Category Archives: Homeschooling

Our Seventh Grade Curriculum

nobg-drown-freebie11Seventh grade sucks. Moods are crazy up and down. Bodies feel either too developed or not developed enough. Friends shift and change; some stab you in the back and you feel so alone. Parents seem mad at you all the time. You just want to lash out at them and hurt their feelings to make yourself feel better, yet really you want rocked like a baby and soothed. You want to fit in somewhere, but not with the younger kids. You know you’re ready to fit in with the high schoolers if they’d drop their airs and stop treating you like a baby. It’s time for a boyfriend. But that’s exciting and scary.

Homeschooling seventh grade students is a tightrope act. But if you can hang with them like a true funambulist (That’s a tightrope walker. Did you know that? I didn’t!), try hard to understand, stop talking, and start really listening and sitting with them, the metamorphosis is truly breathtaking. You’ll find them witty, concerned, compassionate, and raw. Looking back now, my seventh-grade self is probably an accurate portrait of my true self before contorting it to fit what I wanted it to be.

Anyhow, each year, I write a post about the curriculum of my oldest. She gets the test run so I know what I’ll do for the rest. Lucky her. I tend to stick with the same curriculum from year to year as long as it’s working. We work on a rolling schedule. If the book isn’t finished in an academic year, no biggie. If we finish a book before the academic year, we move on to the next one.

Our Curriculum

Saxon Algebra I:

We started this last year in sixth grade, and we will finish it nicely by the end of this seventh grade school year. Last year was kind of rough starting algebra; we really took our time. Because I was raised on Saxon Math myself, I knew that if she could just hang in there, at some point the Saxon Algebra work would seem easy. This year, it clicked and we’ve progressed very nicely. She has requested tests, and so she has been taking tests this year.

An important concept I learned was to teach algebra on our chalk board (chalk wall) and show lots of examples, not skipping any steps that may seem simple to me.

We will start geometry when we are finished, but I doubt I will keep the Saxon curriculum for geometry. I want something with proofs to develop logic. We will come back to Saxon for Algebra II.

Easy Grammar: Plus and Daily Grams Grade 7:

Nothing fancy. Just good, solid, easy explanations and black and white worksheets. There is no (little) practice with writing. Just grammatical skills.

Drawing Sentences:

This is a diagraming (or diagramming) book that I use to supplement the grammar curriculum, although it is not from the same author. It helps to logically break sentences down into all that has been learned from the grammar book. It reinforces the grammar in a different way, and I feel it develops logic. We do about 1-2 lessons a week, and this book will be rolled over into our eighth grade curriculum because we won’t get it finished.

How to Spell Workbook 4:

We continue to work through How to Spell Workbook 4 slowly and thoroughly. My daughter requested weekly spelling tests this year, so we have implemented those using words from the book. We will probably finish this book by the end of the year.

LivelyLatin:

This is a live, interactive on-line course taught by the instructor of the LivelyLatin book that I tried to go through with my daughter in fifth and sixth grade. The class is great, and my daughter loves it. She enjoys interacting both with the teacher and the other students. It does a good job covering history too. She is assigned homework and tests.

Spanish:

A good friend whose primary language is Spanish helps teach. Our goal is conversational Spanish at this time.

US Geography:

I found this PDF which I used as a guideline: Geography of the United States. We worked hard to cover this thoroughly and also review states and capitals.

Science:

Unschooled. I don’t see much point in starting formal science until kids have figured out how to logically sort, categorize, and start making connections. Until then, science should be fun and led by fascination with the world around. Memorizing the number of bones in the body is fun, but the fact that bones act as repositories for minerals, immune cells, and function as levers is productive information. About the time kids have mastered algebra seems to be the ripe time for formal biology and chemistry.

We keep lots of fun books around that the kids can pick up and learn from on their own. When they ask questions, we make sure and provide the answers we know. If we don’t know, they look it up. Curiously, their science scores on standardized tests seem to be their highest.

Art:

Our local homeschool co-op offers an amazing, monthly class through our town’s museum.

Physical education: Dance and volleyball

Music: Violin

Literature: Abundant, mostly self-selected books.

That’s it! Best wishes with your seventh grader! Hang in there, know when to push, watch when to pull back. Ask when it’s okay to hug them and then squeeze them tight!

