5 Things A Parent Should Never Say

It doesn’t matter how old we get, the words of our parents carry a lot of weight. The wisest man who ever lived, King Solomon, said: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Prov. 18:21  Our words can build a child up with hope for the future, or destroy their spirit.

In 1 Corinthians 13, the apostle Paul said that love believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things. Love never fails.  We are entrusted with these little ones for a short time and someday will have to stand before our own Father in Heaven who entrusted them to us. How will we fare, then?

“You will never amount to anything.” In The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, you see the destructive power of a father in Denethor’s harshness toward his younger son, (Faramir) while praising his older son.  The idea, “Why can’t you be more like your brother?” also comes across as a wound that is incurable to the soul. One child cannot be like another. They are their own selves with unique gifts and personalities. All through Scripture we also see how favoring one child above another causes family discord and even hatred between siblings. One example in Scripture is that of Joseph and his brothers. They were so jealous of their father’s special treatment that they sold their brother to slave traders! If we can learn from other’s mistakes, and treat each child as a unique but treasured gift, we do well and may save the soul of a child.

What can we say instead?  “I see so much potential in you! You have gifts and talents different from your brother and I look forward to seeing what God does in your life.”  Love believes all things.

“I wish you would just go away.” Sometimes it feels like our child or our children are the problem. Their needs can seem overwhelming. Exhausting. This is especially true if they have special needs we feel incapable of meeting. We may feel our own inadequacy so keenly that we lash out at them, as though they are purposefully denigrating us.

But through God, we can do all things. Though some children are more challenging, they are still precious to God, as are we. This is where we as parents and caregivers need to put our own inadequacy into the hands of our great God and Father and remind ourselves that He can use all things for our good. Even our weakness is a means to prove himself strong on our behalf.  It is true that sometimes we need a break. Take a walk or go out to dinner and have a few moments of normalcy to recover from the stress, leaving the child in the care of someone who is trustworthy. Our children should never have to bear the weight of our difficulties or feel responsible for us! We must be the adults.

Instead of dumping on the kids we need to let them see the love of Christ through us so they know their value. To wound one of these little ones who trust in him is a very serious matter. Remember, that no matter how young or old they are, our children have hearts that can be hurt just as ours can. We need to see them as our Lord does. Believe God for the strength and love that we need. Save the angst for prayer. He can handle it all.  We can be a blessing to our children this way, overcoming our own weakness in the process.

“You’re stupid. ”  Though my father never actually said those words, I felt it in his looks and impatience. If I couldn’t figure something out, he would give up on me. I did hear that kind of teasing from other kids and believed it, reinforcing my fears and insecurity. It made me afraid to try new things or ask a second question if I didn’t understand something. “There is one who speaks rashly, like a piercing sword; but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”  Proverbs 12:18. If a child doesn’t know something they ought to know, this only means they need to be taught. It isn’t that they are stupid, but they have been deprived of knowledge. And that is easily fixed.

Foolishness is another matter entirely. It is choosing something harmful when you know better. For that, there can be discipline. But even discipline should be with a view toward bringing them back to wisdom – not a final verdict on their future.

“Ugh. Just look at you!”  Our culture is so appearance based that we can easily fall into this. We can think our children’s appearance is a reflection on us. But when they become old enough to make their own decisions about hair length or color, style of clothing, etc… we need to give them the grace that we give ourselves to choose what we like. Parents can often speak damaging words about a child or adult child’s worth in regard to their appearance. Perhaps they are overweight or have a physical flaw that we would fix if we were them. “Maybe you should get plastic surgery/have your teeth whitened/lose a few pounds/change your hair…”

If it were up to us, we would do that for ourselves. But respect and grace must be given when there isn’t a matter of sin. If you want a relationship with your children as they grow up, you have to let go of controlling their appearance. Very young children need guidance. Young adults need to be able to make these choices for themselves. If you don’t like it, keep your opinions to yourself unless you want to create a rift between you and them. Is it worth it to lose the person? If you have raised them with guidance, they already know what you prefer. It may be a test to see if you will accept them for their own choices, or perhaps they really prefer another style.

As children grow, they need more and more room to make the decisions that concern their own life and direction. As parents, we need to love them for who they are, give them the grace to grow, and keep our opinions between ourselves and God. God will give each of us the eyes to see what really matters and the ability to love them, as he does.

 

 

6 Steps to Orderliness

Training children through housework  bring so many benefits! Implementation of these skills can make their lives less stressful (no more lost shoes or game pieces).  Also, the skills they develop will bring greater understanding academically while developing character.  Sound hard to believe?  When the following steps are consistently implemented, the difference will be life changing!

