Small Steps Are a Big Deal

Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

[Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. Please see my full disclosure policy.]

Since starting this path of unschooling, there have been more than a few times that I’ve worried about whether or not my kids were actually learning, and they always inevitably show me in a big way that, yes, they certainly are. My older kids have usually been my biggest concern because they’re the ones I need to report to the school district. Now that I’ve found the right evaluator and gotten a better handle on things, I’ve been much more at peace and can clearly see progress being made.

With my anxiety over my older children abating, however, my attention has turned more to Bailey(6) and Luke(5). Don’t get me wrong. I’m not freaking out over them like I was with the others, but I have been wondering where my more hands-off attitude was going to lead them. As usual, they’ve inadvertently proved to me today that we’re headed in the right direction.

You may remember from my earlier post about teaching reading that I’ve been letting my younger children take the lead with reading. After phonics became too tiresome for Bailey and Luke both, I tossed them aside and have just been waiting for cues from them.

After becoming more relaxed about it, Bailey almost immediately taught himself to read with a more whole language approach. He still uses the letters as clues, but he usually recognizes words on sight. I’ve been very pleased with his progress but have lately wondered when he would move past 3- and 4- letter words. I needn’t have worried. Today, while reading Life of Fred–Apples to him, he asked if he could read. I said yes but was thinking that he was really going to have a tough time with it, as these words are much harder than in his usual books. Amazingly, he read the entire page to me and only needed help three times- an entire page! The word that surprised me the most was “studio.” This may not seem like a big deal to you, but I’ve only seen him read words like “tree” and “green”- one-syllable words. Apparently, his skills are far beyond what I was giving him credit for, and the problem was the level of books I was giving to him. Progress? Check.

My disquiet about Luke ran a little deeper than with Bailey. Unlike Bailey, Luke couldn’t even remember the smallest sight words and honestly showed no interest in trying. It was the same with phonics- no interest in letter sounds whatsoever. Luke is only 5, so, again, I wasn’t overly concerned but simply curious as to how this would pan out. Luke spends an awful lot of time on his LeapFrog LeapPad2 Explorer Kids’ Learning Tablet, Green, so I knew he was going to get some practice with this because there are so many phonics apps on this device. (It truly is an invaluable resource in our home.) While reading books to him, sometimes I put my finger under each word as I say it, but he’s always been more interested in the pictures.

Imagine my surprise today when Luke called to me from the living room and said, “Hey, Mom, look! I spelled it!” When I heard him, I walked into the room expecting to see some random letters written on a piece of paper. Instead I saw this…

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My heart leapt when I saw it, and I squealed with delight and congratulated him. Later on, while he was playing a game on my laptop, he asked if he could play a different one. I went over to assist him, even though he probably knows more about this stuff than I do. I was trying to figure out how to get this game started for him and finally said, “I can’t figure out what to do,” to which he rolled his eyes and promptly pointed at the word “game” and said, “Right there where it says game, Mom.” I knew then that everything is going to turn out okay.

These little signs of headway may not seem like much to you, but, to me, they are huge. Just as with a baby’s first tiny steps, these little wins are going to pave the way for so much to come. It’s so easy to look for these gigantic leaps of learning and, somehow, overlook the shuffles that got them there in the first place. Today I’ve learned that even the smallest steps can be a big deal.

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Translating Board Games into Educationese

[Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. Please see my full disclosure policy.]

Board games are a fun way to build upon skills your children are learning while providing a great opportunity to spend valuable time together as a family. For those of us who are required to keep logs of our children’s “school days,” it’s helpful to know how to translate these games into a language school officials will recognize, or as I first heard from Kathy Ceceri on About Homeschooling, “educationese.” Below I’ve compiled a list of the 10 most popular board games in our house and the skills they impart.

