Picking the Twaddle Out of Your Noodles

roastnoodlesYesterday was a bit frustrating for our oldest. He had a couple of quizzes, and one of them was the sort that required psychic ability in order to answer some the questions. The interpretation of truth was a bit subjective, and if answers were not given according to the thinking of the assessment writer, well, they were wrong. It reminded me of this humorous portion of an “I Love Lucy” episode:

  • Mr. Mooney: I’ve been trying to find Mr. Burns’ file. It is not under the B’s.
  • Lucy: Oh, I must have put it under the X’s.
  • Mr. Mooney: Why would you put the B file under the X’s?
  • Lucy: That poor little file never has anything in it!
  • Mr. Mooney: Well, where is it??
  • Lucy: Well, wait a minute. Oh, I bet I know what I did…you see, Mr. Burns, I always have trouble remembering names, so I took a course in word association. Now, “burns” reminds me of fire.
  • Mr. Mooney: So you filed it under the F’s?
  • Lucy: No. “Fire” reminds me of “stove”.
  • George Burns: So you put my file under the S’s?
  • Lucy: No…”stove” reminds me of pot roast.
  • Burns (to Mr. Mooney): It’s your turn.
  • Mr. Mooney: You filed it under the P’s?
  • Lucy: No, pot roast reminds me of noodles.
  • Mr. Mooney: Mrs. Carmichael…you’re making me angry…
  • Burns: She’s making me hungry!
  • Lucy: And noodles reminds me of my mother!
  • Mr. Mooney (to Burns): Your turn.
  • Burns: “Noodles” reminds you of your mother?
  • Lucy: Yeah, she made the best noodles! And I’ll be that’s where I put your file.
  • Burns: Under “noodles”.
  • Lucy: No, under “gravy”.

This is one of the reasons I love having a front row seat for educating our kids. I was able to come in the back door on that quiz, see the way some the questions were phrased rather ambiguously, and make a judgement call.

Yes, I have eliminated quiz questions. Sometimes I’ve tossed out entire assessments because there was a better way to see if my child had assimilated knowledge. I don’t think questions which ask for ridiculously detailed information are necessarily profitable. What was the name of a certain prominent person’s second cousin’s husband’s pet? Nope.

I also know our kids, and I have watched them shaping into who God intends for them to be. Because of that, I can decide if certain questions, projects, even subjects should carry more weight with regard to time and focus. Yes, we fulfill what the state requirements mandate; but we do it our own way, and reasonably. 😉

Some material is simply twaddle. I really dislike busy work immensely. Things which occupy time, but don’t serve to build or teach much of anything (except perhaps patience) are subject to educational extinction in our house.

Today, I punted a quiz. I saw my child struggling to decipher it, and making several attempts to answer the way the program wanted him to answer. He kept his cool. He did not get angry and storm off. He did not declare he hated the subject, hated the program, or hated school. He handled the whole thing maturely. So we went question by question verbally, and I tweaked the phrasing so he could comprehend more fully what he was being asked. His understanding was more complete after that than it would have been if he had guessed his way through, absently clicking buttons. He passed just fine, mom style. I commended him for his attitude and perseverance. I told him that was of more value than A’s to me.

Give yourself the freedom to do this.

For the love of learning,
Diane 🙂

When Failing is a Good Thing

failure2We have taken a new direction in our education, and it is more demanding with many more assessments and evaluations (read: quizzes and tests) than what our kids had been accustomed to. To them, it can seem tedious…but it helps me to ensure they know what they are doing before coming to that realization on a big exam.

I’ve often told our kids that failures can be a stumbling block or a stepping stone…the choice is ours. Today, one of the kids had an assessment on a math lesson and failed badly. We were about to see how that plays out in real life.

In going over the answers, I saw that at least half of the errors were simple things like not paying attention to the wording or the symbols in equations. This was not an official quiz, so I cleared all the work, had my student come by me, and we went through the assessment, question by question. We reviewed concepts. We looked up definitions. We worked things out on the Boogie Board. We even borrowed the brains of Sal Khan for one particular question. The result? When the assessment was retaken, the result was well above average. But that is not the best thing.

