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. ūüėČ

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 ūüôā

Why I’m Educationally “Pro Choice”

doorsI’ve been mingling in homeschooling circles for quite some time. I’ve found that homeschoolers can be among the most opinionated and adamant people on the face of the planet. It’s true. The same resolve that helps us remain committed to our cause can make us prickly and caustic when considering the choices of others. And it can get very ugly. I want to say a word about that.

We love the freedoms we enjoy in our country. Right now, we still have the freedom to choose how we’d like to educate our children. What we seem forget is that the same freedom which allows one person to homeschool (in whatever style they like, as long as it meets state laws¬†), also gives another person the freedom to choose the public school, or a private school, or a charter school for their child. That should be a unifying idea. But it’s often not. Because we like to think we are right, and if we are right, then it only follows that we are right about everyone else’s kids as well. Like it or not, that can happen.

I’m enthusiastic about homeschooling…most days. ūüėČ I’ve changed our approach and methodology several times. Switched up our curriculum more times than I can count, because the “sweet spot” keeps changing as our kids change and grow. I’ve considered the public school option a few times (I’m pleased to say our current location has a very small, conservative school with a low teacher/student ratio that is ideal if pursuing this option), but God keeps calling my heart home. My heart. ¬†It’s what’s right for us right now.

Here are the facts:

  • You are the parent of your child.
  • You know your child best.
  • You know what your home life, schedule, financial situation looks like, to make an informed decision.
  • You know what type of environment will help them thrive.
  • You know where your kids are at spiritually, and what will best help them to grow. I’ve seen some kids positively bloom in a public school experience, while for others it was disastrous.
  • You know whether you would thrive as a full-time home educator. Many simply don’t. And that’s okay!
  • You know what type of approach is going to best match their learning style.
  • You are prayerfully responsible for this decision. No one else.

At Schoolin’ Swag, we have parents who have chosen homeschooling as the option for all of their children. We have others who have some at home, and some in a brick and mortar school. We have still others whose children are all being schooled outside the home, and the parents wish to have resources to be actively involved in extending the educational process into their home environment, or need resources to support the academic approach they’ve selected. For instance, asking in the group for ideas for a science fair project that isn’t yet-another-baking-soda-and-vinegar-volcano. ūüėČ

We welcome all of the above. We do not tolerate criticism of any approach. We are not “my way or the highway”. Some don’t like that, and they leave to find a more targeted group for support. Squabbling doesn’t help the cause of education. We are all in this together, in the best interests of our children, helping them to love learning.

I have friends all across the globe, successfully educating their kids using all of the paths mentioned above. I love and celebrate them all. This mom thing is hard, and tiring, and sometimes worrisome. ¬†We really should be supporting each other. We can all get a bit “barracuda” if we choose to, whether the issue is schooling, breast feeding, vaccinations, teaching cursive, having sleepovers, consuming red dye and high fructose corn syrup…the list goes on and on and on.

I think the defensiveness comes from not having our own personal mission statement formulated. Do we know why we are doing what we’re doing? What is the basis of our choices? We have to be well grounded in the whys. This will help us. “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” (Rom 12:18)

Make your choice. Rest in it, friends.

Comparing, Choosing Curricula, and Homeschool Mom Cop-Out

appleorangeHomeschooling is a uniquely different-looking journey for each family. Each child is diverse in strengths, weaknesses, talents, interests, aptitudes and perhaps disabilities. So even within one family, there really is no one-size-fits-all curriculum. Susie may have flourished using Sonlight curriculum while her younger brother withered on the vine with a literature-based approach. Truly, to buy one set of curriculum and expect to use it easily and seamlessly as a hand-me-down with all the siblings isn’t very realistic. It will very possibly require tweakage from child to child at the very least. Learning styles vary, and you may even find that through the years your teaching style will change also.

So, if we have this much variance between siblings in a family, it’s a given that there will be differences from family to family. Each home has its own homeschooling approach (and it may even vary from child to child what that looks like). What works wonderfully for a friend and her kids may not at all work for you. ¬†Then again, it might! How do you know?

Evaluate your style.