It seems we often don’t “see” our surroundings until company is  coming over. In order to handle such a large load of responsibilities,  we shut out what is right in front of our eyes, in order to focus on the task at hand.  But much study is wearying to the body, for both parents and kids. When you take a break, do something physical. And while you’re at it – create order!

Before Jesus fed the 5,000 the first thing he did was instruct his disciples to create order. He ordered them to have the people sit down in groups and in sections, because he would be passing out food soon. To try to hand out bread and fish in an unorganized crowd would be chaotic and distracting! Our God is a God of order and peace; not of confusion.  As his beloved children, we can imitate our Lord’s example and follow in his steps.

In the same way, with our young disciples, we can “line up our ducks” before we begin to work. It really streamlines the process and gives more of a sense of accomplishment as you see smaller tasks *done* section by section. Each task completed creates its own mental reward! There are a few secrets to efficient cleaning, and as you are teaching your children, give them these gifts of training with the  Steps to Orderliness!

1. Line Up Your Ducks

Before I wash dishes, they are stacked according to type – so I can load the dishwasher more efficiently – seeing how to best use the space available on the rack.

Set aside regular times for maintenance so the job never becomes too overwhelming. You know best when friends are most likely to knock at the door. You may want to post a note on the door saying, “Come back at 3:00,” for instance, if your children are particularly easily distracted!

Create a cleaning caddy to carry from one bathroom to the next so you have all your tools with you, as well as cleaning gloves for everyone.  Make sure it has trashcan liners in it.

Be sure to eat something before you start – so hunger pangs don’t pull you away from the task, half-finished!

Be dressed for the work you will be doing; hair up and out of the way and clothes that can get dirty, will be needed.

2.  Think Categorically

Whether the task is schoolwork such as organizing an essay or doing complex math problems, or you are teaching your children how to sort and fold laundry, put away groceries, or pick up a messy bedroom – the key skill for any organization task begins with categories.  Sort them according to kind, then into sub-categories within that group as needed for the purpose you have.  Not every task requires as much scrutiny (lest we develop OCD characteristics!).

In the refrigerator you would keep uncooked meat separate from fruit or cheese or leftovers (for health reasons). In a bedroom you would want to keep toys separate from clothing and books. For a very young child, you may not want to be more specific than that. But as they get older and lost pieces could bring tears, you will want to keep sets together. Games should be kept with their pieces. LEGOs all in one box, or (if your child is concerned about it) each set in their own box. It becomes a greater task when they get older and for this reason, start as young as possible with this training so it doesn’t become overwhelming later.

When your children learn to help you with household tasks, you are not only training them but providing valuable opportunity for important talks about life. As they become adept at the skills, still work with them when you can so this opportunity isn’t lost. The work will be done more quickly, as “many hands make light work!”  My granddaughter and I sometimes put on the radio and dance while we clean too! It makes for great memories and takes the drudgery out of housework.

If it is still just too much, you may want to think about thinning out and donating some of their stuff. With ownership comes responsibility. They need to care for what they have, in order to gain more. If you can’t bear to give it away, pack away some things for a while, as they learn to be faithful with a little.

When you have many young children, turn picking up toys into a game.  Remember Mary Poppins? Definitely use music, challenges and races to accomplish a task! It may come undone in a minute, but they will still be learning something in the process.

Someday, when the science teacher begins to explain Genus and Species, your kids will have no problem understanding that concept!

2. Top down

Yes, you dust before vacuuming!   When washing or dusting, the rule is begin at the top and work your way down. Ceiling fans or light fixtures first (with an extending duster), tops of window frames and door frames, then pictures on the wall and any cobwebs, before bookshelves and tables. Finally, the baseboards (if you have them). Otherwise the dust or dripping dirty water will cover your finished work! Do it by example and have them follow your lead. When done, be sure to carry your supplies out of the room and put them away (or to the next room to clean). The task isn’t done until the supplies are away.

3. Line upon Line

Working in rows is not only neater, it shows you where you’ve been. Wandering in circles can lead to wasted time. After categories are organized or the room is picked up, vacuum in rows. In the lawn, mow in rows. In the garden, work weeding in rows (from the back to the front). When washing a floor, mop in rows from the back to the front – leaving yourself an exit!  No need to walk back across a clean floor to rinse the mop, bring the bucket with you and work yourself out of the room.

Clean windows, one pane at a time, in rows (from the top down), ending with the sill from one side to the other.  As you create trash with your cleaning, have a bag handy to catch it so you don’t create more work for yourselves on the floor. Show the kids how thinking ahead like this and working in an orderly fashion saves time. You may want to “do it wrong” once and have them time you, before doing it right.