1.
Monopoly Board Game– This game is a classic, and while some things have changed since when I was younger, such as how to disperse the money, it remains to this day a fabulous way to develop a variety of skills, such as:
-counting money
-making change
-property management
-real estate
-reading
-multiplication (adding houses)
-logic
-strategy
-addition
-counting

2.
Brain Quest States Game– To be quite honest, my kids sighed the first time I pulled it out, but since the first time we played it, my kids absolutely love this game and ask to play it all the time. What I love the most about it is that it is designed so that your children can look right on the game board, which is a map of the United States, to answer most of the questions. This is a great way to teach geography while your children remain oblivious to that fact. Some skills learned in this game are:
-US geography
-US history
-counting
-strategy
-logic
-cardinal directions
-oceans surrounding the US
-reading
-map skills

3.
Yahtzee Jr. Disney Princess Edition– Ireland and Summer love this game. It’s a great choice for preschoolers and younger children who may not quite understand the standard version just yet. Some skills include:
-counting
-matching
-logic
-strategy

4.
Hasbro Yahtzee– This is another example that has withstood the test of time and has continued to be a favorite in many families. Skills involved include:
-adding
-logic
-strategy
-reading
-probability

5.

Scattergories Game– This one has got to be my personal favorite. I played it for the first time on a camping trip after the prom with some friends, and I’ve been playing it ever since. This is an awesome vocabulary builder and just a great game for people who, like I, love language. Some skills built upon include:
-vocabulary
-spelling
-reading
-critical thinking

6.
Apples to Apples Party Box – The Game of Crazy Combinations (Family Edition)– This one happens to be another of my personal favorites. It’s possibly because this game also involves language skills. When my son came home from boot camp for a Christmas visit, we stayed up into the wee hours many nights laughing and having a great time with this game. Skills included are:
-vocabulary
-reading
-comprehension
-synonyms
-antonyms
-critical thinking

7.
Clue The Classic Edition– Another tried and true classic, Clue is a fantastic “murder mystery” game that has entertained generations of children and adults, alike. Skills built upon include:
-logic
-strategy
-critical thinking
-process of elimination
-vocabulary

8.
Twister– Okay, this isn’t technically a board game, but it definitely falls into the category of games, so I’m including it. My kids love this game so much that when we couldn’t find it for a while, they actually used our living room rug, which has multi-colored circles all over it, as a Twister board. Some skills involved include:
-knowing left from right
-colors
-flexibility
-coordination

9.
Scrabble Deluxe Edition– Scrabble is a language game, hence it’s another favored by yours truly. This game can be approached from many different angles. You can play it from a very technical standpoint, even challenging opponents to the validity of words by looking them up in the dictionary, or you can be more silly and use made-up words with imaginative and goofy definitions. Variety is the spice of life, right? Skills engaged include:
-spelling
-vocabulary
-dictionary usage
-strategy
-reading
-logic
-addition
-multiplication (for those double and triple-word scores)

10.
UNO Attack!– This version adds a little twist to another classic game. Instead of a person dealing the cards, a battery-operated contraption holds them, but watch out! It will occasionally start spitting out a load of cards when you draw from the deck, and you have to keep all of them! Various skills involved include:
-strategy
-logic
-matching
-addition
-counting

These are but 10 of the hundreds and hundreds of games available today. The next time you plan a family game night, remember, as always, your children are learning all the time, so pull out that log and practice your educationese.

What are some of your favorite games, and how do you include them in your records?

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Just Let Your Kids Play, Already!

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There’s a disturbing trend happening in our culture today. In a world constantly chasing fame and fortune, parents have begun to prepare their children for this lifestyle at earlier and earlier ages. Gone are the days of teaching 4-year-olds how to tie their shoes and play with their dolls. The good ol’ days of letting your children run, explore, and use their imaginations is almost a thing of the past. We have now entered the Age of Overeducating Your Kids.

It’s a well-known fact that children are maturing at faster and faster rates these days, and adults everywhere solemnly shake their heads and click their tongues in despair because of this. But let’s take a look at one possible reason why this is happening.

Just a few generations ago, children were able to run and play and, well…be kids. Games of Kick the Can and street hockey were to be found in a great many neighborhoods. Kids were able to catch tadpoles and snakes or play house and Barbies to their heart’s content. If your kids’ days look like this, I applaud you because you are definitely going against the grain in society today.

