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

Posts tagged ‘delete me’

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.



It’s a kind of magic

In the Konos unit on trust, we look at optical illusions and so-called “magic” tricks (basically: really FUN science). The children make cloaks, wands and a stage, and performing a magic show using the tricks they’ve learned. This teaches them crafts and science and public speaking. The idea is to illustrate how simple deception can be to achieve, and then to contrast that to the Truth, and how knowing Truth protects us from deception.

The course material refers to some great looking books on the topic, but being a penny-pinching nethound, I decided to look online for ideas. About.com has some great step-by-step guides, which I made into a booklet for my family. We’ve printed it out, and now it’s DH’s turn to spend some time with the girls, explaining each step, the principles behind each trick, and helping them to master it.

We’ve decided to include the magic show in our Grandparents’ Day at the end of the year (date to be advised). On that day, we’ll also present the girls with awards for progress through the year, and lay on a special tea for Grannies and Grandpas, all made and served by the DDs. We’ll display their work, do the magic show, and perhaps incorporate another performance of some kind. I’m really looking forward to it, as I know it’ll be a wonderful treat for the entire family. (And of course all available Aunts and Uncles are invited and expected, too).

If you’d like to download that book of tricks for personal use, click here: 18 Fun, Easy Magic Tricks.

Science resources: thaumatropes

I found these websites useful when looking for details about thaumatropes:

  • Princeton Online: helpful science demonstrations (and more, I’m sure).
  • Bright Bytes: examples of Vision Toys that demonstrate the concept of persistence of vision.
  • Random Motion: one of the best definitions we could find, and some great experiments that even worked for me!
  • Micro Magnet: examples of animated GIFs demonstrating thaumatropes with less risk of human error than the “offline” variety”.

School Express

This week is Deadline Week. That means I’m very busy and have less time than usual for school. What I found last year was that when I gave the girls the week off so that I could earn an income, we fell far behind in school work. We ended up having to do a lot of extra work to catch up, and we had to do a pretty serious mental adjustment each time to get “back in the zone” for school. I also found that the girls didn’t relate too well to the change in routine, and would end up grumpy and fractious by the end of the week.

In short: it didn’t work.

As an alternative, this year I’m trying something I refer to as “School Express”. A typical school day takes anywhere from five to eight hours, and is pretty comprehensive. We cover Bible studies, social studies, maths, phonics, reading and some writing. It takes time.

This week, we’re doing the “Lite” version: almost as much work, but in three hours or less. We still do Bible studies, phonics and maths. We cover social studies but in a less detailed way. And we read FAST. It’s amusing trying to twist my tongue around  the ancient Hebrew names and less ancient King James English at high speed, but it makes the girls laugh and they seem to recall a lot of it, which is good.

Another solution that seems effective is to find something comparable to what we should be studying, and show it on DVD. For instance, right now the girls are watching the ballet of Midsummer Night’s Dream. When they’re done, I’ll read the story to them (the abridged PDF), and then they’ll paint pictures of it. So we get art, literature, music, history and a little bit of dance. All while I get some work done. Oh, and update my blog 😉


Sometimes I worry that I’m not doing enough as far as home schooling goes. It seems to take enough time to get through everything we try to accomplish each day, but just because it takes long, does that mean it’s enough? And how much of it really sticks?

One of the things I like about Konos is the timeline. Every time we learn about a new subject, there’s bound to be a person involved somewhere along the way, and that person goes onto the timeline as a permanent visual reminder of what we’ve been learning about. Very cool.

The massive lever arch files that make up the three volumes of Konos are thorough but not detailed. One page may contain 20 activities, and you select the ones you’d like to do with your kids, then do them. I usually tick them off so that I can remember what I’ve covered already. But here’s where I fall down: the course work will say something like, “Learn about woodwind instruments.” The resources page lists useful books on each subject, but since we started using Konos in November, I haven’t been able to find a single one. We can often improvise, but since I never really know what I’m looking for (having not found a single one as a reference), it feels a lot like guesswork.

What I have found is that the internet is a veritable wealth of information. From biographies to worksheets to videos and sound clips, I have yet to be disappointed. (And watch this space: I’ll let you know if the Great Google lets me down).

This week we’ve been “studying” music. We found a great book at the library: The Usborne Book of Music. Every day we work though a few pages, and then I go online to demonstrate what we’ve learnt. On Monday we saw a guy making toy guitars from foamcor and elastic bands. (Then he plugged it into an amp and it went from cute to awesome). We also had a look at the inner workings of a piano while someone played a concerto – amazing! Much better than I could have done at home, especially not having an actual piano.

On Tuesday we learned about the violin. We read the biography of Paganini and Stradivarius, then watched and listened to Vanessa Mae and another awesome violinist whose name escapes me playing Paganini compositions on YouTube. After that I downloaded and printed worksheets on the violin: a colouring in sheet for DD2 and a “name-the-parts” sheet for DD1 (with the answers on a separate sheet for me!)

Wednesday saw baroque music and wind instruments. I played Beethoven’s moonlight Sonata, Prokfiev’s Peter and the Wolf (sadly not Ustinov – it wouldn’t play!), and someone playing a piccolo. What a great way to demonstrate what a piccolo is! They were enchanted and want to act out their own Peter and the Wolf (when Daddy fixes the sound on the Peter Ustinov version!).

In the afternoon DH played a DVD of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (the Ballet) for the girls, and again, they were enchanted. Now they want to dance (as they have for a long time), but also to play the violin, flute, recorder and piccolo. So perhaps something is going in after all. It’s not the kind of in-depth studying we did in High School but, after all, that’s a number of years away.

I like worksheets because they provide a visual record of what’s been studied, as well as giving an opportunity to work on writing and spelling skills. Wednesday’s worksheets can be found on these great sites:

I also really love the enchanted learning website and would love to subscribe to it, since it offers a lot of what I need.

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