Washing cars has the same principle. From the top down, in rows. It’s an easy and repeatable concept.

Have small boxes or bags for items that need to be transported to another room. After finishing your present task, drop off the bag/box of items at the door of their proper location. The owner of that room will need to put things where they belong before play-time.

4. Clean, dry, and serviceable

In the Air Force, we were instructed to make sure our area, ourselves, and our clothing were all clean, dry, and serviceable. This is when you know you are “done.”  Years later, as a mom raising four young kids, I had to take smaller victories. It is good to voice your satisfaction as small task is finished and the tools are put away. Taking a moment to revel in the accomplishment will model this for the kids! They will learn to delight in a task well done, too.  This website has some great organizing solutions!

5. Anticipating messes before they happen.

Before taking out the Lego set, put a towel or other cloth underneath for the “play space.” When they have finished, they may display their work on a shelf – but the sundry parts and pieces can be easily swept back up into the cloth and deposited in the LEGO box!

Put an empty laundry basket or box on the inside of the front door, if you don’t have a mud room (or even if you do) for shoes that are just coming in. You may, as the Koreans and Japanese do, have slippers just inside the door to put on. This does keep a lot of dirt from being tracked through the house and lightens your work load, as well as theirs.

Keeping an artificial grass-type mat or other door mat outside will scrape off most of the dirt on visitor’s shoes. You can also have a softer mat on the inside of the door to get finer dust/dirt off.

Put a few extra shopping bags  (a bag in a bag in a bag) attached to a seat handle and centrally located, in your car. These are ready to receive trash after a drive through meal. Once you arrive home, have one of the kids grab the inside bag to throw it away and you have an empty trash bag in your car! It’s a good idea to keep a hand-held mini vacuum in the car stored under a seat (that can plug into a cigarette lighter) for quick clean ups, too. Before entering or exiting, make sure all coats, shoes, and books – etc – come out with the kids and make it to their destination before they are released to play! Your home and your car are places you live in. You don’t have to allow such disrespect of your living spaces and you can instill this situational awareness quite young, without having to yell.

When your child is brushing the dog or cat, have them do it outside if possible. At least on a hard floor that is easy to sweep.

Ask your kids to be detectives and find ways they can “save work”!  Be sure you brag about them to their dad at dinner, when they do.

6. The Big Reward: Projects

Paying your children for doing a task well is surprisingly unmotivating. Nothing gives a return as much as satisfaction of a job well done. Once your children have mastered (or are on the way to mastering) these skills, they are ready for bigger things! Projects.

Painting a room, building a shed, landscaping, bike or car repair, sewing or cake decorating, they have qualified to take the next step into the adult world of quality production!  Celebrate every accomplishment along the way, with gentle reminders of the Steps to Orderliness – so they become second nature.

Now, I’m off to practice what I preach.  Blessings to you and your family, today!

Do All Things in Love

We are instructed in Scripture to do all things in love. Our first priority is the Lord. But how do we know we love the Father? By loving people (1 John 1). Loving God in all we do means training our children and showing them what the Father is like.

” You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  And these words that I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”  – Deuteronomy 6:5-7 

Traditional methods of education tend to separate parent from child, and in the classroom, the teacher from the child, for pragmatic reasons; to fill their heads with as much information as possible in a small amount of time. Sadly, this also tends to kill the desire to learn in the hearts of many children as they feel pushed by expectations of the impersonal system. When homeschoolers try to mimic the public school system in their approach, they lose a great opportunity to teach as Christ did.

I prefer the term, “home education” to “home school” because we are not a school. Learning is part of life and we walk the road together. Companionship in instruction shows the child that they have value, not merely by what they parrot back from a book. It also gives us as parents an opportunity to really see where our children’s strengths are, so we can direct them “in the way they should go.” Adjustments do need to be made from time to time in order to meet their needs, gifts, and callings. It is so exciting to see these developments as we walk closely with our children through the learning process.

Whether it is teaching a child to cook, clean house, pray, read Scripture, work a long division problem or write an essay, if we do all things as unto Christ and show His love for these young disciples, we are His ministers and ambassadors. After all, it is not only our students that need to hear “Well done,” at the end of the day. We want to hear it from our Father, too.

My top 10 Picks for Educational Youtube Subscriptions! (Middle-Schoolers)

My granddaughter is turning 10, and beginning 5th grade. Some of the educational channels we enjoyed are far too childish in their approach now. One thing that was most difficult to find was a quality Bible teaching that didn’t talk down or mix fantasy characters into Bible stories.  I’ve also been looking for something a bit more theological, and found one that is a great launching point for serious Bible study!