Terri

Homeschooling With Kids of Diverse Ages, Part 2

a sassy lookOkay. So your hands are strapped and you are going about bat-crazy. You vacillate among laughter, yelling, and tears. On the one hand, you realize you’re ridiculous for taking this all so seriously. I mean, come on! It’s just homeschooling! It’s just kids! It’s just a messy house. So you chill and smile. “Oh, they’re so dog-gone awesome. They’re growing up so fast. I need to savor these moments.” Then–nothing gets done. You panic. Why aren’t they doing their school? You yell. One bristles. One cries. You cry. Then you laugh; it’ll be okay. And it starts all over again.

(This post is continued from part 1.)

The Dilemma

Here is the dilemma I found myself in last year. I had three kids at three levels in school and a toddler. The toddler bombed the school, no matter what we all tried. The older two kids are old enough that it’s time for school work to move into real. As far as their abilities and personalities will allow, I’d like this homeschool to provide my children an exceptional science and math education aimed at completing calculus and physics, fluency in one foreign language, and solid composition skills. I keep the pressure light on my kids, but the need to move along is there.

I read all the homeschooling sites for advice on managing a homeschool with kids from toddlers to tweens. Their answers just didn’t satisfy me based on my homeschool goals. I could not “give up” my math curriculum for the three years it would take my toddler to grow up. My kids, although responsible and helpful, didn’t enter this world to be their siblings’ babysitters. Cleaning toilets and folding laundry does not come before school. I had to find a way to keep all of my kids engaged, learning, and content again; provide real food for meals; and find a path through the laundry.

The Attempted Solutions

1. Get help.  Any help will help! 

When I found someone to come babysit in the mornings, I seized them. (They often told me to let go of their neck so they could breathe.)  Then, the older girls and I could at least get some good, solid math instruction in.  Even if this was only a couple of mornings a week, it helped immensely.  My older girls appreciated it so much when I could help them “like a teacher” with school!  (And that’s why I homeschooled!)

This ended up being my best solution, and I therefore found a very good friend who keeps the toddler every morning this year and is just helpful and gracious in every way imaginable. This was what we needed.

2. Remember Abe Lincoln would not have had math every day.

Abe had hunting and log splitting to do before reading and math. His education would have come in spurts.  I’ve got the cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-most idea of school in my head, and sometimes I just need to spit it out.  Learning doesn’t make it school.  And school does not make it learning. Learning is learning, and it is everywhere!

This attitude is still helpful, but luckily, we’re getting some good, solid school in each morning now! This attitude was easier for me to adopt for my younger elementary kids, but I’m not so flexible with my older ones. Perhaps I should be, but I am not.

3. Make like a real teacher and do lesson plans. 

I didn’t lesson plan. I have good books in each school subject, and we had heretofore progressed through them nicely. If I had good vibes from the kids, I made them do 20 pages of grammar a day; if a brick wall had more vibes than their little pinkie, I knew to skip it entirely. Same with math. How much were they capable of that day? That’s how much we did!

But, this required a very close teacher-student relationship daily. I wasn’t close to anything except losing my temper hourly last year. Ha! So I finally broke down, did what legitimate teachers do, and wrote up a rigid, daily assignment sheet. Bummer. I couldn’t trick them into doing more work or give them the luxury of skipping math anymore.

This helped a lot. We’ve kept it, but it is a little more fluid.

4. Home 101: Remember that I choose to raise real citizens here.

Laundry, dishes, cooking, cleaning, diapers, getting along, being independent–that’s the real deal, people! Every society on earth has needed these skills, so of course I know it’s wise to call that a part of the educational process, Home 101. I’m considering making it an e-book, with lessons like “The Best Way to Load the Dishwasher” and “The Best Way to Put the Toddler in Time-Out” and “How Moms Get Through the Day on Not Enough Sleep.” Yes, my kids did learn a lot about managing kids and a house. A lot. They really learned to pick up the slack. I’m glad. But I’m also glad now that it isn’t at the expense of learning how to do math and write a report anymore.

5. Give up the curriculum.

Latin verb declension, Dickinson and Yeats poetry recitation, Shakespeare play-acting, Spanish, German, French, debate, music theory, philosophy, religion, and, and, and. . . Oh, my homeschooling ideas were glorious! Well, reality check. I had to accept that this was and is not all going to happen. I let go of my disappointment about it.

However, being a science-minded and science-trained woman, I can’t completely give up my curriculum. I can give it up in some areas, sure! But not in the core areas. I have a feeling that my kids would make up for it later, but I refuse to take that chance. But I have defined my top, necessary priorities for our homeschool curriculum and will keep those in focus. For my youngest student, yes, curriculum is kept to bare minimum.