This is one of the blessings of experimenting with the high quality, free materials we offer at Schoolin’ Swag. You can dabble in things which are structured for a Charlotte Mason style learner (or Montessori, Classical, Eclectic, Unschooling, or School At Home…) without losing much except a bit of time and perhaps some ink and computer paper. When you find a good fit, then you can move on the invest in some books and resources. ¬†Taking a learning style evaluation can also big a big help. And you should take it along with your children, because your learning style will effect your teaching style…and it may not mesh with how your kids learn. I’ve wasted a lot of time and money this way (sort of “winging it” and finding that my student wasn’t “catching what I was throwing”).

So beware of comparison. Remember each child is unique. Celebrate it by choosing methods and materials that can encourage him or her to blossom!

In our home, I have one student who does best with an eclectic approach and lots of one on one personal interaction, while our oldest seems to thrive with a video approach with my personal input only with language-oriented classwork (mainly because of a reading disability).

Expedite learning.

Here’s the thing. I’ve had to teach myself something important before I could educate our kids well. It’s this: Do what is expedient.

What do I mean? I mean that my concept of what school should be like is not the priority. When we first started, we had a school room with desks, a board, maps, all of that. I soon learned that just because it looked like the school setting I grew up in didn’t mean education was happening. ¬†Through the years things have morphed in all directions. The kids can do their schoolwork anywhere they prefer, as long as it is clear that they are in a setting that makes it possible to concentrate. The only exception is that our youngest needs to have a flat, hard surface (read: desk or table) to do her writing assignments, to make sure she is writing well and neatly.

Educate the most effective way possible.

Now, I’m going to be honest. I “feel” like I’m teaching when I am interacting with my students. Reading together, talking about ideas, surveying the work, monitoring behavior. Our youngest is great with that. It is what she prefers. It nurtures the learning process. Not so much for our oldest, who has grown to be more independent. I plan out his schedule and put it on Homeschool Planet, and he completes things, checks off the boxes (which I can see on the parent page), and submits any work I tell him I need to see. ¬†Because I’m a teacher by nature, and did it for years on the college level, I don’t feel like I’m “teaching” our son. I need to be okay with that. Whatever is expedient for him to learn. That is what matters, especially in these upper level courses.

So, I’m choosing curriculum for next year, and struggling. I’m pretty confirmed that I’ll be using the Genesis Curriculum with our rising 5th grader. And I’m reluctantly biting the bullet and allowing our son (who will be a junior) to use an online program (state standard aligned and self grading, with quizzes and tests built into the program…it also keeps records) for his core subjects–for this coming year, that would be American Lit, Geometry, Biology, Geography, and¬†US History 1 (pre-1850). We’ll supplement when needed, with interactive activities, worksheets and experiments. ¬†I’m reminding myself that I’m not copping out in making this choice.

These are the best, most economical choices for us for the coming year. It is also best for me personally because I’ve seen the need to streamline things for my own health and sanity. I need to be resolved in this. ¬†I’ll tell you why.

Establish your choices for your children.

squirrelAt Schoolin’ Swag, we have over 4,500 homeschooling families represented. Every type of homeschooling (and combinations with charter, private and public schooling as well) exists there, every teaching style, every learning style, every preference, disability, and level of giftedness. I’ve learned through the years that homeschoolers tend to be a very opinionated, dogmatic lot, so if you are easily persuaded you’ll soon find yourself in a Slough of Despond. If I am not praying about our choices and committed to them, as Administrator of the group, I will drive myself mad being exposed to all the possibilities I see every day. This awesome unit study, that really cute lap book, the article I post on successfully unschooling, the blog posts on why Charlotte Mason is best…why your child should read McGuffy…why or why not to teach cursive…and the list goes on. My life would be one constant “Squirrel!” moment! The same thing can happen at homeschool co-ops and conventions. Here is a link to a free 40-week printable curriculum planner¬†(it’s even pretty!) that can help keep you sane and focused!