The Bible Project is a channel  I highly recommend this for ages 10 and up.  It would be supplemented with reading the Bible (as would any good theology source).   https://www.youtube.com/watch?
v=KOUV7mWDI34&list=PLzqvZvU_c95EXuOia1644oaxMzQof7UYN 

For deeper thinkers and harder questions: The One-Minute Apologist is a great platform for important conversations.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GMj3sKKn6a4

After finishing the amazing series, “Brain Games,” I found this gem on Youtube. Smarter Every Day will definitely make an impression.  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC6107grRI4m0o2-emgoDnAA 
This science and illusion site makes you think outside the box. It inspires wonder. 🙂 Brusspup:  https://www.youtube.com/user/brusspup

Vi Hart calls herself a “Math Musician.” She uses math to make music and also creates doodle art while discussing math concepts. Very engaging!  https://www.youtube.com/user/Vihart 

What You Ought To Know has been a favorite for years! Great for middle schoolers and older.
 https://www.youtube.com/user/WhatYouOughtToKnow/playlists?sort=dd&view=1&shelf_id=2

The Story of US, put out by The History Channel is riveting stuff!   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oV8np9i-6F8&list=PL3H6z037pboHLqNBBXjHTqaxpW6yhOINU

A favorite among homeschooling families:  TEDEd has a lot to offer. Some discussions may not fit your worldview, so look it over first.   https://www.youtube.com/user/TEDEducation/videos

Crash Course is very useful, though at times calls for a worldview discussion afterward. This is suitable for ages 10 and up.
https://www.youtube.com/user/crashcourse 

They also have a course for elementary, that some middle schoolers will still appreciate: Crash Course Kids.  https://www.youtube.com/user/crashcoursekids

What are some of your favorites? Please post below!

My Top Picks of Free or Cheap Web-Sources for Elementary-Middle Schoolers.

We try to buy the best curriculum for the least money we can. But even the best curriculum may not give clear enough instruction for the student (or parent) to be able to master the material. I’m a visual learner, myself. Often I need an illustration of the problem worked out in front of me with a clear explanation of the instructor is doing what they are doing! It is also helpful to let someone else take on the time-consuming drill. Here’s a short-list of my favorite go-to online resources that are free or very inexpensive!

1http://www.mathantics.com  The videos are also available on Youtube, but the website has exercises and additional worksheets for a small fee. All videos on the site are free. The worksheets are well worth the small investment, though!

2. Kahn Academy has free instruction, and not only in math! They also have an introductory course in computer programming in JavaScript as well as other subjects. We use this as a supplement often, but it can also be the curriculum!   https://www.khanacademy.org/ 

3. For Spelling and Vocabulary (grades K-8th)  http://gradespelling.com/spelling-vocabulary-word-lists/  
This has lists, definitions,  games, review and tests and costs nothing!

4.  Free literature, biographies, and books about nature and history available at www.mainlesson.com.  Search the bar on the left by author, title, or genre to find the selection of free materials. You may also choose to purchase “Gateway to the Classics” which opens more options, but some of those may also be viewed for free. Here is an example of one we are using this year, on American History:  http://www.gatewaytotheclassics.com/samples/display.php?author=evans&book=america&story=_contents

Here is another sample of a book available on “Gateway to the Classics” which may be accessed as a sample.    http://www.gatewaytotheclassics.com/samples/display.php?author=burgess&book=bird&story=_contents

5.  Printable worksheets for free!!! Pick your grade and your subject. Instruction is also available.  https://www.education.com/worksheets/

Worksheets specifically for music – http://www.abcteach.com/directory/theme-units-music-8843-2-2

Printables for handwriting:  http://www.abcteach.com/directory/subjects-handwriting-20-2-1 

Handwriting Bible verses:  http://heartofwisdom.com/blog/free-handwriting-bible-verses

For reading comprehension and more!  http://www.k12reader.com/subject/reading-skills/  

6.  Grammar for 5th grade and above – review and practice.  This is pretty comprehensive!   https://www.englishgrammar101.com/ 

Another resource for Grammar, organized by topic! Click on a highlighted number for the lesson with answers.   http://www.dailygrammar.com/glossary.html

7.  Writing style and structure, available here!  http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/ 

8. Geography:   http://www.sheppardsoftware.com/USA_Geography/USA_Caps_L_1024.html  This link is to learn States and Capitals of the USA, but in the heading, you can pick any country or topic related to geography.
Also, http://geology.com/world/world-map.shtml  will give you clear maps of any part of the world.

