Home and Family, Homeschooling

Teach them to think

As we teach our children, teaching them critical thinking is paramount!  It cannot be done with in a vacuum, or without assistance.  Teaching critical thinking is also difficult if it is not practiced by the adults in the child’s life.  Do your children hear you discussing the “pros” and “cons” of a certain activity?  Are current events discussed and reviewed?  Are you thoughtful about the decisions made for your family, or do you regularly take the path of least resistance?  Remember, children learn what they live!

Early discovery learners spend much of their time learning critical thinking skills automatically if they are living in a resource-rich environment.  As toddlers, they observe, and then attempt such tasks as setting the table, building with blocks, or returning books to the shelf.  By doing so, they practice creating patterns, working within systems, and comparing size and shape.  Doing chores teaches them to create order from chaos. The ability to accomplish a job even when they “do not want to” is a skill that will serve them well when faced with paradoxes and challenges as they learn.

As they grow, assist them in finding ways to classify, match, sequence, and explore.  Look for opportunities to build the following skills:

  • patterns
  • opposites/comparisons
  • classification
  • cause and effect
  • listening counting/ordering sets

Also look for ways to produce or acquire games/activities that allow them to spend time with the following:

  • nesting cups/building blocks
  • matching games, lotto boards (such as bingo), dominoes
  • phonics/phonograms
  • word games
  • dot-to-dot pages
  • hidden pictures
  • sequencing cards/activities
  • puzzles
  • picture books without words

Critical thinking games to consider for purchase:  (Consider asking for some of these when Grandma wants ideas for birthdays or holidays.  By far, Timberdoodle has the widest selection of critical thinking games I can find for this age.)

  • Learning tiles (Timberdoodle and Discovery Toys)
  • Large Pegboard (Timberdoodle and Discovery Toys)
  • Pattern blocks
  • Number/picture slide
  • Camelot Jr. (Smart Games)
  • Mighty Mind (Leisure Learning Products, Inc.)
  • Early sudoku puzzles

Later discovery learners have already begun establishing a mental picture of the way the world works.  Take that opportunity to introduce activities and habits that will assist them is building a correct, clear concept of the world around them.  Help them better utilize clearer thinking skills as they rely on an odd (sometimes humorous) logic all their own!  If they can recognize faulty logic, they can correct their thinking as they grow.  Just remember to keep things concrete and literal.  The time for abstract games will come soon enough.

  • Mad-libs
  • word searches (use while they are still learning to spell)
  • brain teasers
  • Encyclopedia Brown books
  • puzzles, tangrams, pentominoes, soma cube, sudoku, etc.
  • word problems
  • I own a game called Drive Ya Nuts (Mattel).  It is no longer available for purchase, but if you look for it on Google , there are a number of sites that have directions for making your own version.

Critical thinking games to consider for purchase (These also work for later learners.)

  • Rush Hour (Thinkfun)
  • Square by Square (Thinkfun)
  • Cuisenaire Rods and books (Cuisenaire Co. of America)
  • Wrap-ups (Learning Wrap-ups)
  • Labyrinth Board Game (Ravensburger)
  • Tilt (Thinkfun)
  • Blokus (Mattel)
  • Izzi (Thinkfun)
  • Cool Moves (Thinkfun)
  • River Crossing (Thinkfun)

Analysis learners are beginning to understand abstract thought and humor.  They often seem to question everything you say and expect.  Stay calm.  They need to learn how to challenge other’s thought processes with courtesy, and logic, and they are simply practicing on you.  As you talk them through the challenges, you are teaching them to think for themselves (which is what we want them to do when faced with the world’s logic and values!).  Now is the time to introduce current events and opinion as a regular part of their academics.  Go ahead and ask them questions for which they do not have the answers; then help them go find them.  You can also encourage their ability to pick things apart with any of the following:

  • logic problems
  • crosswords
  • vocabulary activities
  • grammar study

Critical thinking games to consider for purchase

  • Equate(Conceptual Math Media)
  • Q-Bitz (Mindware)
  • Wrap-ups (Learning Wrap-ups)
  • Visual Brainstorms 1and 2 (Thinkfun)
  • TipOver  (Thinkfun)
  • Rubik’s Cube
  • any game listed for later discovery learners

Application learners should be preparing for life after their teen-age years.  Proficiency in expressing themselves with clarity both verbally and on paper should be a major focus of their studies. Continue with the things they were doing previously, simply add the following:

  • editorial writing and analysis
  • formal logic study

We owe it to our children to equip them with the armor they will need to make moral, grounded decisions as adults.  Life will throw dilemmas and paradoxes at them and they need the tools to dissect, clarify, and analyze each situation so that they have an opportunity to lead others with truth rather than simply “follow the pack.”

(For information on the levels of learning, see posts from 02/26-28/2013.)

 

Homeschooling

Those pesky prepositions

I am a firm believer in utilizing a formal, rigorous course of study for grammar when your children have entered the analysis level of learning (see post on 02/27/2013).  One of the greatest rewards of studying grammar is the opportunity it provides the student to present themselves well as they head out into adulthood, and one of the most helpful things to remember from grammar study is a basic list of common prepositions.  Why?  Those who take the time to re-arrange both their spoken and written word to ensure no sentences end in a preposition have generally learned how to create a well-worded sentence.  It can take some practice but it is well-worth the time!

Here is a list of the most common English prepositions:

about
above
across
after
against
along
amid
among
around
as
at
before
behind
below
beneath
beside
besides
between
beyond
but
by
concerning
considering
despite
down
during
except
excepting
excluding
following
for
from
in
inside
into
like
near
of
off
on
onto
opposite
outside
over
past
regarding
save
since
than
through
to
toward
towards
under
underneath
unlike
until
up
upon
versus
via
with
within
without

To simplify the memorization process Yep, we memorized them!),  I divided the list into sets of 5-10 (depending on the child) and we worked on one set a week until the complete list was memorized.  After they were comfortable with the list, we would get into the newspaper or other media and look for sentences which needed to be re-written.  Often advertizements and signage are written as incomplete sentences.  That fact can initiate a fun conversation!  You will also find prepositions ending sentences in the scriptures.  That is due to a difference in syntax when translating.  Another fun conversation!  Often, the current vernacular and regional idioms end in prepositions.  (Where is the store at?  What are you looking for? etc.)  As your teens grow older, encourage them in developing a speech pattern which recognizes and correctly places prepositions.  It can be a great mental exercise for the entire family including the parents!

Having the ability to present themselves well on paper or in person gives your children a boost when they leave home.  It is a good habit to develop and is becoming a bit of a lost art.  Let’s revive it!

EnglishClub EasyEnglish ESLDepot Teflnet
Home and Family, Homeschooling

We love the library!

We attended story time at our local library yesterday morning.  The librarian read three Easter books to the children.  We sang songs, and even got a take-home craft.  Then we chose some books to bring home to enjoy at our leisure.  Some of my best tax dollars at work!

The public library is one of my “happy places!”  I can go and sit quietly in a corner and plan a meal from the wall of cookbooks, work on curriculum in the non-fiction section, find new ways to get organized, or even find a book to read just for fun.  Where else can you get a CD of your favorite music to play as you clean house, pick up a book on CD for the car ride this weekend, and get travel ideas from the internet, newspapers, or magazines?  When I go by myself, I can spend hours just exploring.

They also offer book lists for reading ideas, family programs for free, town hall meetings, and you can look for something new for your family library at the book sale.  You may find a reading program which awards prizes for reading.  Often sponsored by businesses, you can possibly earn fast food, small amounts of cash, books, or other things as an incentive for reading.  This can be especially helpful for reluctant readers, or to simply keep things fun.  Sign up as a family!