Today’s norm has begun to look something like this…

Image courtesy of Jomphong / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Jomphong / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

*Found out you’re expecting?? Great! Now let’s get down to business. First, find the most prestigious preschool for your child and submit an application before you’ve even had your first sonogram. It’s sooo important for baby to get into the right preschool, or it might upset his/her chances to get into an Ivy League school someday. You can never be too prepared…and those wait lists can be killer.*

Your baby’s 6 months old and not crawling, yet? Better pay for a therapist to come in…we don’t want baby to be behind. Oh, and don’t forget to show those sight word cards to her everyday. She needs to get a head start on her reading.

Happy 3rd Birthday, darling! You can’t really open your gift per se, you see, because we are giving you the gifts of French lessons and computer classes at your preschool! Isn’t it wonderful? What? You want to learn how to tie your shoes? Later, dear. Later.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture. There is nothing wrong with these activities in and of themselves, but it’s important to look at the motives behind it. Could it be…

-a hope for economic prosperity for your child

-a complete interest in giving your child a head start on life
or…I think the most popular reason…

-PRIDE…??

Could that have possibly entered the picture at some point? But so-and-so’s son is doing it- we can’t look bad. I feel so good when I tell people all about the wonderful things I am doing for my kids. It makes me feel like a better parent.

I really wish that these types of parents would remember one important thing. Their children are CHILDREN. Let them play. Let them dig up some worms, make mud pies, and get good and dirty. Childhood is but a tiny fraction of a person’s life. Don’t squander it on programming them to be little adults!

And it’s not just parents who are guilty of this. The school institution is just as culpable here. 5-year-olds who enter Kindergarten are expected to sit for long periods of time completing worksheets and busywork. Many adults have a hard time sitting for extended periods of time. Why would we expect this of our little ones? Granted, most children do learn to tolerate this tedium, but at what expense? A broken spirit. What else do you expect after their natural energy and curiosity are pushed farther and farther down until they learn to “sit still, keep your eyes and ears open and your mouths closed?”

Enter our current age of progress at all costs. Yes, children are maturing faster and faster. Of course they are. From a very early age, so many kids are being expected to behave like miniature adults. This is not what I want for my children.

I want them to be exactly what they are. Kids. I want them to get so excited about discoveries that they have to be told to quiet down a little. I want them to come back in from outside with slug juice all over their hands and mud all over their feet. I want to trip over their tents made of blankets and their dollhouses made of boxes. Why? Because then I know they are embracing their freedom to be who they are- not what I yearn for them to be. It’s not about me. It’s about them.

So when I hear my 12-year-old daughter calling for her siblings to come and play school, I can only smile. Because childhood lasts a little longer in this house.

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Multiculturalism- More Than Our Differences

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Homeschool Blogging Carnival hosted by Lisa at The Squishable Baby and Keisha at Unschooling Momma. This month our participants are talking about Multiculturalism.

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Image courtesy of renjith krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of renjith krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

In this day and age of such diversity, multiculturalism is a buzzword you hear everywhere. It is so important to address the assortment of cultural traditions that abound in our ever-shrinking world today. Rather than use textbooks or documentaries, our family uses life experience to broaden our views of the world.

We live in an extremely racially and culturally diverse city. Just taking a walk down the street, you may well pass ten people coming from ten different countries. It would be very hard, indeed, for us not to be exposed to the many differing traditions around us. We have friends from all over the world- Japan, Dominican Republic, Lebanon, and Peru, just to name a few. My husband’s stepfather who raised him and whom my children call Grandpa is from Puerto Rico. We are so blessed to have such an array of friends and family from such a variety of places because this translates into great opportunities for us to experience life in far away places, right here in our backyard.

Devin attended a Shinobi Camp over the summer where she learned about ancient Japanese history and the basics of Ninjutsu. She also fell in love with our Japanese friend’s sushi recipe, and she made it herself over the weekend. Devin has been able to attend the Sweet 15 birthday parties of several of her hispanic friends and has attended church with a friend from Peru where they only speak Spanish. Devin doesn’t speak a word of Spanish but loves to attend because she loves her friend.