9. Latin Charts:  http://classicalsubjects.com/resources/basiclatincharts_color.pdf  

Vocabulary from Henley 1      https://www.memrise.com/course/198250/henle-first-year-latin/    (Just click on the lessons, you don’t need to “join.”  Save the bookmark!
Also, Vocabulary from Henley 2:
https://www.memrise.com/course/519657/henle-second-year-latin/

10.  Bible – audio.  Choose the version you have, and listen while you read along. This will help your children absorb more of what they read because they won’t be stumbling over words. You can also open the text in another window if you want to read online.  https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/audio/ 

Next time, I will post my Top Ten Picks for Educational Youtube Channels!

What are your favorite educational sites? Post in the comments below!

 

Step by Step Techniques to Teach Poetry Writing

Poetry expresses what you think and feel using choice words to evoke emotion or create a picture. It can express a thought clearly or be deeply symbolic. When beginning poetry instruction, it’s best to become practice clear expression of thoughts until the various forms become easy to use. There are ways you can make the process less difficult, especially when teaching it to children!  Children 10 years and older should be able to follow this process. Each step should be done in order, on different days.

 

Day 1. Begin by listening to a sad poem, then a joyful one, then a reflective one. Ask, what kinds of words used to bring out those different feelings? What kinds of pictures do?
An example of a sad poem:  https://lyricaltruth.blog/2010/04/25/as-you-sail-away/
a reflective one: https://lyricaltruth.blog/2010/03/18/the-pretender/
and a joyful one:  https://lyricaltruth.blog/2010/04/20/the-power-of-your-name/

Poems that resonate in your heart will show feeling through the setting,  the actions and posture of the characters in it – not merely tell how you feel.

Day 2. Listen to lyric poetry with different rhyme schemes and rhythms.  Sometimes the rhythm of a poem will also express feelings. For instance, the Limerick is made for silliness!

Example:
I once had a teacher named Snood
who acted disgustingly rude!
With his nose in the air,
he would burp, snort, then stare
as if we had the bad attitude!   –  Jane Clark  5/15/17

Do: Look up a few more limericks then try to write one of your own!

Day 3. Poetry with the same number of counts for each line will be much more serious. Variety in length in the lines will express emotion or movement.  A well-written poem will have rhythms (meters) on each line that work well together.  Read them aloud with feeling. Take note of certain words that are emphasized and syllables that are stressed.

For an exercise take this poorly metered verse and try to reword it to sound better to your ears, while maintaining the meaning. Clap out the meter while saying it.

Under circumstances
isn’t where I belong.            * Try eliminating the contraction.
I have to take some chances
that I might get it wrong.  

You don’t want to emphasize the ‘nt of a contraction when saying the poem aloud!

Day 4. Give another example of a rhyme that “doesn’t work” because of stressed syllables. See if your child can spot the problem before explaining it.

Look at yesterday’s poem with one word added to the first line.

Under the circumstances
is not where I belong.
I have to take some chances
that I might get it wrong.

Why doesn’t this flow as well?  The meter would have forced the second syllable of “under” to be stressed.

unDER the circumstances…

The normal pronunciation of that word stresses the first syllable, though. This is the kind of forced fit just won’t work.  If you create a rhyme and you have a wrongly stressed syllable, you can rearrange the words, eliminate a word, or change the word (to a synonym) to fix this problem.

Practice coming up with couplets today.
Two lines in a row that rhyme with each other. In the following piece of verse from a poem I wrote in middle school, I used two couplets followed by a rhyming line that matched the first couplet.

“Of all the teachers in school,
the nicest one is Mr. Wool!
The kids don’t know why
He wears a bow tie
but on anyone else, it wouldn’t look cool.”

Day 5.  Find a  lyrical poem that is already familiar, and change the words. Use the same rhyme scheme as that poem such as –  1st and 3rd line rhyming and 2nd and 4th rhyming – also called ABAB. Other good choices for beginners are ABCB, with only the second and fourth line rhyming.

Find your best words using a thesaurus. See if there are compatible rhymes for it by going through the alphabet and adding the first sound of each letter to the ending sound of your chosen word. If it doesn’t have good rhyming choices, pick a different word or rearrange the words in your line of verse so a good rhymable word appears at the end.  The trick is to find rhymes without making your sentence appear forced. Sometimes, to maintain your meaning, you must force a sentence, as Robert Frost does in “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening.”
“Whose woods these are, I think I know…”
So if you must, don’t worry about it! Even famous poets have done it.

Day 6.  Create your own poem using the techniques you covered on day 5.
Is there a saying you use often? Is there a quote you really like? Is there something you really want to express? Use one of these as a launching point and try to say it several different ways. Choose one that has an ending word, easy to rhyme. If you are teaching a middle schooler how to write poetry and they are having a tough time, give them a few ideas to re-word and work from. When it comes to creative writing, it does help to “prime the pump.”  The more they do it, the easier it becomes!