So, in the past few years since the Facebook group has been in existence, I’ve learned to choose for my family, and then put on a pair of blinders. Instead of comparing with what everyone else is doing in their homeschools, I have been learning to watch my kids. What helps them? What has been a total trainwreck? Do we need to back up again and review instead of pressing on? Should we bypass a section because it’s too simple for them? Is the curriculum causing them to feel defeated, or is it just laziness because they don’t want to do something which may be hard an uninteresting to them? I need to have a finger on their pulses. It’s a very proactive thing, regardless of whether they are being “taught by me” or just guided while using a digital curriculum.

I’ve created a free, 4-page “Monthly Debriefing” form (it’s pretty too!) for you to use for each child. There is a place to enter (edit in Word, or print out and write in by hand) your child’s name, the curricula you are using for each subject, what strengths and weaknesses you are observing that month, progress you’ve seen (boy HOWDY it helps to see THAT in print!), and goals for the coming month.

debriefscreenshot
Go to Schoolin’ Swag to get this form!

Pay attention. Don’t compare. Do what’s best for your kids right now. It might change next semester. You may take a completely different direction next year, as a child matures and grows intellectually. Totally okay. You only need to “measure up” to your state standards and then whatever helps your child succeed. That’s no cop-out.

No Foolin’ Preschoolin’ Event is Shaping Up! UPDATED

playlearnI’m excited about our No Foolin’ Preschoolin’ Giveaway on April 1st at Schoolin’ Swag! We have some great companies and publishers already on board. Take a peek (click the live links to browse their sites and check out their donations!):

I’m looking forward to adding more to the list! These are great helps, to enhance the time you have to invest in your Pre-K student. Life is full of educational moments, whether it is simply investigating nature or developing gross and fine motor skills through play. SO much happens through play in our little ones. We shouldn’t underestimate its importance! ¬†This is not a time to become rigidly academic. This is time for exploration. What feels cold? What smells spicy? Which is big and which is small? What does my name look like? Where does the sun go at night? How many crackers are on this plate? How do plants grow? What color is the sky? How can I say hello to my Spanish speaking friend? Which musical instrument do I like the best? ¬†Oh, so much to learn!

mrrogers

Teaching a love for learning is of utmost importance at this age, and fun materials can be great tools to use in accomplishing this! Cultivating a love for reading for preschoolers often happens in mommy’s lap, so we hope to offer some lovely books for your snuggle time, too!

Having preschool materials on hand can be of great help to some parents who may need a little assistance in guiding their children developmentally. Sometimes we don’t know where to start…sometimes we have so many things going on in the home, we don’t know HOW to start! I hope this event is an encouragement to you!

 

“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.

The UPS Elf!

Our “12 Hours of Christmas” and “Homeschool Homestretch” events are done. Many happy prize winners have already received their goodies, or have their noses pressed to their front door windows eagerly awaiting them! Now it’s time to focus on my home, family and our church festivities.

WPDBUT I wanted to share what came in MY mail today! Santa’s brown elf (not to be confused with wood elves, LOTR fans) visited us today. I know we homeschoolers get a special thrill from receiving boxes of books, so I thought I’d post a pic so we can squeal together!

I’ll be reviewing these items here after the New Year. Some of my favorite things, and I get to test drive them for free!

ups

This felt like “Merry Christmas to me” when I opened it!

 

Children’s Topical Bible Giveaway

biblecollageWe have a great event going on right now at Schoolin’ Swag!

Today I have not 1, not 2, but THREE copies of “The Topical Bible for Kids”! These are HARD copy volumes! I have had a chance to look through this resource, and I love it. Extremely user friendly, for both kids and parents. Addresses everyday issues important to children, like anger, contentment, disappointment, envy, friends, money, school, teasing, trust and much more! The winners can choose between KJV or NASB versions. She is hoping to have an ESV version available before Christmas as well.

**This is an exclusive offer… the book won’t be available for release/purchase until November 1st. For those who don’t win, the retail price is very reasonable… $9.99! I will have an Amazon link to post after November 1st.**

Here is Michelle’s blog post about it: http://www.as4me.net/bibletopics4kids/

Here is a link at Goodreads about it: https://www.goodreads.com/…/show/26861789-topical-bible-for…

To enter the giveaway, you’ll need to comment once in the thread (go join here!). I’ll give this a couple days to be public, and then I will draw winners at 9am (Mountain Time) on 10/31, via Random.org.