Home business, home education and health challenges: what makes us tic?

Posts tagged ‘curriculum’

Why the “core values approach” to home education really works for us

Yesterday I discussed our philosophy and some of our methods when it comes to home education. It occurred to me after I’d posted it that I utterly neglected to mention the weekly baking we do, how much the girls help with shopping (especially at the Farmers’ market), and all the fun, crafty things we do. Ah well, now you know. We bake, we shop, we craft. ūüôā

There are so many reasons that this approach is effective, that I would suggest that every person who is home schooling their children, or who is considering doing so, should first make a list of everything they hope to give their children from home education. That list will probably be a long one, and it should be refined and distilled until it’s a simple and clear (and achievable!) as possible. Once that’s out of the way, make a decision about curricula and methodologies is so much easier. You’ll be able to spot what you want – and what you don’t – at a glance!

For us, this really works for three reasons:

  1. I am sure that my children are learning what I believe is essential to becoming well-rounded adults.
    Because I have identified what I believe is most important, I can focus on those things. This process was done in consultation with many others, mentors, parents, pastors, home schoolers and (of course) Papa Bear. It was also the result of deep personal reflection and hours of research. I believe that our approach will deliver capable, resilient, well-rounded adults, ready and able to take on the world, and equipped with all the tools they need to face an ever-changing future.
  2. I know that I am not missing anything, since the net is fairly wide and covers the most essential bases.
    Most of what we learn in formal schooling is a series of facts. Why? When everything is available to us at the click of a mouse, why does it matter whether or not you know when the battle of Hastings was fought, or the scientific name for the Cape Swallow? I propose that it doesn’t matter. Of far more worth is a sense of the sequence of events (in History) and the ability to find things out for yourself. Spoon-feeding and regurgitating facts is a recipe for the learnt helplessness we see so prevalent in young people today, who seem unable to think for themselves, or take care of themselves, or make a valuable contribution to society. I am training young adults who will be able to make a positive impact.
  3. This approach supports my children’s learning styles (and my teaching style and need to work).
    My kids are unique. No one who has spent more than five minutes with them has ever doubted this. In fact, many of them have announced it to me within moments of meeting the girls, just in case I myself hadn’t noticed! Thanks, but we already knew. Between ADD and Tourette’s and what looks a whole lot like Asperger’s Syndrome, not to mention high IQs and sparkling wit, these two do not fit into any conventional boxes. Now, they don’t have to. And as a result, they have become so much more confident and self-assured. They’re ready and willing to interact with a wide range of people of all ages and races, and they no longer worry that, without their preassigned pigeonholes, they don’t have a place in their community. We also no longer have to battle feelings of failure and worthlessness because they don’t happen to be part of the eight percent of children who think and learn in the way that schools teach. We learn¬†their way.

And of course, a key factor for us is the simple fact that we can afford it! Cost was one of the motivators for switching to home school, and since most of the material we use is either online (for free), at the library (for free), or in the head of a loving, engaged and doting grown up (for free!), we spend very little on education.

We may pay for outings, books or DVDs, or we might buy equipment for inventions and experiments, but I feel that these things are a much better investment than sending the girls to a school where the main thing they learn is to hate and fear learning. Now, let’s be really clear: I do not mean that all schools squash the love of learning in young minds. I do not mean that all teachers ignore the uniqueness of their learners. I know many, many children who love going to school, and who thrive there. And every teacher I know personally is a dedicated, passionate, involved individual who gives everything she has to elicit the best from her pupils. All I mean is that school doesn’t work for us.¬†

 

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12 steps to homeschool on a shoestring

Teach kids the way they learnIf you’re new to home education, deciding which course of action to take can be overwhelming. The range of curriculae alone seems infinite. And before you even select a curriculum, you need to identify your educational philosophy. Do you believe in schooling at all, or do you prefer an “unschooling” approach? If you prefer a slightly more traditional approach, do unit studies appeal to you, or have the works of Charlotte Mason inspired you? Would you prefer to create your own material for your children, or would you feel more comfortable using prescribed programmes, designed by teams of experts and researchers?

Whatever your preferences, it is possible to give your children education of the highest possible standards without breaking the bank.

Twelve simple steps to quality home education

1. Understand your motives

Why do you want to educate your children at home? We wanted to spend more time with our children, make sure they had the best possible education available, protect them from harm, and address the challenges wrought in our family by food intolerances, scoliosis, Tourette’s Syndrome, ADHD, and other autism-spectrum disorders. I also wanted a safe environment in which to foster faith and enquiring minds.

2. Identify your goals

For our family, our goals are very simple:

  1. Build a thorough grounding in God’s Word.
  2. Inspire a love for learning.
  3. Thoroughly develop the ability to LEARN.
  4. Create a solid grounding in mathematical principles.
  5. Develop a firm grasp of language.
  6. Provide an overview of how the world fits together in both space and time (geography and history).
  7. Delve into how the world works (science and biology).
  8. Allow and support free expression.

