Home and Family, Homeschooling

Just keep going!

It’s official.  Cold season is upon us.  One daughter’s family had just kicked their coughs and sniffles, and now at our house the 5 month-old has been coughing for a few days, and it is spreading to the other kids. We went into the doc to verify it wasn’t anything more concerning than a normal cold, and he told us not to worry….but to be aware that everyone seems to be catching it.  (Translation-if you’re lucky enough to still be healthy, don’t go anywhere, meet with anyone, or leave your house.  Goody.)  Time to make sure each family has what they need from the store, and revamp school plans (slightly).

The plan:

Mom has been up for a few nights with the baby who isn’t sleeping, but the other five children are awake at their normal time to begin the day.  Hmmmm. Time to simplify. What does school look like with one eye open in between yawns?  Group time will involve less reading aloud (Mom is getting a sore throat), but more art and hands-on activity.  Individual work will utilize more learning/tutoring DVDs and less individualized verbal instruction.  Snacks now include spiced cider (for everyone’s sore throats), less dairy, and more fruits/veggies.  Breaks may happen at unusual times; if the baby goes to sleep, so does Mom.  Naps are allowed for whomever needs one.  But the basics get covered.  Outside time is still fun.  And we press onward.

Even if things turn for the worst (flu, bronchitis, etc.), we can continue to do something.  Charts of who had which med when, graphs tracking hours of sleep or fluid intake, learning about the science of the human body and infection fighting, and history/science/art/Schoolhouse Rock videos are waiting in the wings.

Life is a school, and when life changes, we may need to adjust.  We keep going as best we can.  And we do it with a smile and as a family.  If our children can learn that, everything else may be simply icing on the cake!

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Home and Family, Homeschooling

Change is a good thing!

One of the challenges of living as a homeschooling family is the reality that you spend LARGE quantities of time together.  While that is a tremendous blessing, it can also be hard.  And same-y.  Daily anything can become a drag.  This summer as you spend time together, and during your planning for the coming academic year, insert some change.  (If you have children that depend on a routine, plan ahead, and let them know what is coming!)

  • Take a few days and reverse your meals.  Have dinner for breakfast, and vice versa, or eat outside.
  • Plan your meals using different themes.  Try all finger foods for a day.  Or add a previously untried fruit/vegetable at each meal. Don’t turn on your stove for 24 hours, but still eat at home.
  • Introduce a different culture’s cuisine every few days, and learn to make food from another part of the world, or explore the same basic food from different countries.  Some foods appear in most places, just in a different form.  Sandwiches become quesadillas, bao, etc.  Looks for examples of soups, one-dish meals, salads, pies (sweet and savory), or desserts.  YUM!
  • If you generally spend Friday running errands, pick a different day of the week, or check out a few less-familiar stores.  You never know what you might be missing!
  • If you live in a “touristy” area, become a tourist for a day and explore all those places people come from all over the country to visit.
  • Spend time at a different local swimming pool, library, or park.
  • If you can have access to them, teach your children to use a typewriter, or carbon paper, or use a slate and chalk for a day rather than paper and pencil.
  • Have a game day as a family.  No academics.  Minimal chores.  Easy meals.  Play games together-board games, card games, go outdoors and learn hopscotch and jacks and kick-the-can.  Laugh together.

As we open up the world to our children, we encourage them to think a little differently.  Flexibility is a requirement in today’s craziness!  Take some time as a family, and develop some together!

Homeschooling

Let’s DO school!

It’s that time again.  Homeschool conventions, curriculum fairs, and planning.  Lots of planning.  I remember worrying as a young homeschool mom that I wasn’t doing the right thing, or enough (or too much?), or that I didn’t have everything I needed in order to truly teach my children the things that would best serve them for their future.  Now I watch as my daughters and friends do the same thing.  When I began our homeschooling journey in 1991, there were few resources available.  Scraping curriculum together took time and hunting.  Fast forward 24 years. There are so many options available now, it is enough to make your head spin!  Two thoughts I have had in the last few weeks as I watch this dance happening around me:

First-There is no such thing as a perfect curriculum.  Often we think we have failed, when the failure is in the book…or box…or file.  There are very few prepackaged kits that I would regard as safe bets for just about anyone, and often those will still need tweaking a bit depending on the child.  Stop looking for perfection; consistency is what can make the difference!