 

 

Learning Logs

Note taking is a crucial skill that is rarely taught.  While shorthand or abbreviations, keywords, and pictures are useful when listening to a talk and making notes, you can become bogged down if you try to write everything that is said!

Photo by Jonas Lowgren

If you are listening or reading to learn, a learning log will be helpful! My daughter brought this idea home after listening to a lecture on note taking at Northern Virginia Community College. She found the method invaluable to her success!

This simple method is superior to the pre-printed “learning log” worksheets available online because the purpose is for your child to “think,” not to have some other source ask their questions for them.

 

The Learning Log

1.  Fold your notebook paper in half.  At the top of the page write the name of speaker or book topic and the date.

2.  In the first column (left side of the fold) at the top, write “Source”. On the right side of the fold at the top, place the word: Response.

3.  You may also want to have a narrow column for referencing the page /paragraph or minutes into the talk.  This can be left of the margin.

4. Don’t bother to take notes on things you already know and have no issue with.

5. As the speaker or text addresses something you want to remember (and don’t already know enough about),  put their quote or keywords about it on the first line. Be sure to number each source reference. If you have more information to locate the original idea (such as a page number or name of a famous person being quoted), write that down too.

6. On the right side of that quote or information – under “Response”, write your question, comment, disagreement, or points you want to look up in reference to point one.  Label responses with the corresponding number.  Quote #1. will be lined up with Response #1.  Continue doing this for each point you want to examine further.

For each session of study or lecture, be sure to come up with at least four details in your learning log. The purpose of this is to interact with the text or the speaker on paper, thus keeping your mind in active learning mode.

If you really feel you need to have the full context of the speech, record it while taking your Learning Log notes, to reference later or to listen to while doing a mindless task.  Extensive notes are rarely gone over again. However, if you do write down questions or disagreements with the text or speaker, these will be interesting enough to you, and sufficiently brief, to encourage you to review them, filling in the missing pieces to your learning.

Note taking does not have to be daunting. The Learning Log just may be the tool you’ve been looking for!

 

Is there a “right way” to homeschool?

We chose home education to provide what was needed and not available through traditional means.  For our family, the choice was also a conviction that this was God’s will for us. But finding the key to being what our children needed was daunting. Like my husband and I, most homeschooling parents are untrained in the field of education.

The choices of method and curricula lay before us – each crying that their brand had the method that would save our children from failure and hopefully, vindicate us as good parents in our choice. But which to use? Especially for a mom who struggled through school, herself?

From having desks and chalkboard in the basement to sitting around the dining room table, to each person in their own room (in whatever position made them comfortable) and a mix of these, we tried it all.  We threw out or gave away whatever wasn’t working (not including the kids)!

Teaching one child is very different from teaching a group. I’ve done both. But over the years, the curriculum choices, the media used, the time spent in advance preparation seemed less important than keeping wonder alive and finding a way to learn with my kids. Even letting them teach me things as they discovered them was helpful!

Here are some things I’ve discovered over the years that make homeschooling less daunting and more of a joy.

1. Learning how to learn trumps stocking up on facts. If you need a fact quickly, you can easily “Google” it.  There are exceptions to this. Basic reading, writing, and calculating skills as well as life skills used daily, are examples of those that must become ingrained. What you decide to focus your study on will depend on your and your children’s goals and interests.

2. Habits will affect their whole life. So will attitudes about learning. Cultivate the wonder and love of finding out new things together. Build good study and note-taking habits and model this for them.

3. Not all things need to be done as a group or with the parent’s oversight. Kids who are old enough to read and write will need to have some time to work through problems alone. Let them wrestle down the answers! What they can achieve without our help gives them pride in their own work and motivation for the next.

4.  Let them show you their completed work and take the time to show them their own progress with positive comments as well as helpful suggestions for next time.

5. Work on one new skill while checking on those you have already covered. Try not to have too many new concepts at once. Let the good habits take root.

6. Review things they must really know, regularly. May I add, if you decide to take the summer of “school”, do include some kind of learning. They really do lose what they don’t use. But it’s good to take breaks from one kind of work to try something new for a season.

7. Don’t be afraid to step outside the box or outside the house for your methods. Your family is unique. Celebrate that.

8. Don’t move ahead in subjects that build on each other (like math or reading) until they understand the pieces of the puzzle. 