And this brings me to the one issue I have with how multiculturalism is taught these days. While learning how different our cultures are can be very informative and a lot of fun, I think that sometimes our differences can be stressed a little too much, and it can make some people feel alienated from one another. We need to shift the focus a little to include what we have in common, too, because when we look at and interact with someone raised in a different culture, we need to look at who they are. Not just where they were born. This is such an important trait to have in this increasingly diverse world. When my children and I see our friends, we don’t think: They’re from Jamaica, she’s from Japan, she’s from Peru. Instead, we think: They’re so wise, she’s a daughter of the King, she’s my friend.

As we go about life learning about our beautiful, kind, and amazing friends, I don’t want our main focus to be on how we are different. No…instead, I want to focus on how we are the same.

Devin with two of her friends
Devin with two of her friends

 

 

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Visit The Squishable Baby to see how you can participate in the next Homeschool Blogging Carnival where we will be talking about Homeschool Mythsconceptions . hmschool blogging button

 

Please take the time to read the submissions by other Carnival participants:

 

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Weekend Review: Breathing a Sigh of Relief

Early this week, I realized just how close standardized testing and evaluations are, and it hit me like a ton of bricks. Remember that panic I went through a couple months ago? Well, I had a slight relapse. Homeschooling in Pennsylvania can be a bit stressful because of all the requirements we have to deal with, but being an unschooler here is new to me, and I started freaking out with worry over how we’re going to comply with these rigid laws. Our state requires us to keep portfolios with work samples, and since my kids are more hands-on, I became quite fretful.

I even went against every instinct I have about learning and started having the kids do an activity with me everyday, just so I’d have some sort of work samples. They really didn’t mind it, as we just incorporated a lot of what we learned from our nature walk on Saturday and went from there. On Monday, we examined, drew, and labelled a wild onion that Arianna brought home. We also studied some moss that Bailey brought home and discovered that moss does not have actual roots but little root-like structures called rhizoids. Arianna actually got really into it and went on to dissect a pine cone, a nut, and a wild potato from our outing. We never even knew that wild potatoes existed before this. I mentioned to her that the root of a yellow flower she was looking at looked like a little potato. She cut it in half, and we smelled it…definitely a potato. Google confirmed our suspicions.

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The kids also painted little wooden butterfly cutouts.

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On Tuesday, we discussed the differences between plants and animals, and the kids each drew their own version of a plant/animal hybrid. Dillon and Devin have been playing WOW often, and Arianna is still into her theatrical makeup. We made fruit salad for dinner that day, so the kids had a great time helping me cut fruit. (Actually, I didn’t have to cut any of it- they did it all!)

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Wednesday we watched a cute YouTube video of a photosynthesis rap song. Afterwards, we discussed the root words of photosynthesis and chlorophyll, and the kids made word scrambles using plant vocabulary words. The kids enjoyed watching a documentary about insects on Netflix called “Microcosmos.” We’ve also been reading Farmer Boy and have been discussing the many responsibilities of pioneer children. I’m hoping this will help to curtail their whining over their chores…
Wednesday night some of the kids went to Kingdom Builders, and Arianna went to youth group. I had nursery duty, so I stayed in there with Kenzie.

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On Wednesday evening, I got some exciting news…I found an evaluator who also has ten kids and is an unschooler. It was like a big weight lifted off of my shoulders. Part of the reason I’ve been so nervous about work samples is because of evaluations. I’ve always turned in extremely thick portfolios before, and I wasn’t sure how my evaluator would react to a much thinner binder. This new evaluator is much more relaxed, and since she is also of the mindset that children are always learning, the amount of samples makes no difference to her. Hallelujah. Big exhale.

On Thursday, I informed the kids that they no longer have to do activity time with me, unless they want to. They all said that they actually thought it was fun and will probably continue to do things with me sometimes. That made me happy because I really did enjoy it; I just didn’t enjoy feeling compelled to do it to please the bureaucracy. Learning should not be forced. Period. Ireland was the only one who opted to work with me today, so she made a plant lapbook, and we talked about why plants are important. Speaking of learning by choice, today was my third day of learning German through Mango Languages. I was able to start at Chapter 6; I took a placement test because I did take six years of German in school. I’m having a lot of fun with that. The younger kids have been on coolmathgames.com and Khan Academy brushing up on their math and logic skills. Ireland has been requesting math “schoolwork” quite a bit, so I’ve been printing a lot of Pre-K worksheets for her. Arianna still likes to cook, so after baking a cake, she helped me make stuffed peppers for supper. Yum.

