Friday, September 27, 2013

Practice Makes Permanent

One of the mistakes we make as homeschool moms trying to find the right curriculum for our child is to switch math curriculum each year. This one has too many pictures, this one doesn't have enough pictures, this one has a bit too much review, this one not enough review, not enough problem solving, need manipulatives. When we switch math curriculum so often, we short-change our child because at some point they will miss learning a particular concept or not get enough review on a particular concept.  Practice makes permanent.

My daughter is learning her multiplication now in her homeschool math. Because she's a visual learner, it helps that her math curriculum is online.  The interactive activities and pictures help her to see how there is a shorter way to count groups of items.  Of course we can and do use math flashcards and math games, but I want her to understand the concept, not just teach her memorization. Sure, at some point we may just practice memorizing the times table, but I also want her to get a visual of how multiplication works. It will help her when she moves on to more complicated math.

It's also important to show them how to apply what they're learning in the real world. For example, when we're at the grocery store and they want to buy a bag of candy, ask them, if this is $1 and we have $5, how much change will we get back? If we're buying 9 apples and I've already placed 5 apples in a bag, how many more apples do I need to put in the bag?

What tips can you share that you've used with your child?

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Choosing Literature

Like most homeschoolers, I love to read...WE love to read.  There isn't a room in our house that doesn't have a book shelf.  For elementary, we choose books that are interesting and hold my child's attention. Oftentimes I'll be reading to my youngest daughter, and before I know it, my older ones have joined us to listen to the story too.  When we have read aloud time, I choose to end on cliffhangers to peak their interest.  We can't wait to get back to the book the next day or later in the day.  Have you ever tried literature for homeschoolers?  That's right!  Books and stories about homeschoolers that include study guides and ideas for further study.  Joining a book club can add to the excitement of reading a book and discussing it with other kids. My daughter Skypes with her cousin and they read portions of a book together or talk about a book they've been reading for their Language Arts.

We use our local libraries a lot.  We visit a different one each month.  As you can tell, we live in a big city. Each time we go, each child gets a stack of books.  The younger ones get more books because we can quickly read through them. I like to keep a basket in the living room for all the books so they don't get misplaced or fall into our black hole at home. I learned this trick after too many times of scrambling to find books before the due date!  We also like to borrow audio books to listen to in the car.  Our local library has an app that we can use to borrow audio books, too.  Ask your librarian.  Most libraries have them.

In homeschooling high school literature, we choose a type of literature to focus on for each year. For example, this year our son is doing British Literature. So we have a selection of good books such as Beowulf, Canterbury Tales, and Animal Farm, among others with their own study guides for each book.  If you know these books, you know that they vary in level of reading and complexity.  I like to challenge him while also throwing in a book or two that is not as hard to read, but I know he'll find interesting and a quick read.  If I haven't read the book, I'll make it a point to read the book either before him or along with him so we can discuss it together. There's nothing like teaching a subject or a book that we have a passion for.  And you know I've also added Lord of The Rings! We've seen the movie, but the book is always better.

This week we signed up for Pizza Hut's Book It program.  Pizza Hut rewards children for their reading accomplishments with their own personal pizza. We've had our children participate in this all through their elementary years.  Fortunately we haven't actually needed this to motivate them to read, but it's a nice little reward....for mom, too, because I get a night off from cooking once in a while.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Homeschool Burnout Solution

Is it ever too early to teach science?  We can teach science as early as age 2 or 3. Science can be so fascinating for children of all ages.  We only need to make it engaging and creative.  While we practice the basic subjects of Language Arts, Math and Writing every day, we only do science once a week for elementary grades.  Occasionally we'll go to the park and include a science lesson a second time during the week.  I like to aim to do a science experiment with the kids at least once a week. Some of our most memorable have been magnet lessons, volcano experiments, and a naked egg experiment where we dissolved the shell of the egg by soaking the egg in vinegar.  The result was a yolk that could bounce like a ball.  These are the most memorable lessons!!

Homeschooling is a way of life for our family, so we can create a science experiment as we prepare a meal or bake in the kitchen. Did you know that if you don't have buttermilk for a recipe, you can use milk to create buttermilk.  You just curdle the milk by adding and acidic ingredient to regular milk.  There are many experiments we can do using just liquids, teaching kids how liquids have different densities. 

We have a bookshelf dedicated just for science.  While we try to do a science project or experiment once a week, there are some weeks that we may just read a book or watch a science show or movie, or even do science online. That's right. We do science activities for kindergarten online!   The instructional videos are supported with audio cues for non-readers.  As I've mentioned before, my kids also enjoy online games.  So, of course, I'll incorporate a science vocabulary matching game.  

Science is a subject that has endless possibilities. If you feel like you or the kids are experiencing homeschool burnout, there's nothing like an exciting science experiment to give you a jump start.  Don't forget to take pictures!!

Friday, September 06, 2013

How Do We Learn Best

When we take on the role of homeschooling, we're taking on a big responsibility, but it's a labor of love.  More and more families are choosing to homeschool.  I'm noticing this more each year at our homeschool conferences and at our local homeschool support group meetings. Homeschool statistics indicate that in 2003 2.2% of school-age children were homeschooled. In 2007 it was up to to 2.9%. Although there have been no recent studies to indicate the number of homeschool families living in the United States, it has been estimated that the growth rate of homeschooling families is between 7 to 15 percent each year.

Along with this boom of homeschoolers, we are also seeing a growth in the selection of homeschool materials and curriculum. To find the best curriculum for your family, you should first determine which method of homeschooling best fits your family. Some examples are structured learning, which is a more traditional school at home style of learning with schedules, testing and grading; Unschooling or Child-led learning, using materials that engaging the child in their particular strengths and interests; and Eclectic, which is choosing different materials to best suit your child's needs.

The next thing you may want to do is find the style of learning that best suits your child and you as the teacher.  The main ones are visual, auditory and tactile or kinesthetic. While we all may have a little of each style, there is usually one that each individual uses more to perceive and process information.  For example, if I want my young daughter to learn a concept or memorize some math facts, the best way for her to do this is through educational songs and videos or math games. Workbooks alone will bore her. I need and want to make learning fun for her. I want her to retain what she is learning.
My older students/children have strengthened their weaker auditory style of learning over the years as they've matured.  This is a good thing, since it's usually the style used in college courses.  I'm reminded of an interesting article I read recently on Rethinking the Way College Students are Taught.  We don't want to make learning harder, we want to make it easier.  We want to be successful, but we want our children to be successful, too.