6. What about a substitute teacher? Enter The Computer. 

True to form, our substitute teacher (a.k.a. “The Computer”) stint was a fiasco. The WiFi was down. The computer was updating. The website was not connecting. The printer wouldn’t connect.  The laptop had a virus. The CD wouldn’t load. We couldn’t find the charger. If I wanted to depend on a computer to teach our homeschooling, I was going to have to find a full-time computer support specialist.

Needless to say, the computer didn’t work for us. Too many technical glitches, and the lesson planning required that I be on the computer too much. I’m personally on the computer too much already, my family says.

So, this year, I scrapped the internet, except for my oldest, who uses it for an on-line, live, interactive Latin class, which has gone very well. I think that when I do use the internet for school classes, it will be as they get older and enrolled in live classes that I can’t teach.

7. Anyone? Anyone? Emotional sharing. 

Has anyone else noticed a paucity of homeschooling moms with high school kids in their local homeschooling groups? I think they’re like, “Whoa. Made it through the toddler days and elementary stages, I’m outta’ here. Kid can drive himself.” That means I look around, and it’s me and other moms just like me. We shrug our shoulders, give each other high fives and coffee, and hope for the best. Their encouragement and support is a tremendous help. I highly suggest opening up and sharing with your comrades in boot camp. You’ll learn you’re not alone! Which may not help math and grammar, but it will help your smile.

8. Don’t get attached to a schedule.

Always, once it starts feeling right, something is guaranteed to change. In general, I learned that no two days are the same. Ever. Even now with help with the toddler.

9. Meet with your students several times a week.

I used to sit with my kids during school. During the toughest part of the toddler period, there was no-way, no-how that was possible, but I did try to meet with each of them one-on-one for a little block of time. I liked to do it when I “graded” their papers, then I’d just point out suggestions and errors on the spot right.

Closing:

Well, that’s how we muddled through last year and have worked to make this year better and more gracefully productive! I don’t think it’s fair to be flippant about it and say that it will all work out. Maybe it will. But I have talked to grown homeschoolers who were disappointed in their parents and their home education, particularly in the math and science realms. I’d say it took us all last year to find our groove and decide what we really needed to get school rolling again this year. However, I don’t think it would have been fair to my middle school kids to wait two more years for the toddler to quit pestering and hollering!

Wishing you the best! No two homeschools are the same! Good luck!

Terri

Homeschooling With Different Ages and a Toddler

a sassy lookAbout a year ago, every single day–I’m pretty sure it had something to do with the toddler screaming from atop the piano while the oldest was glaring at me for help with math factoring while my third was wistfully saying, “Read to me, Mommy. Will you read to me?” while I was running to turn the timer off from the second’s timed test — there was this point I would reach where I’d say, “I can’t do this!”

Ha! Why did I say this? Who I was talking to? I mean, I couldn’t tell you what I thought my option was. Seriously, there’s never been a Plan B in sight. I’ll wake up tomorrow, next month, next year, next ten years—and I’ll still be homeschooling! (But thank you, Sweet Jesus–not in 20 years! Wee-haw!)

At this time, I homeschooled with four kids in the house, a sixth grader (12), a fourth grader (10), a first grader (7), and an 18 month-old toddler, Little Tank, who liked to stick her finger in the electric pencil sharpener when I wasn’t looking. (Pointer fingers fit nicely.) Our homeschool days felt like a free-for-all, holy mess! Chaos is not my chosen style, but I swear Little Tank, who stops at nothing and fires at will, invited Curly and Mo over to wreck my orderly home and homeschool every day.  Tank disrupted school worse than a fire drill.  I could have locked her in the basement, and she would still have found a way to disrupt school!

The Family Makes the Homeschool

I really felt like I needed some moral support for homeschooling with diverse ages–yet with the oldest children not yet being old enough to teach themselves. So I turned to some experienced homeschoolers’ blogs.  Others have traveled this path before me! Here’s the gist of the encouraging words I found on most blogs (well, it seemed like most blogs):

“Don’t worry about it.  You’re building family relationships and teaching housekeeping skills.”

Grrrr-eat! But unless every one of my girls aspired to be a housekeeper or nanny, I had to get my act together, because, unfortunately, those didn’t seem to be my kids’ answers when asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”! The intended encouraging words didn’t help cheer me up, so I kept “looking for love in all the wrong places” and searching the internet for some cheerleading.