Librarians are a gold-mine of information.  They can help you or your children search out favorite topics or find a new fascination.  You can get help locating a much desired book locally or through inter-library loan.  (Not sure what that is?  They can tell you.)  They are well-read, and often more than happy to work with children who are well-mannered.  *True story-when my eldest got her driver’s license, the next person she wanted to show after Grandma was the local librarian, Rosemarie.  When Rosemarie retired, we were all sad.

Just a few things to keep in mind when you go:

  • Learn and practice library etiquette.  Soft voices, no running or chasing, keep the books off the floor, return books to their appropriate places, etc.  It is habit that will help your children for years to come.
  • Leave technology at home.  No need for anything requiring earplugs.  Turn your phone off (or at least put it on vibrate), and take conversations outside.  Enjoy the world of hard copies!
  • The library is not a museum.  If there is a book you really like or refer to regularly, buy it.  The inventory will change according to public demand.  If you are the only person who checks that item out, it may be weeded out to make room for more popular titles.
  • Pay your fines!  Everyone has them from time to time.  I hear librarians often have them too.  Think of it as a donation to the library.
  • If you check out an item and find that it is damaged, bring it to their attention as soon as you can or the next time you are there.  They will appreciate it, and it will save future frustration for someone else.
  • If it is a nice day, take snacks.  Eat them OUTSIDE the library.  Children are generally better behaved when fed.
  • If you use the computers, remember you are in a public place.  Keep any passwords or account numbers hidden and fully exit any browsers you use.
  • We would often try to visit the library when it was fairly empty.  If you avoid story time and go when school is in session, you will often have the children’s section almost to yourself.

When my children were school-aged, we established a routine for the library.
Everyone helped return books coming back, then they could look for what they were interested in finding IF they told me where they were headed.  I required the following: a chapter book (if they were 8 or older), a science book, and a history book they had not read before, and a book just for fun.  If they wanted to check out more beyond that, they could.  I always checked the piles before we left for anything I was unwilling to take home or allow them to read.  The librarians aren’t meant to be censors; you need to be.

The public library can be a wonderful place to spend time as a family, or on your own. If you haven’t been there in a while, go see what you are missing.  If you attend frequently, good for you.  There is always something new to discover!

Home and Family, Homeschooling, Parenting

Tips for working with preschoolers

DSC02499

My life finds me surrounded by my grandchildren.  5 boys, 1 girl.  The oldest is 7.  It gets a bit crazy.  Rather than pining for the day when they are older (I do look forward to all that will bring), I have decided to love each moment I have with them now!  Preschoolers are a handful, so here are my thoughts on making the most of each day!

Tips for Mom’s survival

  • Consistency (or lack thereof) will make all the difference.  Choose your priorities.  Stick with them.  Mean it when you say it.
  • Doing things with them will work ten times better than simply telling them what to do.  Teach them how and then teach them again.  Together.  Often.  With love and laughter.
  • Now is the time to develop good habits.  If left unsupervised, they will develop not-so-good ones.
  • Learn about learning styles, stages, and personality types.  It will help as you teach them, and as you live together as a family.
  • Open-ended play can give you more bang for your buck.  Buy toys and books that will grow with them.  Enjoy family activities that can expand with them.  Grow with them.
  • Feed them the good stuff.   Limiting sugar and junk food will result in better health, better behavior, and better eating habits.
  • Limit screen time.  If it involves a screen, limit it.  Big ones, small ones, any screen.
  • Let them be kids.  They will be goofy, foolish, fun, and emotional.  It is okay.  They really do grow up faster than you think!
  • Keep it basic.  (There are lots of basics.)   If they never learn that basics are important, growing up is much harder!  You can’t build on a shaky foundation!
  • Give them chores.  Age-appropriate, genuinely helpful chores.  They can do it.  They need to do it.  You need the help.  Teach them to work.  As much as possible, have order in your home.
  • Routines are essential.
  • Allow them to contribute.  As they grow, they should feel needed, and should be taught to do what they can.  It is a good feeling.  Share it with them while they are still wanting to help!
  • Listen to them.  Laugh with them.  Enjoy them.
  • Keep your voice down.  The angrier you are, the quieter your voice should be.  (I do not know anyone who has perfected this, but it works when I remember.)
  • Find a few good friends for them and enjoy limited, supervised play dates.   Preschoolers tend to have a “pack” mentality if left to their own devices!
  • Sing.  A lot.

