Friday, December 30, 2011
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Monday, December 26, 2011
Monday, December 12, 2011
Saturday, December 3, 2011
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Friday, November 4, 2011
After using this for about a year, here's an update.
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Thursday, October 13, 2011
- For each syllable, jump in place. "Di-no-saur" would be three hops. "Happy" would be two hops. Model this for your child several times per day: first you do it and then he does it. Or make it a game: you say a word for him to hop, and then he says a word for you to hop.
- Compare syllables to beats in music. Let your child clap hands, snap fingers, or beat a drum with every syllable.
- Sing simple songs with a STRONG BEAT that your child knows. For example, Yankee Doodle. For each beat in the song, clap. "Yank – ee - Doo- dle - went - to -town -a -ri - ding - on- a -po -ny." Each of you could also beat out the rhythm on a homemade drum (box and spoon, or oatmeal container and chopsticks). Call it music class, and work on it a little each day. Make sure you pick songs where only one syllable is sung per beat.
- Play “going to the zoo.” Each person takes turns calling out animal names and then you can all hop, beat, or clap to the syllables.
- Tape written syllables onto blocks and have them build the word with the blocks. Then they can “see” how many syllables are in the word by counting the blocks. Make sure they also say each syllable as they place the blocks, because the goal is for your child to hear the syllables.
- Use compound words. Clap once for “hot,” then once for “dog,” and then put it together and clap “hotdog.”
- Try clapping this rhyme with your children. Tell them ahead of time, “On some of the beats, there is more than one syllable. Some of those syllables snuck in without permission! Listen carefully for the sneakers and see if you can ‘catch’ them, and tell me how many there are.”
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Thursday, September 15, 2011
Monday, September 12, 2011
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Monday, September 5, 2011
Whether you've been homeschooling for awhile, or you are just starting out...sometime this is likely to hit. You'll know when it does. Maybe one subject is hard for your child, and it sounds so easy for someone else. Maybe there's a new curriculum that people are raving about and you wonder if you should have purchased that instead. Maybe you just like to window shop...and before you know it, some bear put that curriculum into your virtual cart and made you bring it home! (My husband always says a bear made him buy something at the store if snacks sneak home with the groceries).
But before you switch gears and end up trying out multiple curricula for the same subject, there are some things to consider. Here are my personal rules for switching curriculum, especially mid-year:
1-Don't fix what's not broken. If something worked and we enjoyed it reasonably, no need to change it.
2-There is no "perfect" curriculum. There are LOTS of excellent curricula. If what I am using is excellent, then there is no need to change it.
3-The curriculum grass is not necessarily greener on the other side! What may be LOVED by someone else may or may not be loved by me and my kids. Don't change just because something else SOUNDS like it might be better, if what I have is already working.
4-I am teaching children, not curriculum, not state-guidelines, not someone else's goals...children I know well, *my* children. What someone else is teaching and how early their children knew XYZ really has no bearing on what I am teaching and how early my children know something--therefore it is not a reason to change curriculum. When my kids are grown, no one will care if they knew what nouns were in 2nd grade or did algebra in 6th grade or....
I DO change if something isn't working. I judge that by how stressed it makes me to use it, if it takes an over-abundance of my time or produces underwhelming results, or by how much my kids hate it. If they just don't like a subject, that's one thing--but if it's overwhelmingly frustrating them, that's definitely worth changing.
WHEN I change....I look at as many samples as possible. In person if I can--if not, I look for samples on many suppliers websites as well as the publisher's website. Often the samples will be different on Amazon vs. CBD vs. Rainbow and so on. If I can't see enough, or if I have questions, I email or call the company. Their response sometimes dictates whether or not I'll use their curriculum. If my kids are struggling in a subject or if a curriculum isn't working for some reason, then it's definitely an area I'll need support. Support on message boards is helpful, but sometimes I also want support from the company. Last year I emailed one company and didn't get a response for over 2 months! I was surprised they finally emailed me! I had already moved on in my search long before they responded. I know companies can’t always get back in a day or two--but 2 months is ridiculous!
AFTER viewing samples myself, I show my child. We discuss pros and cons. We discuss what is not helpful in the current curriculum and talk about changes that they think would help. Sometimes looking at samples helps them to see what would help (I found this true as early as 7 years old, which is the first time I tried this strategy.) I want my kids to take ownership of their education, and this helps them in that process. And their ownership helps a lot with not needing to skip around as much. If they have "bought in" to a curriculum by helping to choose it, they are less likely to balk at it.