Next words up: The quality of a homeschool education depends almost entirely on the parent…

Uh.  Oh.  That’s me.  Parent. I am TOAST. I guess since I like a good spank every now and then, I kept reading:

…Homeschooling is a large responsibility and may overwhelm a homeschool parent, even though they have the best intentions, because things like illness and the demands of a large family may arise.  Hmm.  That could be me too, if four kids equates with large.  (Somehow going from three kids to four felt like three kids plus A HUNDRED.)

My reading finished with the discussion: Older kids may have to put their education on the back burner as they are called to help with housework, childcare, or educating siblings.

Hello, no!  THAT is NOT what I had in mind for my daughters’ education.  No.  No.  No. And no. Back burner?

Dang.  If I needed hope and encouragement, it looked like I was going to have to turn to my inner-coach. Grand.  Get out the bun-huggers and pom-poms.

Tomorrow I Will Loosen Up

Each day was frustrating.  No matter that I went to bed feeding my subconscious positive affirmations:  “I am loose.  I laugh at chaos.  Tomorrow I will entertain the toddler so she doesn’t keep the older kids from doing Spanish and long division.  Tomorrow will be a new, shiny, bright day!”  The sad truth was, even if I had gotten that positivity-schmivity stuff down and smiled like Cinderella every day, that still didn’t mean that our school days would go any better.

Couldn’t I acquire both a positive attitude AND a decent day’s worth of homeschooling?

Well, I tried a lot of things. I don’t give up till I find the path that fits. We have finally found that path, and our school days and home life are wonderful again. What we finally arranged will not work or even be feasible for everyone. But for us, it’s just the ticket. I want to share with you all the things I can remember that we tried and the thoughts I thought, so maybe you can find your way too. Or at least know someone has the same concerns you do.

Tips for Homeschooling With Many Kids of Diverse Ages

Get help.  Any help will help!  When I could find someone to come babysit in the mornings, I seized them. (They often told me to let go of their neck so they could breathe.)  Then, the older girls and I could at least get some good, solid math instruction in.  Even if this was only a couple of mornings a week, it helped immensely.  My older girls appreciated it so much when I helped them “like a teacher” with school!  (And that’s why I homeschooled!)

Abe Lincoln would not have had math every day.  Abe had hunting and log splitting to do before reading and math. His education would have come in spurts.  I’ve got the cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-most idea of school in my head, and sometimes I just need to spit it out.  Learning doesn’t make it school.  And school does not make it learning. Learning is learning, and it is everywhere! Remember a lot of brilliant men and women throughout history didn’t have the privilege of sitting in school for eight hours a day. (Probably a good thing, too!)

To be continued…

 

12 Math Tips For Teaching Non-Math Minded Kids

Saxon MathNumbers are not my thing. In fourth grade, I couldn’t understand why they were telling stories in math. In sixth-grade, the teacher called my mom in to tell her it was time I stopped counting on my fingers. In seventh grade, math meant counting the minutes till I could bolt out of that classroom and start talking again, preferably to the blue-eyed basketball hunk coming out of the classroom across the hall. And my senior year, business math blew my 4.0 in high school. Business math.

Just because your son swears he’s going to be a missionary, your daughter swears she’s going to be the first US female president, or your kid can draw like Michelangelo is no reason to skip math. If my dad had said, “Math isn’t your thing. Go fry an egg,” or my teacher would have said, “You’ll never get this stuff. Stick to hairspray,” I would have persevered with my plan to be a beautician instead of a pharmacist then medical doctor.

So how can a non-math minded student be helped to succeed in math? For three years of high school math, I had an amazing teacher by the name of Mrs. Jackson; she determined my career course by teaching this air-headed girl advanced math. I’d like to share some tips I use in my homeschool today that I learned from her. Most of them will work for parents wanting to help their traditionally schooled children as well. Please, look at their math papers.

1. We’ll start off easy. First, teach kids to use their paper properly. This is no time to be saving trees.

  • When kids transition to using lined paper, teach them to fold the paper in half lengthwise (skinny-wise). Have students work problems vertically down the left half first, using the red line as their margin. Then, they work down the right-half column, with the fold-crease functioning as the left hand margin. When that side is filled up, flip the paper over and carry on.
  • Teach students to take AS MANY LINES as they need to show all their work. NO SQUEEZING or smooshing stuff in. If one algebra problem takes 3/4 of one side of the paper, then that’s what it takes.
  • Leave at least one space between problems, including long division problems.

