Category Archives: Encouragement

Homeschool Perk #3

Homeschool Perk #3: Family Bonding

top tenI have been writing on a continuing theme over at Heart of the Matter Online for the last few months, with the emphasis being on the many perks of homeschooling. Head on over to Heart of the Matter to read all about it here. While your there, feel free to read through the previous homeschool perks, listed at the bottom of my article on their site. See you there!

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Proofread Carefully to See if You Any Words Out.

Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead. – Gene Fowler

The last few weeks of our homeschool have been focused on how to write a formal essay. We follow a loose Classical/Charlotte Mason homeschool philosophy, and are transitioning from copywork and dictation exercises to more formal outlining and essay writing. Though we will be doing much more of this more formal style of writing next year, the opportunity came up to attend a writer’s camp through the DL school we are enrolled with. The camp was conducted in a small group atmosphere, and provided an opportunity for each of the kids to brainstorm their ideas together. 

Writing an Essay

Writing an Essay

I don’t generally insist on formal writing exercises with my kids (they write naturally, why make it feel like drudgery?), but over the years, I have gently introduced them to different styles and methods of writing.  As they get older, there is a need for more intermediate writing skills. One of my children is a natural creative writer, but seems to dislike formal writing for information exercises. My other child seems to be the opposite, being somewhat displeased with having learn the formalities of creative writing, but managed to write longer paragraphs than her older sister when it came to essay writing. This is often the way it goes, no? Sigh….

Gluing it on Poster Board

Gluing it on Poster Board

What I discovered during this little writing camp though, was an essay writing method that was easy for the kids to learn and follow along with. In fact, it is a method that seems to work well with children as young as 4th grade! Because the method was shared at a writing camp, I searched the web to try and find a replication of this method in order to share with you. You can take a look here, and here – they are very similar. I would also recommend conducting a little writing camp of your own. Using the steps in the above mentioned web sites, a small group of 6 kids would probably work really well with ages between 10 & 12, or grades 4-6.  Once set up, try to pick topics the kids are passionate, or somewhat knowledgable about, this kick starts their creativity and can inspire them to dig deeper into their research. Most importantly, don’t forget to communicate to your kids the purpose of a persuasive essay:  to persuade their audience to accept their idea or point of view.

Include Some Pictures!

Include Some Pictures!

The finished essay can then be typed, or handwritten, or if you wish (as my kids did), cut and pasted onto poster board complete with drawings. Schedule the final week of your writing camp to be a presentation week – the kids can present and read aloud their reports, and encourage one another. If time allows provide some snacks and time for play afterwards. Don’t know what to do with a giant poster board when you get home? Before you recycle, take a photo of the project, and either burn it to a disc, or print the photo and keep for your homeschool records. This way, you can keep the project and do away with the clutter!

In the interim, I’ll leave you with this:

You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what’s burning inside you. And we edit to let the fire show through the smoke. – Arthur Polotnik

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Filed under Charlotte Mason, Classical, Encouragement, Language Arts, Learning, Writing

Cogito Ergo Sum

I was asked to write an article pertaining to how I am able to implement critical thinking with a Christian perspective into my homeschool, but before I explain how we do it, I feel I must firstly explain what critical thinking is, and what it is not.

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As a Christian home educator, I find myself constantly thinking about what it is I’m teaching my children. I am after all, their biggest influence. Not only am I responsible for teaching them the three R’s and other academics, I am also responsible for modeling good manners, for helping them develop good work ethics, for demonstrating love, acceptance and forgiveness, and for giving them the skills they need to think for themselves. My focus for this article; obviously, is the latter. What is this critical thinking and how are we able, in this process called homeschooling, to find success in the arena of teaching our kids to think for themselves?