Reviews can be very helpful, and I use those to help me in my search. But I look particularly for people whose teaching style seems similar to mine, or whose children seem to have some of the same strengths and weaknesses. I also like to look for what people hate, and why they hate it. Sometimes I find things that work well for us by looking for someone who either schools the opposite of how I do, or has children with opposite needs. Evaluate curricula from many angles.
I hope you find some good products you can stick with. Not perfect--perfect isn't out there! But good is.
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
The other tradition is to make Monkey Break for breakfast. Here's a great recipe from All Recipes. I wake the kids up and then come downstairs to cut up the biscuits, roll them in cinnamon sugar, poor the gooey sweet sauce over them and pop them in the oven. They’re usually done about the time the kids amble down the stairs in their pj’s, and we read Bible while the cinnamony-sweet goodness cools.
The caramelized sauce dribbles down the sides and between all the sections, and we don’t even bother with plates. We just each dig in with a fork and savor every bite. Anna grins and says, “I wonder why they call it Monkey Bread?” Zach just smiles and says he doesn’t care! Some day I’m sure I’ll have to look that up. We are homeschoolers after all!
Monday, August 22, 2011
Thursday, August 18, 2011
My son went to a Christian Preschool. We had talked about homeschooling, but I always envisioned that my husband Dave would pick out the curriculum--I had a mental block and thought I couldn't do that! Then Dave became disabled and had to leave work; I doubted myself and decided to put Zach in school. It was a good year mostly, & he had a wonderful teacher, but I realized, "I could have done this." So I brought him home for K. Anna has never been to school.
Slowly I learned that homeschooling is a way of life--you start when they are babies, and keep teaching them the next logical thing. Walking and talking lead into reading and writing, learning about money, learning about our world and learning about God etc...
I enjoyed the book, Educating the Whole-Hearted Child by Clay and Sally Clarkson, and also The Homeschool Journey by Michael and Susan Card. Many authors quote from Deuteronomy 6, and express that homeschooling is basically talking to your children "along the way" (see verses at end). I find this is true--no matter what struggles we have gone through, it always comes back to walking together through this life.
In this homeschooling journey, I find it helpful to review the reasons why we are doing this from time to time. For us, they can be summed up in 7 main points (not in any particular order--most of these permeate all of life, not just school):
1) Relationships. God created families, and it seems natural that the family be the place where especially young children be taught. Our kids can be with Dave and me instead of being away from us all day. We've developed a strong relationship because of this. And we enjoy it--most days! We all have our days. But I love the books, reading to my kids, seeing their light bulbs go on, and talking about their questions. Sometimes their questions and concerns become the curriculum for the day—it’s a beautiful thing.
2) Academics. Our kids love history and science! I hated history in school. When I first read the Sonlight catalog, I said, “I wish I had learned history this way, I might have liked it!” Our kids might not love every subject, but they have a better chance of enjoying and being inquisitive and engaged in subjects if we Homeschool. Where else can they get one-on-one personalized education?
3) Flexibility. We have the freedom to teach at each child’s pace, whether advanced or remedial, and according to his or her interests. God made individuals. If we want to take a break from our overview of World History and learn more about Rome, we can do that. I listen to my children’s questions and pursue the answers with them—and teach them how to pursue answers.
When my son was hating math in 2nd grade, I asked him questions, listened, discovered why, and helped him to learn methods of self-control (throwing tantrums over subtraction is not helpful!). I also worked with him to find a curriculum that better suited his needs. Together we looked at online samples, evaluated, and then made the switch. I told him my main goal for him that year was to learn self-control—to learn to do math with a good attitude even if he didn’t enjoy it (though I hoped he could also learn to enjoy it sometimes!). He could not have had that kind of attention, training, direction, goal, in public school. He had an “I believe you can do this, and I’m going to walk with you through it” kind of experience—and excelled!
The schedule is mine to determine—I’m not following someone else’s schedule. If we want to play monopoly for math and reading some days in the elementary ages, we can! We have the flexibility of doing work orally when they are younger too.
4) Life Skills! One day Dave had the kids help fill up the car fluids and check the oil. That’s homeschooling too in my book. Too many kids grow up with few life skills—not knowing how to cook, clean, do laundry, weed a garden, paint a wall, do basic maintenance, make a budget, FOLLOW a budget, manage their money, make investments… There’s not much time for all that when you’re in school all day, then come home to activities and homework. This is a real handicap for lots of people.