2. Math needs a plumb-line. Enforce meticulous lining up of addition problems, subtraction problems, and decimal points.

  • Places must be lined up exactly under each other. Ones’ places under ones’ places. Tens’ places under tens’ places. Hundreds’ places under hundreds’. Not a hair out of line.
  • Decimal points must be perfectly aligned one under the other. Not a hair out of line.

3. To erase means to erase. Please–show some good erasing effort, and for Pete’s sake, never do math in pen.

Stray marks can look like decimal points or negative signs and cause errors.

4. Misery loves company. Show them how it’s done.

Mrs. Jackson always taught the new lesson on the chalk board. When she worked a problem, she never skipped any steps. She never worked it half-way and said, “Oh, you get it from here.” Never. Ever. I believe this was important for two reasons, First, when kids learn new concepts, for some reason, they tend to lose focus of older, easier concepts that they should know. Secondly, sometimes kids make it through topics with knowledge gaps. Showing all steps of the problem, including the easy, mundane parts, helps reinforce any gaps that may persist (such as canceling, reducing, dividing fractions, and so on).

She also didn’t skimp on the number of problems she did with us on the chalk board. I’d say she did about 5-10 problems a day on the board with us, mostly the new topic but also a little bit of the old ones as well.

Can you hand kids the book and a CD-ROM and say, “Go.”? Yes, you can. But I have my doubts that non-math minds will flourish this way. If you can’t teach it, I suggest finding a lively friend, tutor, local high school or community college, or a live internet class (and verify the teacher is kind and available to offer help before signing them up) who can.

And lastly on this suggestion, I’ve taken to using our chalk wall to teach math. It has been very helpful.

5. Have them copy the original problem down nearly every time.

6. Don’t allow skipping any steps when solving a problem.

Kids buck at this one, especially when the answer is obvious or if they’re especially math-minded, but Mrs. Jackson was firm. No skipping steps. (As they advance in math, eventually yes, more steps are skipped.)

7. Teachers and parents, remember, we have done more math problems in our lives than we’ve eaten meals. Don’t be condescending. Don’t let your frustration show. Encourage. Encourage. Encourage.

Twelve times twelve is not at instant recall for kids. Long division sucks. Do not become angry when the kids can’t seem to get it. When they make the SAME mistake over and over again, like dropping a negative sign or adding fraction denominators. It is VERY easy to call it lazy, careless, stupid, etc. I wouldn’t do it. Okay. I’ve done it. But I always apologize, call hard to my inner child to help me remember what it was like, and then encourage. No child ever wants to fail. And all your belittling and criticism does is lead them to anger and/or feelings of failure. Is that really what you want?

8. Calculators don’t come until you hit real algebra I.

9. Check their work daily and give feedback.

10. Math must be done regularly.

11. Math takes from about one to two hours a day.

Don’t try to rush it. Yeah, that’s a long time, especially for a homeschooler who thinks school should be done by noon.

12. Push students to their edge, and change it up or slow down when you meet resistance (meaning they think it’s too hard or they start missing too many problems). How can you change it up or slow down? 

  • Spend two or three days on a problem set instead of one.
  • Skip mundane, easy-for-them problems.
  • If they keep missing the same kinds of problems, then find supplemental problems for them to work on instead of moving forward in the book.
  • Do math only 2-3 times per week for a while.
  • Take a week off or two.
  • Do lots of problems on the chalk board together. Maybe see if they can do the work on their paper faster than you can on the board. Or have them do the work on the board while you watch.
  • Somehow expose them to other kids doing the same kind of work. Often, homeschooled kids who take extra-curricular activities can hear their public school comrades complain about math, and somehow, this make the homeschooled kid feel better.
  • Give them a test.

Closing

You don’t have to view your kids’ education as your job. You don’t. Throw your hands up in the air and say, “Enough’s enough. It’s not my problem. Nobody needs algebra in the real world anyway.” But take it from someone whose non-college educated parents gave it all they had to make sure that their daughter was doing as well as she could in math. How parents handle their kids’ education leaves a lasting impression. How will your kids remember you on this matter? School is the BIGGEST part of their lives right now. Are you showing them you’re interested in it?

Non-math minded kids can succeed at advanced math. And I feel they contribute such a unique aspect to the science and medical fields. So get them going!

Terri

When Homeschooling Goes Bad

sign_slow_15_mph_000_0080Is your homeschool havin’ a bad, bad day? Every day? I’m not going to say it’s okay or that you should just be calm and relax about it. I don’t relax much about anything. Ha! No way! I’m a constant problem solver.