9. Teach them the technology, but also let them learn from a book. Both are good and needed.

10. “Teach the child, not the curriculum.” If something isn’t working, let it go. It doesn’t mean you have failed, it means the text is not a good fit. Let the subject matter (other than the “three R’s” and passing on life skills and faith) be according to your child’s talents and interests along with “tastes” of new things that they may wish to explore.

11. Try the free stuff before investing in a curriculum.  How many hundreds or thousands of dollars we have spent and thrown away, I can’t begin to calculate. There is so much instruction available that is free or inexpensive (for a subscription) now! Unless you are doing a correspondence course, you can save quite a bit on subjects of your choice.

12. Read together often, for the love of a good story!

13. Encourage your kids to journal for themselves, not for a grade. 

14.  Love your children, love to learn. Participate with them until they get the hang of it. It is very likely that they will want to take the initiative themselves and ask to work alone. As they get familiar with the process over-guidance may actually slow them down! When they reach this stage, encourage them to teach you what they find out. You can discuss it over dinner.

Dinner times are a great opportunity for the family to share what has been discovered through the day and model lifelong learning. It’s a place for debate about issues that come up in the news, sharing difficulties and praying together about those.  Learning is a life-long task and a lifelong pleasure. Keep the spark and the wonder. Never lose it!

Avoiding Copyright Infringement and Plagiarism

Copyright infringement – Publishing a plagiarized work. This is a crime.  Ideas are not copyrightable. Titles are not either. However, if you are using someone else’s idea, you should cite them as a source of the idea.

Fair Use – Borrowing a small part of someone’s work to use in teaching, criticism, parody, or as an example. You must cite the original author. The use of the material must not in any way deprive the original author/artist of profit in the marketplace.

Plagiarism –  Taking someone else’s words or work and copying them without giving credit to the original author/artist, while claiming such work or ideas to be your own. Although ideas cannot be “copyrighted” the idea needs to be properly cited  – lest you be considered to have stolen it.

Public Domain – Works that have been around for over 100 years and are no longer under copyright protection. You may quote them or use them as you please, in entirety, but give credit to the original author, or you will still be plagiarizing.

Parody – An imitation of style for use in humor or political satire, that does not directly quote the author/artist. Parody has been protected by the courts as “fair use.”

Sometimes you will see a movie or read a book that is “based on a true story.”  You will note there is a reference to the actual story the work is derived from. Sometimes this is found in the Introduction, sometimes in the Epilogue or on the jacket of the book.

When using someone else’s life (and name) to tell a story, if you change or embellish anything, you must state what is history and what is fiction in some manner. To represent something as true about a person’s life when it is not is slander or libel. It could result in a court battle, economic loss and a ruined reputation for the author. If you also harm the reputation of the person you are writing about, it is an additional crime of defamation of character, as well as breaking the 9th commandment which states: “Do not bear false witness against your neighbor.” (Exodus 20 – The Bible.)

Any idea that is not considered general knowledge, such as a quote, or copy of an artistic work (whether musical or other performance or creation), must have credit given in a paper or a speech. By citing our source we avoid shaming ourselves and breaking the 8th commandment which states, “You must not steal.” (Exodus 20 – The Bible.)

Citing Works/Bibliography

Good resources for knowing how to cite works properly may be found at:

http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-project_mla_format_examples.shtml

Or, you can use an application to make one for you:  http://www.easybib.com/

Proofreading and Grading the Essay

Evaluating the First Draft

When inexperienced students are starting out, go through the process with them, assisting in each step of writing their essay. Once they understand the process, only give assistance as needed, but let them know that certain points will be taken away if they don’t follow guidelines.

If there is a word count required, check to see if it is within the range expected.  One online resource for this is:  https://wordcounter.net/edit-counter.  If their count is insufficient, give general suggestions to help them expound on their points. Suggestions for improvement may be written in the margin of the first draft or between the lines. Papers should be typed using double-spacing for this reason.

It is important that grammar and spelling issues not be scrutinized until the second draft. The first focus must be on the flow of ideas.

Give 10 points each for the following (suggested)

1. Did they follow the assignment?
2. Is the thesis/topic clearly stated?
3. Are the points presented in the introductory paragraph addressed in the body of the paper?
4. Is there evidence (2 or 3 items) for each main point?
5. Is the evidence (or set of facts) from a reliable source?
6. Does their writing make sense and do the ideas connect?
7. Does the conclusion “fit” the evidence/facts given?
8. Does the conclusion restate the thesis/topic sentence, in some way?
9. Are quotes cited?
10. Is there a bibliography of references used, on a separate page?