5) Health. It’s easier for kids to get enough sleep and not eat junk with homeschooling. And there’s no getting beat up on the playground or bus, no fear for your life, no being publically humiliated in class.
6) Character. I don’t think character issues can be dealt with in a large classroom, and especially not on a playground with a few supervising teachers. Peers won’t teach biblical conflict resolution—it takes time and patience and training to walk through the steps of how to deal with others.
7) Spiritual. God is the director of history, the creator of science, the author of language. One time Dave was concerned about a science book we had—generally a good book with great illustrations, but the first 2-page spread showed man evolving from monkeys, and he worried what the kids would think. I handed the book to Zach (then 6.5) and asked him to tell Daddy what he knew. He said, “These people believe we came from monkeys, but God made us out of dust and breathed His breath into us so that’s not true.”
I think this is the essence of homeschooling: 1Thes 2:8 "We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us." Relationship.
We want to share our faith with our children, and encourage them to teach their children as well. If we only teach the things of God to our children, but don't teach them to pass it down, then our family is only a generation away from leaving the Lord.
Consider Psalm 78:1-8: "O my people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter hidden things, things from of old-- what we have heard and known, what our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done. He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands. They would not be like their forefathers-- a stubborn and rebellious generation, whose hearts were not loyal to God, whose spirits were not faithful to him.
Deut. 6:4-9 "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates."
I pray we have many more years to walk along the road together.
Friday, August 12, 2011
COPS is a catchy acronym for editing that I first learned from a copywork and dictation class I took on bravewriter.com. It stands for:
Organization (includes neatness)
So how do we use our spelling police?
One, if spelling is really tough for your child, you don't have to edit everything they write. Start with editing copywork and dictation exercises. Teach them what to look for in writing that is not their own. Sometimes it's hard enough for a child to put together their thoughts and write them down, and getting a paper marked up with needed changes can make them feel like their ideas were not good, or that it's all simply too much effort. Professional writers don't revise everything they write--some writing is just for fun. Let kids have some "fun" writing too. (I'll have to write more on this another time!).
Two, once you have decided that something is going to be edited, then have them read through their piece with the COPS acronym in mind. I used to write it out for my kids all the time, until they learned it. If the piece is more than a sentence or two, let them work on editing the next day. Some kids might be able to do it quickly, while others may need their whole language arts time just to do this. So gauge whether having an assignment on top of editing is appropriate for your child.
Three, if your child thinks something is wrong but isn't sure, have them circle or underline it in pencil. You can go over that one together. Praise them for any errors they find, and for any they find and are able to correct. NOTE: If a spelling error is because of a rule or pattern they haven't learned yet, you can choose whether to simply show your child the correct spelling, or focus on the other errors and "skip" this one for now. Some kids get discouraged when too many things are pointed out to them at one time, so don't feel you need to make a paper "perfect" if there are lots of errors; focus on the ones that they are ready to figure out now, and know the rest will come in time. If you do point out an error in a word they wouldn’t know, you can say, “We haven’t studied this one yet, so you wouldn’t know it…”
Four, if your child misses some errors that are concepts or patterns that they have learned in All About Spelling, or they are grammatical items they have learned in their LA, put a light pencil X next to the line for each mistake. Don't tell them right away what the mistake is, see if they can find it on their own. This gets them to take responsibility for thinking about the editing process and not just relying on mom to tell them what's right or wrong. Sometimes I'll let them know if they are looking for a spelling, capitalization, or punctuation error.
Five, for any spelling errors they don't find (but do know how to "fix"), get them to analyze the word. If the mistake is phonetic, have them sound it out. Let's say they wrote "firt" instead of "first." If they say the sounds they wrote, they can see what's missing and fix the mistake. Similarly if they use the wrong phonogram. If they can't identify what's wrong, sound it out for them and then ask if they know how to correct it. ie, "This says 'firt.' We want 'first.' Do you know how to change it to first?"
If the spelling error is covered by a rule they have learned, ask them if they know of any rules that might apply to this word. Maybe they write "kat" instead of "cat." Or "kichen" instead of "kitchen." If they know to try C fist, they can correct cat. If they know that we usually use tch after a short vowel, they can correct kitchen. See if you can get your child to think of the rule on his or her own--but if not, then give them more information. ie, "What do we try first, C or K?" or, "How do we usually spell the /ch/ sound after a short vowel?"
Six, if the spelling error is visual, have them use the scratch-paper spelling they learned in level 3, and see if they can identify the correct word. Sometimes I'll tell them they've used a homophone, and ask them if they know what that homophone means. Then I ask if they know how to spell the word they meant to use.