I didn’t look for perfection. I looked for education. Real learning. Not just the “I think I have an idea, and so I will color in this bubble” facsimile of going-through-the-motions education.

Coming out of this experience, I know my student has a solid grasp on where the weaknesses were in understanding and comprehension. Exactly. My finger is right on that pulse. When we were done with our session, we both knew the material (I’d forgotten all about “multiplicative inverses”…so, thanks Sal!) solidly. That’s important. It’s supremely key if we are going to call what we are doing e-d-u-c-a-t-i-o-n. In the words of a family friend, “Do you understand what you know about that?” 

Getting A’s is all well and good, but if the grade is achieved by skillful guessing, or merely a rudimentary understanding (the “I’ll learn this for a test, but I plan to let it vaporize post haste!” kind), then we need to look more closely at how we are educating and less at the alphabet. Quizzes, tests, and exams are not the end. They can be used as a means to achieve learning, if we choose to grade smarter instead of harder. Grading, if you choose to do it, should be a used as a barometer. It should tell you if the synapses are connecting. It should never be interpreted as a reflection of who your child is. Let’s all remember that.

twainquote

“I Love Language” Event at Schoolin’ Swag! (UPDATED!)

languagesComing up on February 15th, we’ll be having a new event at Schoolin’ Swag, featuring products centered around language…foreign languages, Latin, as well as American Sign Language.

Here are the companies/publishers which will be featured:

Don’t miss it!  Prizes will post beginning 9am on 2/15. We’ll allow a full 24 hours for posts to remain up (to cover our friends in all time zones), and winners will be drawn at 9am on 2/16.

Being okay with being the “mean mom”

 

mooseow
A moose gets struck by lightening during math. 🙂

In the middle of Katie’s video math lesson…

Katie: I know this. I don’t need to see this.
Me: (pretty sure she doesn’t) Okay, you think you can answer your review questions then, without any help?
Katie: Yes. (if a voice could swagger, hers did)

We open up her quiz. I watch her punch in the first answer, knowing it is wrong. She presses “Enter”.

Big, bad, red “x”.

She loves (I mean LOVES) maintaining a Platinum level (100%…missing no questions), so her disappointment was…profound (if you know Katie, you know what this means).

Me: So…ya think you should go back and finish the lesson now?
Katie: (huge sigh) Yes.

She can’t regain Platinum level for this unit. She will have a tangible reminder of this for the week. Sometimes we need to let ’em crash and burn (when the collateral damage of the lesson won’t be too high). Hard to do, but hopefully memorable.

How many times has God done this with me? Too many to count.

 

Keep pluggin’, homeschool mama! Persevere! And don’t miss the lessons for yourself along the way.

Homeschooling for Newbies

newteacherFirst–you can DO this!

What is available online these days for homeschoolers is SO much more than I had starting out. I remember feeling rather lost and overwhelmed, even with the few options that were offered at the time!  Here are my suggestions for getting yourself off the launch pad:

  1. Decide why you wish to homeschool. Write those reasons down and put them somewhere that is easily accessible. This will be your version of a “mission statement”. The days will come when you question yourself, and you need to have these for reference! Trust me on this.
  2. Check with the Home School Legal Defense Association site, so that you know what the requirements are for your state.
  3. Get yourself a supportive network. You need this. Of course, I’ll recommend my group, Schoolin’ Swag, on Facebook! You need a place to talk with veteran homeschoolers. A place where you will feel safe to ask any question, and voice your concerns.
  4. Do a learning style evaluation for your child(ren). I wish I had done this at the start. It would have saved me some frustration and also some cash! Find out how your child learns best, so that the purchases you make will be investments and not wasted money. I also suggest that you do this evaluation for yourself, because your learning style affects your teaching style. You may very well have to think outside your own box to most effectively teach your kids.
  5. Get shopping! 🙂 This is the fun part. I love free resources, because if I find along the way that something is not a good fit, I’ve not lost anything except a little time in trying it out. There is SO much available now online that is free and also good quality. I will be posting many items here as I have time.  For now, scoot over to Schoolin’ Swag. Every day we post freebies and blog posts that are guaranteed to bless your socks off. We have many knowledgeable people there, including my three Admins, to help you sort things out. Click on the Files tab, because there are lots of wonderful things there…and you can also use the search option at upper right (use it just like Google) to look for topics of interest.