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Kenzie has started pushing her little stroller around the house. She’s not going to be a baby much longer. Sniff.

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Friday will probably be a low-key day. Saturday, Devin has drawing and painting class, and Sunday is her art show. And Caollin and London will finally be getting baptized on Sunday! The water heater for the baptistry had broken, but the replacement was supposed to come in today. They’re so excited.

What have you done this week? Leave a comment and tell me all about it!

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Join Me at Lovin’ the Weekend Blog Hops

I’m so excited to have been chosen as the featured guest host of the Lovin’ the Weekend Blog Hops for this week!

Welcome to Lovin’ The Weekend Blog Hops with your co-hosts:
Karen from Tots and Me, Rena from An Ordinary Housewife, Erin from For Him and My Family and Aurie from Our Good Life
Thank you to every one who has stopped by, whether this is your first visit or you have been a faithful ongoing participant! 
Please note, there are 3 linkies, please scroll down to the 3rd one to link up giveaways! Thank you so very much!
(Giveaways linked up to either of the other linkies will be removed. Thank you for your understanding.)
We would love for you to stop by all the co-hosts and follow us, then feel free to add your links to any or all of the following linkies.

 We also randomly choose a Featured host each week. This week we are featuring Shelly from There’s No Place Like Home.

 Here’s what she has to say:
My name is Shelly, and I just recently started blogging about three months ago. I have eleven children ranging in age from 10 months to 20 years, but only ten still live at home, as our oldest son has moved out. I started my blog for two reasons- the first being that I constantly have thoughts floating around in my head, so I needed an outlet for them so that I can actually get some sleep at night. The second reason is because after five years of homeschooling, we recently started unschooling after Christmas, and I was hoping to be a source of encouragement for people in similar situations. Most of my posts are about homeschooling and unschooling, although I do also write about our Christian faith and the logistics of having such a large family. You won’t find many how-to posts on my blog, as I’m mostly a philosophical person, and, truthfully, I’m not at all crafty!

Don’t forget to link up to the Lovin’ the Readers Hop if you would like a chance to be a Featured host next week. Please comment with a way to contact you, especially if there is not an obvious way mentioned on your blog. We would love to include a little write up about you and your blog in the next week’s Lovin’ The Weekend Blog Hop post, including a link to your blog. And you will get to include the linky codes on your blog. Sound fun? We’re looking forward to getting to know our readers better.

Here’s how this blog hop works. We would appreciate it if you would follow Tots and Me, An Ordinary Housewife, For Him and My Family and Our Good Life then please head on over to our Featured Host and follow as well. If you no longer have GFC please follow in some other way. After that there are three different linkies you can link to. Whichever one you choose to link to, please grab that button and share it on your blog (the codes are on Tot’s and Me’s sidebar). We’d love it if you could tweet or in some other way share about this blog hop, the more people who know about it, the more potential visitors and new followers of your blog. We’d love to meet some new friends this weekend.  
Some people are more interested in just increasing their numbers, while others really want people who appreciate their blog and want to keep up with their posts. So, there are two separate blog hop linkies. 

The third linky is for you to link up your giveaways.
If you are interested in increasing the number of followers to your blog via GFC, Linky Followers, email, Twitter, Facebook or Google+ link up here. We will follow you back if you follow us (just note which one you are linking to):
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If you are interested in gaining followers to your blog who will read and comment and truly find an interest in your blog, link up here:
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If you have family friendly giveaways to link up, here’s your spot. Please make sure to include an end date for your giveaway.
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We are so glad you stopped by. Please leave a comment if you link up and we will be sure to stop by and follow back.

Don’t forget to check out my “Blog Hops” page for other great blog hops!!

Sorting Things Out: My Rant Against PA Homeschool Laws

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

(Note- an updated post about PA homeschool law can be found here.)