Tips for academics

  • Use real information and vocabulary.  They can handle it.  And it makes later learning much simpler!
  • Fun is important.  For you.  For them.
  • Do not panic.  They are preschoolers.  College is over a decade away!
  • Get your hands dirty.  Even harder, let them get their hands dirty.
  • Now is the time to develop an interest in the arts.  Visual.  Music. Theater. Sports.
  • Use simple learning materials.  If it is too complex for you to learn in an afternoon, don’t use it with your children.  Keep is simple, and it will be.
  • Let them explore-with supervision, of course.
  • Use good literature.  Dumbed-down books and other media are everywhere.  Be as discerning about what you allow them to see and hear as you are about what they eat.
  • Challenge yourself to challenge them.  Look for the best, and try different things.  If it is too hard, they will let you know.  But you may be surprised at what they can and are willing to do!
  • Keep it basic.  (There are lots of basics.)  We have developed this idea that basics are to be skimmed over in order to get to the “good stuff”.  Sometimes, the basics are some of the “good stuff”.  And they always make the “good stuff” easier to understand, and more enjoyable!
  • Use units as much as possible i.e. the human body, the alphabet, mammals, the United States, Fairy Tales.  Studying things in ordered groups allow children to order them in their head, and begin to learn how inter-related the world is.
  • Make messes-and then clean them up when you are done.  Together.
  • Sing.  More.  Learning songs, fun songs, nonsense songs, gospel songs and hymns.  Sing.

Enjoy them while they are young!  Charles Dickens said, “I love these little people, and it is not a slight thing when they who are so fresh from God love us.”  I concur.

Gardening, Home and Family, Homeschooling

Gardening and life lessons

The garden is one of my favorite class rooms. Beyond the obvious botanical lessons, the opportunities for learning and understanding some great life lessons are right before you!

Reminding the grandkids that we will harvest what we plant is a yearly ritual that seems to get sillier as time goes by.

Grandma, “Hey, M, this corn seed will give us some great melons, don’t you think?!”

M, giggling, “No.  But the corn will be really good!”

Grandma, “Are you sure?  Does that mean we can predict what is going to happen by what we do?”

M, “Yeah.  That is how it works.”

Grandma, “Okay.  I guess we’d better be careful what habits we plant!”

At six and seven years old, I know they only understand part of the conversation, but it is a life lesson that will stick with them.

Teaching about the importance of consistency and follow-through is so easily done with plants.  If you don’t weed, water, or tend to things as needed FOR THE WHOLE SEASON, you won’t reap what you took time to sow.  Stopping half way through or trying to play a frantic game of catch-up in August is no way to get good results!

As learn about the needs of different types of plants, you can increase your yield.  Peas need cool weather.  Melons need consistent watering.  Peppers and hot peppers need to not cross-pollinate!  People are much the same way.  If you take the time to understand how they “tick”, you will often get much better results!  Sometimes they need to be fussed over.  Some prefer alone time.  Some thrive in the lime light.  Others want to be in the background helping others shine.  Help your children see the differences and appreciate them!

One of the most difficult life lessons for just about anyone to learn is best illustrated by gardeners.  Dung is a necessary part of life.  It helps plants grow.  It adds vital nutrients to the soil.  And it invites the worms to come and break up the hard places so that roots can grow down deeper into the soil.  Our challenges are the same way.  We all have times when we have to deal with things we would like to avoid, but the growth that comes from making the best of what we are dealt creates a person who has more to give.

And the lessons go on….