There you go! You are already off to a great start! Stay tuned for more great encouragement!

September 11th—What Am I Doing About It?

World-Trade-Center-Cross-620x410Doing a lot of thinking, this September 11th. I could reminisce about what I recall from that morning, but it doesn’t really matter.  There are bigger things to discuss.

I wonder if it has occurred to many of us that our “Christian” nation has become a vast mission field. I wonder if it has occurred to those of us who are Christian parents that our children will very likely be called upon to stand and look such atrocities square in the eye. I wonder if I am doing my best to build the kind of character in our children that will enable them to do it.

American culture teaches our kids to aspire to fame and riches. I’m not a “Doomsday Prepper”, but I completely believe there will come a day when fame and possessions won’t matter to anyone any more. When life is reduced to the questions of survival and faith, there are precious few possessions that seem important. There will be no status symbols…the only status differentiation will be “Are you a Christian?” or “Are you not?” And the cost faith will once again be high. Paul the apostle, who stood for his faith many times, wrote:

“And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.”

So I ask myself today, how will I teach our children to stand? How will I instill courage? How will I inspire them not to cower, but to endure…not to be paralyzed by fear when hateful, horrible, unjust and unspeakable things happen? They have to have their anchor planted in something bigger than politics and military might. I have to point them to something much bigger…a firm foundation, the only solid Rock, the Mighty Fortress.

“Remembering” is only the first step. Being mindful of the past needs to change the future. It must be a catalyst, or all it accomplishes is to make us remorseful. I may never have political influence, beyond my votes in elections; but I have a daunting responsibility to the children in our home, to teach them what patriotism is (and what it isn’t), what it looks like to stand faithful for right and truth, and to remind them that above all principalities and powers, our hope is Jesus.

Before I focus on the sacrifices made by prominent patriots for our independence and freedom, I plan to teach more about the heroes of the faith. I want to grab all the missionary biographies I can, so these humble, courageous giants of the gospel can inspire our homeschool (using this free resource to create a missionary biography notebook) and show them what it looks like to be unflinchingly, unshakably committed, and to grasp truth tightly, while also extending a loving hand in decided confidence to others.

We need this next generation to be resolute…a word which has come to be very weak in meaning today.

It starts today. We have stood upon the shoulders of great ones who have gone before. Now it is time for us to provide a firm footing for our children.

“It is wonderful what great strides can be made, when there is a resolute purpose behind them.” ~Winston Churchill

Bouncy Bands Product Review

BB1I learned about Bouncy Bands while researching for my upcoming Specialtember Giveaway Event at my homeschool group, Schoolin’ Swag. This event will target the special needs families among our 4,000+ members, providing prizes and discounts on some wonderful products and services which address everything from autism to dyslexia to ADHD.  Here is the video that caught my attention:

In combing the internet for vendors whose products I wanted to feature for the event, I was drawn to the idea of the Bouncy Bands. I’ve seen firsthand in our own homeschooling experience how movement (the right kind) can actually enhance the learning experience for children.

Children who genuinely need movement in order to stimulate their brains, often opt for unacceptable choices to get out their energy. They make multitudes of trips to the rest room, feel the need to sharpen that pencil down to a nub, rock back on the back legs of their chairs (and we all know how well that goes), tap pencils, stomp feet, or simply go into a stupor from being sedentary, and the brain just says, “I quit!”

While I’m not a fan of having kids sit at desks for very long spans of time, there are indeed periods during our homeschool day when it is necessary. I especially want this to be able to happen successfully when we have any sort of handwriting or copywork to do…assignments which require a solid writing surface for quality performance.