 

Webster defines critical thinking as: the mental process of actively and skilfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating information to reach an answer or conclusion .I am speaking of course, of a higher degree of thinking. I am not speaking of merely forming an opinion, but rather to be able to logically support an argument – based on a solidly formed premise. Sound intimidating? Not really, if you have been taught the basics of critical thinking. And what better a place to start the process of critical thinking than with our own faith? How many of us are able to comfortably support an argument about Intelligent Design? How many of us can skilfully use rhetoric to support a creationist world view? Could you hold your own against an individual who holds an opposing evolutionist world view? How about a university professor? Is this a skill you hope your children will one day posses? Is this a skill you value?

critical-thinking-cartoon

Teaching our children to think is probably one of the most important life skills to obtain, and sadly it is often overlooked. It is also not obtained; however, without a serious degree of effort on our part. If you have been learning along side your children in your own homeschool journey, then you will feel quite comfortable with this process. Unfortunately, you can’t teach this skill by handing your child a workbook – though some mind bender exercises (found in a workbook) can definitely help a young brain to stretch its muscle so to speak.

 

I have found the most effective way to teach critical thinking is through discussion. You can pick almost any topic: from mathematical word problems, scientific processes, literary analysis, and creative problem solving – to name a few. Lately, I have been focused on a combination of biblical and scientific fact. More specifically, using the bible alongside a wonderful children’s reference book on intelligent design titled It Couldn’t Just Happen. Many lively discussions can be brought forth as a result of exploring this book together with your children. Your objective should be to simply ask open ended questions. Try not to lead your child in their answers – remember your job is to give them the tools they need to start to think for themselves. Think more of gentle guidance, and less of leading the witness. Help turn over the soil in their young minds, pretty soon they’ll be asking you for the shovel.

shovel

I have also felt the Lord gently guiding me towards what I have coined God’s own World Wide Web – the www here standing for world history, world religion and world view. They are all so closely interrelated, intertwined, and interwoven. Are you seeing the relationship here? I myself am just starting to get the gist of it, but it starts with a foundation of basic critical thinking skills.

 

May God bless you richly in your homeschool journey.

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Homeschool Perk #5

No Longer be a Slave to Grades!

grades

Head on over to Heart of the Matter Online to read the rest of this month’s Homeschool Perk! See you there!

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Homeschool Perk #6

learning2alearning1a

 

 

 

 

I have been writing a on a continuing theme over at Heart of the Matter Online for the last few months, with the emphasis being on the many perks of homeschooling. Come join me there and read all about this months homeschooling “Perk”: You can Develop Your Own Learning Plan. See you there!

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Filed under Books, Curriculum, Encouragement, Subjects

A Fresh Dose of Enthusiasm!

drudgeryI’ve been absent in the blogosphere lately, due to a number of things – but primarily I think I was suffering from dronitis. Occasionally, during summer months, my kids pick up a dose of what I call Imboreditis, but I’m pretty sure I had developed what I’m going to coin as dronitis. Dronitis, (pronounced drone-eye-tis) usually affects parent-teachers who have been homeschooling for more than 5 years. Symptoms include: lack of enthusiasm, diminished ability to focus, decreased concentration, and visible drone-like behaviour. If you find yourself affected by dronitis then I highly recommend a good dose of fresh enthusiasm.

But, how praytell, does one come across such enthusiam? Where can it be found? I have seen many a good soul fall victim to dronitis, and have witnessed them search high and low for such enthusiasm, only to come up empty handed – inheriting instead a case of newly developed chronic dronitis

What is needed in these cases to stimulate said enthusiasm is a switching of educational gears. That’s right – I’m switching gears.enthusiasm Eventually there comes a time when one needs to re-evaluate their homeschooling methods and approaches, and sometimes even the curriculum. For me, it means going back to what I love:  following primarily, a Charlotte Mason (with a twist of classical) approach to homeschooling. I’ve always considered myself a bit eclectic in my homeschooling methods, and have tried various approaches and curricula, but lately I had been feeling that our learning plan was lacking something. The learning plan looked good on paper and promised to meet many learning outcomes, but there seemed to be something fundamental that was missing and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

Then I remembered – there hasn’t been enough time to read the rich literature that I want my children to experience, or go for a nature walk and turn the afternoon into a science lesson – sparked by a particular species of bird whch was sighted, insect discovered, or wild flower found. There was no time for rich stories of history influenced by fascinating  figures making historical discoveries in science, mathematics, or  geography. Subjects had become segregated from one another, and were starting to resemble what I’d call drudgery. Drudgery of course has been known to bring on a sure case of dronitis, and for educational and creative purposes, must be dealt with swiftly.