Seven, put any words or patterns that they don't identify as mistakes on their own back in the child's daily review tab. Include the related phonogram, sound, and/or key cards as needed. Something I like to do is to keep several blank word cards in the back of each child's review set. I can usually find a word that I want in just a minute or two--but if I can't, I don't sweat it, I just write it on one of my blank cards with a black marker. These are also handy for putting any new words into their review stack. Marie posted a template for blank cards.
Finally, be patient. You may not see results overnight, but over time you will. After 2 years with All About Spelling, I remember being impressed by my then 7th grade son's lab report. It was neat--no scribbling over mistaken words. It had few spelling errors; he even got some words correct that we hadn't studied yet. If you had told me two years prior that we'd be this far, I'd never have guessed it. Around that same time, he told me long words with prefixes were "easy" to spell. I had to ask him if he heard what just came out of his mouth! Truly--the differences were night and day. He still made some errors (firt vs. first was on his report), but he could often find and fix them, and they continue to lessen as time goes on.
Have fun with your friendly neighborhood editing police!
Saturday, June 18, 2011
"The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down." Proverbs 14:1.
I think as mothers that we have to be watchful for opportunities like these. It's so easy to focus on the times kids don't do what they're told or that they have to be told...that we can miss the fact that they are young, growing persons who need to be affirmed, who need to see what it is to be a man or a woman, who need to be respected for their growth and not torn down for their failures. They need to know they can make us smile and make us proud.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Marie Rippel appeared on The Balancing Act television show on June 14, 2011, speaking about pre-reading skills and the new All About Reading Level Pre-1 program.
Here's a replay of the segment:
"As we all know, learning to read doesn’t just magically happen once a child learns his ABC’s. In fact, more than a third of children struggle with learning to read," Marie Rippel said. "So you can imagine how excited I am about this opportunity to talk to parents across the country about the importance of reading, and how teaching their child five important pre-reading skills—which we call the Big Five Skills—can have a positive impact on their child’s reading success."
Congratulations Marie, loved getting to see this segment! My kids were among the 34% who struggle with learning to read, I believe this will help a lot of parents and their children. We would have loved all of the games and activities in Pre-1 (and even my 12 yo dd thinks Ziggy is adorable!).
"The writers of this book don't want kids to understand math!" my then seven year-old said to me. That proclaimation came up in a series of conversations about math that started with one of our year-end evaluations. My son told me that he hated math--which I knew already, but I started asking what made it hard, and then I began to realize that the program I had chosen used a discovery-oriented approach when he wanted to be shown how to do something (by the book--not by mom!) instead.
This became crystal-clear one day when I showed him a different book. He looked through it, and then came to me with his old book and made the statement that still makes me laugh today. I feel confident that the writers DID want kids to understand math--it was just the wrong approach for this child. As we talked, I did have to tell him, "No, sadly, we can't get rid of math as a subject--but we can work together to find a better curriculum and a style that makes more sense to you." The result was that his very negative reaction turned into a positive journey that we took together to find something that would work better. That's actually one of my favorite homeschooling memories, and it set me on a new path. Instead of feeling defensive and adversarial, I joined him on his team and together we found solutions.
We often think about evaluating our kids--but do you also have your kids evaluate themselves and their school year? I started doing this because of my son's math struggles early on, and I learn so much from my kids through this! When they were little, we would do this orally. We'd snuggle up on the couch with a snack and just start talking. What did they like about school? What was hard this year? What made it hard? What was their favorite subject? and so on. My kids have given me valuable information that has helped me improve my teaching style, learn more about their learning styles, helped me make simple changes that meant a lot to them, helped me in choosing curriculum, and improved our relationship with each other. They know that I really care about what's important to them and that I want to help them and walk alongside them. I have often told them, "This is YOUR education," because I really want them to take ownership of it.
One year my son wanted to learn about sharks, and the local children's museum just happened to be holding classes where they would disect a 2' shark! Amazing! But had I never asked my son what he wanted to learn, I might never have known about that fleeting interest (fleeting because of the smell I think...!)
Now that my kids are older, I have a written form that includes these questions:
What subjects are your favorites, and what do you like about them?
What subjects are not favorites, and why not?
What area did you improve in the most this year?
What area are you struggling with or would like to improve in?
If you could change something in how we do things, what would you change?
What would you most like me to understand about you?
What is one goal you hope to achieve next year?
How about you, do you have your kids fill out an end of the year evaluation? What questions do they answer?