In the past I’ve actually used an exercise ball during school. It helped get wiggles out while doing reading and drill work, but an exercise ball is not the most stable thing in the world, and things often got out of hand. Our school “room” is part of the master bedroom, and we repeatedly had problems with hitting furniture and rolling into things! Periodically, I would opt for “wiggle breaks” where, in between subjects, I’d have our young student get up and dance around to something like “Flight of the Bumblebee”. Trouble is, it was hard to get her to refocus after that. Same thing was true of the trampoline breaks, and the ride-your-bike-for-3-laps breaks, and the do-a-little-on-Wii-Fit breaks.

Enter Bouncy Bands.

I really like this option! The Bouncy Bands come in two different sizes, one for desks and the other for chairs. The installation on our school desk was an absolute snap. Less than a minute, and we were ready for action. They are also available in two colors, royal blue and yellow. Our student liked that she could choose.  It made her feel like it was more “hers”.

The day I received our Bouncy Bands in the mail, we were not doing school. We were having a sick day because our little student had the flu. But that did not stop her from wanting to test drive this new product. She sat right down at her desk, and giggled with glee, flexing and bouncing!

BB3

I love that this product is completely quiet. You hear nothing at all as the student is able to move and wiggle while working. No more creative excuses for why she needs to get up…yet again. We got our little school desk from a yard sale at our local elementary school. She enjoyed the novelty of it for a day or two, and then quickly grew to hate sitting in it. It was so stiff and rigid. Her work suffered for it, too, as she tried to write on a clipboard while constantly shifting on the couch, or a chair, or a bed. I’m so grateful for this easy solution for us both!

Katie’s review:

“I think while you are doing your school, you can have exercise! It’s pretty cool! It’s really bouncy! I like to put out my extra energy while I am doing my work, and this is very fun! Little kids are so full of energy, and if they have these they can pay attention to their teachers. It’s a really cool idea. I think it’s very comfortable, and I like that you don’t just have to sit there and be still and stiff. Having fun while doing school is AWESOME!”

Another added benefit for us personally is how Bouncy Bands help with test anxiety. Have you noticed your student nervously tapping or twirling a pencil, tapping fingers, jiggling feet and other sorts of behavior? Now we have an outlet for that little bit of nervousness, and performance is improving! As a matter of fact 87% of students reported that Bouncy Bands help them feel calmer when they take a test (and 71% of teachers agreed). Click here to view statistics gathered in a recent 2015 Survey!

This has been a win-win in our home. Actually a win-win-win-win!

  1. My little student sits better, concentrates better, performs better.
  2. My stress level in constantly having to reel her in has decreased a great deal!
  3. In addition to having a set of Bouncy Bands to enjoy in our own homeschooling, I was able to share the second set with a family I know will benefit from them.
  4. I was also given a special 15% discount code to share in my homeschooling group, as soon as this post goes live! Come grab it!!

Thank you Scott Ertl of Bouncy Bands for being such a blessing to our family, for giving me the privilege to review your terrific product, and for passing that gift on to the terrific members of my group!

I highly recommend this product! Click here to go to the site and order. They come with a 100% money back guarantee! What do you have to lose…except the wiggles? 🙂

bouncylogo

Fabulous, Free "Not Back to School Summit" at HECOA (with Awesome Giveaways!)

nbtsPosting from HECOA Director, Dianne McLean:

GIVEAWAYS!!! Hey everyone, just wanted to remind you that we have weekly giveaways that end every Friday at noon at Home Education Council of America. This is part of our summer Not Back to School celebration!

This week, Unlock Math is giving away a full year membership ($349 value!), Order out of Chaos is giving away student planners ($50 package), PlanitWisely is another planner being given away (full year at $49 value), Homeschool Tracker is giving away a membership ($59 value), Mystery of History is offering their full Volume 1 on mp3 audio ($40 value), Times Tales is giving away some DVD’s, and ABC Mouse a $95 subscription.