Happy gardening!

Homeschooling

Discovery learners

Today begins a three-day post that deals with how children learn best during the different stages of development.  The information given is crucial to understand if you want to optimize the opportunities for each stage.  The ages listed are approximate, and vary with each child.  Exceptional children (those with learning challenges), and giftedness can also affect the timing for the later stages.  Watch your children and you will learn to recognize the clues for each.

Have fun learning together!

Discovery Learning

The Discovery level child is full of life and curiosity.  Absorption of facts and memorization are the main focus for this stage of learning.  Teach basic facts.  Children at this age are literal thinkers and should not be required to analyze or interpret information (ask, “What was Columbus looking for in America?”, not “Why did Columbus want to find America?”).  Their brain development has not yet prepared them to deal with abstract thought. If pushed to think abstractly, the most likely responses from the child will be frustration, confusion, or the child could simply shut down.  Save abstract thinking for later.  They will be ready to tackle more complicated thinking as they grow.  Save it for the next learning level.  Allow your child joy in what he excels at doing now.  Allow time for wonder and play. 

Limit the seat work assigned at this stage.  Small children were not designed to sit for long periods of time or focus intently on one thing for hours.  Use hands-on learning activities as much as possible. Much of what they study can be best accomplished with games or orally, rather than through written work. (Drill, file folder games, narration, Q/A, etc.)  Applaud their efforts and remember a short, productive study time is preferred over a long, discouraging battle of the wills.  Provide educational tools and activities for exploration so that “non-academic” time will be useful.  Limit TV watching, computer time, video gaming, etc.  All life around them should be an opportunity for discovery.

Remember- this level of learning is physically exhausting.  They will need Mom to be “tuned in” and ready to help if they need her.  Working independently is not a skill they will have perfected; be prepared to work along with them to help with focus, and to teach acceptable levels of work, both academically and with life skills.  Discovery learners need supervision as they establish habits, and a strong work ethic, as well.  Your example is one of their best teachers!

Be sure to spend time on character education!   Academic instruction without clear education in right and wrong opens the door for children to assume they are above the rules if they can see a way out of them. You could potentially raise a child that is centered on self to the point of disregarding all acceptable social or moral customs or laws. You could raise a “clever devil.”

Discovery level learning begins at birth and continues to approximately age eleven or through grade 4.

Parenting

The Art of Consistency

The church bags were packed, and ready for each of the boys Sunday as we entered the chapel for meetings.  Each grandson had a couple of books and a quiet activity or two in their own “Sunday bag” with their name on it.

Church bags

As the meeting progressed, they worked through the books, the coloring pages, and the quiet activities, each pausing to sing hymns or fold their hands for a prayer when appropriate or to help with a baby for a minute or two. All-in-all, a quiet meeting.

How do three young boys, ages 7, 5, and 3, learn to sit reverently?  The same way they learn to make their beds each morning, complete their schoolwork, and empty the dishwasher each day.  All are required, and are consistently attended to by the grown-ups in their lives…the very tired, but determined, grown-ups.

Children do not fall from the sky with discipline, good manners, or the ability to follow-through.  (Actually, many adults seem to struggle with those things too.)  Positive behaviors are learned, and then reinforced, when the rules don’t change and the boundary lines are firmly set.  As the parents and grandparents, we make a request or give an instruction one time, and then get on our feet if the child needs help completing the task.  They know the expectations, and the results for obedience, or a lack thereof.  No guessing games, just certainty that gives them security, and allows the adults to be clear, and calm.

Are we perfect in this?  Nope.  Is anyone?  Not that I have met.  But I do know that the more we are consistent, the better the day goes, and the more we enjoy being together as a family.  When did we start living this way?  When we realized the Lord works this way with us.  No screaming from the heavens.  No random consequences as a result of our actions.  Just clear guidance (from the scriptures, and the Spirit), and then the chance to learn from what we do right or wrong.  Why would we parent any other way?