a good way. If we want our children to get addicted to reading they need to have this experience.

Now imagine yourself reading that fabulous book but every few words you have to stop and struggle to sound out a word. With determination you make it through the page, but because you have been reading in stops and starts, you could never really enter into the flow of the story. Your enjoyment, no matter how fabulous the book was, would be limited. More than likely, your comprehension would be less than perfect as well.
I’m hoping you are seeing the problem. If a child is always pushed to read at the top level of his ability, he will never be free to enjoy the book. The result is that your child will not see reading as enjoyable but as work. For some kids, if they are constantly pushed, they will begin to feel frustration every time they pick up a book, this frustration can quickly turn into statements such as: “I’m not a good reader.” “I hate reading.” or “I’m stupid.” (more…)

Mistake 1 of our series…5 Homeschooling mistakes you don’t know you’re making!

Mistake 1 of our 5 part series!

 

Help shifting from teaching a curriculum to teaching a child.The first and biggest mistake many of us make is teaching a curriculum, not a child. 

Let’s take math. Our child needs to learn mathematical concepts, so we choose a math program. Then, almost universally, we become focused on the curriculum instead of the student.

Have you ever become hyper focused on your child finishing that day’s math page.  We hound them by saying,  “Pay attention, we have to finish this!” We threaten and bribe to keep them on task.

The shift is subtle, but the math lesson is no longer about the child learning the material, it’s  about getting the lesson done. After all, our accompanying teacher’s manual says we need to do 4 lessons a week, with one day for testing! The curriculum has become our focus.

Completing the lesson, or the entire book, is of no value if your child didn’t master the concepts in the lesson. This shift in focus is sneaky, we don’t recognize it happening until 3 months down the line we realize our child is hopelessly lost.

As parents, we are not the only ones who get caught up in this trap. Our students are even more likely to commit this mistake. Unless you have worked hard to convince your child that the purpose of the lesson is to learn the material, and they have bought into the idea, they will likely rush just to finish. Most kids work as quickly as they can so they can be done.

Your job, as a parent and a teacher, is to help your students see that finishing is not the goal, learning is.

I understand the anxiety that comes when we know we won’t ‘finish’ in a timely manner. However, the world will not end, your child will not be a failure if they don’t finish their 4th grade math program while in the 4th grade. What will create problems is your child being pushed through a curriculum ‘on schedule’ but with little comprehension of the concepts they needed to learn.

Our focus needs to constantly be evaluated…are we developing our child’s understanding or working to finish a program. We need to stay focused on the purpose of education. Our child is the focus of our educational efforts. Their development and understanding is what matters.

Curriculum is a tool, nothing more.What is truly key to homeschooling because it's not curriculum.

Don’t allow the curriculum to become the mini dictator in your school day. Use the curriculum as you would any tool, to aid you in accomplishing your task, but don’t become so focused on the curriculum that you inadvertently switch from teaching your child, to teaching your curriculum.

When we really grasp this concept and apply it to our homeschool, it can change everything.

The pace that is pre-set in a curriculum is, to a certain degree, arbitrary. It will work for a percentage of children, but there will always be those who are bored because they are not challenged, and those who are frustrated, because they can’t keep up. As homeschoolers we can relax a bit. We can slow down when our child is struggling with a concept, and speed up when they are ‘getting it’.

So, as you begin this homeschool year, re-orient (or re-center if you use google maps) your teaching, so that your child is the focus and your curriculum is your tool.

If you don’t want to miss the next four mistakes that homeschoolers make, be sure to sign up for my email list. I’ll be sending out links to the other post in the series when they are all up.

Mistake #2

Mistake #3

Mistake #4

Mistake #5

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