As the end of the “school year” looms closer and evaluations near, I find myself obsessing over the injustice of PA homeschool regulations. I understand accountability- I really do, but from what I’ve read about other states in the US, PA has gone way overboard with its requirements for homeschoolers. While other states can choose between portfolios or standardized testing and others don’t need to do much more than notify the school district of intent, we have it much more difficult here in good ol’ PA. Homeschoolers here must keep a portfolio with work samples, a daily log recording learning and books used, and are also required to take standardized tests in 3rd, 5th, and 8th grade. We must then have these items evaluated by a licensed teacher or psychologist who will decide whether or not adequate progress was made. I honestly don’t even understand why we have to waste our time and money for this evaluation because we must still submit the evaluation letter and our portfolios for them to be examined again by the superintendent. Overkill much?

This has always bothered me quite a bit, especially seeing how easy some other states have it, but I’ve never felt the sting this much until I’ve started unschooling. Since unschooling is self-directed learning, there really aren’t that many work samples in our house. Sure, I take pictures galore, but I have the feeling that the powers-that-be are looking for actual samples- not a photo album. This will be extremely difficult for us, as most of the learning done at our house is through hands-on projects that the kids initiate themselves. Are they learning? Absolutely, but it’s not through textbooks, worksheets, or reports, so I’m getting a little worked up over this.

I do keep extremely detailed records of what we do, while other people just check off a subject if it’s done for the day, but since I’ve always turned in portfolios the size of phone books before, I don’t know what the reaction will be.

This week I’ve found myself going against every instinct I have about learning, and I’ve been making my kids do an activity with me everyday for the sole purpose of having work samples. This seems so unnatural now and so pointless. My children’s learning flows beautifully throughout the day without any help from me, but here I am now throwing a wrench into the system to please, well… the system. It angers me, and it frustrates me.

Natural learning does not fit neatly into a little box where your children complete A, B, and C, and then put them in a little folder. It’s life learning, and it’s done through exploring the world around them and interacting with it. It’s done through creating and enjoying things like Minecraft towns, clay villages, homemade makeup, and beloved readalouds. The beauty is in the simplicity, and I resent the fact that I feel like I may have to dampen their passions by requiring them to do more “schoolish” projects, so that those neat little file folders in their portfolios are filled with things that, ultimately, will mean nothing to my children. Have you ever noticed what happens when you, as a parent, start showing too much interest in what your children are doing to the point of offering suggestions as to how to make it more “educational”? The light in their eyes disappears, and that passion starts to wither away. I don’t want this to happen because of a legality. Their education means more to me than that, and I wish those in charge could see that.

If you are an unschooler and have a portfolio requirement, I would love to hear how you do it.

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Considering Homeschooling? Ten Things You Need to Know

Making the decision to homeschool will be one of the most important decisions of your life. It can also be a confusing, stressful time as you try to figure out exactly what it is you’re supposed to do. The term “homeschool” often conveys images of a perfectly dressed mother pointing at a chalkboard as her perfect children are eagerly taking notes on Mother’s fascinating lecture. I’m here to tell you today that, err…it’s not like that. Here are ten things to consider before (or while already) homeschooling.

Image courtesy of iosphere / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of iosphere / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

1. You do not have to recreate school at home. Speaking from experience, this is a mistake that many parents make. The vast majority of us are products of a public school system. This brings memories of desks, raised hands, strict schedules, and homework. These things are not necessary in homeschool. Once upon a time, my poor children had to raise their hands and sit quietly at their school desks completing worksheet after worksheet. I’ve known fellow homeschoolers who doled out homework to their children (um…isn’t it all home work??) and others who became so strict with their schedules that they missed out on other life opportunities. If you feel yourself being pulled in this direction, ask yourself this question- Why try to recreate something that obviously isn’t working?

Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

2. Books are not the only way to learn. This meshes very well with #1 because when you think of school, you think of textbooks, right? What if I told you that not all children will learn well this way? Like adults, kids are unique individuals, all with their own learning styles. Pay attention to how your child does things. It’s a great way to pick up clues on how to best approach educating your child. The better you tailor your curriculum to your child, the better they will learn.