That may sounds like a long list, but we have actually distilled all education in these simple principles. Furthermore, having identified what we want to get out of education in our home has given us the freedom to pursue it through whatever means presents itself. We are not bound by a single curriculum. Rather, we have the freedom to take advantage of every new opportunity as it arises, and harness all that it offers to accomplish these goals. Changing course midstream is not disruptive, as long as it continues to build on these principles,

3. Clarify your philosophy

Alright, you know why you’re homeschooling. Not to choose a philosophy (or two – or three – or more …) that resonates with you and, more importantly, that works for your family. We started out with a very simplistic system that used a series of workbooks to take children from one grade to the next. We all hated it and the early days of home education were filled with loathing and dread. From there we quickly moved to a unit-study-type of curriculum based on key character traits. This was excellent and served us well, but it didn’t really resonate with me academically. This year I’ve been researching the teaching philosophies of both Charlotte Mason, who based her programmes on what she called Living Books, and John Holt, who advocated unschooling. What we have now is a loose mix of the two, with some unit study work and a lot of free study thrown in.

4. Determine your children’s learning styles

If you insist on teaching material in a way your child simply cannot grasp, you’re wasting your time. It really doesn’t matter how great your curriculum is, or how well-structured your activities are. Moreover, not feeding their individual learning styles will quench any inclination to learn that they may have had, and may well turn them off learning altogether. We’ve recently invested in the excellent “Discover Your Child’s Learning Style” on kindle from Amazon.com. Buy it. Read it. Apply it. Your home education experience will be improved immeasurably.

5. Learning to think is infinitely more important than learning facts

The explosion of the internet has shown beyond doubt that information is virtually infinite. New data is shared online every moment, and there seems to be n end in sight. ¬†With all that is out there for us to know, who’s to say which bits are important? How can anyone decide what information a child¬†absolutely has to know before leaving school, and what information can wait until they’re older – if they learn it at all? Obviously certain facts are not appropriate for certain ages. What I am talking about, though, is not the more risqu√© areas of science or history. I’m referring, rather, to the sequence and selection of data presented to our children. Do children in Grade 3 really have to know about volcanoes? Can they not learn about them in Grade 5? Or Grade 2? Or never? And if your child would prefer to learn about Titian than Hitler, is that a crisis? I don’t believe so.

It seems to me that structured lessons in airless classrooms, where a teacher’s attention is split between 35 boisterous young people and a rigorous syllabus are the true murderers of a love of learning. That, above all, needs to be fostered in home education. We need to ignite our children’s passion for finding out new things, and give them the tools they need to make those discoveries. We teach our children to ask us questions, look things up on the internet or in encyclopaedias, experiment, test, prove. There are thousands of ways to gather data, and these are what needs to be taught. With a strong grasp of language, a firm foundation in maths, and the ability to learn, no doors can be closed on their potential.

6. Map out your day

children are not a distraction from more important work.Once you know why you’re doing it, and you have an idea about how you’re going to carry it out, you need to address the¬†when. If, like most of us, you work for yourself, juggling a full-time job, housework, and home education can be – let’s call it challenging. It’s very important to prioritise your children’s education. You only get one shot at this. A career can happen at any time. Your clients are adults and they can handle a little wiggle room. But a moment missed with your child is a moment gone forever. Don’t waste it.

For us, we find that first thing in the morning is by far the most effective time for structured education. This is when we do our Maths, Bible Study, and reading. Our “school” day rarely takes more than three hours, and we’re usually finished between 9 and 10AM. That may not seem like a lot of time, but the results speak for themselves: the girls are years above their grade level in both reading and Maths. They have a thorough grounding in history and geography for their ages, and both draw and paint beautifully. Even my tiger mom inclinations are satisfied by their progress.

7. Mix it up

Outings and crafts make the school year more interesting. Any subject can benefit from an outing that supports what is being taught. Everything from camping and hiking to museums and galleries can inspire a growing mind and entrench a lesson learnt. Art, crafts and play acting go even further, providing both kinesthetic and tangible reinforcement of concepts. Furthermore, these activities build their own set of valuable skills and strengths. A routine offers a number of benefits for learning, but occasional deviations act like oases, providing refreshment to wearying souls.

8. Be flexible

Your children are not like you. They don’t process things the way you do. They don’t see the world the way you see it. They are unlikely to learn the way you do. This can be the hardest part, but we need to be flexible. We need to accommodate our children’s uniqueness. We also need to accept the bad days. Some days, it’s hard to be¬†present for teaching. Some days one of the kids will be having a bad day. Something unexpected could come up at the last minute. The key to success in home education is learning to roll with the punches.

8. Don’t be afraid to fail

As Thomas Edison famously said, I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10000 ways it doesn’t work. That’s a great attitude, and one that can help both our children¬†and ourselves. In the beginning, especially, it can be hard to have the confidence to make a decision in the face of a sea of options and little advise. My advice is to plunge in, do your best and see what happens. Never stop refining; that’s the only ay to keep improving.¬†It’s not over until you succeed. So if you haven’t succeeded yet, it’s because you’re not done.