But I am going to say, “You’re not alone!” Oooh, doesn’t that feel nice? You’re not alone! I’ve had my share of bad homeschooling days. All of last year was a bad homeschooling dream. I remember Googling homeschooling blogs to see what other moms did when they had a toddler underfoot. What I walked away with was, “It’s okay, Sugar. Your kids will learn. Being together, happily singing, babysitting, and doing housework is more important than fretting.”

Just like I can’t sit with too many bad homeschooling days, neither can I chill like that. Here’s my top five suggestions for dealing with a homeschool gone bad.

1. Change up the curriculum: It’s not “the best” curriculum, but it works for us.

Who has TIME to use Susan Wise Bauer’s First Language Lessons? Or Charlotte Mason’s “living books” idea to teach?  I think it was another life (the vision is cloudy, but more like ten lives ago, actually) when I cozied up on the couch with two little angels (er, maybe it was another universe) flanking me on either side to read aloud. Twenty lives ago we used to cut and paste crafts and lapbooks. Maybe that wasn’t me at all! Maybe that was some pretty dream I had thirty lives ago!

With four kids, our curriculum needs have changed. Whether I like it or not, whether the kids like it or not, we have to move towards each child, young ones included (you should see our baby clean toilets!), doing more independent work. I feel like some of my homeschooling ideals have been compromised because I teach less, but since my top ideal is a lifelong love of learning, we’re safe. That’s intact.

I’ve had to mostly ditch my self-designed, teacher led spelling curriculum for my third daughter, who is an exceptionally motivated young student. My choice? An Evan Moore spelling workbook. Is it “the best” workbook? No. Is it “the best” spelling program? No. Will she be a fine speller? Yes. And I don’t have time to do all that spelling jazz, nor does she need me to.

We’ve ditched Institute for Excellence in Writing for a time, maybe a very long time. I just couldn’t get read up on the lessons anymore to assign them their work. So I found some journal writing prompts on-line and now they write these several times a week, while I check it for grammar. It’s my Institute for Sanity in Writing.  (Interestingly enough, this has been lots of fun! Their creativity has taken off, and they often let me be privy to some very deep, personal thoughts and dreams!)

Other things I’ve done in our curriculum include: not trying to do too much grammar and writing at the same time, taking breaks from Saxon math for focused worksheets, covering less subjects at a time.

2. Put your third hand down: The phone. The phone. The phone is on fire.

The phone. The phone. The phone. You know it. I know it. We’re both looking sheepish. The phone must go. Set it on “do not disturb” and check it at set times each day. Yes, it feels good to be needed. It is fun to get hot news off the press. Heart lifting to hear from an old friend. But I’m pretty sure the phone has killed more grooving homeschool lessons than there are dust mites in my pillow. (That’s a lot. Since we have allergies, we use dust mite protective cases, wash them on sanitize, and dry them on hot. Unrelated. Sorry. My husband says I always share too much information…but maybe it will help you?)

3. Schedule appointments in the afternoon: “No. I can’t come to that appointment! Do you have a three o’clock?”

I’ve finally accepted that any appointments need to be in the afternoon. That was bitter for me to swallow, because I like to get the early appointments when the doctor may still be on schedule. I thought by getting the appointment in the morning, we’d get it over with and school would rock on. It never happened that way. I’ve found it best to keep our morning schedule (that’s when we do “the hard stuff”) the same and fiddle with the afternoon schedule. School goes well that way, and we get our appointments in.

4. Find some childcare or housework help: “Get the baby off the top of the refrigerator!”

Last year, I struggled through the year with a toddler. It was not a new experience for me. I have four kids; I’ve taught with a toddler underfoot before! Of course, I didn’t like it then either, BUT at least then I was not trying to teach algebra, long division, and more advanced writing skills.

My toddler can be so loud and obstinate when she knows what she wants. And she wanted her sisters! This didn’t work well for my distractible child, who couldn’t focus with the toddler’s screaming, or my bleeding heart child, who hated to hear the screaming from the pack-and-play (where the toddler goes when she won’t stop fussing). I just couldn’t win.

It wasn’t working. Not for me. Not for the kids. Not for the toddler. So I got help this school year. I know we can’t all afford help, but any help will do. If you can find a way for someone to keep the toddler busy so you can teach the others for even an hour without an interruption, you’ll feel so much better! A woman from church? Another homeschooling pre-teen? Swapping kids back and forth with a homeschooling friend; she takes your littles one day so you can teach the bigs and vice versa. Or even having someone come in and do a load of laundry for you or prep some meals.