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

3. The television is not your enemy. I know so many parents out there are completely against screen time, but don’t sell this resource- yes, resource- short. Educational television, such as PBS, History Channel, Animal Planet, etc. has a plethora of programming that your kids will learn from and enjoy. Don’t have cable? That’s okay. Netflix is what my family uses for the vast majority of our TV time, and the variety of movies and documentaries you have access to is astounding. We’ve watched so many fabulous movies to supplement things that the kids were interested in. This is an excellent resource to use to bring to life books you may have been reading.

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4. As with television, computers can also be very valuable. Let’s face it- most of us parents haven’t grown up completely immersed in electronics like our kids have, and change can be difficult. I know; I was there. At first, I was dead-set against my children having access to their own devices, until I gave it a shot and watched what actually happened. My kids use these devices to write stories, write blog posts, make YouTube videos, look up science experiments, research just about anything, and connect with their friends. Lastly, gaming is a big thing with our older kids. Games such as Minecraft teach so many things, including geometry, logic, science, map skills, and so many more that I’m probably missing. The question of whether or not to impose time limits on these devices is your choice. Just don’t completely rule this method of learning out without doing some research.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

5. Learning to read is not a race. Children are being pushed to read at younger and younger ages these days. Wait for them. Some children are ready to read at four, while others may not be interested until several years later. Look for cues, and when you do start teaching them, take your time and let them take the lead. At first, I was so concerned with trying to keep up with what kids in public school are doing that I made it a very stressful time, and I was completely taking the fun out of reading. Don’t do that. Reading can be a wondrous place where the imagination soars, or it can be a tedious chore that brings no delight. Their experience while learning to read can be a giant determining factor in how your children feel about reading. Thankfully, I learned from my mistakes and use a much more hands-free approach now.

Image courtesy of Clare Bloomfield / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Clare Bloomfield / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

6. Your kids will not always cooperate. They’re human. These are the perfect days to shake things up a bit and do something different. Don’t get discouraged; we all have our bad days, don’t we? And if you have more than one? Well, that just multiplies it, but, again, relax. The beautiful thing about homeschooling is the freedom to be flexible in our days. Use that freedom liberally!

Image courtesy of pakorn / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of pakorn / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

7. Don’t play the comparison game. This can apply to children in public school or to other homeschooling families. Things always look better from the outside. The grass is always greener, right? Keep in mind that every family is different with its own set of challenges and circumstances that we can’t see. Yes, there are families that do portray their lives as if everything is a piece of cake. You can do two things when it comes to families like this. Look to them for inspiration and ideas, or, if they are making you feel inadequate, look the other way. This is why I had to stop watching the Duggars because, while I love that family, I was feeling more and more inadequate with every new episode, so I said no more and gave myself a respite.

Image courtesy of varandah / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of varandah / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

8. Your house will get messy, and your laundry will pile up. It’s a given, especially if you have more than one child. Having your kids home around the clock can be awesome, but they are also children and will make messes. This is why it’s so important to delegate chores to your children. This is a great way to teach a sense of responsibility, along with a healthy dose of life skills. Children who are raised with responsibilities while they are young will grow to be responsible adults.

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9. Let your kids be kids. Children learn through play, and it is a great way for them to learn life skills. Children today are expected to grow up too quickly. By the age of five, many children are expected to sit still, listen quietly, and complete worksheet upon worksheet for hours every day. Take it easy. They’re just kids. I once read that you can learn all of elementary math in about 18 months time. That’s it. 18 months. This is why I, myself, do not start formal math with my kids anymore until they are in 3rd grade. It’s just not necessary. They’ll learn majority of these skills through life, anyway. As for playing? Other than being educational in itself, it has another benefit that I cherish. It preserves innocence. My 12-year-old still enjoys playing house and school with her younger siblings, and it brings me such joy when I realize that if she were in school, that childish innocence would have been long gone.

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10. Let your children take the lead. They are naturally bright, inquisitive, and determined. Don’t undermine that by requiring only topics that they have no passion for. Ask them for suggestions, or, if you’re brave enough, just sit back and watch where they’ll head on their own. Kids who haven’t been trained to believe all learning has to come in a school-like fashion are resourceful and confident because they know how to learn without limits.