9. Free is not cheap

We don’t pay for educational materials. As far as possible we follow Charlotte Mason’s “Living Book” approach in selecting our materials. Many of the books recommended by her are public domain and downloadable from Gutenberg.org. Even more ¬†have been given to us over the years by loving family, generous friends and a raging book addiction. For Maths we use Khan Academy. I can’t recommend this highly enough. It’s resulted in a marked improvement in everyone’s numeracy around here. These resources have cost us no money (if you don’t count bandwidth), yet they’re proving to be the most effective tools around. ¬†Just because they’re free that doesn’t mean that they’re not excellent, so don’t turn down an opportunity because it lacks perceived value.

10. Double up for extra oomph

For History and Geography we use Living Books. Right now, we’re working through “Our Island Story” (available free on Gutenberg). Not only do we use it for history and geography, it provides our reading practice, copy work, and language skills. And story time! That means that in one half hour session, using just one book, we get a whole lot of learning done!

11. Lifelong Learning

The two most important things you can teach your children as far as “school” goes are a love of reading and a love of learning – along with the tools to feed those loves. Facts change. Information increases. We can never teach our children all there is to know. But if we teach them how to find what they need to know for themselves, we have done them a great service.

12. Have fun!

Don’t sweat the small stuff. Just take every day as it comes, squeeze every ounce of gladness out of it, and relish in the unique opportunity you have to invest in the future.

Education at home: distilling what matters

We had a lot of reasons to start home schooling our kids, but at the end of the day there were results we wanted to see in our adult children, and what was happening in the classroom each day bore no relationship to our family goals.

We’ve tried a number of curricula and a range of course material, and this is what we’ve distilled:

I think that they will enjoy anything if we make it absolutely gripping. I also see no harm in starting with stuff they DO like. Eventually,¬†they WILL be interested in everything. Here’s what I care about right now, in order:

  1. Do they have a strong concept of RIGHT and TRUE, and can they navigate their own lives based on this concept, without my help?
  2. Do they passionately LOVE to learn?
  3. Do they love to read, and take any and every opportunity to do so?
  4. Are they competent at Maths and able to grasp the concepts, extend them and, above all, APPLY them to the real world?

Beyond that, everything else is superfluous. I fundamentally believe that with these in place, the rest will come. They will eventually be curious about aspects of the world that may not old their attention now. And one day it will click together and they’ll be filled with wonder.

Considering that this happens to me more and more as I get older, I am not worried about them not completely grasping certain facts so early in life, because for me the facts are merely the vehicle taking them to the goals I’ve mentioned above. As long as the books I use to teach the facts serve my purpose, I will continue to use them. When they don’t, I’ll find ones that do.

We put a lot of energy into making sure there’s laughter in our household. Trying not to sweat the small stuff, laughing whenever we can, finding the lighter side of life. It’s not always easy but it’s already paying off, so in the long run I am very optimistic about the future.

 

Apologia Science

When we started home educating our darling daughters, one of many contributing factors that helped us to make the decision was the fact that evolution is taught as fact in schools. In fact, we battle to find ANY kind of material to use for science lessons, be it online, in the library, or in many of the¬†available¬†home education curricula that¬†doesn’t assume evolution is truth.

We want our children to be taught the Truth about the earth, how it was created, and how it works, and it’s frustrating not being able to find supporting materials. While Papa Bear and I have learnt and studied a lot of this stuff ourselves, without having it written down somewhere reliable, we don’t always cover all the bases in our teaching.

That’s why we were so thrilled with the curriculum available from Oikos Family Ministries, which includes the Apologia Science books. We haven’t used them yet, but from the research we’ve done and reviews¬†we’ve read, they look absolutely fabulous. I can’t wait to get a set and start working through them with my girls.

So, just imagine my surprise and¬†delight¬†when I discovered today that¬†there’s a competition online at the moment to¬†WIN¬†some of these books! How fantastic and wonderfully timed!

If you want to win (please don’t –¬†I want to win!!) just click here and follow the instructions. I’d say “good luck” but you’d know I didn’t mean it since I really am¬†that¬†selfish, but have a look at the rest of the blog and the Apologia review anyway, it’s really a good resource.

Oh okay, Good Luck. I mean it.

The start of another week. Eek.

Sunday, the first day of our week, is typically a very busy day for us. I plan the school week ahead, we compare diaries, and try to figure out who gets the car on which days, and how we can keep all of our promises. It’s not one of my favourite days, I confess.

This week we’re supposed to study pioneers and tracking and that kind of thing. Of course, the American material I’m working from fails me in this field. How can I teach the children about their own ancestors, and the history of the land they call home? How do I know what to tell them: how much information? How much detail? What can they handle? What do they need?

Where do I even start?

And because my middle name is Murphy (I just found out!), this week is insanely busy in terms of work, too. So I somehow have t answer the above questions and meet my deadlines and, in the middle of all of it, stay solvent and sane.

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