With the help, our school is feeling nice again. I actually have time to print off some worksheets from the internet. I have time to write down a lesson plan. I have time to drill flashcards. If you can, get help. Then, you can breathe. Breathing helps. Breathing is good. Trust me. (And here you’ve been wondering why you’d been feeling so bad… 🙂 )

5. Get some real help: You can’t do it alone and there’s a lot at stake!

Sometimes, more than you need help with laundry or impetuous, climbing, dangerous-to-themselves toddlers, you need help understanding and relating to one of your emerging older children. The anger outbursts, the seemingly laziness, the insolence–it’s overwhelming you and completely impeding learning. (Read here and here and here for my take on dealing with adolescents. Oh, and here when they say they hate you…)

Sure, sending them away to school is an option. It’s the option of least resistance, which does NOTHING to change coping mechanisms that are being set FOR LIFE.  Or does nothing to change your mechanisms which have been set and need changed so your family can live harmoniously together. As much as we like our friends and we need them, it is the family unit which all so much crave to have intact and at peace.

Don’t be afraid to get professional counsel. Alcoholics, borderlines, depressives, manic depressives, abusive adults—they don’t happen overnight. They happen with the pressures of life. Give yourself and your kids a chance to learn new coping skills when you see they’re needed. Ask a pastor or counselor for professional help!

Conclusion

You can do it! I ran out of time for more, but leave your best tips in the comments for others to learn from!

And also, if you decide you simply can’t do it, then don’t be silly and beat yourself up! There are tons of things you can do that I can’t! It’s what makes life fun! Do your best and learn when to let go! Now, go hug your kids today. Mine are milling in the kitchen, so I’m off this box!

Terri

Image credit: This work has been released into the public domain by its author, Betacommand. Found on Wikipedia.

A Child in Need of Diagraming and Proofs

I’m working hard here to get our upcoming school year teed up, and therefore, I’ve not had the time I want to tweak the second thyroid disease and breast cancer post. It is on my mind, and it will get finished.

But, as I was looking for a couple of books to round out my school plans for the year, I thought of something I’d like to throw out there for homeschoolers about geometry and grammar. It will be stream of consciousness to get there, so hang tight a minute.

I tend to be interested in many, many things and ideas. My head can get cluttered. I also tend to be a “feel-er” rather than a “fact-er.” (More interested in feelings than facts and arriving at solutions because I just know it’s right. Drives my husband, a stone-cold numbers guy, crazy–but after 30 years together, he knows I’m right. :-)) I’ve been this way since forever.

I looked back at my education, and I realized that learning to organize my thoughts in junior high and high school was invaluable for me, especially as I interacted and discussed ideas with others. (Maybe that’s the idea of “logic” from a classical curriculum? Dunno.)

With that in mind, my children will be diagraming sentences and doing proofs in geometry. Just now, I was looking for a diagraming book to supplement our usual grammar work. When it comes time for geometry, I will look for a program with proofs.

I don’t think that they’re necessary for mastery of grammar or geometry. I certainly won’t allow them to be thorns in our school year when the time arrives. But I will explain to my children that sometimes thoughts fill our head, and we need to be able to not let them overwhelm us. That we need to be able to organize them so we can see them better and make better decisions.

As a medical doctor, when I worked in the intensive care unit, my patients were really sick, in so many places. If I tried to make one organ better, it put a hard strain, sometimes a near-fatal strain, on another organ system. The kidneys LOVE fluids. The heart gets overwhelmed by it.

When I’d first look at a patient and their chart, I’d groan inwardly, thinking, “No way. This is impossible.” But then, I’d sit down with the chart, and I’d do what I’d trained my brain to do since junior high (thank you, teachers), thinking through each organ and weighing in my mind which organ was crashing fastest and how much I could push the other organs to get what was needed done.

Each day, each problem can be managed by stepping back, examining all the pieces of what’s going on, and then using what you know or going to get a piece of information or help you don’t have or know.

For children who are more verbal, more feelers, who are fascinated by everything around them and sometimes locked by indecisiveness, it just might be a good idea, if you have the opportunity, to help that child see that complex math problems and complex sentences aren’t all that intimidating when you break it down. That life isn’t all that intimidating when you use what you know.

I don’t like facts all that much. Seems like even the facts are ever-changing to me. On the other hand, facts can keep you from lying to yourself that there is no solution. From lying to yourself and saying there is no way out.

