Category Archives: education

teaching kids to read

Teaching Kids to Read Can Do More Harm Than Good

 

My sister called to ask me for recommendations for teaching my 5 year old niece how to read. An old friend announced a few days earlier that his daughter had gotten accepted into transitional kindergarten. Someone else was touting the awesome school they’d just enrolled their toddler into.

While all of these parents want the best for their children, they’re being duped (by an education system that derailed a few generations ago and a cultural psyche that touts more as better) into believing that a focus on early academics will produce brighter students in the long run.

The trouble is that repeated studies and experience prove the opposite to be true.

An educator herself, my sister recognizes the deficits pervading her kindergartner’s lesson plans. Lists of sight words are the primary tool being used to raise her daughter to the status of reader. My niece is definitely one smart cookie, but memorizing pages of words at the tender age of 5 isn’t really her thing. And at 5 years old it shouldn’t have to be. READ more HERE

why we home school

How Do You Do It?

 

Whenever I tell someone new that we home school, I take a deep breath and wait for the inquisition. Inevitably, they ask, “How do you do it?”

Be it the curious customer standing behind us in the mega-store line or that distant cousin at the family reunion, enquirers have probed my mental stability to be making such a choice by asking me for an explanation. Should one of my students happen to be in close proximity, the investigator often feels compelled to quiz little Jude or Malachi on their ABC capabilities and grasp of the American system of democracy. I’ve learned to be ready. Continue reading

home school schedules

A Home Schooling Schedule

 

Milling around the home school bookstore with no clear goal in mind (which is generally a BIG mistake), my eyes were diverted this way and that by all the shiny, new text books and hands-on learning tools. Titles, promising the perfect solution to every dilemma home schooled students can muster, sucked me into the fantasy that my house could run like a well-oiled machine if only I would invest in the recipe divulged between the book covers.

I broke down under the pressure and bought a lovely book all about scheduling. Yes, we’ve been schooling for more than a decade, but still I figured we needed a better plan.

The author had fabulous ideas and worksheets which made me envious. “Oh, if I just print out her spreadsheets and fill in all of our names, everyone is gonna fall right in line,” I told myself.

According to the book, baby must nap every day at an appointed hour; thereby, insuring mama has time to devote to uninterrupted time schooling siblings (perhaps I should have read that paragraph to my toddler who hasn’t napped consistently a day in his life).

I Can Do This

“I can do this,” I prodded and gave the author’s advice a go, but somewhere after more than an hour of wailing (the baby, not me -although I came close) I lost my nerve and retrieved the toddler.

Yes, I could have tried to endure a few more days of torturous screaming midday to see if I could persuade my babe to stick to the prescribed plan. Instead, I made peace with the fact that in his case I’m happier not trying to force this square peg into a round hole.

Make peace with the fact that you can't force a square peg into a round hole. Click To Tweet

The reality is that some of the author’s rigid formula was a bad fit in my household.

Over the years, I’ve learned to be flexible and to adjust our schedule to meet our needs. For example, at times I’ve woken up before my kids and enjoyed a bit of quiet time in prayer (which is also what the author of my new book prescribes).

However, currently my youngest has usually migrated into my bed during the dark of night and he rouses easily. The few times I’ve attempted to extricate my limbs from his clutches and rise before him have ended in dismal failure. I lost both sleep and my peaceful solitude.

Similarly, teaching children to rise early is helpful because it does train them for a traditional school format or employment situation, but if you suffer with health issues or you’ve spent the night tending to a newborn, then a strict start time of 8 am may not be the right plan for you at this point in your life.

Individual Time Schedules

I admit the author did inspire me to create individual time schedules for my younger children’s school day. Prior to reading her book, I often felt frustrated when two or three of my younger students required my help simultaneously, but in completely different subjects. Just as soon as I would begin to assist my first grader with his math lesson, my third grader would beg for aid with his grammar lesson and my daughter would insist she couldn’t finish spelling without my immediate attention.

After reading the book, I decided to give each child a written schedule which was divided into thirty minute time blocks. I assigned a specific subject to each time slot and I added a block for one-on-one instruction with me.

Since math is typically the subject in which my attention is sought, I made sure to stagger everyone’s math so that it was assigned during their individual time with me. If my third grader found himself stumped by adjectives during his grammar slot, he was instructed to save his question until his fourth period when he had my complete attention.

That small adjustment did wonders toward bringing peace back to the school table. It helped my children to feel in control of their studies because the school day was broken down into manageable chunks with clear expectations of what needed to be done during each period.

Knowing that they could count on me to be available for them on an individual basis for a set amount of time alleviated their frustrations (and mine).

Children thrive when they know what to expect and when to expect it. Click To Tweet

Children really do thrive when they know what to expect and when to expect it. Trying to home school (or even just raise a family) without a schedule is an invitation for chaos, but as my experience reminded me the schedule that you set needs to suit your family’s personal style, as well as your current needs.
This article originally appeared in Seton Magazine online.

My First Home School Graduate

To-do list:

wash laundry

scrub toilets

wipe counters

make bed

graduate son

mop floors

pay bills
Hey wait, did you catch that? I just ED off an item on my to-do list FOR-EV-A! Unlike the laundry which will never be finished or the crumb piles that will only reappear five minutes after I’ve cleaned them up, my son will never again require me to re-home school him (okay I will probably have to remind him of his manners and to pick up his wet towels, but that’s a different kinda schoolin’). That’s right, I’m doing the happy dance now that my numero uno son has completed his last assignment, making him a high school graduate.