How do you enter?? Super easy. Register for Not Back to School (our upcoming FREE online conference with 30 speakers and more than 50 live presentations), and then head to the Celebration Page. All of the giveaways are there on the page!! Enter as many as you would like (it’s all about the “share”), but ENTER. Because someone has to win, it might be you!

If you are familiar with the great giveaway events I’ve had at Schoolin’ Swag, you can look forward to the same quality products and services to be offered as giveaways for this event! I’ve contacted some of my favorite folks to jump on board and join us in offering terrific encouragement and incentives. Click here to get your free ticket for the Summit, and join the fun in the Celebration Room!

Homeschool Product Review: Order Out of Chaos Academic Planner

chaos1My sweet friend Leslie Josel, sent me a couple of her beautiful Academic Planners to take for a test drive this school year. I was going to wait until we were actually using them to post a review; but I’m so excited about them that I wanted to jump right on it and get the word out, so folks could get theirs ordered before August rolls around!

The planner is available in four different styles, to suit your taste. I loved the blue kaleidoscope design! The front and back are beautifully colored vinyl…very durable! I love the size of this planner, too…a generous 7″ x 11″ which gives plenty of space to write, as compared to impractical “pocket” planners. It is also 3-hole punched to fit into a binder, if you so wish!

I’ll post some photos here to show you the inside (click to enlarge). This is a great, intuitive organizational tool that is easy to use, without a lot of flipping around…and it teaches the student how to own their school planning!

If you need help, Leslie will hold your hand a little bit!
If you need help, Leslie will hold your hand a little bit!
Write in your subjects and activities once on the left, and they line up with each day's pages!
Write in your subjects and activities once on the left…
Neat vinyl storage pocket in back!
Neat vinyl storage pocket in back!

Here is a nifty video, explaining the perks of this great tool:

As a perfect accompaniment to the planners, Leslie was gracious enough to include her new book, “What’s the Deal With Teens and Time Management?”  What a great pairing! The handy little book covers everything from procrastination (oh boy!) to homework strategies. These are important life skills for your teen! Click here to preview!

Speaking of teens managing their time, while you’re at it, sign up for the FREE Back to School Webinar (Monday, August 17, 8pm EST), targeted specifically for middle and high schoolers, titled “Have You Done Your Homework Yet?”–click here!

Homeschool Product Review: CTC Math

ctclogoIn searching various options for math for our 3rd grader next year, I came across CTC Math. What a great program! I immediately loved how intuitive it is, very streamlined and user-friendly.

Click here to watch a video about how it works (I highly recommend watching this…it is brief, but by the end I think you’ll see why I wanted to jump on board).

The program provides:

  • 1,367 animated and narrated math lessons
  • A bank of over 57,000 interactive questions
  • Diagnostic tests
  • Instant feedback to students and regular reporting to parents
  • Algebra, statistics, geometry, trigonometry, probability plus more

I love that this program goes at my speed. Rewind, review, pause if you like. Take lessons in the order listed, or choose specific lessons which are trouble spots for your K-12 student.

Screen shot with Katie's opening page and "Speed Skills" window.
Screen shot with Katie’s opening page and “Speed Skills” window.

The teacher, Pat Murray (who’s got 10 kids of his own!), uses a variety of techniques so your visual, auditory, kinesthetic learners can all get a firm grasp on concepts…their way. Students can print lesson summaries to keep in a notebook for review. Lessons are reinforced by online quizzes which increase in difficulty as the student progresses. There are printable worksheets for lessons as well. You can easily view the progress your student is making, and they receive certificates as a reward for their accomplishments.

I’m really looking forward to plugging into this program more thoroughly this coming school year. Wow, how I wish there would have been something like this when I was in Jr. High Algebra. I suffered terribly because I learned one way, and the teacher taught another way…and never the twain did meet. I was too shy at that age to ask questions, so I muddled along, failed the class, and had to take it again in summer school. How different things could have been with CTC math!

Click here to experiment with a free trial!

Note: I received a year’s subscription to CTC Math in exchange for an honest review.