Second Draft

Unless the first draft is nearly perfect, they will do an intermediary draft which you will be editing for spelling, grammar and punctuation, as well as wordiness and word choice. This revision does not need to be graded. The second paper is a working copy – in preparation for the final, published copy.  It is helpful to have your children read the second draft aloud to you so both of you can “hear” errors in their pronunciation, punctuation, verb tense, or subject/verb agreement. Have them print two copies so that while they are reading it, you can circle any mistakes that need to be corrected in their next draft. You may also correct punctuation at this time.  Ask them to explain any complicated terms to you – making sure they understand the research. Finally, give them back their second draft (with your comments and editing marks) for them to create their final copy.

The Final Copy – Third Draft , Written and Presented

After the final copy is printed, have them practice reading it again to make sure they are reading expressively and articulately. Encourage them to pause for effect and use eye contact (keeping their place on the paper with their hand so they can easily return to their spot). There is nothing that works as well as practice for public speaking. Often they will be called on to present their paper in front of a group, so even if this isn’t required in class, practicing reading aloud each time will build this skill in your own children. Have them present before a family member or friend of the family to become more secure speaking in front of others. Be sure to give plenty of encouragement for things they do well, and keep criticism about their presentation style at a minimum, initially. A good rule is to pad each “helpful suggestion” with two encouraging comments.

It may be helpful to have them watch other famous speakers. They may notice what works well and self-correct.  If they are doing a persuasive paper, let them watch a speech by Martin Luther King Jr, or Ronald Reagan. If a narrative,  let them watch someone who tells stories. There are many types of narratives, so pick one that fits well. If the speech is  an objective report – look for a news-story being presented and note anything that stands out in the differences of approach.

Some ideas for rewarding a job well done are:
Publishing their completed work on a family webpage or blog – and posting it for others to see, submitting some works to magazines or local newspapers or gathering their papers to create a “book” of their own. This could also include poetry and works of art they have done during the year. If you have several children, you could make a family anthology, in print, for each to keep. These can be copied and bound for you at a local office supply store, or you could use page protectors in a notebook and slide them in, having copies for each contributor. By the time they have completed their work (if all edits have been attended to) their grade should be no less than an A  (see rubric mentioned below).  Working in stages like this creates understanding of the process, and pride in their own achievement. When they see their work “published,” or shared with others who appreciate it, this brings meaning to their efforts, as well.

Timing

If your child has only one week to work on an essay, have them do brainstorming the first day for an idea, research on the second day, the rough draft on the third day, the second draft on day four, and the final draft on day five of that week. Parents should check over the final draft on the computer before it is printed, and point out any last minute changes before the final version is printed.  Make sure the guidelines given for formatting are followed and your son or daughter’s name is on the paper. It can be printed out and placed in their notebook one day in advance, so there is no last minute rush to do so.

Suggested Grading Rubric for Final Copy

70% of the grade is for their written work:
* 10 points for the Introductory Paragraph with their thesis, definitions and introduction to their three supporting arguments.
* 10 points for the first paragraph in the body – with supportive evidence/arguments for their first point. Supportive evidence may include informative details, statistics, anecdotes, authoritative quotes, and reasoning.
* 10 points for the next paragraph in the body of the essay, with transition and supporting material.
* 10 points for the last paragraph of the body of the essay, with transition and supporting material.
* 10 points for the conclusion. This must tie all the facts together neatly and reflect the thesis/topic sentence in the last sentence.
* 10 points for Title Page (or header that includes name/date/class)
* 10 points for the Bibliography page
And the final 30% for their presentation of the paper, orally. Grade based on skills you have already taught, and expect more as more instruction is given. Let them know ahead of time what you will be looking for.

Some presenting skills include eye contact, not fidgeting, speaking clearly (pronunciation and enunciation), volume appropriateness for audience and size of room, use of gestures,  correct posture, appearance, voice modulation in volume and pace,  appropriate movement (not still like a statue, but engaging and natural) and use of visuals.   Don’t teach all of these at once. For younger children, start with one and add another expectation as they are able to perform the first.

Encouragement usually works better than criticism, so when they have trouble with a new concept in presenting, you could say, “That was pretty good! Now let’s try that once more with …  ”  and fill in the skill that needs practice. If they still can’t quite get it, that’s fine. It is best not to have them fixate on a problem. In the next day or so, watch a professional speaker and let them comment on what they observe about them. You can ask questions to draw their attention to specific things. You could also try play acting and taking turns, delivering a speech and your child can critique your presentation as well.  First, give them some instruction concerning positive criticism vs. derogatory remarks. Only allow helpful or positive commentary for yourself and for them. If, when they critique your speech, you take this graciously, you will be showing them how to respond.

Ephesians 4:29 in the New International Version of the Bible says,
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

And that is what we are really hoping to do for our children; build them up!