It seems like just yesterday that little Pierce, in his adorable mushroom cut, was seated across the kitchen table with #2 pencil in hand. “Ssss, snake, ssss…what letter says ssss?” I was asking. Number families were neatly chalked on the hand-painted, wall blackboard and card stock Rembrandts covered the fridge. From ABC’s and 123’s to algebra and biology, I watched him stretch and grow in stature and wisdom throughout these last thirteen years.
This was the child that taught me to correct in blue ink (to his young perfectionist mind red pen was like the matador’s cape). He was the gifted artist who scrapped beautiful pictures if the proportions weren’t to his liking. The first (not the last) to reduce me to tears during our first reading lessons, he went on to devour books as a teen (no, not literally, he only bit board books as a toddler). My son #1 has music in his heart, so he taught himself to play the organ and then the piano. While he may not have ever been the quickest player on the soccer field, he easily ascended the ranks in Civil Air Patrol.
Our home schooling years are like postcards in my memory.
Okay, some of those postcards might be stamped from LaLaLand when I recall my yellow, school bus daydreams. Those are home school mom fantasies wherein you place your beloved, hard-headed learner on the magic yellow bus and then float back into the house to commence leisurely eating your secret cookies right in the middle of your tidy living room (as opposed to stuffing one in your mouth while hiding behind a cabinet door hoping no one will sniff you out). Then you watch some mindless talk show on the fingerprint-less TV screen and talk uninterrupted on the phone for a whole hour.
Yeah, I admit it, I even threatened to send him to “school” a time or two figuring he’d return home ever grateful for my sacrificial time and attention. In my estimation, he would return home (after a 7am to 4pm day, heavily laden with a ten pound backpack stuffed full of homework) uttering words of thanksgiving for his former home schooling routine and begging to be home again in the pleasant company of his siblings.
I had those days occasionally, but all in all our years together at the school table were a great blessing. Every milestone achieved, every lesson learned, every concept internalized, I was lucky enough to witness. And for all of the education he received, I learned right along with him. Indeed my rusty algebra was renewed and I can diagram sentences again, but even more importantly I was schooled in patience, compassion, perseverance, honesty, integrity, forgiveness and charity.
Home schooling is about providing kids the tools to become life-long learners, who know how and where to find answers to their questions and solutions to their problems. In the beginning, people asked me how I would make sure my son didn’t miss anything. When high school drew close that “anything” became how could I teach him subjects that I was lacking in. Staying the course in my vocation, I discovered the reply to that inquiry just about the time they stopped asking. He wasn’t constrained by me anymore than Einstein was constrained by his mother.
So today I am reaching around to give myself a well-earned pat on the back. Looking at my handsome, intelligent, artistic son who serves on the altar, holds down a part-time job, leads in his CAP squadron, delights his baby brother and fills our home with melodies, I know we succeeded at forming a whole person capable of extraordinary things.
That’s one goal down and just 7 more (kids) to go.

Home Schooling 101: Hands-On Learning Tools Made from Recycled Stuff

home made educational tools for learning multiplicationWhile I suppose all young learners appreciate some creative, hands-on tools to liven up their task, little boys seem most interested in movable instruments. I can’t lay claim to conjuring these ideas from scratch, but I thought I’d share some things that are working in my home school.

Old computer or DVD discs and their cases make handy reading or math wheels. I simply flipped the discs to their blank sides, drew lines to divide them into quarters and filled each quarter with consonants or numbers. When you snap the disc back into its case (so that it is on the left-side), the child can easily spin the wheel to 
home school DYI math wheel for learning times tableschange the beginning sound or number to be multiplied.
I cut index cards to fit the opposite side of the case (where the album cover would normally be). On these I wrote the simple word endings (at, it, et, ot, in, on, op, ack, ick, etc.) and the second factor. For the multiplication tables, I wrote the whole family of products and taped this to the index card so that it can be folded back (to hide the answers).
how to teach kids times tables
For reading, I simply let my 5 year old sound out all of the words without bothering to correct real from false words. As for the occasional, SH + IT, I just ignore it since my son has no idea this is a “bad” word.

easy inexpensive ways to teach phonics to young childrenphonics toy made from recycled materials
The matching nail board is a work in progress. It consists of a piece of wood (an old shelf board), nails, string and card stock. The idea is to match the two sides or to work back and forth. So far I created the Ten Commandments so my 2nd grader can practice the proper order. He also has to memorize The Act of Contrition so I created a back and forth pattern to help him practice. My daughter hates Latin, but she’s about to start a class in it, so I’ll make vocabulary match-ups for her. There are lots of possibilities for this one from language practice to matching number names and their digits.

making a match up board to teach kids

With years in as a home schooler, I’ve learned not to get too crazy buying every new gadget or book on the market. Limited space and budget helps me rein in my “I’ve gotta try that” temptations. These ideas were made completely out of recycled materials I already had around the house and they were easy to construct. They’ve gotten my boys interested in some self-directed learning masquerading as tactile fun.