As plans are made for the upcoming year, take time to DO things.  Math often makes more sense with manipulative use.  Grammar seems plainer with diagramming if you have a visual learner.  Science is more easily remembered, and more enjoyable, if you get out there and experience it rather than expecting facts to be absorbed by simply reading a book. Go to the zoo.  Dig for rocks.  Lie on the ground and observe the night sky.  Experiment in the kitchen.  Go on field trips to make your studies come alive.  Take regular breaks and get the whole gang moving.  Run up and down the stairs as you drill math facts.  Take a walk and practice observational skills.  OUr children need to learn to cook and do laundry as well as diving into academic studies. Jump on a mini-tramp between subjects for a quick brain break. Role-play or act out history lessons. Duck walk as you review spelling lists or phonics rules.    Doing wakes up the brain, increases retention, and the ensuing giggles aren’t bad either.

As you spend time exploring the world and all its wonders, remember to keep active verbs in the mix.  Do. Try. Experiment. Observe. Move. Fail. Laugh. Create things: messes, meals, and memories for a lifetime.  And cut yourself some slack.  It’s not up to you to find the perfect books, or be the perfect parent, or have the perfect family.  The only perfection we will ever attain will not come from us.  It comes from He who wants us to succeed.  Lean on Him, and go DO something!

Homemaking, Homeschooling

Sometimes school doesn’t look like school…

I had a discussion with a young homeschooling mom this week about curriculum planning and development.  After exploring her daughter’s interests, strengths, struggles, and individual quirks, it became apparent that traditional seat work was not the best method for her.  She is active, personable, bright, obsessed with animals and art, and generally delightful!  Spelling, language, and science worksheets are of no interest to her, and cause the family school time to be uninspiring and, ultimately, discouraging.  She needs art, geography that is associated with the natural world, spelling that involves her whole body, and tons of experiential learning.

One of my favorite parts of the day was when Mom looked at me, and expressed that what she was looking for (without realizing it) was permission to allow her daughter to be herself, and throw away the mold!

While I am NOT a fan of allowing children to lead out in their education, nor do I advocate beginning the school year without a plan, I do wonder how much more we would all learn if we accepted who we (and our children) are, how we learn, and focused on our strengths rather than the areas which need work.  Math, science, language arts, geography, manners, etc. need to be taught, and even the least favorite subjects are required, but if we spent a bit more time looking around for methods that effectively teach, reinforce, and encourage our children, their love for learning would increase, and they would retain more!

Here are just a few ideas to keep it fun!

  • Allow them to make lists, diagrams, or charts rather than writing a paper with complete paragraphs if they are inclined to do so.
  • Use role play, games, and field trips more often, in order to make connections that might otherwise be missed.
  • Use music or art media to express and explore what you are learning.  Memorize or write a song, or create a logo which applies to the unit you just finished.  Construct a game or map.  If they can recreate it, they have learned it.
  • Use more manipulatives, and oral answers for math time-especially for the young ones.
  • Allow more movement.  Finger-spell.  Run laps while you drill. Get out the Legos or crayons for quiet activity while someone else reads aloud.  Our magnificent bodies were created to MOVE.  Don’t just read or write about things…DO them.
  • Collections are wonderful.  Learn to classify, organize, label, display, and enjoy things.
  • Find things to write that matter.  Family newsletters, journals, research papers,  interviews with those who have experience in what you are studying, etc.
  • Volunteer.  Get involved.  Make a difference.  Connect with those around you.

Remember, we don’t generally live in “model homes” or have a “model schoolroom.”  That’s okay.  Fill your homes with other models…love, activity and exploration, creative expression, lively discussion, and laughter.  Focus on the gifts your children have and are.  They will surprise you with what they can become.

 

Homeschooling, Parenting

Books for working with exceptional children

My library is growing again!  As more of our grandchildren, and the children of those who ask for my help, are diagnosed with syndromes, disorders, and other challenges, the books I have acquired to give me the tools to be successful are increasing in number!  Some are specific to a given situation, but many are invaluable for anyone working with small children. I’m starting with my current fave.

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The Out-of-Sync Child Has Fun, Revised Edition: Activities for Kids with Sensory Processing Disorder

by Carol Kranowitz

This book is definitely at the top of my list, and my copy has been loaned to so many people, I find myself borrowing my daughter’s.  The explanatory section is clear and readable, and the exercises are grouped so that you can focus on specific areas that need growth.  The exercises are simple to do, use common household items, and require a minimum amount of preparation time.  We have giggled our way through a number of them!