Homeschooling is such a wonderful blessing, and, just like each of us, it will look different in every home. But the one thing we have in common is our dedication and love for our children. Those are the two most important ingredients to a successful homeschool.

What would you add to my list?

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Maybe It’s Easier Than I Thought

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Today was another one of those glorious days that you look forward to all winter long. Blue skies, beautiful weather, snow almost melted. Like I said, glorious. Since everyone is feeling better, I decided that I was not going to let this day go to waste.

After Devin’s art class, I took all the kids (minus Dillon) to Lehigh Parkway, which is five minutes from our house and has an amazing bike trail that I wanted to walk.

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We set off, and 30 seconds into our trek, the kids wanted to stop and collect some pine cones that they saw.

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I gave them a few minutes, then announced that it was time to move on. That declaration was met with a few sighs, but they begrudgingly trudged on. After a few more minutes, they wanted to walk up to the water and take a closer look. This time I sighed, but I relented and told them to hurry up.

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Again, I hurried them along, so we could continue our walk. Behind me I kept hearing little mumblings of This is no fun, Walks are boring, I want to play. I’ll admit that, at first, I was a little irritated. After all, I was doing this for them, right?

That’s when it hit me. I have been worried, more than a few times, that maybe my kids aren’t learning enough. More than anything, I want my kids to feel confident to pursue anything that interests them. Anything at all. So there I was attempting to quash their natural curiosity about the world around them, so that I could accomplish what I had set out to do. It was like someone screamed in my ear, “What are you doing?? Let them run. Let them explore. You’re breaking their spirits!”

I took a deep breath and let them take the lead from there. It was amazing. They climbed “mountains” (actually big hills), picked wild onions, and discovered moss growing on rocks. This led to a conversation about how moss does not need soil to grow. Bailey pulled it off of a rock and studied the underside of it. We talked about the root-like threads that were there that held it in place. He was so interested in this that he brought it home with him. They looked for tadpoles- nothing yet- and tried to identify animal footprints in the snow. This evolved into a discussion about how sometimes tracks in the snow can be misidentified because the snow melt makes tracks look much larger than they actually are. We looked for signs of new leaves growing on trees- also nothing yet- and deciphered between evergreens and deciduous trees.

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Eventually, Summer started to get tired and London had to go to the bathroom, so we headed back to the parking lot. They played on the hill there, rolling down the hill again and again. Finally, we went home.

Frankly, I was pooped, but the kids were far from finished. While I made dinner, Arianna, Caollin, London, Bailey, and Luke jumped on the trampoline for a while (I got a few jumps in, too :)); then Caollin went in and reappeared wearing a dress- Time to play Little House on the Prairie! Inside, Devin decided to try to make sushi for the first time.

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My point in all this? Sometimes watching and waiting for your kids to do something can be frustrating and worrying. You may wonder when something is going to happen. You know that old saying- “A watched pot never boils.”? I think it applies here, too. Sometimes the most amazing things will happen when you least expect them. I didn’t take them out for a field trip today. I wanted to go for a walk, and that was really my sole purpose for going out. I let my guard down, and BOOM, they decided to do that something I’ve been waiting for- when I wasn’t looking!

So if you’re feeling fretful that your kids seem to be doing nothing, my advice to you? Stop. Take a deep breath. Stop expecting things to happen. Just know that they will, and leave it at that. Because, sometimes, maybe it’s easier than you thought.

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Weekend Links- 3/21/14

This has been one of those weeks where we haven’t really done much. Everyone (except my husband) has had some form of the stomach virus this week, so we’ve kind of just been existing. Anyway, here are some links to earlier posts I’ve written.

Pregnant or a New Mom? I’ve Got Just the Thing for You!

An Unschooling Day- Our Way

You Want the Truth about Homeschooling?

Sorting Things Out- This Christian’s Thoughts on Birth Control

An Unschooling Novice’s Approach to, Well…Unschooling

I hope you find something you enjoy. Have a great weekend!

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