And that is why I plan to guide my kids through geometrical proofs and diagraming sentences, urging them not to see work, but to see the ability to think through stuff in life.

Thanks for letting me put that out there. Back to picking a diagraming book.

Terri

And HA! I see now maybe it’s diagraming! Not diagramming! Go figure. Or is it? I’ve seen both. Do you know? Is it a fact? Which one is it? If you know for sure, do let me know! I think it can be both?

A Society’s Selective Silence on Education

“Colleges now, including all the major ones—Stanford and Yale and Harvard—are actively seeking kids who were homeschooled or unschooled or who had an alternative type of education because what’s different about those kids is that they’re still interested in learning… In fact, I read a statistic that… and I may have the numbers slightly off here, but I think Stanford’s admission rate for homeschooled kids is 26 percent as opposed to 6 percent for traditionally schooled applicants…” (Jeremy Stuart in an interview with Chris Kresser)

I was shocked and excited to see that Chris Kresser, a well-respected alternative health (integrative health) guru, ran a blog segment on homeschooling. Unfortunately, I cringed at the paucity of usual comments from his typically active readers.

Sixteen meager comments. Sixteen. Compare that to the 111 comments on his organic meat article! Everybody wants to talk organic and glyphosate and gluten. But darn. Kids’ futures and alternative education. Near dead silence!

What really counts? I mean, I’m a real-food, watch-for-food-intolerance believer, but what does it mean when kids don’t learn to read or get bullied in school? When parents are beginning to feel like school is an elephant on their families’ chests?

What does it mean when Chris Kresser’s responsive readers will leave 200 comments on proton pump inhibitors and only 16 on alternative education? (When there are only 26 comments on a distraction and mindfulness article. . .)

I heard a great story once. I was at a conference, and I attended a teen panel of unschoolers. These were all kids who had never been to traditional school. Many of them had never actually set foot in a school. There was one young man there, and he had enrolled to a university to study astrophysics. . .

And someone said to him, “Obviously you’re interested in astrophysics.” That wasn’t the question. The question was, “Why would you enroll yourself in a college when you’ve never set foot in a school? What’s that like, and how did you manage to get in?” And he said, “Well, I realized that the only way to really study it to the degree that I wanted was at this particular institution, and so I applied, and when I applied, I realized I didn’t really know any math.” He said, “I went to my parents, and I was kind of upset. ‘Well, how come you never taught me any math?’ And they said, ‘Well, you weren’t interested.’” And he said, “Well, I need it now,” and they said, “Well, you know what to do.”

So he went to the library, and he got grade one math, then grade two, grade three, grade four, and so on. So He spent three months just reading math books, and in three months he took the necessary examination to enter the college and got 92 percent on the test. (Jeremy Stuart in an interview by Chris Kresser)

Do go and check out Chris Kresser’s interview of homeschooling filmmaker Jeremy Stuart. If you can make time, leave a comment! (Even if it’s just to say, “Hey, interesting!”)

Blogs are live productions. You comment. Blogger responds generally in some way (perhaps not right away–but over time they get back to it).

I’d LOVE to see more people exposed to the idea that education doesn’t have to come in a box! That one-size (one school, one curriculum, one teacher) doesn’t fit all! Maybe if we comment, generate questions, and create discussion, maybe Chris Kresser will remember and do another piece like this in the future.

If you homeschool, you may have fun  reading (or watching) this interview. If you don’t homeschool, and school isn’t going so well for your children, maybe you’d want to consider homeschooling. He calls it “unschooling,” but I’m of the opinion that anyone who chooses to teach their children outside of the classic halls of education is “unschooling” to one degree or another. The interview covers:

  • How did public schooling come about? (It’s only been around about 150 years.)
  • What was the purpose of public school?
  • Student (and parent) “burn-out” and how homeschooling can avoid that
  • How our modern education is “banging its head against a wall”
  • Discussion of Finland’s education system
  • Misconceptions about homeschooling and unschooling
  • How colleges are coming to view homeschoolers
  • What kinds of things homeschoolers can learn
  • And so much more!

Unschooling as a Cure for “Industrialized Education”–with Jeremy Stuart

Check it out! You learned once. Or didn’t learn. How did that happen? How could it have been better? Don’t be selectively silent. More standards don’t brighter kids make! I’ve watched my own kids learn and the differences among simply three kids is ASTOUNDING.

These schoolkids of today will be running your nursing home.

Speak.

Terri