The companion volume,

Growing an In-Sync Child: Simple, Fun Activities to Help Every Child Develop, Learn, and Grow

By Carol Kranowitz, and Joye Newman

is written for every child, challenged or not.  It goes through activities and exercises you can do with your child in just a few minutes a day to encourage physical, emotional, and overall success.
Today’s children don’t get the same level of activity children did a generation ago.  These books help all of us relearn how to use our whole body, and play using basic items.  Love these books!
Home and Family, Homeschooling

Plumbers use jackhammers. Who knew?

Life is a constantly changing opportunity to play the game of “Associations.”  You know the one I mean- when I say a word, you say the first thing that comes to mind (Christmas/tree, spring/garden, birthday/cake, etc.).  I am learning a new group of associations.  Fascinating.

Plumber/jackhammer.  Not generally the first thought I would have had, but I am so grateful it is true.  How else would they get to the collapsed cast iron pipe under my foundation?  All drains are now working properly.  YEAH!

plumbersWM

Small children/medicine balls.  We found two of these at one of our favorite “odd lot” haunts (6 and 10 lbs. respectively), and brought them home.  What a wonderful thing!  Having the young ones roll them around, use them to get through a quick obstacle course or two, or push them in laundry baskets helps so much with large muscle use on a cold winters’ day, and gets them turned back “on” for academic time!

Penmanship/white clay.  For the eight-year-old, penmanship entails a piece of paper, a pencil, and the assigned items to write.  For the six-year-old?  Not so much.  Due to the differences in learning style and approach, he is creating clay letters and using those for word creation.  Since dyslexics see life in 3D, working with 3D letters helps him orient himself to the task at hand, and he is much more successful.  Love it!

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Cleaning/joy.  During the last week, we have had the opportunity to help clear the family home following the death of my father-in-law.  The eight, six, and four year-olds were troopers and carried things up the stairs from the basement so that they could be sorted and given away.  When my sister-in-law commented on their ability to focus and work as hard as the adults, the eldest beamed at her and said, “we love to work!  Especially with Grandpa in his garden!”  And then he got back to the task at hand.  What a payday for the parents and grandparents of that little boy (who is well on his way to manhood)!

Life is full of surprises, and the unexpected can be a learning experience all its own if we are watching for it!  All these, and so many more, are a great reminder that I am not as smart as I wish I were-and that’s okay.  Someone else has it covered, and He will send the unexpected and unanticipated to us when we need it!

Home and Family

Christmas learning ideas for the coming week

Christmas is definitely one of our favorite times of the year.  I love the meaning, music, books, food, decorations, activities, traditions, smells, and even the occasional Christmas sweater!  Here are some of our favorite things to do during this season of the year.

Christmas Around the World
Learn about Christmas in other parts of the world. Try recipes used in other countries in association with Christmas. Learn what other holidays are celebrated close to or instead of Christmas in other cultures.

Attend Christmas Programs with Friends of another Faith
Attend Christmas Mass or Christmas celebrations from other faiths. This could include a Christmas pagent at a local  church, attend Christmas Eve mass, or join a Sunday service you’ve never before attended.

Sub for Santa
Find a family in need and make a family project of doing a Sub for Santa.When this becomes a personal endeavor it means much more. Take time with your children to make the gifts personal. Give them a budget. Plan purchases, take your children with you to shop, and have them help you wrap the presents.

Sing in Other Languages
Learn Christmas songs in other languages. “Stille Nacht”, the German version of “Silent Night” is a great place to begin. Go caroling as a family. Take cookies that you baked together…of course. Learn the history behind the writing of your favorite carol.

Help Others
If the kids are old enough they could volunteer to sort food at the food bank or to help serve a Christmas meal.

Include Others
Find a widow, widower or other single in your area to include in your family activities.

Gather Stories
Gather stories from the older folks in your area. They generally love to tell stories. Type the stories up into a booklet and give copies to the people who contributed..

Handel’s Messiah
Attend or participate in a Messiah sing-along.

Write Your Own
Read the different versions of “The Night Before Christmas”. There are many versions such as the “Cajun Night Before Christmas” and the “Cowboy Night Before Christmas”. Try writing your own version. Create your own Christmas ABC Book.

Decorations
Make ornaments for the Christmas Tree.

Themed Christmas
Celebrate a themed Christmas, i.e. colonial, pioneer, Christmas in other lands, World War II,etc.

Take a Break
Have a Christmas-special watching marathon. Pop a bowl of popcorn and see how many Christmas specials you can watch. Or watch a different version of the Christmas Carol every weekend.

Resources:

The Best Christmas Pagent Ever by Barbara Robinson

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Amahl and the Night Visitors by Gian Carlo Menotti

The Littlest Angel by Charles Tazewell

Check with your local librarian for what’s new in the Christmas section.