So I now have my prescription – Enthusiasm: take as often as needed,  food is optional, make sure to take entire prescription –  failing to due so could influence this prescription’s effectiveness. Side effects include: increased productivity, overall happiness, peace of mind, and increased desire to learn all we can.

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How to Homeschool and Still Have a Life!

sad-cookie
Help! I’m drowning!

Every now and then I like to check in on my blog stats. Blog stats can be both amusing and helpful as they can provide very useful information. The stats can tell you which posts received the most traffic, how many visitors visited your site that day, and my personal favorite: what searches were used that directed someone to stumble upon your site. This morning the following search parameters caught my eye: How to homeschool and still have a life. This one caused me to both relate and laugh out loud!

Surely, most homeschool families can relate. Homeschooling can take on a life of its own. It can become ones lifestyle, can govern ones major decisions, and if one is not careful – it can define who you are. I enjoy homeschooling. I find it challenging yet richly rewarding – yet I do not feel I am defined by it. I’m the type of person that enjoys a challenge and doesn’t mind being stretched – on occasion. However; one does not usually desire being continually stretched; in fact, that can be downright unhealthy.

Unfortunately, some of us can enter a realm that causes us to be just so. We delve ourselves into our homeschooling lifestyle, we eat, breathe and sleep it – right? Isn’t that what a homeschool life entails? A continual life of learning – it takes on a life of it’s own, it is our home it is our school. The answer to this question I believe, is both yes, and no.

reflection

Take time to reflect....

What I mean is, there needs to be a balance between living out a homeschooling lifestyle and maintaining a “life” of our own so to speak. Let’s look at relationships. Relationships are interpersonal, and need to be maintained. This extends beyond the relationships with our children. It extends to our spouse or life partner, it extends to our parents and siblings, and it extends to our close friends. I encourage you to look introspectively and ask yourself who your close friends are. I encourage you to look deeper and evaluate the relationship you have with your husband or wife. How are those relationships doing? Do they exist? Or are they co-existing? These are reflective questions indeed, but I believe they are worth thinking about and maintaining as part of our being able, as homeschooling parents, to “still have a life”.

You may be reading this post and noticing a connection between a healthy homeschooling lifestyle balanced with healthy thriving relationships. Why the emphasis on relationships? Well, I believe that we were not designed to do it all ourselves all of the time. The founding relationship being the one with our creator God, if that is your belief – followed by relationships with our spouses, children, family and friends. It is the strength that we will draw from these relationships that will carry us through the difficult times. The times when we are feeling stretched. The times when we feel we simply do not have a life of our own that exists beyond homeschooling.
busy1I also believe that making time for ourselves is highly relevant to be able to homeschool and still have a life of our own. Some of you may not know what that looks like – this taking care of ourselves. It might even appear selfish. But my experience has told me that it is not only highly relevant, but also a necessary and a very healthy part of “still having a life”. Are we so busy with homeschooling, and meeting learning outcomes, and trying to finish that curriculum, and squeezing in every field trip and extra curricular activity that we cannot take time for ourselves? If so, what kind of example our we displaying to our children? Are we not modeling a life of busyness? 

 
Some of you may be nodding your heads, or are already familiar with the healthy balance needed to be able to homeschool and not completely lose ourselves. However, if any of this is speaking to you personally, I’d encourage you to take stock and evaluate. Which of these elements is blatantly missing in your life? Do not try to employ them all at once, that will only leave you frustrated. Try employing one. Perhaps give that gal you’ve been admiring from a  distance an invite for coffee, or a playdate  with the kids. Go ahead and buy that book you’ve been eyeballing for yourself. Dust off that camera that has been sitting idle for far too long, and take an afternoon to yourself.

Whatever “having a life” looks like to you – go ahead: embrace it, welcome it, explore it, re-discover it. Don’t shut it out.

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